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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.

Baby Owls of Burnsmead

This spring a family of Great Horned Owls nested in the Burnsmead area of Fish Creek Provincial Park. Max Ortiz Aguilar got these photos of the family after the young had hatched and were almost ready to start branching.

Great Horned Owls – mother with two downy young. Burnsmead, April 16, 2017.

Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Great Horned Owl, male standing guard by the nest, Burnsmead, April 16, 2017.

Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

To see more of Max’s wildlife photos, go to his site, Photos by MOA.

Great Gray Owl with Pocket Gopher

Correction: The unfortunate rodent is a Northern Pocket Gopher, not a Meadow Vole. Pocket Gophers are the ones that make mounds of  loose soil above their underground burrows. The soil mounds are commonly seen, but the animals themselves rarely venture above ground. When they do, it is usually at night and they don’t go more than a few feet from the mound. Hence they are rarely seen – this is the first photo of one from the Calgary area that I’ve seen. – Bob Lefebvre

Tony LePrieur got this great shot of a Great Gray Owl with a captured Northern Pocket Gopher recently near Calgary.

Great Gray Owl, Turner Valley area SW of Calgary, July 3, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Peregrines at the U of C: An Update

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

In this recent post about local bird nest cameras, I mentioned that the camera at the Peregrine Falcon nest at the University of Calgary was no longer available online, and that most of the historical data was no longer available either. I have been told by the Media Relations department at the U of C that the decision to remove support was not a budget issue (as I stated), but a resource one. Libraries and Cultural Resources at the U of C are now working with Alberta Conservation Association and Biological Sciences (UCalgary) to partner and take over the project.

The good news is that the historical data about the Peregrines nesting at the U of C has been permanently archived and is available online at this link. We will have a link on our right-hand sidebar under “Calgary Nest Cameras” also.

The bad news is that the Peregrines did not return to nest at the U of C this year. The nest camera continues to be monitored by U of C staff, and if they return the camera link will be restored. (This page would have a link to the camera feed if it was live.) But since the birds are usually back here by the end of March, if they are not here yet, they are not coming. Either something happened to one of the adults, or they are nesting elsewhere.

If you know of any Peregrine Falcons nesting in Calgary, either at the Foothills Hospital, Downtown, or elsewhere, please leave a comment.

Autumn Birds of Bebo Grove

Posted by Dan Arndt

It feels great to be back leading the Friends of Fish Creek walks on my days off here in Calgary! Our trip the last week of September took us to Bebo Grove in Fish Creek Provincial Park. This visit is a little earlier in the season than usual, but we were in search of a Long-eared Owl that had recently been seen there. While the owl didn’t make an appearance for any of us, we did see a whole lot of other great birds to make up for it!

Our route was a little bit different than our normal trips here, taking us along a small stream channel we’ve visited often for American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers later in the season, and have had some luck with other owls many times in the past. We did find both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers working away on trees, pecking away to their hearts content.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 640|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

We stopped in for a visit to Bob, the leucistic Red-breasted Nuthatch that has been resident in this patch for a number of years now. During our brief visit we also heard the calls of a good number of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a couple of Brown Creepers, and even the odd Boreal Chickadee in the mixed flock before heading over across the creek.

A quick stop to look and listen for some birds produced this handsome Cooper’s Hawk, which immediately caused a commotion among the songbirds nearby as it dove down into the brush and out of sight within moments.

backlit Cooper's Hawk

backlit Cooper’s Hawk

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 440mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

From here, we headed deeper into the park and ultimately emerged near the Marshall Springs runoff ponds. The tell-tale chip notes of Savannah, Lincoln’s, Song, and a Clay-colored Sparrow were heard readily, but we spent over half an hour just trying for the briefest of looks at these skulky, cautious fall migrants. Thankfully these Ring-necked Ducks were not anywhere near as shy, and posed for us out in the warm, bright sunlight.

Ring-necked Ducks

Ring-necked Ducks

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 640|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

These ponds turned out to be some of our best spots to see any of the birds we were to see, as we had another good view of a Cooper’s Hawk flying towards the east, quite possibly the same individual we saw earlier.

Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 250|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

In addition to the hawk, we had brief flybys of a late season Belted Kingfisher, and got distant looks at a pair of Hooded Mergansers on the easternmost pond. These beautiful waterfowl are always such a treat to see!

male Hooded Merganser

male Hooded Merganser

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

With the excitement of the ponds behind us, we headed back down towards the starting point and had a fairly quiet trip back. We did get a few more looks at another Boreal Chickadee foraging up in the spruce trees lining the pathway.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

All in all, it was a beautiful autumn day. The birds were as cooperative as one could expect this late in the year, and I’m looking forward to the next outing already!

Good birding!

Barred Owl Baby

Here is a juvenile Barred Owl photographed by Kim Selbee near Bragg Creek, SW of Calgary, on September 13, 2016.

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barred-owl-grooming

Below is an adult Barred Owl Kim photographed two years ago in the Alder Park Loop, near Bragg Creek Provincial park, a short distance from where the juvenile was.

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Wednesday Wings: Merlin with Rock Pigeon

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

I have often seen Merlins chasing Rock Pigeons, but it seems to be a very hard bird to catch. On April 10, 2015, near 19 Street NE and the Trans-Canada Highway, Chris Johnson got this excellent shot a Merlin with its Rock Pigeon prey.

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Merlin with Rock Pigeon. Photo by Chris Johnson.

Taken with a Canon 6D 70-200 2.8 lens. At 200mm, f/4.5 1/400 and ISO 100.