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Fall Count 2022

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The Fall 2022 Migration Count runs from Sep 20th until Nov 15th with observers at the Mount Lorette site daily — including viewing equipment available to the public. If interested in visiting the site, we suggest that you visit after 3pm. We see the majority of the migrating eagles in the later afternoon. This is the 30th consecutive year of vigilant recording. Mount Lorette site, Observation map.

See the Fall Count 2022 Daily Summaries


RMERF in the News

Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation reaches milestone in annual eagle count (March 17, 2022)

Dozens of volunteers spend their spring and fall in Kananaskis Country peering through binoculars and other telescopic lenses, searching the sky for migrating eagles.

The migration route runs north from the United States along the Rocky Mountains, all the way up to the Yukon. It was discovered by chance in 1992 by Des Allen and Peter Sherrington. It became known as the ‘Eagle Highway.’

Strong updrafts are created in the area by the mountains and prevailing wind that mean the eagles don’t have to expend much energy to travel vast distances.

Read more

 

Golden eagle migration count (Calgary Eyeopener, March 18, 2022)

Interview on the Calgary Eyeopener with David Gray and Angela Knight.

Listen to the interview


In Memorial: Pat Farley

We are sorry to have to announce and greatly lament the untimely passing of our friend and fellow observer, Pat Farley.

He was a very special person, loving and gentle, one of the rare breed of men who truly cared about others and the world around him. He was a strong advocate of environmental conservation and justice.

I had the good fortune of having Pat as my assistant during many days of the count and the pleasure of spending some time with Patricia, his wife, another wonderful person who loves the outdoors and wildlife just as much as he did. Our long hours of work passed rapidly as we marveled at the beauty of the valley and commented on everything that we saw during the day.

In addition to being a hard worker and a great observer, Pat was very creative and went out of his way to make sure that everything was taken care of, always finding an opportunity to help whenever it was needed.

To quote Heinz Unger:

Pat has been such an important addition to the group – actually I should say, family – of observers and I can only imagine how much they’ll miss and how the RMERF will be able to replace him – BUT we’ll always remember him.

Pat will be greatly missed by us, and everyone who had the luck of knowing him.


Alberta Big Year

By Ethan Denton

For those amongst us who have yet to see the famed movie, The Big Year, my 2021 would likely make little sense. I spent countless hours driving, waking well before dawn, and hiking many kilometres through varied terrain. I rushed out of family gatherings, paused my work, and skipped a few too many classes, chasing recklessly across the province after whatever avian vagrant materialized. Efforts which – even amongst the hardcore birding community – are fairly intense. Sure, the end goal was to beat the provincial Big Year record of 324 species, but a Big Year is about more than just the numbers, it’s about the memories, the places, the people, and, of course, the birds. Though there are so many great days to pick from, a few moments stand out above the rest. Lying in the sand on the shores of Lake Newell, with Red Knots, Black-bellied Plovers, and Ruddy Turnstones foraging mere metres away was the earliest of these moments. The Knots were particularly interesting to me, their russet undersides and immaculately scalloped backs doing little to belie the fact that these arctic breeders were midway through a harrowing 9,000 kilometre spring migration. Two weeks later, the enthralling performances put forth by boreal breeding warblers entranced myself and my friends, as we tallied over 120 species in two days in the birding mecca of Cold Lake. By the end of May I was cruising at 282 birds, and when I became the fastest person to ever hit 300 Albertan species in a year with my sighting of Black Swifts on June 16th, I was convinced I had a shot at the record.

Apart from painfully missing a Sagebrush Sparrow in my home county, the summer passed relatively quietly until the 26th of July, when reports came in of a pair of Sage Thrashers in the far southeast. As I was without a car at that point, I spent the night in a mall parking lot, waiting to be picked up in the morning by someone equally dedicated. Departing Calgary at 3am, moods were high, albeit a bit sleepy on my part. An hour out from our destination, however, a small flock of grouse burst out from the ditch and our car screeched to a halt. We exchanged looks, each confident that one of the grouse had been different. Sure enough, when we tracked down the flock once more, one stood taller than it’s companions – a female Greater Sage-Grouse! This species is struggling in Canada, and their sparse population makes them very hard to track down. The day didn’t end there. After successfully locating the Thrashers, we met up with another friend in Calgary, and by pure chance the three of us happened upon one of the rarest birds of the year, an adult Least Tern! Only the second occurrence of this tiny tern in Albertan history, and the bird was very accommodating, granting people great views all day.

Hard work through the fall was largely unsuccessful, as I added only a few species. Most of these were clean up species I had missed when they passed through in the Spring, such as Greater White-fronted Goose, or uncommon migrants like Brant and Red-throated Loon. With two months left to go, and the weather turning sour, the total sat at 322 and prospects for findable additions weren’t looking good. Fortunately for me, the birding deities dropped two big rarities close to home within a week of each other, and the additions of Pine Warbler and Eastern Towhee to my list meant I was now tied with the all-time record. The only reasonable thing to do now is sit back and be happy, right? No. Instead, I decided to drive my beat up Nissan down Northern logging roads through driving snow in search of the last possible species, a secretive gamebird of the north called the Willow Ptarmigan. Eventually I found myself following a tip down some logging roads near Grande Prairie, and after following tracks for a few hours, a dart of movement alerted myself and my companion to the presence of three snow white ptarmigan! For a few minutes, freezing fingers and empty stomachs were forgotten as we watched the charismatic little guys, before a passing truck flushed them into the forest. With this final addition to the list, I edged past the previous record of 324, and pushed my all-time Alberta number to 347. Success! Nonetheless, there is little doubt in my mind that as the years wear on and my memory weakens, it will be the sun-kissed hours spent simply observing, photographing, and interacting with the birds that will remain, not the numbers.


Spring Count 2022

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The Spring 2022 Migration Count has commenced and runs from Mar 1st to Apr 22nd with observers at the Mount Lorette site daily — including viewing equipment available to the public. If interested in visiting the site, we suggest that you visit after 3pm. We see the majority of the migrating eagles in the later afternoon. This is the 30th consecutive year of vigilant recording. Mount Lorette site, Observation map.

Related links: Count Reports

 

Observations

Total Migratory Raptors: 302

04/22/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Lori Anderson

Observations:

Lots of white thick and heavy snowflakes but no Eagles. A lone Merlin saved the day though. At the start of the count, a few of the ridges were visible but by 9:00 the ridges were 100 % covered as well as the slopes and the valley floor. The count was ended at 10:30 due to poor observing conditions and a forecast for more of the same all day. Winds were 0-3 from the North.

04/21/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Blake Weis, Bill McKeenan

Observations:

The day was overcast with cloud cover usually between 80-100%. Ground winds reached 20 km/h from variable directions and ridge winds were mainly moderate from the southwest. Between 6 and 6:30 pm low cloud started to obscure the ridges and rain began to fall. The weather radar didn't show much hope of it clearing by the end of the day so the count was concluded at 6:30. Migrants generally moved low with much soaring and flapping. Golden Eagles were all on the eastern ridges but other raptors used more variable routes with some using the eastern ridges and others flying over the river and valley.

04/20/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Bill Wilson and Rick Robb

Observations:

Mostly blue sky until after 10:00, then 100% cloud to the end. Light to very light snow from 15:00 to the end. Ground wind 2 to 5 km/h to 13:00, then 5 to 20 km/h to the end. Ridge winds SE to NE 3 to 15 km/h. West ridges obscured most of the time, east ridges 0 to 30% obscured to 14:00, then 70 to 100% obscured. All six Golden Eagles were seen in the east, but the other raptors were mostly in the west, but several were overhead or in the east.

04/19/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Dan Parliament

Observations:

Arrived at the site to heavy snow and low clouds. Ceiling was not much above tree level. Continued snow and low cloud with forecast for continued low cloud, the count was concluded at 0900 hrs

04/18/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Lori Anderson, Glenn Webber

Observations:

A wonderful calm spring morning that allowed for a smorgasbord on the Hay Meadow Biosphere Reserve, especially between 9:00 and10:00. The weather was quite stable all day until about 19:30 when a front started moving in from the SW. Ground winds averaged between 5-10 km/h from the south with occasional periods of gusts to about 18 km/h. The winds at ridge level were not detectable due to irregular wind currents. Lenticular clouds formed and stayed in the same places all day. The USASK centennial ridge data recorded the winds as between 10- 40 km/h from the S and S/SE. 100 % Altostratus started as a thin layer and thickened as the day progressed. Most of the raptors were found either on the eastern ridges, valley

04/17/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Blake Weis, Bill & Ruth McKeenan

Observations:

The morning was clear with cloud cover up to 10% and light winds. In the afternoon cloud cover varied from 80-100% and small clusters of stratocumulous moved through which dropped the occasional raindrop or snowflake but didn't obscure the ridges significantly. Wind gusts reached 25 km/h. Migrants used the east ridges and east side of the valley, usually moving low from Patrick to Lorette

04/16/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Annie Finch, Ruth Morrow

Observations:

The day started clear and cold with light winds from the south. Shortly before noon, the wind picked up and shifted. The SE ridge winds and NE valley bottom winds of the rest of the day resulted in unsettled and unusual flight paths. Cumulus and cirrus clouds developed steadily with the north wind. We watched a squall advance down the valley, and driving snow arrived by mid-afternoon. The count was abandoned at 5 pm due to a disheartening radar forecast. Despite the suboptimal conditions, 20 migrant raptors were observed, including 10 Golden Eagles. There was a last-minute rush before the snow arrived with 7 Golden Eagles and one Prairie Falcon from 2-3 pm. A resident Golden Eagle provided the highlight of the day with periodic

04/15/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Bill Wilson

Observations:

Cloudy all day, often with bluish sky overhead but looking very whitish because of ice crystals. There was very light snow for the first hour, then flurry activity started to build up to the west and north in the afternoon. Increasing snow fell at the observing site after 17:00. East ridges were 10% to 20% obscured to 16:00, then mostly to entirely obscured to the end. Ground winds mostly east to north 5 to 20 km/h. Ridge winds were either light or unobservable all day.

04/14/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Blake Weis

Observations:

No count was conducted as low cloud obscured all ridges and snow fell for most of the day

04/13/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Bill Wilson

Observations:

A cold, cloudy day with light to very light snow all morning and again at the end of the day. The ridges were completely obscured to 10:00, then variably 50% to 90% obscured for the rest of the day except for 16:00 to 18:00, when it dropped to 20% to 40% and some bluish sky opened up overhead (milky blue with ice crystals). A layer of cloud formed over the mountains at the end of the day, obscuring the ridges as the snow was beginning again. Ground winds NE 5 gusting 20 km/h all day. Ridge winds NE to ENE all day, varying between 10 and 20 km/h.

04/12/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observations:

No Observation due to weather - low cloud ceiling all day well below the ridge tops

04/11/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Lori Anderson, Glenn Webber

Observations:

The theme that prevailed today was COLD: freezing cold accompanied by cold winds and freezing cold gusts with a low of -5 to a high of -1 + wind chill factor. We had to spend the day close to the shelter. Ridge winds from the North and Northeast increased over the course of the day but averaged about 30km/h with gusts of 50 km/h. Most of the activity transpired on the west side of the valley as birds were found traveling below the ridgeline gaining altitude as they passed Colembola. The majority of the eagles, both migrants and residents, traveled in pairs. A threatening snowstorm maintained its position just north of the valley and every now and then it would advance, entering in front of

04/10/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Annie Finch, Blake Weis

Observations:

The first few hours were a beautiful mix of cloud types providing roughly 50% cover. Light winds from the southwest became variable after 10 am. As cumulus clouds increased, a subadult Golden Eagle soared above the north ridge of Mt. Lorette before gliding on. Shortly after, snow squalls advanced on our position from both ends of the valley. North winds won out and the temperature dropped. At 2:30 pm, after three hours of steady snow, the count was suspended. We lingered in the area, and while sky over the meadow cleared enough to melt the freshly fallen snow, the walls of cloud sealing each end of the valley remained stubbornly in place.

04/09/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Caroline Lambert, Miles Tindal, Lynn MacIntosh

Observations:

The day started out overcast with the ridges almost completely obscured, and then gradually cleared so that by noon the ridges were clear, and there was 50% cloud cover of mostly cumulus clouds. Ridge winds appeared to be strong from the west, which gave optimism for sighting at least some migrants. The ridges stayed clear most of the afternoon with moderate to strong ridge winds from the west. In spite of the excellent conditions, no migrating Golden Eagles were seen.

04/08/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Blake Weis, Ruth Morrow

Observations:

The first tfew hours had beautiful weather with light wind, 30-40% cloud cover and a nice variety of singing birds. Unfortunately, conditions deteriorated quickly from there. The wind really started to pick up by 10 and by noon low cloud had gathered around the western mountains and started spitting rain into the valley. For the rest of the day it rained on and off and the western ridges were variably obscured. The eastern ridges remained mostly unobscured which gave us some false hope. Afternoon gusts reached 50 km/h at ground level and probably exceeded 100 km/h at ridge level. We concluded the count at 5:30 pm as heavier rain closed in. The days migration consisted of two golden eagles, an unaged bird at 9:43 and

04/07/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Caroline Lambert, Rick Robb

Observations:

The day was marked by bands of altostratus clouds that ranged from 20% coverage to 90% coverage of the sky. The ridges were clear all day, and ridge winds appeared to be strong from the west, resulting good migration conditions and a good number of migrants in the afternoon and evening.

04/06/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Bill Wilson and Rachel Boekel

Observations:

A very pleasant, sunny day with scattered cumulus clouds (maximum 30%, decreasing to clear sky by 4 pm) and ground winds mostly SW 5 - 20 km/h. Winds aloft mostly WSW, varying between 10 and 35 km/h. Raptor movement was very light for most of the day, with the first at 7:55 am and the second three and a half hours later at 11:23. By 6 pm, we'd had only 10 Golden Eagles, 3 Bald Eagles, 1 Northern Goshawk, and 1 unidentified small raptor; but then, after an hour without any raptors, the winds aloft picked up a bit (about 25 km/h) and the eagles began the last-minute rush noted below. The result was a nice total for this time of the season.

04/05/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Dan Parliament, Jim Boland

Observations:

The ground winds were SW averaging 15-20 km/hr with gusts to 30 km/hr. The ridge winds were consistently from the Northwest and Northerly directions and were assessed initially as medium increasing to high intensity. As a result, migration dynamics were poor, resulting in no observed Golden Eagles. The first migrant raptor was at 1230. The final count was three Bald Eagles, one migrating Northern Goshawk, and two unidentified Eagles. The resident Bald Eagles (2) and resident Golden Eagles (2) flew sporadically across the valley. Brief intermittent snow squalls moved in after 1600 hrs, with ground fog, at various intervals.

04/04/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Graeme Dunlop, Glenn Webber

Observations:

A sunny morning with some cumulus clouds. Heavier clouds to the south and west gradually moved north throughout the day bringing snow and obscuring the ridges by mid-afternoon. Ground winds were moderate SW initially veering S to SE by mid-afternoon and gusting to over 40km/h. Ridge winds SW moderate to strong. The observation site was moved to Wasootch Creek at 15:30 but no raptor movement was observed. Weather conditions did not improve and the count was ended at 17:30.

04/03/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Blake Weis, Annie Finch

Observations:

Cloud cover varied from 50-90% throughout the day. Wind was mostly from the SW and WSW, strong at ridge level and gusting to 40 km/h in the valley. Late in the day the western ridges were obscured up to 50% by low cloud which sent occasional flurries into the valley. Despite good conditions for migration few eagles turned up to take advantage of it. Those that did were usually detected at Mt. Lorette or high over the Fisher Range.

04/03/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Blake Weis, Annie Finch

Observations:

Cloud cover varied from 50-90% throughout the day. Wind was mostly from the SW and WSW, strong at ridge level and gusting to 40 km/h in the valley. Late in the day the western ridges were obscured up to 50% by low cloud which sent occasional flurries into the valley. Despite good conditions for migration few eagles turned up to take advantage of them. Those that did were usually detected at Mt. Lorette or high over the Fisher Range.

04/02/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Caroline Lambert, Lynn Macintosh

Observations:

The day was marked by unsettled weather. High winds appeared moderate from the northwest all day, while the ridge winds were strong enough that the few eagles that passed by were high and did not need to soar. Two snow squalls passed through, blocking the ridges completely. The first was between 13:00 and 14:00, the second between 18:00 and 19:00. Otherwise the ridges were clear. The weather radar map showed intermittent areas of precipitation along the eagle flight path, which was likely the reason why few eagles were seen.

04/01/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Graeme Dunlop, Ruth Morrow

Observations:

Mostly sunny with 30% cumulus in the morning, cloud gradually increased through the day with cirrus and 100% altostratus by mid afternoon although this layer began to break up in the evening. Ground winds initially light southerly, some moderate gusts in the afternoon. Ridge winds NW moderate to strong. Slow raptor movement until late afternoon, 22 of the days total of 38 Golden Eagles were seen between 16:00 and 18:00. Most birds were gliding high over the eastern ridges before heading across to Mt. Lorette. Frequent soaring over both the eastern ridges and Lorette.

03/31/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Caroline Lambert, Rick Robb

Observations:

Conditions appeared perfect for migration, with the east ridge clear all day and westerly winds strong enough to blow snow off the ridges at times. However, weather disturbances to the south, as seen on the weather radar map, appear to have affected the migration. The first Golden Eagle was seen at 11:00, but no more were seen until well after 16:00. The strong winds enabled them to fly high over the east ridge. Most had enough height they flew well over the top of Lorette. The height and the fading light late in the day made ageing difficult.

03/30/2022

Season:Spring 2022

Observers:Bill Wilson

Observations:

A pleasant day for most of the day, but with showers of light to moderate rain and sleet moving in late in the day. Ground winds were light at first, then gusting to 20 or even 40 km/h after 12:00. Ridge winds were west 30 to 40 km/h, then decreased to west to WNW 10 to 20 km/h after about 14:00. All movement was in the east, often very high above the Fisher Range, with the last migrant going through at 16:40. I left the site at 19:20 with both sides of the valley obscured and light rain still falling, since it was obvious the ridges weren't going to clear before sunset. Of course by the time I got to the car at 19:35 the


RMERF Daily Spring Count Starting Soon

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Please join RMERF for the 2022 Spring Count, from Mar 1st to Apr 22nd with observers at the Mount Lorette site daily! This will be the 30th consecutive year of vigilant recording! Mount Lorette site, Observation map.

For past count details and reports, please refer to the Daily Count Resources page.


Adopt an Observer

Donate to Adopt an Observer

The eyes and recorders of RMERF are the Principal and Assistant Observers.

Your support of the ADOPT AN OBSERVER program will help RMERF to fund Principal and Assistant Observers yearly expenses related to the semi-annual Golden Eagle and other raptors migration watches.

The overall purpose of these dedicated Observers, during Spring and Fall migration seasons, sunrise to sunset for the 8 weeks periods, is to survey, monitor and record the observed migrating Golden Eagles and other raptors and associated weather factors.  Observers, as a public arm of RMERF at the bird watch site, also help educate the general public on bird identification and sightings, in addition to noting environmental changes and challenges that potentially impact raptor migration and populations.

The individual Principal and Assistant Observers are people of all ages, and come from various backgrounds and birding knowledge. They spend up to 14 hours per day, regardless of weather, at the outside watch site counting and making critical observations of Golden Eagles and other raptors as they migrate along the Rocky Mountains in both Spring and Fall.  The Observers have tremendous and unique opportunities to learn about raptors by watching, and to teach others.

Without the ADOPT AN OBSERVER program, RMERF will miss over 700 hours seasonally of raptor observation, and have a gap in recorded data for the first time in over 30 years!  In these ever changing climate conditions, the migration counts are more important than ever.  To prevent the erosion of the value of one of the longest migration counts in Canada, RMERF seeks an on-going and sustainable funding source to help compensate the RMERF Observers for their many hours of passionate and experienced work.

Your donations will ensure the present and future scientific environmental recording, as well as providing an accessible and educational site for schools, groups, and the general public to participate in this long-term community science work.  This program also enables the many participants to see in amazement the seasonal flights of thousands of Golden Eagles and other birds of prey.

All donations will receive a tax receipt.  Please donate a minimum of $150., by a one-time donation or monthly contributions, in recognizing our local raptor watching Observers.  For as little as 40 cents per day, you can help RMERF continue this critical work.

Donate Now to Adopt an Observer

 

About RMERF

The Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation (RMERF), a non-profit scientific research organization, conducts twice annually 8 weeks long daily migration counts of Golden Eagles and other birds of prey at various Alberta and western Canada locations.  The on-going main watch site is in the Kananaskis Valley area west of Calgary.

Since 1992, this monitoring of the bird population and migratory patterns, specific to Golden Eagles, by RMERF has been integral in the understanding of the migration phenomenon, and has identified environmental threats to the well-being of raptors and their habitats, also the outcomes of natural or man-made changes.


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