Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Bird List

I'm not really a big fan of lists in general since most lists I do are of all the errands and minutiae I have to attend to on my days off.  When it comes to birding I don't keep many lists either other than maintaining a journal in which I check off species that I see.  Earlier in the year I decided to start a yearly bird list along with the date (when applicable) of when I had my first sighting.

Its a modest list as I've seen ones by professionals that I could only dream of.  (According to this list from Bird Life International, there are something like 192 species to be found here, so clearly I have a long way to go.) Still, considering the number of days I worked this years and all the extra shifts, my year list is bigger than what I thought it would be when I began in back in January.  (I never seemed able to get out for a hike nearly as often as I would have liked.)  My list contains not only the usual suspects but also a few species I hadn't seen before and a few we don't get here that often, at least according the birding guides in my possession.  (The Orange-Crowned Warbler and White-Crowned Sparrow were a couple nice bonuses.)  There were a few around the house I saw this year that I don't recall seeing last year hence my wanting to keep yearly lists so I can compare year to year.  The only thing I wish I had done was to record where I made my sightings.

Here then, is my 2012 birding list, along with the date of first sighting.  The first few over-winter and I see them on a regular basis around the house here so I didn't bother with dates for them.  And, yes, there may be a few mistakes in the list, but still, not too shabby for a first attempt.

1.  Common Raven

2.  Black-billed Magpie

3.  Evening Grosbeak

4.  Pine Grosbeak

5. Common Redpoll

6. Bohemian Waxwing

7.  Black-capped Chickadee

8.  House Sparrow

9.  Downy Woodpecker - March 27

10.  Slate-Colored Junco - April 5 (these guys are year-round residents but for some reason I didn't sight any at the backyard feeder until mid-spring)

11.  Herring Gull - April 10

12.  Canada Goose - April 15

13.  Chipping Sparrow - April 18

14.  Rock Dove - April 20

15.  Tree Swallow - April 20

16.  Red-winged Blackbird - April 21

17.  American Robin - April 24

18.  Brewer's Blackbird - May 9

19.  Orange-Crowned Warbler - May 9 (first-time sighting)

20.  Bonaparte's Gull - May 12

21.  White-Crowned Sparrow -  May 12 (first-time sighting)

22.  Northern Flicker - May 18

23.  Hairy Woodpecker - May 18

24.  Purple Finch - May 19

25.  Lincoln's Sparrow - May 27

26.  Bufflehead - May 27

27.  Solitary Sandpiper - May 27 (first-time sighting)

28.  Brown-headed Cowbird - May 27 (first-time sighting)

29.  Clay-coloured Sparrow - June 14

30.  Blue Jay - June 16 (Why it took so long I have no idea seeing as they do over-winter)

31.  Common Goldeneye - June 16

32.  Mallard - June 16

33. Eastern Kingbird - July 29 (first-time sighting)

34. Barn Swallow - July 29

35. Grey Catbird - September 20

36. Greater Yellowlegs (possibly a Lesser Yellowlegs) - October 6 (first-time sighting)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Kind Act

Things being as they are, Fort McMurray gets is fair share of media attention, some of it is fair and accurate and some of it is rather ignorant and inaccurate.  I know in some ways I fit the Fort Mac stereotype to a "T"....I work at site, I do shift work, I'm originally from "back East".  I'm not  a Newfie, mind you, although I do have relatives from there.  In other ways, I defy the Fort  Mac stereotype.....I own my home (or the bank does, anyway) rather than rent someone's basement, I don't own a truck with a lift kit and I like to spend my days off bird watching or hiking rather than say, drinking at the Podollan or the Oil Can.

I think there is also the stereotype that people are only out to make money and don't really care about helping out fellow residents.  I have to admit I've carried that one with me but in my defense, I've lived in a lot of places where I felt that way.  Anyhow, I thought I'd take a moment to show my appreciation for a kind act towards me this evening.  Coming as it does during this holiday season, a holiday season I'm working through, I think it speaks volumes of the kindness of others and helps restore my confidence in my fellow man, particularly following the recent shooting tragedy in the U.S..

Initially I was supposed to be off this weekend but agreed to work through until next week.  So I found myself short of groceries for lunch and knew a couple days ago I'd have to get to the grocery store pretty soon.  The one wrinkle was that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day got in the way and my grocery store was closed by the time I got home from work.  I thought I could sneak in a quick trip last night after work so I took a different bus home that would drop me off at the grocery store.  I could then cab it home from there with my groceries.  Unfortunately I got to the store just in time to find out it was closed.  So I had to walk home empty handed......a distance of perhaps a couple kilometres.  Normally, I don't consider this a long walking distance but with the recent spate of cold weather and having worked outside in it all day, it was, shall we say, annoying.  I suppose I could have called a taxi on my cell phone but it was nearly dead and anyway, I wasn't keen on spending money on a cab to take me home with no groceries in hand, so I walked.    I suppose this makes me both a cheapskate and a stoic.

Anyway, about a block into my trek I noticed a bus up at the intersection.  As it turned out it was the route bus I normally take home.  I assumed my driver was doing his pick ups for night shift and would hang a left and continue on his way.  But no.  I crossed the street in front of the bus and as I got to the sidewalk on the other side, I heard the door open and a voice.  As it turns out, his bus was empty and he was heading back down toward my street anyway to start his next run so would I like a ride?  Gratefully I accepted.  

This one gesture really made my day.  Not only did he totally not have to stop and offer but he did save me a cold walk and so I was rather relieved.  Why walk 2km in -28C when you can have an entire coach to yourself?

So in the end, I didn't get my groceries (although, no worries, Mom,  I did manage to scrounge up enough for a decent lunch from the larder) but I got a great little story of a random act of kindness during this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Smiling Boy!

Merry Christmas, son.  Daddy loves you.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone!

While I find myself working over the holiday (with with some much-needed time booked off in the near year), the house is a bit brighter this holiday season with our little tree here.  It comes courtesy of one of my tenants who asked if she could put one up.  Not having much in the way of decorative skills myself, I had no problem with her request.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

$180 Million Spent And We're Right Back To Square One

I apologize ahead of time if you're reading this and are unfamiliar with the layout of Fort McMurray but  for anyone who's ever been stuck in traffic during the morning commute I'm sure you will be able to relate.

Back in early November, the 7th if I recall correctly, the Confederation overpass linking highway 63 to the Timberlea subdivision.  It was actually slated to open October 16 but the date was pushed back due to construction delays.  In hindsight, they probably should have just kept it closed.  Traffic flow on 63 northbound seemed pure ambrosia when just the Thickwood overpass (opened several months earlier) was in place....or at least if you lived in Thickwood it was, on most days anyhow.

Here is what I wrote when the Confederation overpass opened.  I noted then that even with the opening it would likely still take some time for the traffic situation to get sorted out.  Prophetic words.  Traffic seems to be no quicker and for the past couple of months I find myself arriving later for work than I did when neither overpass was opened.

Now, as it turns out, after spending a whopping $180 million, the powers that be are again making a going right back to the way things were before, with a T intersection at the bottom of the hill leading onto the highway.  The overpass will be used only by site buses during the morning rush.  For everyone else, its back to the way things were before, traffic lights and all.  Yes, this is only a temporary fix, until construction is complete (completely complete this I take it) on the overpass.   I have to wonder what (if anything) goes through politicians' heads sometimes.  Predictably, there are commuters who are not impressed, myself included obviously.

I read a quote in a media article from one of our local MLA's Mike Allen (which I've spent several moments here trying to find, unfortunately) stating something along the lines of "Well, if we didn't open it, the overpass would just be sitting their as a big tease."  Yeesh, if I wanted a tease I could always head down to Showgirls and at least get what I paid for.  No Mike, I'm sure a lot of people would much rather just have the much-promised overpass (in working order, if ya don't mind) that their tax dollars paid for.

Living in Thickwood, this mess doesn't have as big of an impact on my travels as it would on someone from Timberlea, true.  But that's hardly the point.  And it gets worse actually.  Even assuming they get the overpass right, you'd still have a lights up at the industrial park which would delay traffic AND north of that delays due to the construction of yet another overpass.  Here's hoping some lessons are learned for when they start construction on the Parsons Creek overpass.  (At the the moment there's just a lot of dirt being pushed around in preparation.)

Back when I was a student in Windsor, I recall friends who grew up their telling me about how long it took for the expressway there to be built.  It took something like 11 years to build the EC Row Expressway in Windsor, Ontario.  I remember always thinking how ridiculous that sounded.  Now, I realize an expressway is not an overpass and recognize that there is an infrastructure lag here that is quite unique when looking at comparably-sized communities.  But seriously, if you're going to do something, do it right the first time.  If government can't get an overpass right I really do cringe at the thought of how much longer it will take to twin Highway 63.

Politicians give your head a shake!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lurking in the Window

Funny that when a redpoll, a grosbeak or even a magpie is in the tree, the cat goes ballistic and is right there at the window.

But when this guy shows up, she's no where to be seen.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Oil Barons Hockey

I was able to take in a hockey game last night after what seemed like an eternity. Sadly, even though the team had a stellar season last year I was never able to make it out to a game. I did my best to catch a playoff game but tickets were hard to come by and I knew my chances were about as good as the NDP taking every Alberta seat in a federal election. Yeah, not going to happen any time soon. Anyhow, the Oil Barons are in re-build mode after last season's success, having lost a number of veterans. That, plus a few sorely missed veterans out on the disabled list.  It wasn't their best effort but in this season of NHL lockouts, I'll take it. I'd still much rather watch a junior game here than travel down to Edmonton or Calgary even if there was a game to be had.

A little pre-game warm-up. There were actually quite a bit more empty seats than I expected although with the holiday season upon us I'm sure that had something to do with it.

And the evening's opponents, the Whitecourt Wolverines, a team formerly known as the St. Albert Steel before their re-location to Whitecourt at the end of last season.

I tend to focus on the goal tending, (mostly since my nephew is a goalie in a Junior C league back in Ontario) so while the game ended with a 6-3 victory for Whitecourt, both goalies were pretty brutal at times.  I'm sure my nephew could hold his own with many of these players but then I'm a pretty proud uncle.

All in all, not a bad effort and it was more evenly matched than the final score suggested.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Well, after a streak of more than two years, it finally came to end an end late this afternoon as I managed to injure myself on the job.  Thankfully it's none too serious and I'm already cleared for work in the morning.  So while I'm annoyed with myself I know there are certainly a lot worse ways to get hurt so as I told my foreman at the end of the day, I think I'll put the horse shoe back in and go buy a lottery ticket now.

In case your wondering, I'm fine, Mom.  Although I'm pretty sure I may have uttered a few bad words immediately afterward.