The B.A.R.B. at SongStar

Redpoll Bea's Nifty Backyard Birds
by Cheri Pierce

I've just returned from Alberta where I went to be with my mother while my father had surgery. Due to the wonderful medical system in Canada the surgery got rescheduled the same day that we arrived. There was nothing that we could do about it. Chuck and I did manage to get out a couple of times to do some birding and added a couple of new birds to the ones we had already seen in my mom's backyard.

Each day that we were there we observed dozens of Common Redpolls in the backyard feeders. A couple of days we even had 2 Hoary Redpolls which were very cute. 


Bohemian Waxwing 

The second or third day that we were there Bohemian Waxwings invaded the yard as well as several of the neighboring yards. They perched right outside the window feeding on berries and I got a couple of decent photos. These birds later turned into the "trash birds" of the trip as we saw them everywhere.


It snowed nearly every day that we were there. I think the sun only came out the day before we left. I couldn't stand being cooped up all that time so Chuck and I commandeered the car and drove into Red Deer where Waxwing World is. Actually, it was the Kerry Wood Nature Centre but I think in the winter at least, it could be more aptly called Waxwing World. Bohemian Waxwings at Kerry Wood Nature Centre

Hiking in the snow was not all bad. The scenery was beautiful and there was no need to carry water bottles as there was plenty of snow to eat (no cracks about yellow snow please). I thought I heard crickets chirping, but realized this was unlikely given the temps and the snow. It turned out to be a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings, the first of many that we would see. They were everywhere in the tree tops and flying back and forth across the path. One almost flew into us, but veered at the last minute. There must have been thousands of them at this place and we got such nice close up looks at them. Naturally, neither of us had cameras with us.

Chuck found wood chips at the base of a pine tree and a bit further on up the trail we heard tapping. We easily located the source and found a pretty black and white woodpecker with a completely black back and a large yellow dot covering the top of it's head. A Black-backed Woodpecker. A short distance up the trunk was his mate. This was a lifer for both of us, since we had only seen the Three-toed previously. They were very tame and let us get quite close as they could see we had no cameras so there was no point in them playing hide and seek with us. Farther down the trail we saw another pair of them.

On the way home from Edmonton one day we found a Snowy Owl perched on a light pole over the freeway. Fortunately Chuck was driving so we exited at the next exit and returned to where the owl was. If my father had been driving it would've been a "drive by only" sighting. Chuck got some really nice video of the bird and I got a couple of photos. Another lifer.

Chuck and I tried to search for the Hawk Owl that had been reported near Wetaskiwin at Bittern Lake. While driving the gravel roads that go through the farm lands there we spotted a chicken type bird on the road in front of us. Before Chuck could get his bins on it the bird astonished us by diving into the snow on the edge of the road and disappeared from sight. It poked it's head back up only far enough to expose it's eyes so it could see us and there it stayed. Chuck could not find it. I finally managed to get him to look at the little snow pile with the piece of "gravel" sticking up in the middle of it and about that time it must have decided that we were not a threat as it popped back out into the road and let us get some good looks. It was really camouflaged well when it did that. I don't think anyone or anything would have taken the piece of gravel for a bird if they had not known beforehand that the bird was there. When I got back to the house I read that they roost under the snow like that. Oh – we did finally ID the bird as a Gray Partridge which was another lifer for both of us. We were so fascinated by the birds behavior we forgot that we both had cameras with us. Oh well.

Tommy TraddlesWhen I arrived home after 18 hours of travel (mostly sitting in various airports) I found that my suitcase had managed to arrive before I did. That was a switch. I expected it to be lost due to so many plane changes. My cats were all extremely pleased to see me again and after getting used to looking at my mom's 22+ pound cat mine all look down right puny to me now. There were also 60+ goldfinches in my yard today. I had to hang out more feeders. Some of them are almost completely yellow.

B.A.R.B. at SongStar

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Copyright  2000 by Cheri Pierce and Richard L. Becker