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Hummingbird in Snowstorm

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Last week’s late summer snowstorm in southern Alberta flattened crops and gardens, caused power outages, and damaged or destroyed trees numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It must also have been devastating for many migrating birds. A storm like this, lasting for several days, blanketing the ground with snow throughout the southern half of the province, and accompanied by temperatures as low as -7 degrees Celsius, must surely have caused high mortality among warblers and other neotropical migrants.

Here are some photos taken on September 10 of a hummingbird caught in the snow. I believe this is a Rufous Hummingbird, the last of which usually move through Calgary in early September. Fortunately there are still plenty of flowers around so perhaps it was able to find enough food to continue on its southern migration.

All photos by Debbie Reynolds.

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August in Carburn Park

The last few weeks, Tony LePrieur has been sending us some outstanding photos of birds at Carburn Park. We had some technical difficulties with the blog and have been unable to post, but we’re back to full speed now. Here is Tony’s great collection of photos from the last three weekends in Carburn.

This is a good year for wood warblers, and there should be several species around until Sept 20 or so. Carburn Park has been a great place to see them, or anywhere along the river. Confederation Park is another warbler hot spot in the city.

Some of these fall birds can be tricky to ID, so please comment if you think we’ve got any wrong. There are two we weren’t at all sure about, the recently fledged one and the orange one, both captioned “???” – give us your thoughts on those!

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

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Canada Warbler

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

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Red-eyed Vireo

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female Tennessee Warbler

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Wilson’s Warbler

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Warbling Vireo

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Nashville Warbler

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American Redstart

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Townsend’s Warbler

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Warbling Vireo

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Red-eyed Vireo

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Northern Waterthrush

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Canada Warbler

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female/immature Tennessee Warbler

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Orange-crowned Warbler

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???

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immature Baltimore Oriole

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House Wren

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Sora

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???

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Eastern Kingbird

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American Goldfinch

 

Last of the Spring Birds

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

We’re back! After a busy July away from from blogging, we had technical issues in August which prevented us from posting photos. We could have posted text, but as you know, a birding blog without photos is like a bowling ball without a liquid centre.

Despite the snow on the ground right now, I am going to catch up on some things from late spring. Those of you who follow Dan Arndt’s weekly posts about his Friends of Fish Creek outings will have wondered where the group went birding in June. Dan’s job took him out of town for the entire month, so he was unable to post. I was away for some of June as well, but I arranged for one of my group’s members, George Best, to send some photos from our outings.

Dan’s posts will resume this week and will found here most Mondays.

If you are interested in signing up for the course this fall, there are still a few spots available at the following times: Mondays at 8:30 am, Tuesdays at 8:30 and 9 am, Wednesdays at 9 am, Thursdays at 8:30 am, Saturdays at 8:30 am, and Sundays at 8:30 am, 9 am, 9:30 am and 1:15 pm. We have completed two weeks of the 14-week course so there are still 12 weeks of great birding to go. Go to the Friends of Fish Creek site to sign up.

On June 1 our excursion was to the Pine Creek Water Treatment Plant area, along the river south of 194 Avenue. For one of Dan’s previous posts from this area, complete with maps of the walk, see this post from April 2014.

Our June 1 walk featured some late-arriving spring migrants. One of the first birds we saw, as we car-pooled from the parking lot at 194 Avenue to the treatment plant, was this Western Kingbird hawking insects from a fence. All photos by George Best.

Western Kingbird

These birds are not common in Calgary, even on migration. I believe the only place within the city limits that they have been known to nest is in the Lafarge Meadows area of Fish Creek Park, about 1.5 km north of our sighting. But no nesting Western Kingbirds were reported there in the last three years, so I was hopeful that this bird might be heading there to nest. I didn’t hear any more reports of this species in that area over the summer, so this was probably just a passing migrant.

We got really good looks at some Song Sparrows and recorded a dozen on the day, several of them singing.

Song Sparrow

We saw at least nine Swainson’s Hawks, but the closest views were of Red-tails.

Red Tailed Hawk

A Gray Catbird which emerged from the brush on the river bank:

Gray Catbird

An Eastern Kingbird, one of nine sighted on the day.

Eastern Kingbird

Another just-arrived migrant, and our first of the year – Baltimore Oriole.

Baltimore Oriole

Finally, we had a close fly-over by a group of five American White Pelicans.

American White Pelican

We have only been taking groups to this area for a year or so, and it is a great addition to our repertoire of birding walks.

On June 8 we headed to Griffith Woods Park on the west edge of the city, along the Elbow River. (See this post for a map – one of Dan’s many posts about this park.) We spent a lot of time in the east end of the park, in the mixed woods along the river, before heading to the spruce forest farther west. Here are a few of the 37 species we saw that day.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay.

Female Cowbird

Female Brown-headed Cowbird.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird.

House Wren

House Wren.

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher.

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

White Throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow.

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Yellow Warbler.

On June 15 we went to the Weaselhead Natural Area. Our goal was to find two species of hummingbird. We were successful, and had 39 species for the day.

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird.

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Calliope Hummingbird2

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe.

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Eastern Phoebe.

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Rufous Hummingbird.

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Rufous Hummingbird3

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White Throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee.

Travel Tuesday – Bobolinks, babies and more south of Calgary

Posted by Dan Arndt

While work has kept me rather busy and out of town for the majority of the past 6 weeks, on my brief trips back to Calgary I’ve been making a serious effort to get out and find some local birds. One of the most tantalizing of these birds was a lifer that’s eluded me for a few years in the Calgary region, a Bobolink. Their song is reminiscent of a robot, crossed with a blackbird, and is actually produced by two separate parts of their vocal cords singing entirely different songs. This particular pair of males was found near Priddis.

Pair of Bobolinks Plummer's Road, south of Calgary July 2, 2014

Pair of Bobolinks
Plummer’s Road, south of Calgary
July 2, 2014

Bobolink Plummer's Road, south of Calgary July 2, 2014

Bobolink
Plummer’s Road, south of Calgary
July 2, 2014

On one of my trips down to this area, I managed to find some adorable little baby American Coots still being fed by their mothers.

 

American Coot and chick Plummer's Road, south of Calgary July 2, 2014

American Coot and chick
Plummer’s Road, south of Calgary
July 2, 2014

American Coot and chick Plummer's Road, south of Calgary July 2, 2014

American Coot and chick
Plummer’s Road, south of Calgary
July 2, 2014

On another morning I took a visit to Frank Lake, and found a few different babies of different species, including a baby Willet, baby Ruffed Grouse, immature Western Meadowlarks, and baby Eared Grebes, all staying safe and close to their parents. With the breeding season being so short in this area of the world, one could almost blink and miss the whole thing!

Eared Grebe chick Frank Lake June 27, 2014

Eared Grebe chick
Frank Lake
June 27, 2014

Willet Chick Frank Lake June 27, 2014

Willet Chick
Frank Lake
June 27, 2014

baby Ruffed Grouse south of Turner Valley June 27, 2014

baby Ruffed Grouse
south of Turner Valley
June 27, 2014

baby Western Meadowlark Frank Lake June 27, 2014

baby Western Meadowlark
Frank Lake
June 27, 2014

And last but not least, thanks to a very special friend on the Facebook group Alberta Birds, I was able to find this adorable trio. An adult and two immature Black Terns, northeast of Calgary, just last week. Amazing, huh?

Baby Black Terns NE of Calgary July 15, 2014

Baby Black Terns
NE of Calgary
July 15, 2014

Baby Black Terns and mom NE of Calgary July 15, 2014

Baby Black Terns and mom
NE of Calgary
July 15, 2014

 

Sunday Showcase: The Next Generation

Diane Dahlin has sent us a wonderful series of baby pictures, taken along Inverlake Road just east of Calgary. In order of appearance: Killdeer, Black-necked Stilts, Horned Grebes, American Avocet, Great Horned Owl.

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And as a bonus, she also sent us this family group of mother White-faced Ibis with two of her seven babies.

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Sunday Showcase: Birds of the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Yesterday I posted Tony LePrieur’s photos of the damage at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and some of the birds he saw there. Here are more of his shots of birds at the sanctuary, all taken in early June 2014.

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Baltimore Oriole.

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Common Goldeneye with chicks.

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Red-tailed Hawk.

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Red-tailed Hawk.

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Western Wood-Pewee.

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House Finch.

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Northern Flicker.

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Spotted Sandpiper.

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Warbling Vireo.

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Tree Swallow.

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Downy Woodpecker.

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Double-crested Cormorants.

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Blue-winged Teal.

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American Robin, possibly banded at the sanctuary.

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Wood Ducks.

A Visit to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

A lot of Calgary birders have been wondering when the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary will re-open. It was badly damaged in last June’s flood, and work to repair the damage is set to begin this summer. Unfortunately the sanctuary won’t be re-opening until the summer of 2015. But the Nature Centre is still open, including for school groups, and people are able to book free guided walks through parts of the site to see how it looks, and see that the wildlife is indeed still there. The one-hour tours are being offered until September 14.

You can book tours online through the City of Calgary Parks website or by calling 311 for information.

Recently Tony LePrieur went through the sanctuary on a couple of days and got many photos of the damage and the birds. First, the damage:

IBS (1)

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IBS (3)

IBS (2)

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So there is a lot still to be cleaned up, almost a full year after the flood.

Here are a few of the birds (and a mammal) that Tony saw. I will post more of his photos tomorrow.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole.

Canada Goose (3)

Canada Geese with goslings.

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Red-tailed Hawk.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird.

Mule Deer

Mule Deer.

Wood Duck

Wood Ducks. Still there, and hard to find elsewhere in the city.

Least Flycatcher

Warbling Vireo.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl and Black-billed Magpie.

Weaselhead Hummingbirds

The most reliable place to find hummingbirds in the city is the Weaselhead Nature Area in the SW. Tony LePrieur photographed both Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds there, as well as other birds, on May 31, 2014.

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Calliope Hummingbird – our smallest bird species.

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Rufous Hummingbird.

Here’s a link to a previous post that shows where these birds nest.

Other birds of the Weaselhead:

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American Goldfinch.

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Swainson’s Hawk.

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Yellow Warbler.

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Cliff Swallow at nest.

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Cliff Swallows. They collect mud for their nests.

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American Wigeon.

Happy 107th Birthday, Rachel Louise Carson

Posted by Dan Arndt

If you don’t know who Rachel Louise Carson is, maybe this picture will give you a little hint.

Peregrine Falcon Calgary Zoo August 24, 2008

Peregrine Falcon
Calgary Zoo
August 24, 2008

Otherwise, you’ve probably heard of the book “Silent Spring”, published in 1962, which detailed the harmful effects of blatant use of pesticides on the environment, and more essentially, on the food chain. Without this book, and her research showing links between the increased use of DDT and a decrease in the populations of specific apex predators, such as the Peregrine Falcon above, it’s quite likely that this particular bird simply would not be alive today. You can learn more about Rachel Louise Carson here, here, or here.

Have a wonderful day.

New Spring Migrants at Bowmont Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

Another week of spring arrivals and a few surprises at Bowmont Park made for a great outing last week. While most of the pathways near the river had been damaged by the flood, we elected to take the high road (literally!) and walk along the upper ridge of the park before descending down to the always  bountiful ponds before walking back along the base of the hillside, turning up quite a few more great birds. Enjoy!

Bowmont Park May 18, 2014

Bowmont Park
May 18, 2014

While we are always on the lookout for any number of bird species, it’s always really nice to find some flowers in bloom. This group of Prairie Crocus was one of the few we saw on this hillside, and from what others in the group mentioned, they were blooming a little late!

Prairie Crocus Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Prairie Crocus
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

There was another group of Say’s Phoebes at the west end of the upper slope, but something on the horizon caught my eye flying down the Bow River being harassed by a group of American Crows. I had initially thought it was just another Common Raven, like we’d seen before. but as we watched the crows trail off and leave this soaring bird to close on us, we noticed white primaries, a pink head, and that is seemed really intent on simply soaring above either the Bow River, or Highway 1 before spiraling up and out of sight on a thermal. It was an unmistakable bird, but not one I’ve seen often around Calgary, and never before within the city limits. A Turkey Vulture!

Turkey Vulture Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Turkey Vulture
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

This particular hillside was great for our group, as we also spotted this urbanized coyote in the distance, and when we reviewed our photos afterwards, noted that it was tagged and radio-collared, likely as part of this study being put on by the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary.

Coyote Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Coyote
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

We soon descended into the heavily wooded pathways down below and were completely pleased with the next group that popped up that have been seen in huge numbers around the Calgary area this spring, the Western Tanager. Both males and females in equal number, this group of four flitted about above us, and a few of them even came really quite close to provide great looks!

Western Tanager Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Western Tanager
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

So after some good time spent with these beautiful, colorful birds, we headed to the ponds. A kindly Belted Kingfisher flew from perch to perch, giving its signature rattling call while hunting for minnows in this well established pond. Just as we were preparing to leave, a Common Yellowthroat (which we saw here last year as well) decided to make a brief call and pop out to the pond and take a drink!

male Belted Kingfisher Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

male Belted Kingfisher
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Common Yellowthroat Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Common Yellowthroat
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Another traipse through the woods near the ponds turned up a few more Western Tanagers, a Cooper’s Hawk sitting quietly on her nest, and this pair of Downy Woodpeckers who are well on their way to starting a family of their own.

Downy Woodpeckers Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Downy Woodpeckers
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

And as a great end to a great walk, we managed to come across our first House Wren of the year as well, singing in the trees nearby, and as we approached, she decided to come out and tell us exactly how she felt about us being nearby!

House Wren

House Wren
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Thanks again for reading, and good birding! Have a great week!