Red Deer River Naturalists

The Red Deer river Naturalists are a group dedicated to learning about and preserving natural history. They have regular programs with speakers and many field trips.


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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Don't Bet on the Birds

      I lead a birding group on Saturday afternoons in Red Deer. I like to get the group focused on something so I quite often mention what we might see in an area.

      Saturday we were at Heritage Ranch in Red Deer .Before we started I suggested we might see the usual suspects like chickadees, nuthatches and magpies. I also suggested that there could be possible sightings of kinglets and brown creepers. Kinglets would be in the top of spruce trees so would be almost impossible to see. You might hear a soft tinkly sound. Creepers are well camouflaged and you could miss them if they were right beside you. So off we go with our eyes and ears ready to make sightings.

     We did have a good afternoon but we didn't see any of the birds I suggested we watch.

     We did see a chickadee on the way down to the river. On the river we saw mergansers and I didn't expect them. We also found a few mallards which were no surprise. A km down the river there was a sandbar covered with gulls. Then, there's a hawk like bird sitting high up in an old spruce spar. We had a good look and then it flew off. It turned out to be a sharp shinned hawk.

     Half way up the trail we found a male and female downy and then out of nowhere a piloted woodpecker crashed the party.

    After that one lonely raven flew over.

    So you see my predictions were not even close.

    It would have been a bonus if we'd seen a kinglet or creeper.

    How are your predictions?

    The pileated woodpecker was very close and Jurgen got a great photo.


Sunday, October 2, 2016


      Last week it was forecast that we would have some aurora borealis to watch particularly Wednesday and Thursday. There was heavy cloud here so I don't know if there was anything to see?

      Did anyone see northern lights this week?

      I happen to like northern lights and have been privileged to see many. I was brought up on a farm at Esk, Sask. The country at that  time was dark so there wasn't any light pollution. Most nights we played outside and as a result saw northern lights many times. I've never forgotten them.

     Northern Lights are a natural phenonenom so a natural fit for this blog.

     The photo from the internet shows a spectacular display of northern lights.

Image result for aurora borealis

Sunday, September 25, 2016


     I lead a birding group for the Red Deer River Naturalists. Now I use the term lead very loosely. I like birds. I have some basic bird knowledge, But I can't identify very many species. I know where the birds are . I can find them. I set up a schedule for taking the group out. However , I can't say right away , "that is a marsh wren." I have to check my bird book.

    Now the group I had were very satisfied with what we did. I was very happy with the group. I could see that their experience paid off and they learned much more about birds. I could also see that there were people who were well qualified to lead the group.

    The group also increased in numbers.

    Then a professional biologist joined us. He's a college teacher. This improved our birding experience many times. More species were seen and with each identification a tremendous amount of information about the bird. So the biologist made birding much more worthwhile.

    Now we only had one biologist for about 8 months when another biologist joined us. These two are both teachers and talk the same language. We all benefited some more.

    So my point today is that we have some great expertise the birding experience is much better.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


     Yesterday I went with 7 other birders to the Nova Nature Trail. I had never been to this area and it was a very pleasant surprise. Nova Chemicals has set up a nature trail on 280 acres just north of the plant. Jones Creek runs through the center of the area so there are some very good wetlands.

     As I said the main feature is the creak. Some of the area is reclaimed land. Other parts are pastured areas. There is brush, riparian treed and grassed areas. This makes for great bird and animal habitat.

      They have put in 7 Km of gravel rails. There are many bridges over wetlands so it affords great views to the area.

    I was quite pleased to see that Nova Chemicals had set aside and improved the area so well.

    We saw 19 species of birds that we could identify and a few that we didn't get a good enough look at in order to identify them. We saw:Canada geese, crow, great blue heron, red tailed hawk, mallard, flicker, yellow rumped warbler, American tree sparrow, vesper sparrow, tree swallow, raven, Savannah sparrow, downy woodpecker, black capped chickadee, red necked grebe, coots, American goldfinch, shovellers.

    I highly recommend that you visit this area.

     I will certainly be out next spring to check on breeding birds.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Crazy Robins

      Every fall we get a few days where robins are abundant and tear around as if they've completely lost it.  It's when I get phone calls about all the robins in the yard.

      Today was one of those days with crazy robins. There were many robins in the area. They chase each other and you'd think they are acrobats by their flying. At this time it's common for robins to hit your windows. It is fall migration. They are feeding heavily to fatten up and have spare energy. We will get several rushes of robins. Robins nest on the Arctic coast so we have robins go through from much further north. I would think our local robins have gone south a few weeks ago.

     In spite of all the emphasis on fall migration, we have quite a few robins who stay with us all winter. I've seen robins in every month of the year. We usually get robins counted in the Christmas bird count.

     Now added to the fun today were the black birds. We usually have a day or two with masses of blackbirds. Trees are full of blackbirds and they fly as a flock. I can spend a whole day watching black birds from my windows.

     So I'll be watching for more robins and blackbirds tomorrow.

     Tell me if you have large flocks of birds going through the area.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Origins of Naturalwise.

      Naturalwise is a blog that is under the wings of the Red Deer River Naturalists (RDRN) .The header very clearly lays out the aims and objectives of the naturalist group. So with the idea of promoting more knowledge about natural history the blog was started in August 2010.

      The idea was a that a good blog could reach a wide audience. There are many good writers who are members of the Red Deer River Naturalists so there should be lots of material to post on a blog. It's very easy to become a writer on Naturalwise but people were reluctant to post. The few people who did post wrote some very interesting articles. They tried it once and for some reason did not continue.

      To have a good blog you need fresh and regular material. Posting everyday gets a larger readership than posting once a week. Keeping fresh material was a struggle and the blog ceased posting in April 2013. Strangely enough the last two posts had a 120 and 93 visits each. We were quite successful for the effort we put in on the blog.

     However, I always kept the blog in mind. I would go back and look at it. Finally, I forgot the password and other information.

     So this year I decided to get the blog going again. I decided to post once a week.

     It's a challenge to attract  again. However, I am hopeful that more people will stop and take a look at Natural wise.

     We also have a face book page which keeps postings very current. there are over 2000 photos on the face book page. I use them for the blog.
    So this is not only an invitation to follow natural wise but to contribute material to the blog. If you've got something you'd like to post let me know. Something very interesting would be just a photo posting. Go for a hike and post it here.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

More Conflict

     The other day I was weeding near the huge tree in my yard where I had recently hung a feeder.

      I noticed a magpie and red squirrel in the tree. They were both very quiet which is odd.  This is very different for red squirrels who chatter constantly. Magpies chatter constantly. This caused me to take a second look. The two were eying each other very closely. The squirrel would move a small distance and the magpie would shift. I thought something pretty exciting could happen very quickly.

     Finally the squirrel got behind a large limb and went higher in the tree. The magpie remained. I guess the magpie thought that the silly little beggar would have to come down sooner or later.

     All of a sudden two squirrels were chasing each other. The second squirrel must have been in the upper branches of the tree. Here's were the excitement took place. The two squirrels chased each other around the trunk. They screeched  and yelled at each other. They were trying to keep the trunk in between each other.

    Finally, one squirrel left the tree and ran across the yard. First squirrel said, "Aha, I sure fixed him!" The magpie was still sitting on his perch and probably thought "Well, that was very interesting." I thought it was interesting and exciting too.

    How about you? Have you seen some territorial disputes?

Photo by Angela-Cormier MacLean

Photo by Duke Fraser