Reader’s Bird Photos

Here are a few photos sent in recently by Birds Calgary readers. If you have photos to share, email then to us at birdscalgary@gmail.com.

A very light Great Horned Owl, Fish Creek Park, November 23, 2016. Photo by Judi Willis.

Merlin, Bowness Park, February 13, 2017. Photo by Louis Côté.

Hairy Woodpecker (male), Prince’s Island Park, February 10, 2017. Photo by Louis Côté.

Northern Saw-whet Owl, Edgemont, NW Calgary, February 15, 2017. Photo by Walter Saponja.

Brown Creeper, Elliston Park, January 23, 2017. Photo by Bree Tucker.

Ten Eurasian Collared-Doves, NW of Airdrie, November 22, 2016. Photo by Tim van Goudoever.

Gyrfalcon, Water Valley area, January 14, 2017. Photo by Jamie B.

Gyrfalcon, Water Valley area, January 14, 2017. Photo by Jamie B.

You can see more of Jamie B’s photos on his Facebook page, Albino Muppet Photography.

Birds & Beers, February 2017

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The next Calgary Birds & Beers will be this Friday, February 17. Come and join us for an informal get-together to chat about birds.

Northern Hawk-Owl in Calgary, February 2, 2017. Photo by Dan Arndt.

Birds & Beers are held at the Royal Canadian Legion, 9202 Horton Road SW. We start at 6 pm, but you can come anytime after 6. We usually stay until about 9 pm. Food and drinks are available. Everyone is welcome, including children if accompanied by an adult.

More information can be found on the Facebook page here. If you haven’t attended before, these are fun events. You can meet fellow birders you may only know by name, find out about good birding locations, and discuss any and all birding news, or anything else you wish to talk about. See you there!

Summer Birding in Western Canada

Mike Resch, a birder from Massachusetts, visited Alberta and British Columbia last summer, and wrote about the trip on his blog. It is a very enjoyable read with lots of good photos, so I thought that local birders would enjoy reading about his trip, and maybe be inspired to visit some of the locations that Mike explored last year.

Rufous Hummingbird, Highwood House, June 2016. Photo by Mike Resch.

There are three posts on Mike’s blog, State Birding. First there is a summary of the whole trip, on Western Canada Birding Trip, June 2016. Then there are detailed posts about the Alberta portion, Alberta Birding Trip, and the BC portion, British Columbia Birding Trip.

I hope you enjoy reading about Mike’s travels here, and look forward to summer so you can go to some of these places yourself.

Note: Mike’s ten-day trip was from June 20-29, 2016. So on his blog June 20 is Day 1, June 21 is day 2, etc.

Osprey With Goldfish

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Here’s a summer shot in the middle of winter which brings up an important conservation issue. This Osprey was photographed on July 2, 2016 by Bert Gregory. He didn’t notice the prey in its talons until later. The location was near the pond by the railway bridge in the very west end of Bowmont Park NW, near Bowness Park.

Osprey with goldfish (Carassius auratus), July 2, 2016, Bowmont Park. Photo by Bert Gregory.

Domestic goldfish, which are native to Asia, are quickly becoming a big problem in Alberta, as they have elsewhere in North America. In the past few years, they have been found to be infesting ponds in Okotoks, Lethbridge, St. Albert, Calgary, and even Fort McMurray. They have been shown to be breeding and overwintering in the wild even in Fort McMurray. Prussian Carp, the wild ancestor of goldfish, have also been found in many Alberta rivers and ponds.

It’s possible that this Osprey caught the goldfish in someone’s backyard pond, but more likely in the pond by the river, or in the river itself, where they are known to breed.

Once unconstrained by a small pond or aquarium these fish can grow very large (over 25 cm in length) and are very prolific. They can devastate native fish habitats by out-competing them for food, and they also eat fish eggs.

The goldfish are thought to have originated here by being dumped into the waterways by pet owners. Prussian Carp may have been deliberately introduced. This is of course illegal; non-native animals and plants can upset the ecosystem and cause enormous problems for our native wildlife. The Alberta government has launched a program called “Don’t Let It Loose” to try to educate the public about the dangers of introducing potentially invasive species into our environment. Efforts are also underway to try to eliminate these fish from our waterways.

UPDATE:

Bernard Tremblay sent in a photo of another Osprey with a goldfish in its talons, taken in Calgary on August 1, 2016:

Nic DeGama-Blanchet, the Executive Director of the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, reports that he has seen goldfish in Fish Creek near bridge 11.

Furry Friday: Moose

Some Moose photographed southwest of Calgary recently by Tony LePrieur.

Moose, near Millarville, January 15, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur

Moose, near Millarville, January 15, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur

Three Moose, near Turner Valley, January 8, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur

The male of the three Moose above, near Turner Valley, January 8, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur

For more of Tony’s mammal and bird photogrphs, see his Flickr page.

eBird Counties of Southern Alberta

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

If you are a birder in the Calgary area who uses eBird, you may be confused about where the boundaries for the eBird Counties are. As you enter sightings from various locations in the region, you will see that some are assigned to Calgary County, and some to Drumheller, Banff, Lethbridge, or others. It is not clear at first what these counties represent. Even when we were doing the 2015 eBird Competition we were not sure what to make of the eBird Counties.

It turns out that the boundaries for eBird Counties in Canada follow the federal government’s Census Geographic Units. This is not a well-known political or geographic entity, and the boundaries are not marked anywhere as you travel around. (In the United States, where eBird started, the eBird Counties are the same as the political Counties, which are well-known and have well-marked boundaries.)

However, it is possible to see a map of our County boundaries by going on Google Earth. If you don’t have Google Earth you should download it. It is free, and very useful for birders. You can see satellite maps of the entire world down to a very fine level.

When you are on Google Earth, zoom into the region you want to see, and turn off all the layers except “Borders.” The fine green lines on the map are the county boundaries. (Thanks to Dan Arndt for finding out what the counties are, and how to see the boundaries.)

Southern Alberta, showing eBird County boundaries in green.

Southern Alberta, with eBird County names in yellow and boundaries in green.

Feel free to copy this map as a reference, but I do recommend downloading Google Earth, so you can zoom in to see the boundaries at a finer scale. You can also turn on other layers such as “Places ” and “Roads” so you can see where the towns and highways are.

Below are four detail maps of the north, east, south, and west edges of Calgary county.

The north end of Calgary County.

The east side of Calgary County, along the Trans-Canada Highway. Drumheller County begins immediately east of Weed Lake, and actually includes part of Dalemead Reservoir.

The south end of Calgary County.

The west side of Calgary county.

The eBird Counties do not correspond well to any particular geographic birding region. Many of you may keep track of sightings within the 80-km circle centered on the Centre Street Bridge in Calgary, which is used for the annual May Species Count (and for both the 2005 and 2015 birding competitions). Here is the relevant map for that:

The 80-km circle of the Calgary birding region (red), with eBird Counties in green.

If anyone would like to be able to draw the 80-km circle on Google Earth on their own computer, just email me at birdscalgary@gmail.com and I will give you instructions.

Tonight, Wednesday February 8, 2017, Mike Harrison will speak at the Bird Study Group of Nature Calgary on The Ins and Outs of eBird. If you are an eBird user or want to learn about it, please come out. See this page for details.

Pileated Woodpeckers

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The spectacular crow-sized  Pileated Woodpecker is always a treat to see, and they are not very shy birds, so occasionally you can get great close-up looks at them. They are not common in Calgary. Look for them in three areas: Around the Glenmore Reservoir, including the Weaselhead, and upstream on the Elbow River through Griffith Woods Park; The west end of Fish Creek Park; The east end of Fish Creek Park on the Bow River, and north on the river as far as Carburn Park. They are year-round residents here, so look for them any time you are out in these parks. If you live near these areas you may also get them coming to suet or nut feeders occasionally.

All photos by Tony LePrieur.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Park, December 4, 2016.

In the above photo you can see the distinctive rectangular hole that these birds make when feeding. They eat Carpenter Ants, which often infest large trees and deadfall. If you see a fresh hole like this, often near the base of a large tree, you will know you are in a Pileated Woodpecker’s territory.

Female Pileated Woodpecker, Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Park, December 4, 2016.

The female above (likely the mate of the male in the first photo) is distinguished from the male by the black stripe from the bill to the throat, which is red in males. In addition, the red crest does not extend all the way to the front of the head on the female as it does on the male.

The nest hole of a Pileated Woodpecker is a large oval, usually high in a dead tree, or occasionally in a power pole (as seen in Griffith Woods Park). The male will make a new nest hole each year.

Below are more of Tony’s photos of Pileated Woodpeckers in Calgary.

Pileated Woodpecker (female), Fish Creek Park, January 31, 2016.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Fish Creek Park, November 26, 2015.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Fish Creek Park, October 25, 2015.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Fish Creek Park, October 25, 2015.

For more photos of Pileated Woodpeckers see these posts.

You can see more of Tony LePrieur’s photos on his Flickr Page here.

Restore the Inglewood Wildlands Pond

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The Inglewood Wildlands, a large park immediately west of the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, is a great place in the summer to see Savannah Sparrows and soaring Swainson’s Hawks. But it used to be so much more, as there was originally a large wetland in the middle of it, which attracted a wide variety of wildlife. In 2007 the pump that supplied water to the pond broke, and the pond dried up.

The Wildlands used to host many visiting school groups who learned about the wetland and all the species that lived there. As the city has now embarked on the ambitious Bend in the Bow project in the area, now is a good time to encourage them to restore this wetland.

Please go to this page to sign the petition to put water back into the Inglewood Wildland Pond. The Inglewood Wildlands Development Society is trying to get as many signatures as possible. They now have over 500. Help them get to 1,000!

Birding Locations: Queen’s Park Cemetery

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Northern Goshawk, Queen’s Park Cemetery, January 28, 2017. All photos by Tony LePrieur, all taken at Queen’s Park Cemetery..

One of the smaller and perhaps underappreciated birding locations in Calgary is Queen’s Park Cemetery, located just northwest of Confederation Park near 4th Street and 40 Avenue NW.

Queen’s Park Cemetery.

The cemetery contains a great number of spruce trees, so it attracts many of the species that prefer to feed in or on those trees, such as the winter finches. Many other species of birds and mammals can also be found there, due to the presence of a creek which stays open year-round. The creek runs along the north end, and is bordered by the thickest growth of trees in the cemetery, both coniferous and deciduous.

Detail, north end of Queen’s Park Cemetery, showing the trees which border the creek.

Within the cemetery parking is limited, and it is best to park outside and walk in, or pull completely off one of the roads to park while allowing other vehicles room to pass. Stay away from funeral processions and ceremonies, of course.

The best birding tends to be where the trees are thickest, though you can find Black-capped Chickadees and Red-Breasted Nuthatches wherever there are trees. Crossbills also tend to move around the park (and into the surrounding neighbourhoods). In some years, Brown Creepers and Golden-crowned Kinglets are very common. A stroll along the roads can usually turn up a few of these in the winter.

Brown Creeper, November 15, 2015.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, November 1, 2015.

Black-capped Chickadee, November 1, 2015.

Pine Siskin, October 25, 2015.

The water that flows through the north end draws many birds to drink, feed, and bathe.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, January 15, 2017.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, January 15, 2017.

Another Sharp-shinned Hawk (or the same one from ten months before?), March 6, 2016.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, March 6, 2016.

Queen’s Park is one of the best places to find crossbills. This year there are few in the city, but White-winged Crossbills have been reported there recently.

White-winged (left) and Red Crossbills, November 15, 2015.

Also November 15, 2015.

Common Redpoll, October 25, 2015.

 Dark-eyed Junco, October 25, 2015.

Black-billed Magpie and Great Horned Owl, October 25, 2015.

This may be the same young Northern Goshawk as in the first photo, taken a week earlier, January 22, 2017.

Queen’s Park Cemetery is home to several mammal species as well. Coyotes den there, and White-tailed Jackrabbits and Eastern Gray Squirrels are common.

White-tailed Jackrabbit, December 18, 2016.

White-tailed Jackrabbit, January 22, 2017.

Coyote, January 15, 2017.

So far, eighty-two bird species have been reported here on eBird. That is a pretty good total for a park that isn’t on the river. Sightings in the past week include Rough-legged Hawk, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, White-winged Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. Get out and add to the total!

Furry Friday: Nose Hill Porcupine

The wooded ravines on Nose Hill are one of the most reliable places in the city to find North American Porcupines. Tony LePrieur photographed this one on January 28, 2017.

North American Porcupine, Nose Hill, January 28, 2017.

North American Porcupine, Nose Hill, January 28, 2017.