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American Dipper On Ice

American Dippers are aquatic songbirds that feed in fast-flowing mountain streams, capturing all their food by walking under the water on the stream bottom, by swimming, or by picking insects off the surface. They are sometimes seen in the city on Fish Creek, the Elbow River, or even on the Bow in the winter, but are more common west of the city where they breed.

Tony LePrieur captured these fantastic shots of a Dipper seen from water level at Elbow Falls, west of Bragg Creek, on December 24. The first photo shows the nictitating membrane which protects the eye when the bird is submerged. Tony lay in the ice-cold water and on the ice for two hours to get these shots!

American Dipper, Elbow Falls, December 24, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Dipper, Elbow Falls, December 24, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

To see more of Tony’s photos, go to his Flickr page.

 

Great Gray Owl

Tony LePrieur photographed this Great Gray Owl hunting near Priddis, SW of Calgary, on Christmas Eve 2017.

Great Gray Owl, Priddis area, December 24, 2017. Photographed by Tony LePrieur.

Great Gray Owl, Priddis area, December 24, 2017. Photographed by Tony LePrieur.

To see more of Tony’s photos, go to his Flickr page.

 

Some Winter Owls

Michael Kim took these photos of a Great Gray Owl and a Snowy Owl in early winter.

Great Gray Owl, Bow Valley Parkway, November 2017.

Great Gray Owl, Bow Valley Parkway, November 2017.

Great Gray Owl, Bow Valley Parkway, November 2017.

Snowy Owl, Airdrie, December 2017.

Snowy Owl, Airdrie, December 2017.

 

Some Winter Birds

Here are some winter birds photographed by Gavin McKinnon. You can find the first two in the city, but you have to go up in the mountains to find the third.

Black-capped Chickadee.

Downy Woodpecker.

White-tailed Ptarmigan.

Read Gavin’s blog Canadian Birder here.

Pygmy-Owl and Woodpeckers at Bebo Grove

Yesterday, December 2, 2017, Tony LePrieur photographed some birds at Bebo Grove in Fish Creek Provincial Park, SW Calgary.

Northern Pygmy-Owl with Meadow Vole, Bebo Grove, December 2, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Northern Pygmy-Owl, Bebo Grove, December 2, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Bebo Grove, December 2, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Three-toed Woodpecker, Bebo Grove, December 2, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

 

Bow Valley Birding

Posted by Ethan Denton

Though it is not birded by many people, the Bow Valley – Banff, Canmore and area – can be an amazing place to bird. Whether it’s just for a few hours, or if you have a day or more, visiting the valley is an unforgettable experience. Recently, hotspots in Banff and especially Canmore have been heaving with birds, from late a Red-tailed Hawk and American Coots to a plethora of Rusty Blackbirds and Common Redpolls. Here are some of my photos – all taken within the last week. If you have time, visiting the area would be a great idea. Main hotspots are Policeman’s Creek (Canmore) and the Cave and Basin (Banff), but birds turn up anywhere, so check out some other locations on eBird or the local Facebook group, Bow Valley Birding.

Common Goldeneye, Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Clark’s Nutcracker, South Canmore, November 8, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Injured American Coot, Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

And they’re not all birds, either. This Long-tailed Weasel was seen on Policeman’s Creek, in addition to Muskrat, Voles, Mule Deer and Red Squirrels.

Long-tailed Weasel (winter coat), Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Finally, if you are looking for a way to spend a Saturday helping birds and bird research, the Banff/Canmore Christmas Bird Count is coming up, on Saturday December 16th. It’s always a great time, and usually you see some interesting birds. Afterwards, there’s a big potluck in the senior’s centre in Banff, where we talk about the day, tally up the results and enjoy fabulous food! Anybody interested can contact me at birdboy.ca@gmail.com, or head over to birdboy.ca for more information.

Black-capped Chickadee, South Canmore, November 10, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Carburn Park and Fish Creek Park, November 2017

Here are some of Tony LePrieur’s photos taken in some local parks this month.

Great Horned Owl, Carburn Park, November 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Robin, Carburn Park, November 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Coot, Carburn Park, November 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

A close-up showing what the coot was feeding on, Carburn Park, November 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Trumpeter Swans, Fish Creek Provincial Park, November 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Great Horned Owl, Fish Creek Provincial Park, November 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Black-backed Woodpecker, Fish Creek Provincial Park, November 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

To see more of Tony’s photos, go to his Flickr page.

 

Christmas Bird Count For Kids, 2017

The second annual CBC For Kids event in Calgary will be held on Saturday December 9th at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. This is a great educational opportunity for kids, so if you have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew that you’d like to introduce to birding, register for this free event.

There will be experts on hand to teach the kids how to find and identify birds, but they could always use some more experienced birders to lead the participants on guided walks. If you’d like to help out, contact Zoe MacDougall, Nature Kids Program Coordinator, at naturekids[at]naturealberta.ca.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

In early October a Golden-crowned Sparrow showed up in the yard of local birder Brian Elder. This species is almost never seen in the city. The bird stayed in the area for a few days, and many local birders were able to see it. Gavin McKinnon photographed it on October 8.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, NW Calgary, October 8, 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnnon.

Golden-crowned Sparrows are normally found in the western mountains of North America. They breed as far north as Alaska, and migrate to the west coast of the continental US to spend the winter (they are also present in winter on the BC coast and southern mainland, and some overwinter on the western Alaskan coast). The occasional one that turns up here is probably on its way to the west coast of the US.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, NW Calgary, October 8, 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnnon.

This species is in the genus Zonotrichia, which also includes Harris’s Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow (all of which can be seen in Calgary), and the Rufous-collared Sparrow which is native to Mexico, Central and South America. White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows breed here, and many more are seen in Calgary on migration as well. Harris’s Sparrow (the only songbird that breeds exclusively in Canada) migrates mostly through Manitoba and Saskatchewan, but a few are seen here every spring and fall.

When the Golden-crowned Sparrow was in Brian’s yard, a Harris’s Sparrow was also present. Gavin photographed this bird too.

Harris’s Sparrow, NW Calgary, October 8, 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnnon.

At one point, both a White-crowned and a White-throated Sparrow were also there, so Brian had all four of the local Zonotrichia species in his yard at the same time – certainly a very rare and possibly unique circumstance for Calgary.

These four species are all large and similar in structure. Here are the other two local Zonotrichia species, photographed in Calgary in earlier years by Dan Arndt.

White-throated Sparrow, February 2, 2014. Photo by Dan Arndt.

White-crowned Sparrow, September 11, 2015. Photo by Dan Arndt.

All of these birds are first-year or immature birds. Adults are more distinctive but are more often seen in the spring.

Here is a photo of the other Zonotrichia species, the Rufous-collared Sparrow. If you see one of these, you are no longer in Calgary.

Rufous-collard Sparrow from Wikimedia Commons. By BERNARDO VALENTIN – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51781854