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Post from Al Woodhouse in Waterloo

February 26, 2012

A good friend and ex-colleague in the awesome Outdoor Education Department of the Waterloo Region District School Board, Al,  inspired me to do this big year, so it is only fitting that readers of this blog get to hear how Al is progressing in his big year from the workplace.  He sent me his first post a little over a week ago and an update in the last few days.   His workplace is the Camp Heidelberg Outdoor Education Centre.  The actual office space is not one for birding from (a basement), but once outside, it is a lovely natural area just north west of Waterloo with mixed forest, wetland, bog, upland forest and some open areas and a good view of open fields to the north.   I’ll ask him to send me a picture or two so you can see what Camp Heidelberg OEC looks like.

He wanted to be at 30 species by the end of February, (so do I though I am stuck at 15 or 16 which I will explain in the next entry).  So here is what Al has to say:

“I have been keeping track of the species diversity of birds on the property where I work, since the fall of 2000.  To date I have had 147 species!  I had never kept track of the number of species detected within a single year, but in 2011 I began using eBird to contribute my sightings as part of citizen science.  One of the benefits of eBird is the automatic tracking of species over a calendar year.  Although I might have had 100 species in a calendar year before, but never knew it.  Last year I had 111 species detected on the property!  This year, as Ted blogged, we thought it might be interesting to have a friendly competition to see who could detect the greatest number of species for 2012.  In January I detected 25 species, with another 2 added so far in February – for a total of 27 species.  I have been trying to keep special attention to listening for Common Redpoll, Hoary Redpoll, Bohemian Waxwing, White-winged Crossbill, Snow Bunting, and other ‘winter’ specialties – because if we don’t get those now, chances are slim at the end of the year…  On Friday I was filling my bird feeders and saw distant flock of finches.  I assumed they were WW Crossbills, due to how common they are this year, but then noted the irregular flight acrobatics, more typical of HORE, CORE, and PISI.  They then flew into the trees right above me and I ‘ticked’ Common Redpoll – a flock of 40-ish!
I have struck out on Snow Bunting, and have not been out owling (I am not spending any addition time beyond my regular work times), but WW Crossbills, Pine Siskins, and Common Redpolls are now on the list.  It seems that the finches will be detected more frequently at the feeders, with the dropping of seeds from the cones and the birches in the area.  COME ON HOARY REDPOLL!!  It is not likely this year, but I will be sure to look at each bird, just in case…
I think if I can approach, or get to 100 species it would be considered a very good year…  more than 1/4 of the way there.  I need a Harrier, Snow Bunting, or any owl species…  Thirty species by the end of the month would be a wonderful winter birding list.
Al ”

and he updates from this past Wednesday:

“Today with the class we were doing some bird watching and not only did we watch a Pileated Woodpecker (PIWO) at the suet feeder, but we saw the 30 species for 2012.  It is an uncommon species that we might see 5-10 times per year in the ‘birding area’.  We were watching BCCH eating at the back feeder and I was telling the class to watch on the ground for DEJU, when another bird popped out.  I did not have my ‘bins ready because I was helping some students fine-tune theirs… one student said what is that?  I and I looked up and said ‘That is bird type #30 for the property for 2012!”.  I had already told them about the friendly we were having.
So #30 for me is the uncommon American Tree Sparrow (ATSP).  I am missing Hoary Redpoll, Bohemian Waxwing, and Snow Bunting for the winter specialties…  keeping my ears open!”

Since Al is trying to predict what he might observe next, I will do the same.  I predict that Ring-billed Gull, Pileated Woodpecker, and Canada Goose will be on the list in the next week.  Still no sign of any “winter finches” from our balcony.  Maybe too optimistic for the goose, as we just received 20 cm of snow last night!


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