01 September 2017

eBird Month List Tip

All-time Month lists can be accessed via Targets.

For example, 

This will show what you have NOT seen: I have seen 148 species in September but, of ALL the species seen in September by everyone, I am missing 70 species.

To see what you HAVE seen, click the blue hyperlink next to the species total (i.e., the 148 in below example).  This will take you to a page that shows ALL the species you have ever seen in September. (photo not included in this blog).

(Thank you, Marshal Iliff!)

21 July 2017

What's in a Cheeseburger?: Alphabetical Consonants to Describe Bird Song


What if we arbitrarily assigned consonants to tell us about the relative pitches in a bird's song?
 I am going to try this.


So, for example, take the chickadee song often described as "cheese bur ger". This word doesn't automatically tell me which syllables are of higher or lower pitch than the others. But what about the last two sylables - "bur" and "ger"? Are they both on the same pitch? Not always. Sometimes the "ger" is the same pitch as the "bur", and sometimes it is slightly 'flat' - as in 'lower'.

Human Nature

Often-times, people just clue in to one song/sound they recognize, a 'key song' if you will, and ignore the rest. But, if one pays more attention to all one hears, one quickly realizes there is a lot of variation even in the cheeseburger call. Yes, it is overwhelming. Auditory memory and organization is generally not as well-developed as visual.

It is human nature that the vowel sound "ee" is going to be higher pitched than other vowel sounds. Indeed, in this case the "cheese" syllable is higher pitched than the other two. And it is human nature to focus more on the vowel sounds - I think it is hard-wired into our brains.

Assigning Consonants
If we arbitrarily assigned consonants based on pitch: higher-pitched syllables would start with a consonant occuring further along in the alphabet -- just like the letter-notation of music where pitch "G" is higher than pitch "D".

- Tee is higher than fee
- Yer is higher than bur
- hoo is higher than boo

The two-toned chickadee song - where the first syllable is the highest pitch and second and third syllables are on the same pitch, could be described as:


The three-toned chickadee song where each pitch is lower than the previous, could be described as:

Fee-dee-bee (feed debbie), or Fee-de-bur (Feed de bird)

This convention doesn't give any indication of duration of the syllables / notes in the song, but only of relative pitch. But the two main purposes of using human words to describe bird songs are to help one remember them and to communicate what one heard to another human.

"Cheeseburger" just confuses me because it doesn't tell me whether it is the two-pitched, or the three-pitched song. "Yer-tu-tu" and "feed-de-bird" make way more sense to me.

(Someone else has probably already thought of this, hehe. No matter. I'll keep trying it out for myself. )

04 July 2017

Curlew Update 4 July 2017

Mojo the Long-billed Curlew 

set out from Skookumchuck Prairie IBA at 9:30 pm on the first of July, 2017 following two females, Mildred and Pine, who left the area on the 21st of June.  All three birds flew straight toward Enterprise in northeast Oregon.  Mildred and Pine stopped at Enterprise for a bit before continuing on to California, but Mojo went past, turned southwest along the Malheur River, a tributary of the Snake River, and managed to find some agricultural fields out in the middle of nowhere, for goodness sake.  His last co-ordinates placed him south of Juntara, Oregon.

Mojo flew past the fields where Mildred and Pine took a breather

Mojo found some fields, Granite Creek Road, Juntara, Oregon


What fate has befallen Equina?  Her transmitter has not been transmitting since 29 June and today I found a very small pile of curlew feathers beside the highway near her last known co-ordinates between Moan and Ford Roads.

29 June 2017

Solar Land Grants Map April 2017

A couple of the requests for Crown land 'for the purpose of investigating the feasibility of solar power generation' - aka cover over, fence in, remove from wild nature - were REJECTED, and one was WITHDRAWN. So here is the updated map of these lands in the East Kootenay.

The renewable energy companies still have the use of land equal to about half of what will be flooded by the Site C dam from Skookumchuck to Elko.

I draw your attention to the north end of the map, in particular.  Here is Skookumchuck Prairie Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, important to ungulates, American Badger, Lewis' Woodpecker and Long-billed Curlew.  Almost ALL of the area which underwent restoration work earlier this decade is now available for 'investigating' putting up solar arrays.  See earlier posts.

Lewis' Woodpecker nesting in solar granted lands

Quick Post

UPDATE: went out the other evening and got two more confirmed LEWO nests. We have been driving right by them! Sneaky birds.

= 23 Lewis' Woodpecker nests with young or probable; in an area approx 3 km sq; found in approx 16 hours of surveying.  Extrapolate that to suitable habitat JUST on the Prairie (not the whole IBA) and I figure there could be 90 pairs nesting.

Enhancement and restoration work done a few years ago on the Skookumchuck Prairie Important Bird and Biodiversity Area has been very beneficial to Lewis' Woodpecker.

Unfortunately, this apparently barren and open land in an area purported to be the sunniest region in Canada has also caught the attention of renewable energy companies wishing to build solar arrays.  I hope the grass-roots movement toward small-scale solar power generation takes hold and leaves the grasslands' grass roots to pull carbon deep into the soil. Let the critters keep their home.

I have been able to survey the IBA for Lewis' Woodpecker where there are passable roads.

Here is a map showing:
     the solar land grant in pink
     found (10 confirmed) or probable LEWO nests
     one American Kestrel nest
     telemetry of Long-billed Curlews (see previous post)

Oopsy, I didn't know for sure if you were in there, little buddy!

Long-billed Curlew Happenings on the IBA

(placeholder post until I get some time to write something)

In June, seven Long-billed Curlews nesting on Skookumchuck Prairie Important Bird and Biodiversity Area were tucked out with satellite transmitters on backpacks.

Follow their brood-rearing and migrations here: Telemetry Map (courtesy of Bird Studies Canada)

Also see their and our friends and relatives tagged in the states: Telemetry Map US (courtesy of Intermountain Bird Observatory, Boise State University)

Me releasing "Mildred" aka AA. BSC photo

Antenna and leg flag visible. BSC photo


06 April 2017

Commenting Works!

Yay! The latest two applications for use of Crown Land to investigate the feasibility of developing solar electricity generating facilities (ie. blanketing the place with solar arrays), have NOT BEEN APPROVED!

Comments, which became increasingly numerous as each new application came in, must have had a huge effect!  Keep up the good work! Now, if we could just get the other seven approvals rescinded until the BC Government developes policies and guidelines specific to solar installation, that would be terrific!  Or, if we could AT THE VERY LEAST get the two grants on the Skookumchuck Prairie IBA rescinded, that would be good, too.  It's an IMPORTANT BIRD AND BIODIVERSITY AREA, people! What's up with THAT!

I found FOUR Lewis' Woodpecker nests there in two hours last year, and that was just along a short stretch of back road, not the whole area granted to the solar company.

The IBA is not the only concern, though.  Do we want vast swaths of solar arrays covering ecologically valuable land? Or have we learned yet, that the seemingly unlimited resources that SOME of our ancestors saw in when they colonized, are not really so unlimited?  Can we go for the decentralized model of solar power production that would hopefully minimize ecological damage and may actually reduce our ecological footprint?

21 January 2017

Editing the numbers in your eBird checklist

Here is how to get to, then edit your eBird checklists:

You have to be on the web page (cannot be done through the eBird app).

First, I show you the preliminary steps to get to your checklist.

Then I show you how to edit the numbers for the species in your checklist.



 Preliminary steps: getting to your checklist

1. Get to the eBird website:

 Method 1:           to get to the checklist via link:
                               click on the link in the email I sent
                               you about the checklist

follow the link in the email I sent you

 You may have to Sign In as shown below:
 If the page shown below pops up, you will have to enter your User Name and Password

Sign In or follow the links and instructions by clicking "Forgot User Name?" or "Forgot Password?"

Aside:     If you have forgotten your user name and / or password:
                use the links below the buttons "Sign In" and "Cancel" to
                reset your password.

                DO NOT CREATE a NEW ACCOUNT until you have exhausted
                all means to regain access to your existing account.  Accounts
                cannot be deleted - so multiple accounts can get messy.

                If in doubt, email me to find your user name and the email address
                you used to create your eBird account.

Method 2:            to get to your checklist via the eBird home page -
                               through your internet browser:

Step 1:  Open your browser

Step 2: get to eBird
- Start typing in "ebird" in the top box of your browser
     - you may get suggestions - so choose eBird.org
     - or completely type "ebird.org" and hit "enter"
Searching for eBird - what it looks like

 Step 3:  Get to "My eBird"
- the above step will get you to eBird as shown below. (maybe the US portal or maybe the Canadian portal - it doesn't matter.  FYI eBird has several portals around the world, in different languages. You can access eBird through any of them - in that language)

- next, you have to get to your own data - called "My eBird"
- click on "My eBird"  - one of the tabs in the olive green near the top

From this eBird home page: Click on "My eBird"

You may have to sign in - see above.

Step 4: Once signed in, you will see the screen below:
- On the sidebar to the right: click on "Manage My Checklists"

click on "Manage My Checklists"

Step 5: That will take you to THE FIRST PAGE of a list of all your checklists, as shown below

IGNORE the words at the top left in the white box: "My Shared Checklists" - this is for showing you checklists that OTHERS have shared WITH you.

Find the checklist you want to edit:
Method 1: scroll down the page - looking for date and location
- then click on "View or edit" over on the right

Method 2:
IF you have a lot of checklists, you will have to use the page navigation tools found at the top right, inside the white box, as shown below.  After finding the checklist, click on "View or edit" over on the right

Editing your checklist

Look on the right side - inside the white box.

From here, you can:
"Edit Location"
"Edit Date and Effort"
"Edit Species List" - edit the numbers, and other things
"Remove Species" - easily remove the species from the checklist
Click on "Edit Species List" to change the numbers
To change the number of a species you saw:
Click on "Edit Species List" - the screen will change to show boxes on the left with the numbers you entered

- click inside the box (the one that is to the left of the species name)
- select and delete the existing number
- enter the correct number
- SAVE - by clicking on the green box at the bottom left - inside the blue side panel

Change the numbers, then Save

Hope this was helpful!

PS.  You can browse through all your checklists, after you've hit "Save".
If you are looking at a single checklist:  see the buttons on the top right? "Older" and "Newer"!

14 January 2017

Song, Word, Cloud

Words describing some warbler songs

TagCrowd online service created this tag cloud for me of words describing Warbler songs.  Zeedl zi zoo!

Data for above is from song descriptions on the Nature Instruct > Dendroica website.

 Data for below is from the same and allaboutbirds

13 January 2017

What! 999 and 199?


eBird informs me I reviewed 999 submissions in 2016.  Dang, I couldn't break the triple zero on that?

I mean, even my year list was left at 199!  No Brown Creeper last year.  Can you believe that!

12 January 2017

Colder Temps Mean More Chickadees? AND Local CBCs

I just finished compiling our two local Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) and was looking at all the data over the years.

Does the following seem correct to you?

The colder the temperature, the more chickadees are recorded?

By chickadees, I mean a total of BC, MO, and chickadee sp.
I had to go back in the historical binders, rather than rely on the Audubon website download, because the temperature numbers in the latter are screwy - possibly something to do with conversion to / from Celsius.

I just received all the binders from the retiring, former compiler - pretty good record keeping!  Thank you!

Anyway, field observers find more chickadees the colder it is?  Why?


And: aren't we lucky that participation by people is only slightly affected by temperature!  You field observers are grrrrreat! and tough!  Thanks for turning out at -32 C this year!

Following is a descriptive summary of our two local counts.  For great photos visit the Rocky Mountain Naturalist blog at: RMN Blog - Christmas Bird Count 117


Fifteen field observers in four teams and 10 feeder watchers participated on the Cranbrook Count on the 28th of December, 2016.  Temperatures were chilly that day, starting at -8 C, and snow depth was up to a couple of feet; but the roads were clear.  After a warm autumn and the late arrival of snow, the chill set in quickly the beginning of December.  Many birds were caught off guard then, as was I on Count Day when I was awoken by my cell phone ringing in my ear – I had slept!

A first time on any count for us was Northern Shovelor – four hung around the sewage lagoons from late autumn to be counted!  Now (January), even the top component is frozen over, so I hope the big-bills have found somewhere else to go.

Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye numbers were low, but this year gave us the highest number of Mallards ever!  We’ve averaged 176 over 33 years but this year got a whopping 434 – this even after the city banned feeding them at the Mall last summer. 

Bald Eagle numbers were up a bit – 9 compared to a 4.2 average. 2 Red-taileds and a Cooper’s showed but we dipped on Rough-legged.  Single requisite Pygmy-Owl and Merlin complied.

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers showed good numbers, both a bit above average which is about a dozen each.  Flickers-18 and Pileated-8 likewise.

Our three jays, Gray, Steller’s, and Blue, were more or less average in number – usually a half dozen of each.  We got 7 Blue Jay this year compared to an all-time high of 25 in 2014 – they can be surprisingly quite when they want to.

Clark’s Nutcrackers were down to 3 from the average of 18.L Raven and Crow (American) numbers did a total flip!  We usually get twice as many Ravens as Crows but this year we got 293 Crows and only 188 Ravens!  Very unusual and contrary to our recently updated checklist.  What’s going on there?

Mountain and Black-capped Chickadee are pretty much equal in number here, with this year’s ratio favoring the latter slightly:  BCCH 94 and MOCH 113. No Chestnut-backed compared to 6 two years ago.  Even though they breed just up the Saint Mary’s River a bit, they are usually only a rare winter feeder visitor in the valley – maybe they all head to the West Kootenay side of Purcells in winter.

Red-breasted Nuthatch were up a bit to 51 individuals – still not as high as the maximum of 84 on the 101st count.  One White-breasted was ticked as was a surprise Pygmy Nuthatch at a feeder in count week.  They usually hang around Wycliffe or Fort Steele, not Cranbrook.

Thrushes (TOSO, AMRO) were down or did not show (VATH).  Take away a zero from our high of almost 5000 Bohemian Waxwings in December of 2005 and you will get how many we recorded this year.  So variable! But we average about 900.

House Finch numbers were up a bit (266/214 avg.) but it was an ‘off’ year for the rest of the ‘winter finches’ – Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, and Pine Siskin; Evening Grosbeak were missed completely and zero is quite disappointing compared to the 105 Pine Grosbeaks from last year.  D. Cooper reporting

So the Northern Shovelor gives up a total of 101 species ever seen on the Cranbrook Christmas Bird Count.  Our species count this year, not including the 3 in count week, was spot on average at 42 species, of which we are very proud.

Missed the usual/likely/special:
Great-Blue Heron
Mourning Dove
Pine Grosbeak
White-winged Crossbill
Evening Grosbeak


Fifteen field observers in 5 teams braved the clear bitter morning temperature of -32 C to go count birds from Wycliffe to Wasa, Kootenay Reserve to Kimberley.  A couple of us even cross-country skied the Rails to Trails.  Six feeder counters helped us out, too.  The warmest it got was -18 C.

The cold made for fewer numbers of individual birds (not counters, fortunately); we got three-quarters of what we usually get.  This made the day seem long, and the warm pub promised for the end of the day more inviting, but our species count was actually a bit above average at 43 full species compared to the average of 39 over 25 years.

Waterfowl are always few without warm sewage lagoons like Cranbrook – Wasa Lake is usually frozen – but 19 Common Goldeneye and a Common Merganser were picked up on the St. Mary’s River.  Three teams got Wild Turkey including a flock of 27 in an alley in Chapman Camp.  Then there’s the three that have been hanging out at the Mark Creek Bridge in Marysville for the past few weeks; someone has even put up a “Turkey Crossing” sign because it is such a sharp and blind corner.

Like Cranbrook’s count a week earlier, Bald Eagle numbers were above average with 14 seen in the circle.  Other raptors and such seen were one Golden Eagle, one Northern Goshawk, 2 Red-tailed Hawk, and one Northern Pygmy-Owl.  We’ve dipped on Merlin the last three years in a row! What?

Eurasian Collared-Doves are increasing slowly but steadily from 3 being recorded first on the December 2011 count to 18 this year.  Kimberley usually gets a few more Down, Hairy, and Flickers than Cranbrook and this year did not disappoint with 24, 18, and 33 respectively.  Flicker were particularly higher than the average of 21 and the maximum of 39 recorded on #113 and #115. 

We dipped on Gray Jay but got usual numbers of Steller’s (8) and Blue’s (5).  Our Crows and Ravens did not show the same flip in numbers as Cranbrook Count but our American Crow count was over twice the average (65 seen/26 avg.), perhaps because the CBC coincided with the first day of school; our kids go out at recess even at -18; a guaranteed snack bar is more likely.

Black-capped Chickadee numbers were up, recording 200 individuals, and Mountains were average at 96.  Both nuthatches were low in number (28 and 4) but Kimberley got 3 more White-breasted than Cranbrook.  There are usually a few American Robins around, surprisingly to non- and new birders, and this year there were 5.  A feeder watcher in Wasa managed to turn up a Varied Thrush, and Townsend’s Solitaire numbers were up a bit to 9.  The Mountain Bluebird reported throughout December living at the airport was not picked up.  Hopefully, it was cozy somewhere warm.

Bohemian Waxing numbers were low with only 253 seen out of the usual average of at least a thousand.  Junco numbers were high at two dozen instead of one.  House Finch numbers were also over double the average with almost 200 recorded.  The other winter finches were significantly lower at about a fifth of what is usually seen, except for American Goldfinch which was double the average at 26 recorded.  D. Cooper reporting.

Missed the usual/likely/special:
Gray Jay
Brown Creeper
Pine Grosbeak
House Sparrow

Dianne C.