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, February 26, 2017


Date       |   Species                       |        reporter                |                  location 

Feb. 22     Pine siskin                          Chris Olsen                               Red Deer
    “          Common redpoll   " "
   "           House finch                               "                                             "
   "           Black-capped chickadee              "                                             "
   "           White breasted nuthatch              "                                             "
   "           House sparrow                           "                                             "
   "           Pileated woodpecker                   "                                             "
   "           Northern flicker                          "                                             "
   "           Downy woodpecker                    "                                             "
   "           Black-billed magpie                     "                                             "
   "           Bohemian waxwing                     "                                             "
   "           Rock pidgeon                                "                                             "
   "           Blue jay                                Dennis Mckernan        12 mi NW of Olds
   "           American Kestrel                          "                                         "
   "           Bald eagle                                    "                                         "
   "           Raven                                          "                                         "
   "           Snow bunting                               "                                          "
 Feb.24    Mallard                                 Judy Boyd                    Dickson dam
 Jan.2      Canada goose                                "                                      "
 Jan.14    Merlin                                           "                           Clearview Meadows
 Jan.15    Rough-legged hawk                        "                           Erskine
    "         Great horned owl                           "                           Hwy 835 S of Twp 380
    "         Hairy Woodpecker                         "                           Hwy 601 east of RR  212
    "         European starling                           "                            Hwy 601 east of rr 213
 Jan.17    Northern shrike                             "                            RR 272 north of twp 360
    "         Gray partridge                               "                            twp 344 west of rr 220
    "         Ring necked pheasant                    "                            RR 231 north of Twp 310
Jan. 25    Common goldeneye                      "                            Dickson dam
Jan. 30    American crow                             "                            Taylor Dr and Horn St. Red Deer
Feb. 1     Boreal chickadee                          "                             Medicine River Wildlife Center
Feb. 1     Snowy owl                                    "                           RR 230 south of Twp 324
Feb. 15   Horned lark                                   "                           Twp 344 east of RR 250
    "         Eurasian collared dove                   "                            Rr 272 at Twp 372
Jan. 2     Spotted towhee                        Roger Marcil
Jan. 14   Barred owl                               Jurgen Wiechert           Mackenzie Trails
Feb. 28   Red-breasted nuthatch              Bertha Ford                 Anders
Mar. 4     Gray jay                                 Valerie Helm                NE of Sundre
   "         Spruce grouse                                  "                                  "
   "         Great gray owl                                 "                                  "
   "         Pine grosbeak                                  "                                  "
Jan. 18   Says phoebe                            Darcy Gabert                 Ellis Bird Farm
Mar.1    Northern saw whet owl             Jim Potter                      Near Delburne
Mar. 4   Brown creeper                         Brian Biggs                     Near Lousana  
Mar. 8   Cedar waxwing                         Judy Boyd                     Red Deer
Mar. 7   Dark-eyed junco                       Aly Seymour
Mar. 19 American robin                         Aly Seymour                  West of Benalto
Mar. 21 Ruffed grouse                           Judy Boyd                      Twp 364 and RR 11
Mar. 19 Blue birds                                 Valerie Helm                   N E Sundre
Feb. 15  Northern Goshawk                    Carol Kelly                    Medicine River wildlife center
Feb 25   Common merganser                  Judy Boyd                     Dickson dam
Mar. 22 American tree sparrow               Jim Robertson                Joffre
Mar. 22 Ring billed gull                           Judy Boyd                     Red Deer
Mar. 23 Northern harrier                         Brian Biggs                    Lousana
Mar. 11 American goldfinch                    Brian Biggs                     Lousana
Mar. 24 Northern pintail                          Judy Boyd                     Bigelow Reservoir
Mar. 24 American widgeon                     Judy Boyd                      Bigelow Reservoir
Mar. 25 Red-tailed hawk                         Judy Boyd                     West of Penhold

Saturday, February 25, 2017


    The Red Deer River Naturalists had an interesting speaker tell us about bighorn sheep.

    Kathleen Ruckstuhl, an expert on bighorns presented a wide variety of information on the sheep. Kathleen has studied bighorns for 23 years.

    The bighorn population is worrisome. Populations have gone down and not come back up. Sheep are transplanted in different groups to add to the population. The social aspects are quite interesting. Males stay with males and only  few dominant males  get to breed as other males are fought off.

     Kathleen had many great photos.

    Many questions were asked during the talk and a long question and answer period happened after the talk.

    People are very curious about bighorns. I always stop when I see a bighorn herd. I usually see some sheep around whirlpool point on the David Thompson highway.

    Huw Jenkins has a nice shot of a typical little bighorn sheep herd.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017


      Two or three times a year I will have mice in my yard. They've usually been around for quite sometime before I notice. Sometimes they get into the shed and the bird seed. They can make a mess.

      With the fresh snow, mouse tracks are obvious and a few days ago I saw tracks. Of course, I lost the tracks. So where's the mouse?

      Today the tracks appeared again and it looks like he/she was heading out of the country.

       When I'm out in the bush in snow I always watch for signs of mice. Mice are an important part of the food chain. How many mice a month does it take to keep an owl from being hungry.

      This fall some crop in Alberta was not harvested. Swaths of grain are perfect places for mice. Then in the spring we discover a large mouse population.

     Are you seeing more mice this winter because of crop left in the field?

Sunday, February 5, 2017


    This morning I shovelled snow just before noon. It was cold and with a bit of a breeze. Being Sunday morning , things were very quiet.

   When I'm out I always watch for birds. I like to see what's in the area and listen for any calls.

    This morning I heard a bird call as I was shovelling. I stopped to listen. I could identify the bird immediately. It was the collared dove. However, I couldn't see the bird. I kept shovelling, listening and watching. I find the collared dove sound hard to pinpoint. I know the general direction but it seems to come from different areas. Sometimes that's because there's more than one bird.

    I finished shovelling and still hadn't seen the bird. I wasn't going to go up the street looking for the bird.

    I hope the bird or birds found what they were looking for. They were probably looking for a suitable feeder.

   Collared doves are recent arrivals here. The first one I saw was three years ago. Many people have not seen them but I'll bet they've heard them. I was asked recently if collared doves were around this winter. Yes, they are. They are around my place every week or so.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017


    Bohemian waxwings are a very common winter bird in this area. (Central Alberta). They appear about the end of November to mid December. They travel in rather large flocks so are very noticeable. The rest of the year they spend in the boreal forest.

    Waxwings are very attractive with the bright red and yellow markings. You can get very close to them when they are feeding on mountain ash berries. When they are resting in the daytime they find a huge tree where as many of them as possible jockey for spaces. They groom and enjoy the sun.

    Last week I wrote about how the waxwings are pursued by merlins. This week I observed the action again. There were many waxwings in the tree in my front yard as they were feeding in my neighbor's mountain ash. I got a few photos and as I was looking for another photo the flock exploded and left. As waxwings do they formed a dense ball and rose . Then I noticed a different bird. You almost think it's a waxwing that didn't here go. But it was the merlin. Again I didn't see him make a kill but I haven't had waxwings all week.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


     Bohemian waxwings give us some fantastic shows in the winter. They are beautiful birds with some bright red and yellow highlights.

     Bohemian waxwings tend to hang out in rather large flocks. They start out smaller in early winter and gradually grow to be huge flocks which are very noticeable. It's amazing to see a large flock of birds take off all at the same instant. What's to communication they have that tells them to begin flight as if they are one bird?

     Flocks become larger as they feast on Mountain ash berries. The snow under roosting trees gets covered with the remains of the red mountain ash berries. And then they have the nerve to poop on cars.

     For me the best part of bohemian waxwings is when they are pursued by a predator. The predator in this area is the merlin. The merlin's method of predation is to get under a flock. The flock rises to get away from the merlin. Sooner or later a weak bird will drop for the flock. The merlin is on the bird like lightening.

     Today a large flock was in my district. And yes the merlin was here too. I saw the merlin chase the flock but I didn't see him make a kill.

     Are you watching the beautiful bohemian waxwings?

Monday, December 19, 2016


       Red Deer River Naturalists (RDRN) had their Christmas bird count on Sun, Dec 18. Many other groups held their bird count on or about the same date.

       We tried to remember how long RDRN has been doing bird counts. We don't know and will have to do some research on old records.

      Sunday  was a rather  gray day with minus 10 C to minus 4 C in the afternoon.

      I have not seen totals but most counters were saying they saw fewer birds and species.

      I saw 8 species and a little of 150 birds in REd Deer in Bower Woods /Kin Kanyon. I saw blue jay. magpie. black capped chickadee, bohemian waxwing, raven, crow, house finch. A friend saw a brown creeper. I also saw birds the looked like pigeons but were not pigeons. I should have seen a few other  species like house sparrows, red breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker as they are in the area.  

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    We had a pot luck in the evening to finish off the count.