Bebo Grove is a winter wonderland

Posted by Dan Arndt

Week number nine of the Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding Course took us to Bebo Grove. With our typical Sunday flair, the snow was flying and the wind was blowing hard, but in the heavy boreal forest habitat of Bebo Grove the wind was a little less biting and the birds were as active as can be, as they were all in search of their next meal and just enough calories to get them through to the next day.

Our species counts have dropped significantly since the dog days of late summer, and with the Winter Finch Forecast for this coming winter, it’s going to be some sparse times for us birders out there this winter!

Bebo Grove - November 3, 2013

Bebo Grove – November 3, 2013

Bebo Grove - View from the parking lot Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/125sec., ƒ/13, ISO 640

Bebo Grove – View from the parking lot
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/125sec., ƒ/13, ISO 640

Our first bird of the day, and the first seen this week by our group, was this lone Dark-eyed Junco, that greeted us at the parking lot. Hopefully they’ll be a little more common this winter in our birding areas with the absence of other finches and sparrows.

Dark-eyed Junco Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/125sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Dark-eyed Junco
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/125sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

We entered the dense forest below and were immediately paused at the sound of Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, Boreal and Black-capped Chickadees, and even a Golden-crowned Kinglet or two. Of course we stopped for a few minutes to feed them and chatted a bit about their habits in the winter, and their amazing ability to memorize the locations of hundreds of seed caches throughout their territories.

Bebo Grove - Into the Boreal Forest Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/125sec., ƒ/13, ISO 1600

Bebo Grove – Into the Boreal Forest
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/125sec., ƒ/13, ISO 1600

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

This male Red-breasted Nuthatch was noteworthy due to the significant and unusual white patches in the head and facial feathers. Whether this is an older male, or is expressing a very minor form of leucism, we may never know. At the very least though, we’ll be able to pick him out again next time we see him in a crowd!

Red-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@440mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@440mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

We headed over to the riverbank, and along the way kept our eyes peeled for the American Three-toed Woodpecker or maybe even a Black-backed Woodpecker, but neither showed up for us.

Overlooking the Fish Creek

Overlooking the Fish Creek

We did happen to see this Rough-legged Hawk soaring high overhead though. Excuse the poor quality of the shot, there was plenty of blowing snow high above us… but even still, you can make out the very dark black wrist patches that are good identifiers for this species.

Rough-legged Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

Rough-legged Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

The real highlight of the day though was a small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets who responded very strongly, and almost immediately to calls. This one male in particular came right down to eye-level and gave us quite an impressive territorial display!

Golden-crowned Kinglet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Golden-crowned Kinglet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Down the path just a little way were one of the more common feeding stations along this route, so we stopped and looked again, and I was thankfully able to find a nice female Downy Woodpecker and a Boreal Chickadee for my troubles!

Boreal Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Boreal Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

female Downy Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

female Downy Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

After a little exploration a bit further to the west, we decided it best to call it a day. Thankfully we stopped at the end to chat a little, and were granted three more species just for luck, with a possible fourth! Our first large flock of Bohemian Waxwings flew into the trees a little to the west of us, while a small group of Ring-billed Gulls flew overhead. This last bird, a mystery raptor, gave a screeching call reminiscent of a Red-tailed Hawk, though we were undecided whether it was a Red-tailed or a Rough-legged Hawk. My one photo doesn’t really show too much detail, so I’m still undecided, but thought I’d post it here and review the comments!

Mystery Raptor Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Mystery Raptor
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Thanks again for reading, and good birding!

9 thoughts on “Bebo Grove is a winter wonderland

  1. I was thinking Rough-legged at first but I’m starting to lean towards Harlan’s Red-tailed. One thing that strikes me is how large the bill is – it looks bigger than a Rough-legged bill. Also if you enlarge the photo, the fine barring on the primaries seems to extend right to the tip, as on a Harlan’s (according to Sibley). Also, we both heard a brief call that was decidedly more like a Red-tail than a Rough-legged Hawk. Unusual plumage, though, for example the dark spot in the middle of the tail.

  2. Hey Dan,

    Here is a guess on the mystery raptor – either a dark morph red-tailed, rough-legged or ferruginous, in that order of most likely…..

    Love the photo of the Boreal Chickadee

    Happy birding 🙂

    Lynette

    • Thanks Lynette!

      Those first two were my first two thoughts, in that order… I didn’t consider Ferruginous though. They’re not too common around Calgary anymore, let alone during the late fall/early winter. Glad you like the Boreal Chickadee! It’s not the sharpest photo, and definitely not my best Boreal shot, but the little gal was being a bit shy!

      – Dan

      • Dan – do you know how many Golden-crowned Kinglets you saw? A friend of mine does research on them. It is unusual to see more than one at a time! He would be interested in knowing how many were in the small flock. Thanks

        • In that small flock there were 4 individuals. It appeared to be 2 males and 2 females, based on the fact that two came to respond to the recorded call, while two others did not.

          – Dan

    • Thanks Ross.

      These would be my first Rough-legged Hawks of the winter. I rarely see them within the city limits most years, so it’s nice to have seen one (maybe two!) of them down here. I suspect they’re just passing through.

      – Dan

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