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Airdrie birdwatcher spots 78 species in Victoria Day count

By on June 1, 2022 0

The annual bird count of Airdrie residents has led him to count a record number of bird species in the city.

Airdrie resident Andrew Hart, a self-proclaimed ‘bird watcher’, spent his Victoria Day Monday scouring the skies counting the many species of birds around Airdrie.

After moving from Calgary to Airdrie a few years ago, Hart wanted to explore his new community and decided to use his passion for birding to guide him on his adventures.

Now in his third year of counting birds around the city every day in Victoria, Hart has noticed more species this year than in the previous two years. In his inaugural count in 2020, Hart noted 68 different bird species. In 2021, history repeats itself and he finds 68 again.

But this year, Hart broke his record by spotting 78 different bird species during his annual Victoria Day count.

However, he thinks the increase may be due to the fact that he was joined in his efforts this year by another bird watcher.

“We noticed some things that I might have missed on my own,” Hart said.

Kicking off the count on May 23 at 7 a.m. with their binoculars in tow, the pair started the day at Willow Pond, where they found 22 species of birds and the most remarkable discovery of the day – a headed vireo blue. The blue-headed vireo typically only visits local storm ponds for a day or two, according to Hart, making it a rare sight.

The two birdwatchers then headed to another storm pond in the community of Cooper’s Crossing, where Hart said he found several different species of ducks.

Hart’s next stop, Chinook Winds Regional Park, led him to find two gray partridges as well as a few Wilson’s snipes.

However, Hart has noticed fewer birds in the city’s southwest park compared to previous years and believes this may be due to recent housing development in the housing estate.

“One thing that will help Airdrie I’m pretty sure is this new regional park coming to the northeast,” Hart said, suggesting the future park will support Airdrie’s bird population.

The City of Airdrie announced the acquisition of land for the 75-acre park in January. The land is currently not open to the public and planning for the park is not expected to begin until later this year. A schedule for the park has yet to be released.

Traveling to Nose Creek Regional Park, the two birders spent an hour pointing their binoculars and enjoying the nice weather, according to Hart.

“It was pretty sunny, it wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t usually too windy because if it’s really windy you can’t hear the birds… Airdrie is very nice and relaxed,” Hart said.

Hart and his fellow birders found black-horned night herons, Lincoln’s sparrows and Swainson’s thrushes at Nose Creek Park.

The team then explored some of the marshy environments surrounding Airdrie, where they found white-faced ibises, lesser yellowlegs and spotted sandpipers, among a few other bird species.

Another highlight of the day was the discovery by the team of a great horned owl.

The Williamstown Natural Area led Hart to find six Cinnamon Teal birds, along with several ducks and another Wilson Sniper.

Traveling along the North West boundary of Airdrie and up to the pond behind the Airdrie Real Canadian Superstore, the couple spotted other duck species and a Bufflehead.

Their final stop of the day took the duo to East Lake Regional Park. There they spotted a Pied-billed Grebe before it dove into the lake. Hart also noted a red-breasted nuthatch, which was the last species for the day.

By 6 p.m., the two men had traveled 15 kilometers and discovered 78 different bird species in Airdrie.

For those interested in birdwatching as a hobby, Hart recommends using the eBird app, which allows users to track birds in the area using a reporting system. The app creates maps of migration patterns and tells other users where birds are in which area, based on individual reports users make on the app.

Currently there are approximately 10 birdwatchers in Airdrie using and updating the app.

“They have bird sightings, how many birds they saw where, and then that goes into a huge database, a citizen science database and researchers can build on the idea of ​​decline, of population growth and movement,” Hart explained.

In addition to using eBird, Hart suggested buying a good pair of binoculars and finding a friend who enjoys birdwatching.

“Try to find somebody else who’s into it,” Hart said. “Rejoin…NatureCalgary, because they run tours in the Calgary area and a few in Airdrie. »

A volunteer-run organization, Nature Calgary’s goal is to observe and appreciate nature in and around Calgary. People of all ages are welcome to take part in the excursions, where the group immerses itself in the natural sites. Trips are led by volunteers with local knowledge so those who join can learn while enjoying the great outdoors.

Hart added that there is also an active Alberta Birds Facebook page, where the birding community can share their findings with each other.

According to Hart, more experienced birders often help beginners correctly identify birds.

“Everyone misidentifies birds,” Hart said. “People shouldn’t be put off by the worry of this possibility.”