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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.

 

American Kestrel Portrait by Michael Kim

Michael Kim photographed this beautiful American Kestrel on Grand Valley Road NW of Cochrane in September 2017.

American Kestrel, Grand Valley Road, September 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

American Kestrel, Grand Valley Road, September 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

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 birdboy.ca – 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 birdboy.ca, 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 birdboy.ca@gmail.com!

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

Autumn Birds by Tony LePrieur

Some birds photographed in Calgary and area this fall by Tony LePrieur.

Warbling Vireo

Solitary Sandpiper

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

American Redstart

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Greater Yellowlegs

Wilson’s Warbler

Cedar Waxwing

Common Grackle

Song Sparrow

Great Horned Owl

Merlin

Swainson’s Hawk

White-throated Sparrow

Greater Yellowlegs

To see more of Tony’s nature photographs, see his Flickr page.

Summer Birds by Tony LePrieur

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

We’re back! After a really long summer hiatus, it’s time to get posting again. I have a lot of great photos that readers have sent in, and we’ll start with some of Tony LePrieur’s excellent photos of summer birds. Be sure to check back on Friday for his photos of a wide variety of mammals.

First I wanted to mention that although it may seem like a quiet time of year, especially with the steady hot weather we have had, the past couple of weeks have been pretty good for fall warblers and other migrants. Confederation Park in the NW and several locations in the river valleys (notably Mallard Point in Fish Creek Park and Carburn Park in the SE) have had some good birds. Black-and-white, Townsend’s, Magnolia, Canada, Blackburnian, Mourning and Cape May Warblers have all been reported, among others. A Lark Sparrow has been seen at Mallard Point.

I also wanted to mention that a Peregrine Falcon has been seen perched on the Peter Lougheed Hospital in NE Calgary on two occasions by reader R. Michael Fisher, on August 12 and 20. It may be worth checking for it if you’re in the area.

And now for Tony’s photos.

Cedar Waxwing, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Eastern Kingbird, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Spotted Sandpiper, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Great Gray Owl, Priddis area, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Great Gray Owl, Priddis area, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Calliope Hummingbird, Weaselhead. June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Sora, Bridlewood Wetlands, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Fish Creek Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wood Duck female with chicks, Carburn Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow Warbler, Carburn Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Frank Lake, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wilson’s Phalarope, Frank Lake, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow Warbler, Fish Creek Park, July 3, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Fish Creek Park, July 3, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

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

 

Breeding Birds of Carburn Park

Common Merganser with chicks, Carburn Park, June 4, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Common Merganser chick, Carburn Park, June 4, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Black-billed Magpie fledglings, Carburn Park, June 4, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Mallard (right) with chicks, Carburn Park, June 4, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Mallard and chick, Carburn Park, June 4, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Northern Flicker with young, Carburn Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Northern Flicker, Carburn Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

House Wren at nest hole, Carburn Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Mallard with chicks, Carburn Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American White Pelicans don’t breed at Carburn Park, but they can often be found there. June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American White Pelicans, Carburn Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Not from Carburn but a nesting Red-necked Grebe from Bridlewood Ponds, June 4, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

To see more of Tony’s photos visit his Flickr page.

Great Crested Flycatcher in Bearspaw

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

On July 6, 2017, this Great Crested Flycatcher was photographed by Caroline Brooks in her Bearspaw yard, just west of Calgary. This is a local rarity.

Great Crested Flycatcher, Bearspaw, July 6, 2017. Photo by Caroline Brooks.

Interestingly, Caroline had seen and photographed another Great Crested Flycatcher in her yard almost exactly a year earlier, on July 13, 2016. That bird (very likely the same one) was there for the first two weeks of July.

Great Crested Flycatcher, Bearspaw, July 13, 2016. Photo by Caroline Brooks.

Great Crested Flycatcher, Bearspaw, July 13, 2016. Photo by Caroline Brooks.

After photographing the bird this year on July 6, Caroline did not see the bird again. But on the morning of July 11 one was seen in Carburn Park in SE Calgary by Bob Storms. Carburn Park is about 10-12 km due east of Bearspaw. It’s possible this was the same bird.

Here are a couple of screen shots from eBird that show the range of the Great Crested Flycatcher. As you can see, this bird is seen only occasionally west of Regina. Apart from a few regular spots in the Edmonton and Cold Lake areas, it is not often seen in Alberta. It does nest in a few spots from north of Red Deer up to east-central Alberta. Having this bird show up here at this time of year in two consecutive years makes one wonder if they are breeding (or trying to) in the Calgary area.

Great Crested Flycatcher sightings, Year-round, All years, from eBird.

Great Crested Flycatcher sightings from 2017, from eBird. The teardrop in Calgary is a bird that was heard by Michael Harrison in South Glenmore Park on June 25.

Another Great Crested Flycatcher was photographed in Carburn Park by a Friends of Fish Creek birding group on September 14, 2013. Possibly there are a few of these around here every year, so this is a bird that local birders should be aware of, and be on the lookout for.

Cowbird and Yellow Warbler

Tony LePrieur took these great photos of a huge Brown-headed Cowbird fledgling being fed by its foster parent, a male Yellow Warbler.

Brown-headed Cowbird being fed by a Yellow Warbler, Calgary, July 8, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

The warbler is off to find more food for its demanding foster child.

Brown-headed Cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and often the other species does not recognize the difference and raises the young cowbird. For more photos of cowbirds with some other host species see these posts: