Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 01/26/2016

Photo taken on January  3, 2016

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Anne Elliott
Pine Grosbeak
Pinicola enucleator
Nanton area
front/side view
S of Calgary
SW quadrant of Count circle
Family: Fringillidae
Christmas Bird Count 2015
3 January 2016

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Pine Grosbeak / Pinicola enucleator

Pine Grosbeak / Pinicola enucleator
Some years, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count for Nanton is held late in December. Other years, it ends up being held early January. The Count on 3 January 2016 was part of the 2015 Bird Count.

I think these gorgeous Pine Grosbeaks, this one a male, were the highlight of the day for me. We had been told about a farm family who had lots of these Grosbeaks at their feeders, and we are so glad that we called in. We also saw a Gray Jay there, to add to our species list. My small group of 4 friends and myself, travelling in two cars, did see 5 Golden Eagles, too, which was a thrill, but they were way off in the distance and I couldn't get any close photos like this one of a Grosbeak : )

"One of the larger members of its family, the Pine Grosbeak is a bird of the boreal forests, found across northern Eurasia and North America, and south into the mountains of western Canada and the United States. A large, unwary finch, it makes periodic winter irruptions into southern Canada and northern United States. It is the largest and rarest of the "winter finches." From AllAboutBirds.

As you can see, the weather was bright and sunny for us this day. What you can't see was that it was very cold for the first part of the day, then warming up to a pleasant cold later on! I think it was -21C when we started. Two years ago, on the trip in January (for the 2013 Count), on the hour-long drive south of Calgary, we hit -34C (-29.2F)!!!!! Again, this year, there was no or very little wind, which makes all the difference. Also, the only walking we had to do was when we called in at various farms/acreages.

We drove through such beautiful scenery when we were covering the SW quadrant of the Christmas Bird Count circle that centered on the town of Nanton, Alberta. A landscape over which the occasional Golden Eagle soars and in which some years - but definitely not on this day! - numerous Sharp-tailed Grouse wander on the ground or perch in trees. Unlike some years, we saw only a handful of very distant Grouse, perched on a group of hay bales. I absolutely love this area SW of Nanton! Some of the backroads are extremely steep and almost look vertical when seen from a distance. Some years, the whole area is white, covered in deep snow, so that you can't tell where the roadside ends and the ditch begins. This Count, it wasn't too bad, thank goodness, though I might have felt differently if I had been one of the two drivers for our group!

Around lunch time, we returned to the Truch family's home as we were very nearby, and ate our lunch in the warmth of their cosy home.

After driving (being driven, for me, which is always pure luxury) the backroads from about 8:00 a.m. till around 3:30 p.m., we returned to the wonderful home of the Truch family. Not only do Bill and Leah Truch and their son, Mike, always welcome everyone with open arms, they also provide a much-appreciated breakfast snack for us and then, at the end of the day, a delicious supper. Have to say that I love travelling these scenic backroads, but I also really enjoy getting together with everyone afterwards. This is one of my favourite Bird Counts, and perhaps the most favourite.

Just before leaving for Calgary at the end of the day, we were shown the family's Llamas, two Donkeys, Peacocks, and several tiny white Quail. I should have taken photos of these animals when it was daylight - but maybe I can do it next year.

Thanks so much for doing all the driving, Tony and Andrew, and thanks, Leah, Bill and Mike for all the effort and time you put into your warm welcome! It was another well-organized Count, Mike, as usual - thanks. Can't wait for next Christmas!

List of species seen by our small group, from Andrew Hart:

Nanton general area
Jan 3, 2016
8:45 AM
113.00 km
360 Minutes
All birds reported? Yes
Comments: -14 to +1 deg C sunny. Nanton CBC area D

32 Sharp-tailed Grouse
5 Golden Eagle
1 Bald Eagle
12 Rough-legged Hawk
50 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
2 Eurasian Collared-Dove
8 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)
3 Northern Shrike
4 Gray Jay
100 Black-billed Magpie
28 Common Raven
16 Black-capped Chickadee
4 European Starling
2 American Tree Sparrow
105 Pine Grosbeak -- First 60 In a yard with feeders. Balance seen elsewhere along route. Another 35 in a yard off Williams Coulee.
3 White-winged Crossbill
220 Common Redpoll
4 Hoary Redpoll
40 House Sparrow

Number of Species: 20