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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.

 

Furry Friday: Summer Mammals by Tony LePrieur

Some mammals of Calgary and area, photographed this summer by Tony LePrieur. To see more of Tony’s photos, visit his Flickr page.

The first three photos are of a family of Coyotes at a den in the city.

Coyote, Calgary, July 9, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Coyote, Calgary, July 9, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Coyote, Calgary, July 9, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Pika, Kananaskis, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Pika, Kananaskis, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Pika, Kananaskis, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

White-tailed Jackrabbit, Queen’s Park Cemetery, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Mink, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Mink, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Mink, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

American Mink, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Northern Flying Squirrel in bird nest box, SW Calgary, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

 

Furry Friday: Rodents of Carburn Park

Here are a couple of the largest rodents you can see in Carburn Park in SE Calgary.

Muskrat, Carburn Park, May 23, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Beaver, Carburn Park, May 23, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

These two species can sometimes be confused for each other, especially when they are swimming. Of course the Beaver is much larger but sometimes size is hard to judge in the field. Beavers have big flat tails but they are not always visible. Muskrats have long tails without fur. These photos show some of the differences that help with identification when the other traits aren’t clear: the big wide head with large nose and prominent ears of the Beaver, and the small face and often hidden ears of the muskrat. Fur colour can vary but around here muskrats seem to usually be reddish like this one.

Furry Friday: Muskrat Love

Tony LePrieur photographed this pair of muskrats mating in Fish Creek Park on May 7.

Muskrat pair mating, Fish Creek Park, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Muskrat (male) post-mating. Yes, that is a muskrat penis. Fish Creek Park, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Muskrat swimming off, Fish Creek Park, May 7, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

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

Furry Friday: Hares Changing Colour

Here are three recent photos of Snowshoe Hares taken in the Weaselhead in Calgary, showing the transition from their white winter coat to their brown summer coat.

February 20, 2017: Snowshoe Hare, Weaselhead. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

April 9, 2017: Snowshoe Hare, Weaselhead. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

April 23, 2017: Snowshoe Hare, Weaselhead. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

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

If you have photos of Calgary mammals you’d like to share here, email them to us at birdscalgary@gmail.com.

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.

Furry Friday: Porcupine at Carburn Park

Tony LePrieur photographed this Porcupine in Carburn Park in SE Calgary this week.

Porcupine, Carburn Park, April 20, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Porcupine, Carburn Park, April 20, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

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.

Furry Friday: Deer of Calgary

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

I still find deer identification tricky. Let me know if I’ve misidentified any of these!

Mule Deer Buck, Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Park, November 13, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

White-tailed Deer Buck, Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Park, November 13, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

White-tailed Deer, Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Park, November 13, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

White-tailed Deer Buck, Fish Creek Park, November 14, 2016. Photo by Judi Willis.

White-tailed Deer Buck, Carburn Park, January 31, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

White-tailed Deer Bucks, Carburn Park, January 31, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Mule Deer, Weaselhead, October 18, 2015. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

White-tailed Deer Deer, Weaselhead, October 18, 2015. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

White-tailed Deer with fawns, Carburn Park, August 3, 2015. Photo by Tony LePrieur.