Migrant Sparrows: White-throated and Chipping

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

More birds from my backyard. The White-throated Sparrows were around for just a couple of days in the first week of May (although I heard one singing in the neighbourhood this morning, possibly a late migrant grounded by the strong winds and rain we had yesterday). Chipping Sparrows passed through last week, and I counted up to thirty in my yard one day, along with a few of the closely-related Clay-colored Sparrows.

White-throated Sparrow, Calgary, May 7, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

White-throated Sparrow, Calgary, May 7, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

The above photo shows the sharply contrasting white throat patch and the yellow lores that are keys to identifying this species. Some White-throated Sparrows have tan and black rather than white and black head stripes, but they should always show the white throat and a least a little yellow on the lores.

The tan and black variation is a colour morph which some White-throated Sparrows have throughout their lives. It is not a juvenile characteristic, like the tan and gray head stripes of the White-crowned Sparrow. All White-crowns have tan stripes as juveniles, and white stripes as adults. Here is an old photo of an adult White-crowned Sparrow. Besides the lack of a white throat and yellow lores, note the clean gray breast and spotted back feathers which are quite different from the White-throated Sparrow. The pale bill (pink or yellow) also stands out.

White-crowned Sparrow, Calgary, May 10, 2010. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

Below are a few of the Chipping Sparrows that were in my yard. There were thousands in yards all over the city that week.

Chipping Sparrow, Calgary, May 18, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

Chipping Sparrow, Calgary, May 18, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

Chipping Sparrow, Calgary, May 18, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

Both of these species breed in the city. White-throated Sparrows are common in the Weaselhead, the west end of Fish Creek Park, and other parts of the city where the boreal forest intrudes. You can hear their beautiful song there right now. Chipping Sparrows breed throughout the city, even in suburbs in low numbers. Their song is a long, dry, steady trill, which is sometimes mistaken for an insect sound.

Other birds I’ve had pass through my yard recently on migration include White-crowned Sparrows (in pretty low numbers this year) around the end of April and first week of May, Ruby-crowned Kinglet at about the same time, and a Baltimore Oriole briefly on May 21.

Birds & Beers, May 2017

Birds & Beers is an informal social get-together for any interested birders. The Calgary Chapter, organized by Dan Arndt and a few other local birders, usually meets once a month. The next meeting will be this Friday, May 26th.

Yellow Warbler. Photo by Dan Arndt.

There is no cost or registration for Birds & Beers; just show up and have a drink or a meal if you want, and chat about birds. Of course, there are lots of new birds to talk about at this time of year. Children are welcome if accompanied by an adult. So drop by any time after 6 pm and join us.

Birds & Beers

Royal Candian Legion

9202 Horton Road SW, Calgary

Friday May 26, 2017

6-9PM.

The Calgary May Species Count takes place over the weekend of May 27-28, so come and find out where people are going and what they hope to see.

Birds of Bowmont Park

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Lorraine Glass photographed these birds in Bowmont Park in Calgary on May 18.

Killdeer, Bowmont Park, May 18, 2017. Photo by Lorraine Glass.

The Killdeer may have been nesting right by a busy pathway. They lay their eggs right on the gravel, but the eggs are very hard to see, and the parents are really good at not giving away the nest location, and at distracting predators.

Osprey,  Bowmont Park, May 18, 2017. Photo by Lorraine Glass.

The Osprey is carrying material to line the nest, even though they probably have already laid their eggs. Ospreys will often add to the nest throughout the summer.

Black-capped Chickadee, Bowmont Park, May 18, 2017. Photo by Lorraine Glass.

This appears to be a recently fledged chickadee, begging for food.

House Wren, Bowmont Park, May 18, 2017. Photo by Lorraine Glass.

House Wrens are back in the city in their usual huge numbers. You can hear them singing all along the river valleys and in many residential neighbourhoods too. They have a big voice for such a tiny bird.

Birds of Burnsmead, Fish Creek Park

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For the week of April 10-16, the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park birding course groups explored the Burnsmead area of Fish Creek Park, along the river just east of the park headquarters, near the wastewater treatment plant. There are some ponds in this area, as well as a wooded area and the river itself.

Max Ortiz Aguilar went with the group on April 16 and got these photos of some of the birds there.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male), Burnsmead, April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

 Canada Goose, possibly guarding a nest site, April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 320|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Common Mergansers (female in front, male behind), April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Franklin’s Gull, April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 100|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

This photo and the next shows the pinkish hue these birds have when they arrive here from their wintering grounds off the coast of Venezuela, where they feed on shrimp that contain red pigments. The colour often fades by fall.

Franklin’s Gulls, April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 250|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

House Finch (male), April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 6400|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Red-winged Blackbird (male), April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 100|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

To see more of Max’s photos, visit his website here.

Wild Horses – Mothers and Foals

Tony LePrieur photographed these wild horses west of Sundre. He was trying to get a photo of a dam with a foal to give to his mother on Mother’s Day, and he succeeded!

Wild Horses, west of Sundre, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wild Horses, west of Sundre, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wild Horses, west of Sundre, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wild Horses, west of Sundre, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Country Birds

Tony LePrieur went out of town on a rainy day last week and got some photos in the Priddis area and on Grand Valley Road.

Wilson’s Snipe, Priddis area, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wilson’s Snipe, Priddis area, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Red-winged Blackbird, Priddis area, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

The Priddis area, SW of Calgary, is also a great place to find mammals:

Moose, Priddis area, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Moose, Priddis area, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

You can find Great Gray Owls near Priddis too, but this one was NW of Calgary:

Great Gray Owl, with Meadow Vole, Grand Valley Road, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

And finally, a city bird:

Spotted Sandpiper, Fish Creek Park, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

See more of Tony’s photos on his Flickr page.

Goldfinch and Other Backyard Birds

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The first American Goldfinch of the year arrived in our yard on Mother’s Day.

American Goldfinch (male), Calgary, May 14, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

American Goldfinch (male), Calgary, May 14, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

Although I occasionally hear goldfinches flying over in the summer, they don’t stay to breed in my neighbourhood and I usually don’t see them in my yard except on spring and fall migration.

There are Northern Flickers here year-round, and there are at least a couple that are still courting, so maybe this is the year that my Flicker nest box finally get used (by Flickers, rather than House Sparrow, Starlings, or squirrels).

Northern Flicker (intergrade male), Calgary, May 16, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

Northern Flicker (intergrade male), Calgary, May 16, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

This year our local pair of Swainson’s Hawks is building a nest just down the block, so I’m seeing and hearing a lot of them. I will post more about these birds as the season goes along.

Swainson’s Hawk, Calgary, April 30, 2017. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

Sharp-tailed Grouse Portrait

Gavin McKinnon took this close-up of a male Sharp-tailed Grouse in mating display this spring in southern Alberta. The bird has his yellow eyebrows flared and his purple neck air-sacs exposed.

Sharp-tailed Grouse (male), Southern Alberta, spring 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnon.

Follow Gavin’s blog at Canadian Birder.

Western Meadowlark Singing

Gavin McKinnon photographed this Western Meadowlark singing on a fence post at Weed Lake, SE of the city, on April 30.

Western Meadowlark, Weed Lake, April 30, 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnon.

Unfortunately, Meadowlarks are hard to find in the city, but a trip a short distance out of town on the prairies will usually produce some of these beautiful singers. Weed Lake is immediately east of Langdon, 26 km east from Stoney Trail on Glenmore Trail.

Like Ethan Denton, Gavin is another accomplished young birder. He has a blog at Canadian Birder. Gavin has teamed up with Ethan to raise money for the Great Canadian Birdathon. You can sponsor him here.

 

Furry Friday: Muskrat Love

Tony LePrieur photographed this pair of muskrats mating in Fish Creek Park on May 7.

Muskrat pair mating, Fish Creek Park, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Muskrat (male) post-mating. Yes, that is a muskrat penis. Fish Creek Park, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Muskrat swimming off, Fish Creek Park, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

 To see more of Tony’s photos, visit his Flickr page here.