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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.

 

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.

 

Autumn Birding Course 2017

Registration is open for the popular Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society Autumn Birding Course.

Autumn Birding Course – Registration Now Open

Autumn Birding Course Starts Monday, September 4, 2017

Autumn is one of the best times of year for birding. Between September and December, you can see, hear and learn about more than 150 bird species. As the leaves drop off the trees in the cooler months, many of the smaller migratory birds will be much easier to see. Outings are conducted by Gus Yaki, a lifelong  naturalist who has birded around the world – and other experienced instructors. All birding course sessions are held in the great outdoors – in Fish Creek Provincial Park and other natural areas. Each outing is approx. 2.5 hours. Choose to come 1 or 2 days / week.

Each outing is approx. 2.5 hours. Start times Monday – Thursday: 9:15am
Saturdays: 9:00am, Sundays: 9:00am or 1:15pm Choose to come 1 or 2 days / week

2017-18 Friends of Fish Creek Membership fees: Individual: $35.00, Family: $45.00
Senior (60 or over): $25.00, Senior Family: $30.00. Renew Your Membership or Become a Member

Registration Required. Click here to Register

Photo of Long-eared Owl courtesy of Phil Smith

Copyright © 2017 Friends of Fish Creek, All rights reserved.

Nature Calgary’s Big Week of Birding

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For many years Nature Calgary has held a Big Day on the Victoria Day holiday – an attempt to find as many species as possible in one day, in this case all of them inside the Calgary city limits (we had 116 species this year). During the 2015 Calgary Birding Competition we decided to add a Big Day in the Calgary Region–the 80-km diameter circle centred in Calgary. We did the trip again last year. In both cases we saw lots of good birds (151 species in 2015, and 132 in 2016) but it is a long day with quite a few dead stretches of driving.

Great Gray Owl, one of two seen on our 80-km Circle Big Day in 2016. Horse Creek Road, June 18, 2016. Photo by Saravana Moorthy.

For this year, we decided to try something new: A Big Week instead of a Big Day in the 80-km circle. There will be a series of field trips offered from June 4 to 10, and we will try to reach a cumulative total of 175 species on these trips.

Most of the trips will be led by myself, Andrew Hart, and Rose Painter. We will kick it off with a day-long trip to the northwest corner of the circle, around Water Valley, on Sunday June 4. The final day will feature another long trip to the south and southwest. Both of these trips require registration because car-pooling will be required and spaces will be limited.

There will also be several field trips offered during the week, including trips inside the city to the Weaselhead and Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. A couple of other trips will be Twitch ‘n’ Tours, our term for for a field trip with a known starting point but for which the destinations are not decided until the last minute, so that we can chase rare birds or ones we have not been able to find so far.

If you want to see how many species you can find in the Calgary region in one week in June, join us for some or all of these outings. See the Nature Calgary field trip page for details and to register.

Birds of Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Some birds photographed at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in Calgary by Navroz Sunderji. Navroz used a Canon SX50HS camera.

Common Merganser (male), Inglewood Birds Sanctuary, May 20, 2017. Photo by Navroz Sunderji.

Tree Swallow, Inglewood Birds Sanctuary, May 20, 2017. Photo by Navroz Sunderji.

Tree Swallow, Inglewood Birds Sanctuary, May 20, 2017. Photo by Navroz Sunderji.

European Starling, Inglewood Birds Sanctuary, May 20, 2017. Photo by Navroz Sunderji.

 

Western Meadowlark Singing

Gavin McKinnon photographed this Western Meadowlark singing on a fence post at Weed Lake, SE of the city, on April 30.

Western Meadowlark, Weed Lake, April 30, 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnon.

Unfortunately, Meadowlarks are hard to find in the city, but a trip a short distance out of town on the prairies will usually produce some of these beautiful singers. Weed Lake is immediately east of Langdon, 26 km east from Stoney Trail on Glenmore Trail.

Like Ethan Denton, Gavin is another accomplished young birder. He has a blog at Canadian Birder. Gavin has teamed up with Ethan to raise money for the Great Canadian Birdathon. You can sponsor him here.

 

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.

 

Birds of Bridlewood and Carburn Park

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Photographs of spring birds, by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s), Bridlewood Wetland, April 30, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are usually among the first warblers to pass through Calgary on Spring migration, along with Orange-crowned Warblers. Most of the ones we get here are the Myrtle subspecies, the eastern and northern form, which have a white throat and a more prominent black mask. They breed in the boreal forest. The Audubon subspecies, shown here, breeds in the western mountains. This year, quite a few Audubons were reported here. There is talk that the two subspecies will be split again into two separate species, so it is important to note which one you see, especially if you are recording your sightings on eBird.

Common Grackle, Bridlewood Wetland, April 30, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

The Bridlewood Wetland is located just north of Spruce Meadows, on James McKevitt Road in SW Calgary. It is a small wetland but has a trail around it and a bridge from which to view the birds.

The Bridlewood Wetland in SW Calgary.

The rest of the photos were taken in Carburn Park on the Bow River in SE Calgary.

Common Goldeneye (female), Carburn Park, April 30, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Common Merganser (female), Carburn Park, April 30, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Carburn Park, April 30, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

On spring migration, we get more Lesser Yellowlegs than Greater Yellowlegs in the city. But we do get both species. The Lesser is slighter, with a smaller head, and the bill is about the length of the head from front to back, as with this bird. The Greater Yellowleg’s bill is about one and a half times the head length, and often slightly curved upwards.

Song Sparrow, Carburn Park, April 30, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

This Song Sparrow is missing its tail. Birds don’t molt their tail feathers all at once, so a missing tail probably indicates that the bird narrowly survived an attack by a predator.

Beaver, Carburn Park, April 30, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

See more of Tony’s photos on his Flickr page.

April Migrants from Carburn Park and the Weaselhead

Redheads (female on left, male right), Carburn Park, April 23, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Song Sparrow, Carburn Park, April 23, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Common Goldeneye, male, mating display, Weaselhead, April 9,2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Common Goldeneye, female, Weaselhead, April 9,2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Robin, Carburn Park, April 23, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

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

Spring Birding Course 2017

Mountain Chickadee seen by the birding course participants at Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Park. Photographed February 14, 2017. Photo by David Mitchell.

The popular Friends of Fish Creek birding course begins its 12-week spring session on April 3, 2017.

Go out on field trips with experienced leaders once or twice a week for twelve weeks, and learn about the birds of Calgary. You can expect to see over 150 species of birds.

Field trips are held in several parts of Fish Creek Park, in Carburn Park, Beaverdam Flats, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, the Weaselhead Nature Area, Bowmont Park, Elliston Lake, Griffith Woods Park, and possibly other locations.

It is still only $5 for children (accompanied by a registered adult) for the whole twelve-week course! See this page for details on how to register.

Here are just a few more of the many birds seen on the winter course this year.

Bald Eagle (adult), Mallard Point, Fish Creek Park, February 8, 2017. Photo by David Mitchell.

Black-capped Chickadee (note the unusual brownish cap), Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, March 4, 2017. Photo by Ken Pride.

Ruffed Grouse, Weaselhead Nature Area, February 22, 2017. Photo by David Mitchell.

Wood Duck (female, centre back) with Mallards, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, March 4, 2017. Photo by Ken Pride.

Great Horned Owl, Beaverdam Flats, March 6, 2017. Photo by Ken Pride.

Common Raven, Beaverdam Flats, March 6, 2017. Photo by Ken Pride.

Common Raven and Great Horned Owl, Beaverdam Flats, March 6, 2017. Photo by Ken Pride.

Great Horned Owl, Beaverdam Flats, March 6, 2017. Photo by Ken Pride.