Fall Birding Course Begins – Carburn Park

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society Fall birding course began again on August 31, 2015. Many of our readers look forward to Dan Arndt’s posts every Monday with a narrative of the previous week’s outing accompanied by his outstanding photos of some of the birds seen. As usual Dan is scheduled to lead the Sunday morning group, one of the fifteen weekly outings that are needed to accommodate the 196 registered participants. However, work commitments will keep Dan away for many of the fall outings. With the help of Rose Painter and George Best, I will fill in for him when he is away.

I don’t usually carry a camera when helping to lead a group, but George does, and he is an excellent photographer as many of you know. I will try to summarize our walks and illustrate them with George’s photos.

For the first week of the course we went to Carburn Park, which had been a great spot for fall warblers in the weeks leading up to the start of the course. Many of the earlier-migrating species had more or less finished passing through Calgary by the beginning of September, but we hoped to see quite a few Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped, and Orange-crowned Warblers on our outing on September 6.

Carburn September 6

Carburn Park walk, 6 September 2015.

We did see about 30 Yellow-rumped and possibly one Yellow Warbler, but none of the other warbler species. However, we did see huge numbers of birds of the river, including the largest concentrations of Common Mergansers and Double-crested Cormorants that many of had ever seen. (All photos by George Best.)


A few Common Mergansers (55 by my count) and two Canada Geese.

Cormorant in tree

A Treeful of Cormorants.

We counted about 100 mergansers and 150 cormorants on the day. Most of them were concentrated at the north end of the park, just south of the Glenmore Trail Bridge over the Bow. This is the area that used to be the northernmost pond in Carburn park, before the flood of 2013 turned it into a major river channel, gravel bars, and an island. It is usually a very birdy part of the river.

Cormorant on Branch

Double-crested Cormorants resting on a partially-submerged tree in what used to be the north pond at Carburn Park. The birds with light breasts are juveniles, hatched this year.


Double-crested Cormorant in flight.

We also saw about 65 American White Pelicans in this area. They no longer go to the old weir in Pearce Estate to feed, and Carburn Park is about as far upriver as the big groups usually go. (The Sunday afternoon FFCPP group counted 106 pelicans that day, and an incredible 225 Common Mergansers!)

Pelican in flight

American White Pelican coming in for a landing.


A Pelican on the Bow River at Carburn Park.

Other highlights in Carburn Park in September are the usually-reliable Wood Ducks, often seen in the quiet channel between the big island and the river shore in the central part of the park, and raptors like Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Swainson’s Hawks. We saw three of each that day, as well as this Merlin:


A Merlin scanning for prey. Merlins and Bald Eagles can be seen in this area year-round; Swainson’s Hawks and Osprey have already departed.

We counted 38 species of birds for the day, and three mammal species: the usual White-tailed Deer and Eastern Gray Squirrels, and a less-commonly-seen American Mink.

Next post: In week two of the course we returned to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary for the first time in over two years.

Competition Update, October

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

As October begins we enter the final quarter of the eBird Calgary 2015 Competition. It will now be harder for the leaders to add new species to their lists, and for the other competitors to catch up.

Brian Elder continues to set a very impressive standard, with 270 species reported within the 80-km circle. I believe this is a record for the circle in a calendar year, and he still has three months to go. The highest previous total that I could find was 265. It will be very interesting to see how high he and the other top birders can go.


Hooded Warbler – a rarity seen in Calgary on October 4, it would increase anyone’s species count by one! Photo by Dan Arndt

Blake Weis and Ray Woods are tied for second place behind Brian in the category of Experienced birders, at 249 species.

In the Beginner category we have a very close race, with Chris MacIntosh and Aphtin Perratt tied at 210 species, and Graeme Mudd right behind at 209.

In the Youth category Aidan Vidal leads with 216 species, and Ethan Denton (Birdboy Canada) at 212.

Latecomer Challenge: 

The winners of the next challenge will be the birders in each of the three experience categories who add the most new species to their lists from August 1 to the end of the year. This gives an incentive for those competitors who haven’t been out as much as they’d like, to go out more in that latter part of the year and see the species they missed earlier. It will be much easier to win this challenge if you haven’t birded much in the first half of the year and have a small list. The current leaders in each category will have a much harder time adding new species to their totals, since they have seen many of the species already.


Here are all the competitors listed with their species totals and categories (the “Not Eligible” competitors are on the organizing committee). Using the arrows you can sort the columns to see all the participants in one category listed together, or sort by number of species. You can also increase or decrease the number of lines shown.

80-km Circle Leaders, October 3, 2015

Brian Elder270Experienced
Blake Weis249Experienced
Ray Woods249Experienced
Daniel Arndt243Not Eligible
Andrew Hart229Not Eligible
Dan Parliament228Experienced
John Thompson227Experienced
George Best225Experienced
Cindy Parliament131Experienced
Aidan Vidal216Youth
Andrew Slater213Not Eligible
Rose Painter212Not Eligible
Birdboy Canada212Youth
Neil Denton211Experienced
Chris Macintosh210Beginner
Aphtin Perratt210Beginner
Graeme Mudd209Beginner
John Anderson207Experienced
Lorrie Anderson207Experienced
Bob Lefebvre205Not Eligible
Nicole Pellerin205Beginner
Phillip Cram201Experienced
Christopher Naugler196Experienced
Linda Vaxvick195Experienced
Judy Swan193Experienced
Darlene Shymkiw186Beginner
John Bargman185Experienced
Trevor Churchill184Experienced
Simone Pellerin-Wood173Youth
Janet Gill171Experienced
Rob Worona169Experienced
Dave Russum164Experienced
Anne Belton163Experienced
Peter Hoyer158Experienced
Jan Roseneder147Experienced
Jeremy Quickfall139Beginner
Joan Walker131Not Eligible
Saravana Moorthy130Beginner
Sue Konopnicki124Experienced
Bernie Debolt89Experienced
Rachel Mackay86Beginner
Michael Rogers80Experienced
Tony LePrieur75Beginner
Byron Chu75Experienced
Bernard Tremblay72Experienced
Hannah Lilles61Youth
Robin Naugler48Youth
Brett Lybbert46Beginner
David Sim34Experienced
Lucianna Lybbert32Youth
Jarom Lybbert31Youth
Katrina Lybbert30Experienced
Gord Newel27Beginner
Angela Bell21Experienced
Lynn Wilsack20Beginner
Reginald Lybbert12Youth
David Archer11Beginner
Sylvia Checkley4Beginner
Jim Donohue1Experienced


We also have a Yard Challenge, in which participants report all the birds in their yards, or seen or heard from their yards, throughout the year. Of course the playing field here is not level as everyone’s yard is in a different location and habitat, and gets different birds. So it is more of a fun challenge, and a way for more people to get involved. Phil Ullman has a big lead in this category, and I don’t think anyone will catch him. It’s pretty impressive to see or hear 87 species of birds from your yard!

Yard Challenge Leaders, October 3, 2015

Phil Ullman87
Bob Lefebvre (not eligible)53
John Bargman53
Judy Swan51
Lorrie Anderson51
John Anderson51
Dave Russum40
John Thompson37
Michael Rogers33
Brian Elder31
David Sim29
Rose Painter (not eligible)25
Nicole Pellerin23
Phillip Cram23
Linda Vaxvick22
Rachel Mackay21
Graeme Mudd20
Peter Hoyer18
Simone Pellerin-Wood18
Darlene Shymkiw18
Brett Lybbert11
Janet Gill11
Katrina Lybbert11
Lucianna Lybbert9
Saravana Moorthy9
Lynn Wilsack7
Andrew Hart7
George Best7
Zoe Keefe6
David Archer6
Anne Belton4
Jarom Lybbert3
Claude Benoit1
Hannah Lilles1


eBird Usage:

One of the main goals of the competition was to get more birders using eBird to record their sightings. We continue to have an impact in this. The Calgary county, which covers the bulk of the circle, has typically been in the top five counties in the country each month, in terms of number of eBird checklists submitted. In Alberta, Calgary’s 11,020 checklists submitted this year up to October 2 was 43% of the Alberta total of 25,569. We are really contributing to the knowledge of bird numbers and distribution in our area.

Patch Lists:

The 80-km circle is a Patch on eBird, and although it is very large for an eBird patch, it is nevertheless impressive that of all the patches listed for this year in Alberta, the top 41 all belong to birders in the competition (some of these are smaller patches like the Calgary city limits or the Weaselhead area). Half of the top 18 patches in Canada are also in our 80-km circle (including Brian Elder’s in top spot), and here we are competing against some other large areas and well-known birding hot-spots like Point Pelee.

Donate to the Competition:

It’s gratifying to see so many local birders explore our area and record their sightings in eBird. In doing so, they are contributing to the global database of knowledge about bird numbers and distribution, inspiring other local birders to get out in the field and involved in our local birding community, and raising awareness of the conservation issues that lie at the heart of why we do what do.

We currently have prizes in place for the first-place finishers in the three experience categories, the Yard Challenge, the Latecomer Challenge, and the finder of the Bird of the Year. Thanks to all our sponsors: The Wild Bird Store, Nature Calgary, Burrcan Holdings, Phil Evans, the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, and an anonymous donor.

We would like to be able to recognize more of our competitors, especially with some very close races and all the hard work these birders have done. It would be nice to be able to award prizes to our second-place and third-place finishers, and we would like to hold more small competitions over the last three months of the year. These would provide the incentives necessary to keep up interest through to the end of the year.

For this, we need your help. If you would like to support the goals of our competition, please go to Nature Calgary’s Competition page. There are instructions about how to make a contribution using their “Donate” page, and how to specify that your gift is for the competition. Nature Calgary is a registered charity. 100% of all gifts will be used to purchase prizes for participants.

Sunday Showcase – September Birds of Calgary

Tony LePrieur photographed these birds on September 27, 2015. The robins and the White-throated Sparrow were seen in Queen’s Park Cemetery in NW Calgary, and the rest in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

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American Robin

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 483mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/640s|


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American Robin

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 428mm|ISO: 1250|Shutter speed: 1/800s|


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American Robin

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 1000|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

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White-throated Sparrow

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 100|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

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Great Blue Heron

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 552mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

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Male Wood Duck

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 1000|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

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Great Horned owl

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

Leucistic Loon

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Paul Koegler was lucky enough to see this Common Loon with very little dark pigmentation on August 15, 2015 at Whitetail Lake, BC. Leucistic birds are not too common, especially ones like this that lack the darkest pigments in all their feathers. Birds with irregular white splotches or patches seem to be more common. The bird is not albino; if it was it would have pink eyes, a light bill, and whiter feathers.

IMG_7720 (1)

::Aperture: ƒ/11|Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

This looks like an adult bird. It has the black bill of an adult and you can faintly see the ring around the neck. It is with at least two other adult loons, so they were either done breeding at this time or were unsuccessful breeders. Breeding loons are very territorial and a breeding male will not tolerate any other loon besides its mate being nearby.


::Aperture: ƒ/11|Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/250s|

In about a week we should be seeing the first of the migrating loons coming through Calgary. They can be seen on Glenmore Reservoir, the Bow River, and other large bodies of water. If we’re lucky we may get other species here on migration such as the Pacific Loon or even Arctic or Red-throated Loons.

Free Ticket Winner for Film The Messenger

The winner of the pair of free tickets to the film The Messenger is David Severson. Thanks to all who entered.

If you plan to attend the show you can still use the discount code to get $2 off admission. The code is Birdcon-15! (include the exclamation point). The Messenger is an important film and has been getting excellent reviews.

The film plays at Eau Claire Cinemas on Friday October 2 at 7:15 pm and Saturday October 3 at 12 noon, as part of the Calgary International Film Festival. See this site for more information and to view the trailer.

See The Messenger at Calgary International Film Festival

The Messenger, an important film about the worldwide decline in songbird numbers, is playing in Calgary as part of the Calgary International Film Festival. There will be two showings: Friday October 2 at 7:15 pm, and Saturday October 3 at 12 noon, at the Eau Claire Cinemas.


A Hot Docs 2015 Top Ten Audience Favourite, THE MESSENGER takes us on passionate journey around the world, as we learn about how the migratory patterns of the songbird are an essential component of our planet’s complex ecosystem. Through skillful narration and camerawork, THE MESSENGER takes on a visually stunning and intimate journey into the endangered world of the songbird and the need for immediate intervention to prevent their extinction. Director Su Rynard will be at both screenings, and University of Alberta biologist Erin Bayne at the Friday screening, for a Q&A.
Birds Calgary has two pairs of free tickets to give away to our subscribers. To enter a draw for the free tickets, reply to the email version of this post, (which only subscribers get), and replace the “To” line (“donotreply[at]”) with birdscalgary[at] Winners will be drawn randomly from all replies received by midnight on Sunday September 27.
If you want to buy tickets to the show, you can get a $2 discount off the admission price by entering the code “Birdcon-15!” when purchasing online. Go to The Messenger site for more information or to buy tickets.

Fuzzy Friday: Sphinx Moth

The insect in this video might be mistaken for a hummingbird or large bee, but it is a moth of the sphingidae family. They are commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths, or hummingbird moths. There are six species in Alberta. I believe this one is a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. It is found throughout Alberta and is active in the daytime.

These moths are known for their ability to hover while feeding on flower nectar. You can see the long curved proboscis. With a wingspan of about six cm, you can see how they are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds!

The video was taken in Peace River, in northern Alberta, on June 10, 2015.


Cruise the World For Birds

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Tomorrow evening, Tuesday September 15, marks the beginning of another season of nature talks in the Nature Calgary Speaker’s Series. The topic is “Cruise the World For Birds” and will be given by renowned local author and speaker Chris Fisher. Here is the talk description from the Nature Calgary site:

“For more than five years, Chris served as lecturer and naturalist for a major cruise line.  This experience took him to every continent and to more than 160 ports around the world. From Alaska to the Antarctic and Stockholm to Samoa, birds (and other wildlife) were a constant, yet ever changing companion to his voyages.  This presentation will not only be a natural history showcase, but it will also strive to demonstrate how our wildlife encounters enrich our lives and create our life’s most cherished moments.”

The location is the Cardel Theatre in Quarry Park, just south of Carburn Park. For a map, driving directions, and more information, see the Nature Calgary event page here. There is free parking, but please bring a food bank donation. The doors open at 7 pm and the talk begins at 7:30. Everyone is welcome.

The Nature Calgary Lecture Series is held on the third Tuesday of each month in this location, from September through April. In addition, the Nature Calgary Bird Studies Group holds talks on the first Wednesday of each month at the University of Calgary. Watch the Nature Calgary site for upcoming lectures and events.

Chris Fisher’s web page.

Follow Chris Fisher on Twitter @FisherSpeaks

Sunday Showcase: Songbirds of Carburn Park

Carburn Park is a great place to find warblers and other songbirds during fall migration. Many species that pass through in the fall are not seen in Calgary in spring and summer, or seen in very small numbers. For many species of warbler the peak of migration is in mid-August. Some of the later-migrating warblers will continue to move through until late September (or much later in the case of Yellow-rumped Warblers).

Currently our native sparrows are beginning to migrate through the area.

Tony LePrieur photographed these birds on a visit to Carburn Park on August 23, 2015. Some of the ID’s are tricky so please correct me if I’m mistaken! -Bob Lefebvre

0S4A5237 -1Northern Waterthrush (::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|)

0S4A4608 -1Warbling Vireo (::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 100|Shutter speed: 1/800s|)

0S4A4706 -1American Redstart (::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/800s|)

0S4A5248 -1Yellow Warbler (::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|)

0S4A5211 -1Philadelphia Vireo (::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 640|Shutter speed: 1/800s|)

0S4A4862 -1Empidonax Flycatcher species, probably Least Flycatcher (::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 450mm|ISO: 100|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|)

0S4A5189 -1House Wren (::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/800s|)

Birds & Beers, September 11, 2015

The next Calgary Birds & Beers social get-together will be held from 6 to 9 pm on Friday September 11, at the Royal Canadian Legion, 9202 Horton Road SW Calgary. Everyone is welcome to join us to have a friendly chat with their fellow birders. Drinks and meals are available.

See the Facebook event page here, with a map to the location.

The following Birds & Beers events will be held on Friday October 30 and Friday November 13.