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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!

Bankside to Mallard Point – A one-way trip into spring

Posted by Dan Arndt

Last week’s visit to Fish Creek Provincial Park’s northeast corner was a beautiful, sunny, and bird-filled day. We managed to just tick 50 species in a little over three hours, though photos were few and far between, as most of the birds were highly active in their foraging endeavors and didn’t sit still. Despite that, the few I did manage to capture were quite memorable, (and all new species for my blog posts for the course, as I promised earlier!) Enjoy!

Bankside to Mallard Point (plus the Burnsmead Ponds) - May 11, 2014

Bankside to Mallard Point (plus the Burnsmead Ponds) – May 11, 2014

As usual for this route, we met up at the Mallard Point parking lot and car-pooled down to Bankside, giving us some time up near the bushes at the parking lot to tally up 15 species before we even really got “started” on our walk. Blue Jays, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds and even a Wilson’s Warbler made for good sightings before the start of our walk. One stop we made as well to add on a few more year-birds for the group were the ponds at Burnsmead, where this Northern Shoveler and his mate were displaying their colors quite proudly, along with about a dozen Red-winged Blackbirds!

Northern Shoveler (male) Ring-necked Pheasant Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Shoveler (male)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

As our walk began in earnest at the Bankside parking lot, we headed down towards the river bank and heard our first Ring-necked Pheasant of the day, as well as many Lincoln’s, Song, and Savannah Sparrows, more than a few of which we even had great looks at. We also found both a Red-naped and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker right near the parking lot, but the Yellow-bellied was the only one to stick around for some photos.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

The Savannah Sparrows nearly drowned everything else out in the area surrounding the pathways, almost drowning out the calls of a pair of distant White-crowned Sparrows. This little fellow was singing away to his heart’s content just six feet away from the end of my lens.

Savannah Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Savannah Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

We walked onward and found a few raptors right after each other, first a Swainson’s Hawk, then a couple of Red-tailed Hawks, and finally a Great Horned Owl in a spot where we hadn’t ever seen one before. Must have been some good eating around this area earlier in the year. He’s likely raising a family somewhere on Poplar Island right now! This was also the area where we got a brief look at a Western Tanager, and a really nice close approach by a Lincoln’s Sparrow pausing for a drink of water.

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

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

As our walk neared its end, we finally, after a few solid hours of tacking on species after species, were allowed the briefest of views of one of the male Ring-necked Pheasants that we’d heard calling throughout the morning. Hopefully I can get a better shot later this season, because this one is terrible!

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

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

Good birding! Just remember, by the time you’re reading this on Monday morning, (Victoria Day here in Canada), I’ll be out with Nature Calgary’s annual field trip to find 100 species in the Calgary city limits… in the rain!

South Glenmore Park and the last gasp of winter

Posted by Dan Arndt

While I was away for Sunday morning’s walk, I spent some time on the following Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening visiting the reservoir and seeing what I could see. While I didn’t get any trees full of Tree Swallows, or violet-greens full of Violet-green Swallows, I did manage to get up close and personal with a number of beautiful species around the reservoir on both the north side and south side, and also managed to spot a new lifer, and an incredibly rare bird for Alberta! Unfortunately, I don’t have as much of a story to tell, as I was out by myself and spent quite a bit of time just sitting and waiting for the birds to either come to me, or allow me to get just a little closer.

Glenmore Reservoir

Glenmore Reservoir

In anticipation of knowing I wasn’t going to be around for the weekend walk, I did spend a little time at both North and South Glenmore Park, trying to capture some of the birds that I was certain we would see. On May 2, I headed to the ponds at North Glenmore Park for a little bit, where I found a few more Say’s Phoebes who allowed me much better opportunities for photographs, and a pair of Killdeer who were courting.

Killdeer North Glenmore Park May 2, 2014

Killdeer
North Glenmore Park
May 2, 2014

Say's Phoebe North Glenmore Park May 2, 2014

Say’s Phoebe
North Glenmore Park
May 2, 2014

I thought I’d share a photo of how I spent my Saturday night and Sunday morning, just so you know I wasn’t shirking my duties… it was definitely a challenge to stay warm under these conditions!

Shelter made from two tarps with my sleeping bag inside. Brr.

Shelter made from two tarps with my sleeping bag inside. Brr.

So once my Sunday trials were over and done with, I decided that the sudden squall of snow would make for some great birds at South Glenmore Park, where others had posted photos of hundreds of swallows in a single tree online, while others were reporting huge numbers of Western Tanagers at their feeders and at various parks around Calgary. I did get up close and personal with some swallows, but I also found a few obliging grebes, and a nice flyby of a young Herring Gull to boot!

immature Herring Gull South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

immature Herring Gull
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Western Grebe South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Western Grebe
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Horned Grebe South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Horned Grebe
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

And watching these swallows feeding on the surface of the water was mesmerizing. They would fly back about 100-200 meters, and slowly, against the slight wind, work their way back to the point I was sitting on before peeling back and repeating the process over and over and over again. It was really quite the sight!

Tree Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

The next night I got a call from another friend down at the reservoir who had found Alberta’s 5th (or 6th?) record of a Slaty-backed Gull on one of the sand bars. These guys are rarely seen in Calgary, and usually breed up in the high Arctic, so to get one here is really quite an accomplishment!

Slaty-backed Gull amongst Herring and Franklin's Gulls Glenmore Reservoir May 7, 2014

Slaty-backed Gull (larger, dark mantled gull beside Franklin’s Gull left of centre) amongst Herring and Franklin’s Gulls
Glenmore Reservoir
May 7, 2014

 

And with that, that wraps another week of birding in Calgary’s amazing, and surprising, spring migration!

Have a great week, and good birding!

What’s Being Seen in Calgary?

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

How do you find out about bird sightings in Calgary? Many trip reports and most rarities and  unusual sightings are posted on the Albertabird Discussion Group. You can subscribe to get emails of the posts, or check it online regularly to see what is being reported. The Alberta Birds Facebook group is another great resource where you can see which species are being photographed in Alberta.

eBird has several search tools which allow you to search for specific birds, or Explore Hotspots or Locations to see what’s been reported there.

But there is also a great tool called BirdTrax that lets you see all checklists and all species for a particular location. I have set up a BirdTrax page for the Calgary region. It will be useful next year for the 2015 Calgary Birding Competition, but anyone can use it now to see what is being reported on eBird in the Calgary area (you don’t have to be an eBird user yourself to access these tools or their database, but I encourage all birders to sign up and submit sightings to eBird.)

Here is a link to the Calgary BirdTrax page. There will be a permanent link on the right-hand sidebar of the blog as well. Try it out!

Here is a screenshot of the page:

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Here is what the gadget itself looks like (a screenshot from May 7, 2014, with the rarities column shown):

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Currently the settings show all eBird reports for the last two weeks, in a 50-kilometre radius from the Centre Street bridge in Calgary. The default setting shows the “Checklists” column so you can see every individual checklist as it comes in. Then you can click on the checklist icon to see the actual trip list, and from there, see the map location. I go on here every morning to see what was reported the previous day.

You can also click on the other column headings to see either a list of rarities reported, or a list of all species reported. In each case you can go to the individual checklists to see who reported the birds and where.

We may add more BirdTrax gadgets to this page later, for other locations. The birding competition will cover an 80-km radius circle, and BirdTrax has a 50-km maximum, so we may need more to better cover the Calgary birding area.

BirdTrax is a free gadget and anyone can set up their own web page with whatever settings they want. So if you live or bird outside Calgary you might want to set one up for another area. Go to the BirdTrax page and learn how.