Spectacular hike today! Larch trees are the perfect shade of yellow. 💛🌲 pic.twitter.com/6tzETw88EH Retweeted by Fiera Biological

Wildlife Track & Sign: Rock Pigeon

Wildlife Track & Sign: Rock Pigeon

#FindOutFriday, #Fieratracks

Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) in snow, Old Strathcona, Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

The footprint above (posted to social media on May 12, 2020) is the footprint of a Rock Pigeon in snow, in Old Strathcona, Edmonton Alberta, on April 2nd.

Pigeon footprints are similar to game bird (like grouse and quail) tracks in general size, and in structure except for the length of the backwards toe (called a halux). Pigeons are perching birds, and as such, have a well developed, longer, halux to help them grip branches. The halux of a rock pigeon is roughly 1/2 to 2/3 the length of its lead toe, and it will register in most tracks. Birds that spend a lot of time on the ground like grouse and quail have a reduced halux less than 1/4 the length of the lead toe, and it may not register in the majority of tracks; when it does register, it may only be the tip of the claw that does.

The left footprint of a rock pigeon, with a prominently registering halux nearly 2/3 the length of the lead toe.

The length and width of bird tracks is helpful for identification. Typical measurements of rock pigeon tracks are 6 cm long (include the halux & claws), and 4.5 cm wide.

Pigeons and grouse tend to leave an alternating (walking or trotting) track pattern. Other birds often hop, leaving a 2 x 2 track pattern.

Alternating track pattern of a Rock Pigeon walking in snow

Watch for bird tracks in snow, sand, and around puddles after a rain. Other birds that frequently leave tracks include ravens, magpies and other corvids, waterfowl, shorebirds, and robins.

Joseph Litke

Tags: ,
Posted in: General

Making Sense of Drone Sensors

UAVs, also known as drones, have become a popular tool in many sectors for collecting detailed, high-resolution imagery at local scales. Most users of UAVs rely on the spectral information (the colours) in a scene to classify features or to generate relative indices of plant vigour or health. When applied to a single scene at a single point in time, important insights can be learned from analyzing the spectral information, such as the percent cover of a class of interest, or locations where plant growth is more or less vigorous. However, when there is a need to compare several different scenes, or to compare the same scene over time, more and more users are finding that the spectral information can be somewhat inconsistent or unstable, which severely constrains the type of analysis that can be performed and the inferences that can be made. We highlight some of these issues in our recently published paper in the ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (Cao et al. 2019). In particular, changes in the natural lighting and atmospheric conditions between different flights, or in some cases even during the same flight, introduce uncertainty into the spectral data that is collected, which prevents meaningful and reliable information from being generated. 

Tags: , ,
Posted in: General

Great Horned Owl Nest. nest surveys, stick nest, wildlife act, migratory birds, raptors, land clearing, vegetation clearing, developments, restricted activity period, nesting season, early nesters, tree stands, raptors, raptor nests, stewardship, consultant, consulting, consult, Edmonton, Alberta, Saskatchewan,

You should give a hoot about Owls

It’s owl nesting season folks, and here’s why you should give a hoot!

In Alberta, great horned owls can start their mating/nesting as early as January. That’s a pretty crazy time to be thinking about incubating an egg on top of some sticks precariously tangled in the top of a tree, but that’s what these monogamous perching predators are into. Who are we to judge?

Owls, Great Horned Owl Nest. nest surveys, stick nest, wildlife act, migratory birds, raptors, land clearing, vegetation clearing, developments, restricted activity period, nesting season, early nesters, tree stands, raptors, raptor nests, stewardship, consultant, consulting, consult, Edmonton, Alberta, Saskatchewan,
Great Horned Owl Nest. Nesting activity can occur as early as January in Alberta.

Owls on the edge!

When most people think of nests, they think of deep, basket-shaped, feather-lined structures, but the truth for great horned owls can be much different. The platform nests they often prefer leave their eggs and their young exposed to the Alberta elements, that is unless mom is there to keep them incubated and warm. Can you imagine being a nestling, sitting on what amounts to a coffee table mounted on the end of a flagpole while virtually naked, in an Alberta winter windchill?  Given those conditions its easy to see why survival of baby owls can be pretty tenuous. Unattended owlets can easily succumb to the elements, or fall prey to ravens, and a host of other predators. Thats why it’s very important that the parents are not disturbed by human activity during the nesting period.

Owls, Great Horned Owl, GHOW, boreal, wildlife surveys, Alberta, Natural Area Site Assessments, Nesting Bird Surveys, broadcast surveys, playback surveys, Wildlife Act, Migratory Bird Act, Point count survey, avian survey, bird survey, Edmonton, Alberta, consultant.
Great Horned Owl

Owl nests are protected

In fact, this is so important for all raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, falcons) that the Alberta Wildlife Act protects active raptor nests from any disturbance by people. That means that any land clearing or industrial activity happening in tree stands or woodlots this time of year (January through May) could not only be causing some dangerously chilly and unhappy baby owls, but could also be a violation of the law! Thats why you should call a professional wildlife biologist for advice before doing any land clearing of tree stands or woodlots this time of year.

Give us a hoot!

Where the heck do you find a professional wildlife biologist? Good question, just contact us, and we will put you in touch with a good one!

Screen Shot 2017-02-04 at 11.38.25 AM

Quiz Cat: No Quiz found

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in: Biological Resource Assessments, Environmental Planning, General

Wetland Delineation Seminar

Wetland Delineation Seminars – in Edmonton. Hosted by the Alberta Land Surveyor’s Association, presented by Fiera Biological Consulting.

In this three-day custom seminar attendees will gain a better understanding and appreciation of the ecological systems that affect the complex and dynamic transitional areas between the bed and shore and become more familiar with the Alberta Government’s Wetland policy, its implications, and what it takes to become certified to evaluate wetlands.

The direct benefits of taking this course will include gaining a better understanding of:

  • The ecological definitions of aquatic, riparian and upland habitat.
  • Key ecological indicators of aquatic and riparian habitats.
  • The policies and legislation that are relevant to the delineation of water boundaries (Section 17 of Surveys Act, Public Lands Act, Water Act, Provincial Wetland Policy, Municipal Wetland and Riparian Policies), where to find these policies and the gaps or inconsistencies that exist in this legislation.
  • How hydrological processes influence plant types and soil around a body of water.
  • The type of vegetation species that live in different habitat zones.
  • Soils and soil type indicators in and around water bodies.
  • How climate change might affect water bodies.
  • Professional requirements for wetland reporting (classifying, defining permanence, delineating based on the Wetland Identification and Delineation Directive, assessing condition).
  • The difference between a wetland and a lake and between a natural and man-made wetland.
  • Desktop tools that support delineating water bodies and riparian habitats.

The field component of this course will provide a hands-on look at key vegetation and soil indicators that can be used to identify aquatic, wetland, riparian and upland habitat. In the field component of the course participants will better understand how to:

  • Sample vegetation and soil and identify plant species.
  • Identify a high-water mark based on soil conditions and vegetation indicators.
  • Identify key, site specific, hydrological processes that might affect water levels.


Dates and Locations:

April 2 and 3 – Banff Room, Derrick Golf & Winter Club, 3500 – 119 Street NW, Edmonton
(Registration Deadline: March 26)

Field trip date in June and locations to be finalized

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. both days

Please Bring: A laptop on the second day, if possible or there may be someone at each table who could bring one. No specific software is required, just need to connect to WiFi.

Who is Invited: Although these Wetland Delineation Seminars have been designed for the Alberta Land Surveyor’s Association, they are open to anyone with an interest in the process, policies and practice of delineating wetlands. In particular, ALSs, articled students, staff and clients, land surveyors from other jurisdictions, Pro-10 members, are encouraged to attend. Non-ALSA members will have to pay by credit card to register.

Cost: $750 + GST (including lunch)

Comments from Past Participants:

  • “… the wetlands seminar was very well executed and very relevant to legal survey applications. This is an example of the ALSA being proactive on a significant issue. Well worth the $750.”
  • “Presenters were well prepared and very clear/concise”
  • “Obvious that they enjoy teaching and have a lot of experience with both beginner and advanced audiences. Very engaging.”
  • “It was especially great that they picked wetlands that weren’t obvious and not the textbook situation… the type of waterbodies I know get mislabeled or sometimes missed entirely on our surveys.”
  • “This was an excellent day! A great way to spend time discussing one of the most troubling activities in surveying – identifying correctly natural boundaries of waters and wetlands.”

Presenter: Fiera Biological Consulting

Single and multiple registrations can be completed on the ALSA website under Events. You must be logged into the website to register. Please contact Kerry Barrett at barrett@alsa.ab.ca if you require assistance.

Posted in: General

Custom Wildlife Tracking Courses and Workshops. professional tracking, wildlife tracking, training, instruction, wildlife track counts, track surveys, snow-tracks, track identification

Wildlife Snow-tracking Course – Edmonton

Wildlife Snow-tracking for Professionals.

We are pleased to announce our Wildlife Snow-Tracking for Professionals course in Edmonton, AB, from January 15th to 16th, 2020. Space is limited.

If you are a professional, an aspiring professional, or a keen naturalist, this will be a great course for you. A 50/50 mix of classroom and practical fieldwork will help hold your attention, while laying the foundation for a life-long niche skillset. The course will consist of a day-long classroom session on Wednesday, January 15th, and a day in the field on Thursday, January 16th, 2020.

Ideal for professionals seeking confidence in track identification, this workshop is for anyone interested in learning how to identify wildlife tracks in snow. Suitable for beginners and experts, the course will touch on the kinds of data that can be collected, and the ways data can be used to infer information about individuals and populations, in addition to the core focus: the fundamentals of snow track identification. Over the course of two days, participants will work towards accurate, confident, and efficient identification of similar species.

Read more

Posted in: General