Sunday Showcase: Carburn Park, September

Photos by Tony LePrieur, taken at Carburn Park in Calgary on September 4-5, 2016.

Can you identify the warblers? Put your ID’s and reasons in the comments.


House Wren.


Fall Warbler #1.


Fall Warbler #2.


Fall Warbler #3.


Fall Warbler #4.


Least Flycatcher.


Least Flycatchers.


Great Horned Owl.


White-tailed Deer.

August Birds of Calgary and Frank Lake

Here are the last of Tony LePrieur’s summer photos from the Calgary area for this year.


Great Horned Owls, Fish Creek Park, August 12, 2016.


Black-crowned Night-Heron (juvenile), Fish Creek Park, August 12, 2016.


American Beaver, Fish Creek Park, August 12, 2016.

The remainder of the photos below were taken on the weekend of August 28, 2016, in Carburn Park and at Frank Lake.


Cedar Waxwings (juveniles).


Cedar Waxwings (juveniles).


Downy Woodpecker.


Western Grebes.


Western Grebe.


Solitary Sandpiper.


Baird’s Sandpiper.


American Avocet.


Lesser Yellowlegs.

Great Blue Fisher

Judi Willis took these photos of a Great Blue Heron fishing in the Stormwater pond in Votier’s Flats, Fish Creek Park, in early August.

Angry Heron

A determined-looking heron looking for food.

Heron with Fish

Success! A good-sized meal.

Does anyone know what species the fish is? The down-turned mouth suggests a sucker or other bottom-feeder.

Bonus photo: an American White Pelican landing on the water:

Pelicn landing edited

Autumn Birding Course Starts August 29!

The Autumn session of the popular Friends of Fish Creek Birding course begins on August 29.

Bald Eagle juvenile

Juvenile Bald Eagle. Photo by John Stegeman, January 24, 2015, Beaverdam Flats.

Autumn is a good time to begin birding. As the leaves drop off the trees, many of the smaller birds, which will be migrating, are much easier to see. All sessions are held in the great outdoors – in Fish Creek Provincial Park and other natural areas in Calgary. Outings are conducted by Gus Yaki, a lifelong naturalist who has birded around the world – and other experienced instructors. Each outing is approx. 2.5 hours, and the 15-week course starts Aug 29 and runs until Dec 11. Registration Required and fees apply. As a fundraiser for the Friends of Fish Creek, these courses will once again be conducted by volunteer instructor and lifelong naturalist Gus Yaki – and other knowledgeable and experienced volunteer instructors.

Fee: Once a week outing, Friends of Fish Creek Members: $60.00, Non-members: $100.00. 

Twice a week outings, Friends of Fish Creek Members: $100.00, Non-members: $150.00

Youth 16 years of age or younger with registered adult: $5.00

Friends of Fish Creek Membership rates are:

$35.00  –  Individual
$45.00  –  Family
$25.00  –  Senior (over 60)
$30.00  –  Senior Family

The membership year runs from October 1 to September 30 of the following year and Friends of Fish Creek members receive free admission to our monthly Speaker Series presentations at the Fish Creek Environmental Learning Centre, discounts on courses, a 10% discount at the Wild Bird Store and Kensington Art Supply, and a subscription to the Friends’ newsletter, Voice of the Friends.

See the registration page for the course here.

Update on Swainson’s Hawk Chicks

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Here are some more photographs, taken by Colin Nakahara, of the Swainson’s Hawk and chicks at a nest in SE Calgary. This post from last week showed the downy young in the nest. Today’s photos, taken on July 14, 21, and 29, show the growing chicks. Unfortunately one chick didn’t make it.

All photos by Colin Nakahara.

July 14 (1)

Adult Swainson’s Hawk (left) and young in the nest. July 14, 2016.

July 14 (3)

July 14, 2016.

July 14 (13)

The adult hawk, keeping an eye on Colin but appearing calm.

July 21 (23)

July 21. Another week older, and a little closer to leaving the nest.

July 21 (28)

July 21.

July 29 (3)

July 29 – adult.

July 29 (13)

July 29 – one of the chicks.

July 29 (11)

This one looks just about ready to fly. July 29.

Sunday Showcase: Swainson’s Hawk Chicks

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Swainson’s Hawks commonly nest right in the city, but since the nests are high in the treetops it is usually difficult to see the young birds before they fledge. Here are some photos taken from the rooftop of a business in the Highfield industrial area of Calgary. They were sent to me by Mark Dann, and the photographer is Colin Nakahara.

June 28 (9)

June 28, 2016: Downy Swainson’s Hawks chicks in the nest. Photo by Colin Nakahara.

July 7 (24)

July 7, 2016: The young birds are beginning to show their colours. Photo by Colin Nakahara.

The adult bird is aware of Colin when he is on the roof and keeps an eye on him but has not been threatening or agitated. I hope to post more photos to show the growth of these beautiful birds!

Sunday Showcase: Baby Birds, Summer Adults

Photos taken by Tony LePrieur on the weekend of June 26, 2016, at Fish Creek park and Bridlewood Wetlands in Calgary, at Frank lake, and in the Priddis area. There are lots of juvenile birds being fed out there right now!


Male Red-winged Blackbird feeding juvenile.


American Coot babies.


Yellow-headed Blackbird feeding juvenile.


Cedar Waxwing.


Gray Catbird.


Willet in an unusual spot.


Eastern Phoebe.


Mallard with ducklings.


Hungry Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird.


Adult Black Terns.


Female Mountain Bluebird with nesting material – raising a second brood?


Male Mountain Bluebird.

Angry Birds! (…actually just Brown-headed Cowbird fledglings)

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Brown-headed Cowbirds are obligate nest parasites, so they do not nest or raise their own young – the female cowbird lays her eggs in a number of nests of other species. If the host birds don’t realize that they are incubating a foreign egg, they will feed the cowbird chick until it fledges and for a while afterwards, until it can forage on its own and rejoin its cowbird cousins.

image6 crop

Brown-headed Cowbird chick, just out of the nest and begging for food. (All photos taken by Tony LePrieur, July 1, 2016.)

Many of the songbirds that are parasitized in this way are quite a bit smaller than cowbirds, so it makes for a comical sight when the “parents” are feeding their giant “offspring”. It’s no joke for the host parents, though, as this is a great drain on their food-gathering resources, and it has a negative impact on their ability to raise their own biological young.

Tony LePrieur has recently seen a number of young cowbirds being fed by different hosts in the Calgary area. Thanks to Tony for these fantastic photos!


Song Sparrow (left) feeding a Brown-headed Cowbird chick. Sikome Lake, Fish Creek Provincial Park.


Calling for food from the host Song Sparrow.


Another cowbird being fed by a Western Wood-Pewee, not far from the Song Sparrow and chick at Sikome, Fish Creek Park. This could very well be a biological sibling of the bird being fed by the Song Sparrow.


The Western Wood-Pewee adult, probably a little worn out from trying to provide for the cowbird chick.


Two cowbirds were being fed by a pair of Savannah Sparrows at Frank Lake, also on Canada Day.


A close-up taken from the above photo.


Those of you with teen-aged boys will know how this Savannah Sparrow feels 🙁

Cowbirds also often parasitize Clay-colored Sparrows and even smaller birds like Yellow Warblers and House Wrens, so if you see any of those species carrying food, watch to see if they are feeding cowbirds.

Do you have photos of birds taken in the Calgary area? Send them to us and we may post them on the blog!


Backyard Birds: Baltimore Oriole

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Most birders know that Baltimore Orioles will feed on oranges, but have you ever tried this in your yard? Even if you aren’t near their nesting habitat, you may get one on migration, as I did five years ago.

Below is a re-post of something I posted originally on June 1, 2011. Since then, I haven’t had any more Orioles (and still no Catbirds) in my yard – but I’m still trying!


Oranges for Orioles – originally posted June 1, 2011, by Bob Lefebvre.

For the last couple of years I have been putting out slices of oranges in my yard in the hopes of attracting Baltimore Orioles or Gray Catbirds.  I place the oranges on my tray feeder and in suet cages.  So far this has attracted only ants.  Last Friday morning, I thought that perhaps the heavy rain might force some migrants down, so I put out two fresh orange halves on a flower planter.  Within a half hour of arriving home in the afternoon, I looked out to see this bird feeding on the orange.

This first-year Baltimore Oriole stayed around the yard for two days, feeding on all the oranges, including the ones in the suet cage that I had placed there about two weeks before.

So if you want to see a Baltimore Oriole in your yard, putting out oranges really does work.  Now I’m just waiting for that Catbird.

Pinned Robin

Posted by Bob Lefebvre.

In May 2006, before I was a serious birder (and before I had a digital camera), I saw an American Robin in my yard with an unusual blue spot on its back.


On closer inspection, the blue spot turned out to be the plastic head of a long metal pin that passed right through the bird’s body.

IMG_0003 trimmed

If you look closely at the above photos you can see the pin protruding from the robin’s breast. Here is a better look at the front of the bird.


I called the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, and they said if I could capture it I should bring it in. But I wasn’t able to get close enough to it to capture it. The bird could fly and feed normally, and appeared healthy. I even watched it evade a feral cat once. The robin was in the vicinity of our yard for a week.

It may be a little hard to tell from these photos, but the pin was not just through the feathers but right through the centre of the bird.

I’ve always wondered what this pin was and how it got in the robin. At first I thought it might be a tracking device, but it looks like an ordinary pin. Was it pushed through the bird by someone? Shot at it? Someone speculated that perhaps it was pushed through the egg and the bird grew around it! I haven’t seen a pin quite like it – does anyone recognize this type or have any idea how this could have happened?


Over the course of the week, the pin gradually worked out the back of the bird so the head was about two inches from its back. Then I never saw it again, or if I did, it was pin-less.