Mountain Bluebird, Northern Goshawk, Hawk Owl spotted in Central Alberta

A Mountain Bluebird and rare birds like Northern saw-whet owl, Northern goshawk and Northern hawk owl were spotted around Christmas in Central Alberta.

Not all of the data was in Thursday but Judy Boyd, Red Deer River Naturalists bird count compiler, said she has been keeping tally as bird count numbers arrive.

The annual Central Alberta Christmas Bird Count is a joint initiative by Red Deer River Naturalists and Kerry Wood Nature Centre. It took place Dec. 19.

So far 76 people have sent in their data, which shows 5,400 birds were spotted. During the 2016 Christmas count, there were more than 9,600. The annual bird count takes place across the region in Red Deer, Clive, Alix, Rocky Mountain House, Olds and Ponoka.

The counts show long-term bird patterns and answers questions like “is any species on the verge of a decline?”

Apart from the count day numbers, Boyd also maintains a count-week math, which shows birds that were spotted either three days before or after the count day.

The Northern Saw-whet owl spotted in Lacombe area, Northern goshawk somewhere around Gull Lake area and Northern hawk owl in Delburne area were spotted during count week.

“What makes them special is you don’t see them too often,” she said.

Boyd said the Mountain Bluebird spotted near Clive on count day shouldn’t have been in the area. The bird species leave around September or October every year.

As for why the bird was in the area when it shouldn’t have been, Boyd said, one can’t say. But her guess is sometimes birds find a reliable food source and stay through winter or something could be wrong.

“Normally they migrate,” she said.

Boyd was an OWL bird watcher this year. OWL bird watchers count birds before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. On count day, she spotted a bald eagle in a nest in the Red Deer area in the evening.

The data compiled so far also shows about seven robins were spotted in Central Alberta with six near Alix and one near Clive. Robins have been spotted in the region for a number of years. The highest number was in 2015 when 27 of them were spotted. Other years, between one and 11 have been spotted except in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

The comments from the bird watchers this year is they haven’t seen the type of birds that they usually do like pine grosbeak or the rarer hairy woodpecker

Boyd said that could be because count was a “nice day,” and that means birds may not go out to feeders. She said bird count may vary on a windy day, a cold day or a sunny day.

Once the data is compiled, it will be sent off to Bird Studies Canada.

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