Northern saw-whet owls are among the masters of camouflage.

Northern saw-whet owls are among the masters of camouflage.

Canada 150 Bird Count: More than 60 species already sighted in Central Alberta

Bluebirds are among the many different species reported this spring

Central Alberta bird watchers have been busy scanning the skies to find 150 species in honour of this country’s 150th birthday.

Surprisingly, 60 species have already been reported, said Red Deer River Naturalists board member Keith Kline. When he came up with the idea for the year-long bird count, Kline thought it could take 12 months to come up with 150 species.

Now he wouldn’t be shocked if the count reaches 150 by July. “That means only 90 species left to find,” added Kline.

Even so, the special 2017 bird count will keep going until Dec. 31, since Kline is among those interested in seeing the year-end total.

About 20 area bird watchers have so far been reporting their sightings to or the Red Deer River Naturalist website. Kline hopes more people will get involved — especially younger people.

“We don’t have that many bird species here over the winter,” he said, but eager birders have still reported some fascinating specimens. Among them were a few domestic camouflage experts — a brown creeper, spotted in Kin Kanyon, and a black-backed woodpecker, seen in McKenzie Trails.

Kline said early migrants have starting to arrive, including a bluebird seen on Mar. 16 northeast of Sundre.

While the bluebirds killed off by a late season snowfall a few years ago have not made a recovery near the Ellis Bird Farm, their population seems to be thriving elsewhere in Central Alberta.

“I see them everywhere — absolutely everywhere,” said Red Deer River Naturalist member Judy Boyd — including near the Medicine River Wildlife Centre south of Spruce View, and along a birding trail near Lousana. “There are so many bluebirds out there it’s amazing!”

Kline holds out hope of seeing a sandhill crane in Alberta. This leggy species is more plentiful in Saskatchewan, where Kline grew up. He remembers hearing their unique croak-like call. “You would always hear them way before you would see them.”

One bird he’s never seen is a whooping crane, which migrates over east Central Alberta to spend the summers in Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta.

Anyone interested in going on Saturday morning bird-watching tours with Kline can meet at 10 a.m. on April 8 at Kin Kanyon (in the Rotary Park parking lot), on April 15 at the Kerry Wood Nature Center, April 22 at Riverbend Golf Course (in the parking lot at the bottom of the hill before the golf course), and on April 29 at Maskapatoon Park (in the parking lot on west side of Kerry Wood Drive).