Birding, Above All
Fall and spring migration is a time when the woods are alive with the twittering of warblers and sparrows, the beaches are dotted with shorebirds, and many wetlands are abundant with geese and ducks. Patrolling these restless flocks are Peregrine Falcons and other majestic birds of prey.
Some of the early migrants, such as Horned Larks and Mountain Bluebirds, arrive in early/mid March while yearling Purple Martins may not arrive until the end of June. Starting in mid April, resident birds are joined by other breeding migrants and all begin to set up territories. May and June are the peak birding months; by mid-July the young of most species are out of the nest and the woods are falling silent once again.
The end of summer is marked by the early arrival of shorebirds heading back south from their northern nesting grounds. Shortly thereafter, warblers and other northern migrants pass through. As the days shorten and the temperatures drop, the breeding birds follow suit. The only species that remain over winter are those that can survive on buds, seeds, berries, live prey, frozen insects or carrion.
Despite the cold and snow, winter in Central Alberta has its own appeal for bird watchers, as Common and Hoary Redpolls, Hawk Owls, Snowy Owls, Gyrfalcons and other winter visitors join the year-round resident chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, ravens and owls.
The Red Deer River Naturalists have published two birding trail maps: one for the City of Red Deer and one for Central Alberta. Maps are available at Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Ellis Bird Farm as well as other locations around Central Alberta.