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Weaselhead and North Glenmore Park in Early April

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For the first week of the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park (FFCPP) Society’s spring birding course, the groups birded the Weaselhead from the north parking lot down to the other side of the bridge over the Elbow River, and North Glenmore Park, including the stormwater ponds opposite the canoe club. The goal was to look for some spring migrants such as American Tree Sparrows in the Weaselhead and for Swans on Glenmore reservoir, and possibly Snowy Owls on the remaining ice.

Trumpeter Swans, Glenmore Reservoir, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Max Ortiz Aguilar went with the Sunday morning group on April 9th and took photos of some of the birds and mammals they saw, including the Trumpeter Swans shown above. Glenmore Reservoir is a good place to find migrating swans in spring once the ice begins to go out. (All photos taken with a Canon 6D and a Tamron SP 150-600mm.)

In the Weaselhead, the group spotted American Tree Sparrows.

American Tree Sparrow, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 5000|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

American Tree Sparrow, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 6400|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Tree Sparrows are arctic nesters and an early migrant in the spring. Sometimes a few will overwinter here. Note the reddish streak behind the eye, the two-toned bill (black above, yellow below) and the dark central breast spot. These features distinguish it from the similarly rusty-capped Chipping Sparrow, a species which is common here in the summer but which doesn’t arrive back until early May.

The Weaselhead is a great place to find mammals too. Snowshoe Hares are common, and are now mostly in their brown summer coats.

Snowshoe Hare, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 6400|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Red Squirrels and Least Chipmunks often are seen at the bird feeders by the path through the Weaselhead.

Red Squirrel, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 552mm|ISO: 2500|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Coyote, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Finally, here is Max’s black-and-white shot of a Mallard on a rock in the reflecting waters of the Glenmore Reservoir.

Mallard, Glenmore Reservoir, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

To see more of Max Ortiz Aguilar’s photos, see his website, Photos by MOA.

Birds of the Weaselhead and IBS

Max Ortiz Aguilar is a local photographer who has recently taken up bird photography. Today we’ll post a few of his late winter photos. Max will be attending the outings for the Spring course with the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park, so we will post more of his photos from the course throughout the spring.

To see more of his photographs, see his website, Photos by MOA. There will also be a link to the site on our right-hand sidebar under “Bird Photos.”

All these images were taken with a Canon 6D and a Tamron SP 150-600mm. All photos by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

Wood Duck Female, Bow River, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, March 04, 2017.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Black-capped Chickadee, Weaselhead Natural Area, February 25, 2017.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 450mm|ISO: 320|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

Pine Grosbeak Male, Weaselhead Natural Area, February 25, 2017.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Common Redpoll Female, Weaselhead Natural Area, February 25, 2017.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Downy Woodpecker Male, Weaselhead Natural Area, February 25, 2017.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 428mm|ISO: 250|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

Downy Woodpecker Female, Weaselhead Natural Area, February 25, 2017.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 320|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

The Birds & the Bees – Seminar This Weekend

Spring migration is bringing new birds to our yards every day now, so you may want to learn more about backyard bird feeding. Golden Acre Home & Garden in Calgary is hosting a seminar this weekend on backyard birding and on beekeeping.

A Northern Flicker feeding on nuts in a Calgary yard.

Alex Taylor of Sun Country Farms will do a presentation on feeding birds, including what types of feed to use at different times of year. This will be followed by another talk on beekeeping. There is also a sale on bird seed this weekend.

To sign up to attend this free seminar on either Saturday or Sunday, and for more information, see this page.

Golden Acres Home & Garden is located just off McKnight Blvd. and Edmonton Trail, at 620 Goddard Avenue NE. It is well-known as a garden centre, but they have just revamped their birding supplies department and will be offering waste-free seeds and nuts from a Canadian supplier that uses sustainable practices. They even have some seeds that are processed in a allergy-aware facility, so that any child can safely begin to feed birds. Proper bird-feeding is important, so this is a welcome addition for local backyard birders.

Late Winter Birds

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

It’s spring on the calendar and new migrants are arriving daily. Some of our winter birds have departed, and some of our resident birds are beginning to nest. Here are some photos of birds of late winter in Calgary. All photos by Tony LePrieur.

Bohemian Waxwing, Calgary, February 19, 2017.

Bohemian Waxwings are only here in the winter. Since mid-March only small flocks have been reported. Most have departed to the north and to higher elevations. By the end of April they all will be gone.

Mountain Chickadee, Weaselhead, Calgary, March 12, 2017.

Mountain Chickadees are only occasionally seen inside the city, and most often in the west end where the boreal forest creeps in. This winter there were several seen in the Weaselhead and in Fish Creek Park. They are usually absent in the summer, as they breed west of the city.

Pine Grosbeak (female), Calgary, February 19, 2017.

Pine Grosbeak are one of our winter finches and they were here in low numbers this winter. They move to higher elevations and to the north in the summer.

Downy Woodpecker, Weaselhead, Calgary, March 12, 2017.

Downys are one of our resident woodpeckers and they have been paired up for at least a month, and are now beginning to nest.

Northern Flicker (male intergrade Yellow-shafted/Red-shafted), Calgary, February 19, 2017.

Northern Flickers are also woodpeckers, but are migratory. However, many overwinter here, which may include local birds or ones from farther north. They are currently pairing up for nesting, and it is common to hear their calls and drumming (they often drum on metal chimneys or street lights).

Most of the local flickers are intergrades of the two subspecies (Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted) and they often show mixed field marks, as this bird does.

American Robin, Fish Creek Park, Calgary, March  4, 2017.

Robins are of course migratory, but there are always some (a few dozen to a couple hundred) that overwinter in the city. This bird, seen on March 4 with seven others, probably overwintered since it was a little too early for the migrants to return. Unusually, this looks like a female – most overwintering birds are males, trying to get an advantage in getting to breeding grounds earlier. Now, in early April, there are many migrating robins back, but they are almost all males, either passing through or claiming territories here. The females arrive later.

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored subspecies), Calgary, March 4, 2017.

These native sparrows overwinter here in good numbers, and for a few weeks more there will be many migrants passing through. They breed here in the boreal forest and are far more common west of the city and farther north in the summer.

Pine Siskin, Calgary, March 4, 2017.

Siskins usually breed in coniferous forests (including in parts of Calgary), but when not breeding they move erratically around the continent in search of food. They are sometimes here in large numbers in the summer, and sometimes completely absent.

Black-capped Chickadee, Calgary, March 4, 2017.

A resident bird, they are paired up and beginning to nest now.

Finally, here are three shots of the immature Northern Goshawk from Queen’s Park Cemetery.

Northern Goshawk, Queen’s Park Cemetery, Calgary, February 12, 2017.

Northern Goshawk, Queen’s Park Cemetery, Calgary, February 12, 2017.

Northern Goshawk, Queen’s Park Cemetery, Calgary, February 19, 2017.

Goshawks are not common in Calgary but can be seen year-round. However, they breed in high-canopied mixed forests so adults are usually found at higher elevations and farther north in the summer. They are more commonly seen here in the winter.

Pheasants, Grouse, and Partridges of Calgary

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Here are a few of the Gallinaceous or game birds of Calgary and area. There are three species that are regularly seen within the city limits, two of them introduced: Ruffed Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasant, and Gray Partridge. Ring-necked pheasants were introduced from east Asia. They are well-established in the wild in North America, but more are raised and released in Alberta every year as game birds. Gray Partridge are native to Europe and are also well-established here. Ruffed Grouse are the only native game bird that you can regularly find in Calgary.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male), Fish Creek Park, March 4, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male), Fish Creek Park, October 18, 2015. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male), Fish Creek Park, February 20, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Listen for the harsh, usually two-note crowing of the males in Fish Creek Park, especially along the river.

Ring-necked Pheasant (female), Fish Creek Park, February 20, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Ring-necked Pheasants (female), Fish Creek Park, February 20, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Ruffed Grouse, Turner Valley area, January 8, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

In Calgary, Ruffed Grouse can be found in the boreal forest where it creeps into the west end of the city. The Weaselhead is probably the most reliable location. In the spring, listen for the drumming of the males.

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

Gray Partridge, Calgary, February 19, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Gray Partridge, Calgary, February 19, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Gray Partridge are usually found near open grassy fields, and are often seen in residential areas. In the spring you may see pairs but since they have large broods, by summer they are often in family groups of up to 20 birds.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, south of Calgary, April 2016. Photo by Dan Arndt.

Sharp-tailed Grouse are almost never seen in the city (or even near it) any more, although they historically had a breeding ground (lek) on Nose Hill and used to be seen regularly there. You can still find them on the prairies, especially south and southeast of town. (See this post for more of Dan’s photos from a lek.)

Chukar, West Springs, SW Calgary, July 2012. Photo by Tom Amerongen.

I should also mention the Chukar, another introduced Eurasian game bird that is established in some parts of western North America. It has never established successful breeding populations in the Calgary area. Nevertheless, people do see them in town almost every year. They can be bought to be raised privately and apparently are often used to train hunting dogs, and inevitably some escape into the wild. In the last two years there have been sightings from Egerts Park in the NW, Radisson Heights and Dover in the SE, and Strathcona in the SW. If you see one of these birds, send us an email. I’ve never seen one, and would like to, even though as an escaped captive bird it doesn’t count on my eBird list.

If you venture out of town you can also see Spruce Grouse and Dusky Grouse in the foothills, and White-tailed Ptarmigan in the mountains. Wild Turkeys can be found SW of town, in the Millarville area.

Wild Turkey, Millarville area, January 9, 2015. Photo by Dan Arndt.

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.

Dipper at Elbow Falls

It’s always fun to watch American Dippers as they walk on the bottoms of fast-flowing streams to look for food, and it’s amazing to see them do this in winter when the water is near freezing. Tony LePrieur photographed this one at Elbow Falls, west of Bragg Creek. There have been some sightings right in the city this winter, but you always have better luck finding them on fast-flowing mountain streams.

American Dipper, Elbow Falls, February 19, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Dipper, Elbow Falls, February 12, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Dipper, Elbow Falls, February 12, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Reader’s Bird Photos

Here are a few photos sent in recently by Birds Calgary readers. If you have photos to share, email then to us at birdscalgary@gmail.com.

A very light Great Horned Owl, Fish Creek Park, November 23, 2016. Photo by Judi Willis.

Merlin, Bowness Park, February 13, 2017. Photo by Louis Côté.

Hairy Woodpecker (male), Prince’s Island Park, February 10, 2017. Photo by Louis Côté.

Northern Saw-whet Owl, Edgemont, NW Calgary, February 15, 2017. Photo by Walter Saponja.

Brown Creeper, Elliston Park, January 23, 2017. Photo by Bree Tucker.

Ten Eurasian Collared-Doves, NW of Airdrie, November 22, 2016. Photo by Tim van Goudoever.

Gyrfalcon, Water Valley area, January 14, 2017. Photo by Jamie B.

Gyrfalcon, Water Valley area, January 14, 2017. Photo by Jamie B.

You can see more of Jamie B’s photos on his Facebook page, Albino Muppet Photography.

Pileated Woodpeckers

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The spectacular crow-sized  Pileated Woodpecker is always a treat to see, and they are not very shy birds, so occasionally you can get great close-up looks at them. They are not common in Calgary. Look for them in three areas: Around the Glenmore Reservoir, including the Weaselhead, and upstream on the Elbow River through Griffith Woods Park; The west end of Fish Creek Park; The east end of Fish Creek Park on the Bow River, and north on the river as far as Carburn Park. They are year-round residents here, so look for them any time you are out in these parks. If you live near these areas you may also get them coming to suet or nut feeders occasionally.

All photos by Tony LePrieur.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Park, December 4, 2016.

In the above photo you can see the distinctive rectangular hole that these birds make when feeding. They eat Carpenter Ants, which often infest large trees and deadfall. If you see a fresh hole like this, often near the base of a large tree, you will know you are in a Pileated Woodpecker’s territory.

Female Pileated Woodpecker, Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Park, December 4, 2016.

The female above (likely the mate of the male in the first photo) is distinguished from the male by the black stripe from the bill to the throat, which is red in males. In addition, the red crest does not extend all the way to the front of the head on the female as it does on the male.

The nest hole of a Pileated Woodpecker is a large oval, usually high in a dead tree, or occasionally in a power pole (as seen in Griffith Woods Park). The male will make a new nest hole each year.

Below are more of Tony’s photos of Pileated Woodpeckers in Calgary.

Pileated Woodpecker (female), Fish Creek Park, January 31, 2016.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Fish Creek Park, November 26, 2015.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Fish Creek Park, October 25, 2015.

Pileated Woodpecker (male), Fish Creek Park, October 25, 2015.

For more photos of Pileated Woodpeckers see these posts.

You can see more of Tony LePrieur’s photos on his Flickr Page here.

Birding Locations: Queen’s Park Cemetery

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Northern Goshawk, Queen’s Park Cemetery, January 28, 2017. All photos by Tony LePrieur, all taken at Queen’s Park Cemetery..

One of the smaller and perhaps underappreciated birding locations in Calgary is Queen’s Park Cemetery, located just northwest of Confederation Park near 4th Street and 40 Avenue NW.

Queen’s Park Cemetery.

The cemetery contains a great number of spruce trees, so it attracts many of the species that prefer to feed in or on those trees, such as the winter finches. Many other species of birds and mammals can also be found there, due to the presence of a creek which stays open year-round. The creek runs along the north end, and is bordered by the thickest growth of trees in the cemetery, both coniferous and deciduous.

Detail, north end of Queen’s Park Cemetery, showing the trees which border the creek.

Within the cemetery parking is limited, and it is best to park outside and walk in, or pull completely off one of the roads to park while allowing other vehicles room to pass. Stay away from funeral processions and ceremonies, of course.

The best birding tends to be where the trees are thickest, though you can find Black-capped Chickadees and Red-Breasted Nuthatches wherever there are trees. Crossbills also tend to move around the park (and into the surrounding neighbourhoods). In some years, Brown Creepers and Golden-crowned Kinglets are very common. A stroll along the roads can usually turn up a few of these in the winter.

Brown Creeper, November 15, 2015.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, November 1, 2015.

Black-capped Chickadee, November 1, 2015.

Pine Siskin, October 25, 2015.

The water that flows through the north end draws many birds to drink, feed, and bathe.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, January 15, 2017.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, January 15, 2017.

Another Sharp-shinned Hawk (or the same one from ten months before?), March 6, 2016.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, March 6, 2016.

Queen’s Park is one of the best places to find crossbills. This year there are few in the city, but White-winged Crossbills have been reported there recently.

White-winged (left) and Red Crossbills, November 15, 2015.

Also November 15, 2015.

Common Redpoll, October 25, 2015.

 Dark-eyed Junco, October 25, 2015.

Black-billed Magpie and Great Horned Owl, October 25, 2015.

This may be the same young Northern Goshawk as in the first photo, taken a week earlier, January 22, 2017.

Queen’s Park Cemetery is home to several mammal species as well. Coyotes den there, and White-tailed Jackrabbits and Eastern Gray Squirrels are common.

White-tailed Jackrabbit, December 18, 2016.

White-tailed Jackrabbit, January 22, 2017.

Coyote, January 15, 2017.

So far, eighty-two bird species have been reported here on eBird. That is a pretty good total for a park that isn’t on the river. Sightings in the past week include Rough-legged Hawk, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, White-winged Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. Get out and add to the total!