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, or head over to for more information.

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

Introducing Ethan Denton

Posted by Ethan Denton

Hi, I’m Ethan Denton, also known under the pseudonyms BirdBoy and previously BirdBoyCanada. Some of you may know me from other places – notably my website – but here’s some information for those who don’t.

I’m a long-time birder and amateur photographer hailing from Canmore, Alberta. I don’t go in for super-expensive equipment (as a 13-year old buying all his own stuff, I simply can’t afford it), but I have a decent scope and camera, and I’m in the market for new binoculars.

I have been coordinating the Canmore half of the Banff-Canmore Christmas Bird Count for the last three years, and in 2016 I organized the Bow Valley’s first ever CBC4Kids, or Kids Christmas Bird Count. I have attended the BowKan Bird Counts since age 6, and I have missed only one of these bi-annual events.

I post regularly about my experiences, birding events in Southern Alberta, and anything else that I find interesting in the birding world on, and I am currently working on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Home Study Course in Bird Biology. If you have any questions or comments, about me or my work, feel free to email me at!

Why does this matter? Well, from now on, I will be an occasional poster here, on Birds Calgary! Exhibiting photos and events, profiling interesting species, and other things along those lines – not a lot, but just enough to be a consistent contributor. Here are a few of my more recent photos – I know looking at lots of words can be a bit dull!

Western Tanager

Western Tanager, Canmore, August 21, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Common Merganser

Common Merganser, Canmore, September 30, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Birdboy Birdathon

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

In May, Ethan Denton completed his 2017 Great Canadian Birdathon to raise money for bird research and conservation. He was part of a team with Gavin McKinnon, called the Saw-it Owls. Here are just a few photos of birds the team saw on their birdathon.

Harlequin Duck (male), Lake Minnewanka, May 20, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Harlequin Ducks (female on left, male right), Lake Minnewanka, May 20, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Common Loons, Vermillion Lakes, May 20, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Sharp-tailed Grouse (male) on lek, southern Alberta, May 14, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Sharp-tailed Grouse (male) on lek, southern Alberta, May 14, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

You can read about Day One of their birdathon on Ethan’s blog, Bird Boy.

The Great Canadian Birdathon (formerly called the Baille Birdathon) is a program of Bird Studies Canada. Participants are sponsored to count as many birds as they can every May. You can contribute to Ethan’s personal donation page here. Gavin McKinnon’s page is here. Please help them to reach their fundraising goals!

Canmore Bird Walks, and Birds of Banff and Canmore

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Ethan Denton is an accomplished young birder who lives in Canmore, an hour west of Calgary at the entrance to Banff National Park. We have birded together and it has has been a pleasure to get to know him and his family. Ethan has had a blog for a few years already called Bird Boy. Although he is just thirteen years old, he has organized the Canmore Christmas Bird Count for the past two years. He also takes part in the Great Canadian Birdathon, and you can sponsor him at this page.

Lincoln’s Sparrow, April 27, 2017, West Banff Townsite. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Now Ethan has begun to lead birding field trips in Canmore every week. Every second Sunday morning, there will be an informal birding walk along Policeman’s Creek in Canmore. This is one of the best locations in Canmore. Ethan had recorded over 100 species there.

Below is the information poster. Use the scrollbar on the right-hand side to see the whole page.

Download the PDF file .

The next walk is on Sunday May 21. The walks are free and everyone (children included) is welcome. So if you are a Canmore-area birder, or an interested Calgary-area birder, please join Ethan and see some birds like these:

Wood Duck pair, Canmore boardwalk, April 9, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Pileated Woodpecker, Canmore boardwalk, March 18, 2017.  Photo by Ethan Denton.

Hammond’s Flycatcher, Canmore boardwalk, April 27, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Hammond’s Flycatchers are uncommon in Canmore in the summer, so an early spring record is almost unique. This is a bird we don’t see in Calgary.

Cassin’s Finch (female), April 27, 2017, West Banff Townsite. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Cassin’s Finch is only rarely seen in Calgary.

Ethan will post about each walk on his blog afterwards, so check back there to see what they have spotted and to see more of Ethan’s photos.

If you are out in the mountain parks this summer, note that there are also twice-weekly bird walks held at the Cave and Basin in Banff, run by the Bow Valley Naturalists. If you are out there on Saturday or Monday mornings, join them. Information here.


Book Review: North American Owls by Dr. James R. Duncan

Re-posted with permission from the Bird Boy blog. Originally posted July 19, 2015. See the Bird Boy blog at this link. It is based in Canmore, so Calgary-area birders may want to subscribe to it.

North American Owls – A good book?

Owls are fascinating to us because they are simultaneously foreign and familiar.” So states Dr. James R. Duncan on page 6 of his book The Complete Book of North American Owls. He goes on to explain the biology and unusual features of North American Owls. Further into the book, he has a complete profile of every known species of Owl in North America. The result is an all round excellent guide which is essential to any Owling expedition, whether diurnal or nocturnal.


The introduction is informative, but manages to convey its large amount of information in an interesting way. Mainly on the biology and ‘special adaptations’ of owls, this document starts off with captivating sentences that show the relationships between owls and humans. On page 6, he states it well and plainly. “When owls and humans meet, it is sometimes hard to know which is more fascinated, startled, and sometimes even frightened.” Once he has the reader in his grasp, he progresses to the more scientific parts. He explains the intricate mysteries of owls and their amazing arsenal of survival skills. This entirety is built upon the excellent images that are not simply pictures of owls, but relevant and comprehension-aiding parts of the book.IMG_6136


This brings me to my next point: photography.
The photos are all clear, and have the proper photo credits. The more common species have multiple photos, at least one of both adult and immature, while the lesser known species may have only one or two. The photo choices and placement fits and does not get in the way, but helps with understanding the species. I did, however, notice one slight error: the front page photos from the Northern Pygmy Owl and the Mountain Pygmy Owl had been swapped! Apart from this, everything was exceptional for all the pictures.

Most owl species in the book have 1 to 4 pages of detailed descriptions and photos. On each owl’s front page, the Owl’s common and Latin names are top of the sheet, precise range maps and a general physical summarization lie beside the text. In the writing itself, the primary information is the song, range, food, and nesting. Behaviour and nesting habits are also mentioned. I found that the author tried to insert some interesting little pieces of info that may not help with identification, but are interesting nonetheless, including quotes such as this: “It [the Northern Hawk Owl] roosts within forested stands at night, and has been seen flying for such cover from open areas when Great-horned Owls emerge at dusk to start hunting.” (page 128).

The book is well organised, a 25cm tall, 19cm wide, 2cm thick volume, the font is easy to read and a reasonable size. It is not so much a field guide as a home guide, in my opinion, meaning that I would keep it at home and read it there rather than take it into the field (although if you’re going owling, take it when you can, it would be very useful).

To conclude, the pictures are good, the writing is very informative, and you can tell that the author has made an effort to keep it interesting. All in all, Dr. James R. Duncan has succeeded in making one of the best and most influential owl guides that I have ever read.



The Bird Boy Blog

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Many of you may already be readers of the blog Bird Boy (we have a link to it on our sidebar). It is written by Ethan Denton, an enthusiastic young birder and photographer from Canmore. I recommend that all birders in Southern Alberta subscribe to it.

For participants in the eBird Calgary 2015 birding competition, there is a special reason to check it out: Ethan and his father Neil have entered the competition, and they have put together a page on which they will highlight which birds you should be looking for. They will update the page each month with new information from the eBird database. Check out the January page here.

Hawk Owl Dan Arndt

Northern Hawk-Owl. January is usually the month with the best chance to find one.

Photo by Dan Arndt

Thanks again to Ethan and Neil for all your hard work on this, and good luck in the competition!