Friday, January 3, 2014

Birds of a Prairie Christmas, 2013

This female merlin tearing into a pigeon was on the sidewalk of a street in Regina's Cathedral Area a couple days after the Christmas Bird Count. The bits of stuff in the foreground are grains of millet from the pigeon's crop--image courtesy of Brian Sterenberg.
This year's Christmas Bird Counts on our part of the northern Great Plains were held in extremis. The two counts I helped with--one for Craven/Lumsden area and the other for Regina--came with temperatures of -20 to -30, high wind chills, and blowing snow.

And yet, of course, the birds were there. Not in great numbers and some of the species were hard to find at all, but there were some great moments before, during, and just after the bird counts. The following photos were taken by two photographer/birders who participate in these two Christmas Bird Counts.

The following four images were by Fran Kerbs, who has helped out on the Lumsden/Craven CBC for the past two years.

This landscape gives you a sense of the bleak winter day we had for the count. Not a lot of heat in that sun.

This was one of more than thirty Blue Jays recorded on the Lumsden/Craven count--most were in the town of Lumsden, which also had a cardinal (none of us were able to photograph it, though it was recorded by feeder watchers during the day of the count).

Fran caught this shot of a Black-capped Chickadee coming to a feeder in the Qu'Appelle Valley. Chickadees survive the cold by eating a lot of food with fat and by fluffing up their feathers, as this one has done.

Fran and Chris Harris, another birder who helped on both the Craven/Lumsden and the Regina counts, found a flock of ten American Robins early in the morning near the Lumsden Cemetery.

On the Regina Christmas Bird Count, held December 28, I was joined by Chris Harris and Brian Sterenberg. On a very cold day we managed to record 19 species in our sector (we do the southwest piece of the 15 mile diameter pie). Highlights were a Song Sparrow that has been coming to Chris's feeder for a few weeks, and 11 Snowy Owls. Brian managed to get some photos of the snowies, despite distance, dim light and turbulence in the air from the heat escaping our car window and meeting the cold. Here are two different males he photographed, both perched on power poles despite the wind and cold.

Regina had nearly thirty Snowies all together. Last year we had 33 which tied Ladner BC for the highest tally of the species.

We also recorded two Great Horned Owls, including this one roosting in an out building inside a small corral with cattle. The light was failing, but Brian's camera managed to get a nice shot of it.

In the same corral a few feet away we found a covey of Grey Partridge facing into the stiff wind. Here are two shots by Brian showing a bit of what life is like for a wild bird in a prairie winter.


  1. The Great-horned Owl shot is wonderful and the feel of a prairie winter can be felt all the way back to B.C.
    I have spent many hours photographing in around Lumsden, Craven and Regina Beach albeit in the springtime when the migration is in full swing. I hope to be out again this year.

  2. Hi John--thanks for the comment. It is a great shot Brian took. A bit warmer today so I am going to try out my ancient cross country skis....


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