May Species Count in the Weaselhead

I don’t think I need to mention again how much I love the Weaselhead Natural Area in SW Calgary. This year provided great weather for our Sunday walk, and gave us a bevy of amazing and beautiful birds, with plenty of opportunities to get the very best shots.

Weaselhead Natural Area

Weaselhead Natural Area

As it was part of the May Species Count, our group usually visits the Weaselhead a few weeks ahead of the rest of the Friends of Fish Creek outings, and Bob and I headed out even earlier in hopes of a few of the thrushes singing, and maybe some other early morning birds. We got our wish early on, with this Veery sitting out in the open just south of the first bridge, but sadly were shut out from hearing either the Swainson’s Thrush or Hermit Thrush which can often be found here.

Veery

Veery

After listening for the other thrushes, and taking our time getting back to the starting point to meet the others, we began our trip again, stopping at the top to listen for various other birds calling, and were lucky enough to see this lone Spotted Towhee singing from the top of a spruce tree just down the hill.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

As we descended the hill for the second time, we spotted a few good birds on the way down, plus a bonus mammal, the Least Chipmunk, feeding at the bird feeders mid-way down the hill. At the bottom, we had some not so good views of White-throated Sparrows, but could hear their songs all throughout the morning.

 

As we reached the bridge, we had nearly three hundred Cliff Swallows flying overhead, and a few even came down to their nests, whether to rest or share food with their mates, I’ll never know. What I do know is that photographing swallows in general is one of the truest tests of a bird photographer. Thankfully, out of nearly fifty shots of the colony, I found one that turned out relatively ok!

Cliff Swallow returning to the colony

Cliff Swallow returning to the colony

We followed the pathway all the way to its end at the southern edge of the Weaselhead, and turned up good numbers of Yellow Warblers, and some of the first Least Flycatchers of the year, which could be heard all through the park with their distinctive “chi-bec” calls. Thankfully they’re also one of the easiest to identify by sight as well as sound, with their distinct thick eye-ring and buffy sides.

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

Down at the very south end, we heard the calls of a Northern Waterthrush, more Yellow Warblers than we could ever want for, and even a pair of elusive Sora. Hopefully the next time we see them they’ll be more cooperative for the camera!

We began the long trip back through the central portion of the Weaselhead, hearing our first Rose-breasted Grosbeak of the year, along with Red-breasted Nuthatches, Boreal Chickadees, and White-winged Crossbills, but the main reason for revisiting the central meadow was for the Calliope Hummingbirds who are annual residents here, and this year this male put on quite a show for us.

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird display

Calliope Hummingbird display

Calliope Hummingbird flaring his gorget

Calliope Hummingbird flaring his gorget

Once we’d had our fill of watching this hummingbirds antics, we headed to the north side of the Elbow River in search of the other regular hummingbird species here, the Rufous Hummingbird. Once again, we were not disappointed as we found a single male high up in a spruce tree, and even were lucky enough to watch as he faced off with another male in a territorial dispute. Here is the champion flaring his gorget in victory.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

As we were preparing to leave for the next few stops along our May Species Count route, we were given a low and slow flyby by a male dark morph Swainson’s Hawk that’s been resident here in the Weaselhead for a few years.

Swainson's Hawk (dark morph)

Swainson’s Hawk (dark morph)

And that’s it for another week of birding for us. With last weekend’s May Species Count, and the weeks crazy schedule, I missed my regular post last week, so this week you get two (at least!) new posts from me. Watch for the next one on Thursday! Until then, good birding!

5 thoughts on “May Species Count in the Weaselhead

  1. We were kayaking in the Weaselhead yesterday and saw jelly like clusters attached to the submerged grass stems. Can you please tell me what it is?

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  4. I can never express my gratitude well enough for what you are doing .Your beautiful shots of beautiful birds that you share with us.I pass them on to a friend and to my sister.We all love them and thankyou so much.Linda Neumiller Carstairs AB

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