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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.

 

68 Street Wetlands and Carburn Park with the FFCPP

The Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society’s birding course groups went to the 68 Street wetlands (east of Elliston Lake, just off 17 Avenue SE) during the week of October 23-29. Max Ortiz Aguilar took a few photos on the outing with the Sunday morning group.

Trumpeter Swan, 68 Street SE Wetlands, October 29, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Trumpeter Swans, 68 Street SE Wetlands, October 29, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Canada Geese, 68 Street SE Wetlands, October 29, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

The following week the groups went to Carburn Park, on the Bow River in the community of Riverbend.

Likely Cackling Goose (left rear) with Canada Geese, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Note its small size, short neck, dark breast where it joins the black of the neck, and very small bill. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Bufflehead group, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Common Goldeneye group, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Coyote, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Killdeer, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Mallard drake, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Red-breasted Mergansers, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Note the much thinner bill on this species compared to that of a Common Merganser. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Tundra Swan, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

White-breasted Nuthatch, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

White-tailed Deer, Carburn Park, November 5, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

To see more of Max’s photos, see his Flickr page.

The friends of Fish Creek are now taking registrations for the winter birding course, which runs from January 8, 2018 to the end of March. Register here.

 

Gus Yaki Presentation at Birds & Beers, November 2017

Update: Gus Yaki will give a presentation on Part Two of his Prairie Walk at the Birds & Beers meeting this Thursday. He spoke about Part One at our August meeting.

This spring, to celebrate Canada 150, Gus led a group of about 40 people on a walk along the southern Alberta border from Saskatchewan to British Columbia. Come out to hear about the birds and other wildlife they saw, and see photos of the trip.

The event will start at 6 pm and there will be lots of time for a meal or drink and a visit with your fellow birders before Gus speaks after 7 pm. We will be in the big Ballroom this time, so there’s plenty of room for everyone!

In addition, Dan Arndt will have 2018 Calendars featuring his best bird photos from the past year available for sale. Bring some extra cash and get one for yourself or for a gift.


The November Birds & Beers will be held next Thursday evening, November 23. This will be the last one until the new year. Anyone who wants to come for an informal chat with your fellow birders is welcome. Food and drinks are available, and children are welcome too if accompanied by an adult.

Royal Canadian Legion, Centennial Calgary Branch #285

9202 Horton Road SW

Thursday November 23, 2017, 6:00-9:00 pm

Boreal Chickadee by Dan Arndt.


If you’d like to see Gus’s presentation but can’t make it to Birds & Beers, he will also be speaking at The Wild Bird Store twice on Saturday, and at the Cochrane Public Library next Tuesday.

Part 2: From Writing-on-Stone Prov. Park to BC Border: 12 – 22 June 2017.

There are also three presentations about Part One of the talk coming up:

Part 1: From SK border to Writing-on-Stone Prov. Park: 19 to 29 May 2017. 

 

Gus Yaki Presentation at Birds & Beers, November 2017

Update: Gus Yaki will give a presentation on Part Two of his Prairie Walk at the Birds & Beers meeting this Thursday. He spoke about Part One at our August meeting.

This spring, to celebrate Canada 150, Gus led a group of about 40 people on a walk along the southern Alberta border from Saskatchewan to British Columbia. Come out to hear about the birds and other wildlife they saw, and see photos of the trip.

The event will start at 6 pm and there will be lots of time for a meal or drink and a visit with your fellow birders before Gus speaks after 7 pm. We will be in the big Ballroom this time, so there’s plenty of room for everyone!

In addition, Dan Arndt will have 2018 Calendars featuring his best bird photos from the past year available for sale. Bring some extra cash and get one for yourself or for a gift.


The November Birds & Beers will be held next Thursday evening, November 23. This will be the last one until the new year. Anyone who wants to come for an informal chat with your fellow birders is welcome. Food and drinks are available, and children are welcome too if accompanied by an adult.

Royal Canadian Legion, Centennial Calgary Branch #285

9202 Horton Road SW

Thursday November 23, 2017, 6:00-9:00 pm

Boreal Chickadee by Dan Arndt.


If you’d like to see Gus’s presentation but can’t make it to Birds & Beers, he will also be speaking at The Wild Bird Store twice on Saturday, and at the Cochrane Public Library next Tuesday.

Part 2: From Writing-on-Stone Prov. Park to BC Border: 12 – 22 June 2017.

There are also three presentations about Part One of the talk coming up:

Part 1: From SK border to Writing-on-Stone Prov. Park: 19 to 29 May 2017. 

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

 

South Glenmore Park with the Friends of Fish Creek

Posted By Bob Lefebvre

During the week of October 16 the Friends of Fish Creek birding course groups went to South Glenmore Park, to explore the south side of the Glenmore Reservoir and adjacent wooded areas. Some of the hoped-for target species on the water at this time of year were Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Surf and White-winged Scoters, and Long-tailed Ducks. Trumpeter Swans and White-winged Scoters were seen, and other birders reported Long-tailed Ducks.

Below are some of the photos that Max Ortiz Aguilar took on the outing on Sunday morning that week. All Photos by Max Ortiz Aguilar, Glenmore Reservoir, October 21, 2017.

Horned Grebe

Red-necked Grebe with fish.

Female Barrow’s Goldeneye.

Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

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

If you are interested in joining the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses, see this page. The Winter session begins on January 8, 2018, and they are now taking registrations.

Exploring the Irrigation Canal with the Friends of Fish Creek

Posted By Bob Lefebvre

The fall session of the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park birding course began in early September. In the first week of October, the groups birded along the irrigation canal in SE Calgary, from Gosling Way to 50 Avenue. The canal is drained each year at the end of September, and the first couple of weeks of October are excellent for waterfowl and other birds feeding there.

On October 8, 2017, Max Ortiz Aguilar went with his Sunday morning group and took some excellent photographs. (All photos taken by Max Ortiz Aguilar, Irrigation Canal, Calgary, October 8, 2017.)

One of the star birds here in the fall is the Hooded Merganser. There are usually quite a few in the canal, and you can get good close looks.

Hooded Merganser (male).

Two male and four female-type (female or immature) Hooded Mergansers. The right-hand bird looks like a young male.

The most common shorebird in the fall is the Greater Yellowlegs. Lessers are also seen, but in low numbers. Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are usually around, and sometimes you find Dowitchers and even American Golden-Plovers.

Greater Yellowlegs.

Greater Yellowlegs group.

The most common waterfowl here, as on the Bow River, are Canada Geese and Mallards. You can usually see a few hundred on this stretch of the canal. You can also find Northern Shovelers, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and Double-crested Cormorants feeding in the canal. There are also huge numbers of Ring-billed Gulls, plus Franklin’s Gulls and sometimes uncommon migrant gull species.

Canada Geese and Mallards.

Canada Goose in flight.

American Wigeons are often seen. By this time the adult males are transitioning to breeding plumage, or have already done so.

American Wigeons (females).

You can find quite a few songbird species in the treed areas (especially along the golf course). The chickadees are rather tame.

Black-capped Chickadee.

Owls aren’t usually seen right along the canal but the group got lucky this day.

Great Horned Owl.

Mule Deer can be seen occasionally anywhere along this stretch of the river. You may also see Eastern Gray Squirrels, Coyotes, Red Foxes, Beavers, Muskrats, and American Mink.

Mule Deer.

Finally, the canal is a good place to find the scarce Rusty Blackbird in the fall. You can see them turning over leaves at the water’s edge.

Rusty Blackbird.

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

If you are interested in joining the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses, see this page. The Winter session begins on January 8, 2018, and they are now taking registrations.

 

Birds & Beers, October 2017

The October Birds & Beers social get-together will be held next Thursday evening, October 26. Anyone who wants to come for an informal chat with your fellow birders is welcome. Food and drinks are available, and children are welcome too if accompanied by an adult.

Royal Canadian Legion, Centennial Calgary Branch #285

9202 Horton Road SW

Thursday October 26, 2017, 6:00-9:00 pm

Hooded Merganser group, Irrigation Canal, SE Calgary, October 8, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

 

Note: The November Birds & Beers event will be held on Thursday November 23 at the same time and location.