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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.

Furry Friday: Snowshoe Hare

Tony LePrieur photographed this Snowshoe Hare in the Weaselhead Nature Area of Calgary on February 20, 2017.

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

Snowshoe Hares (also called Varying Hares) can be found in the city in wooded areas like the river valleys, Fish Creek Park, the Weaselhead, and Griffith Woods Park. They are smaller and have shorter ears and tails than the common White-tailed Jackrabbits you see in residential neighbourhoods and open fields. Jackrabbits have black-tipped ears and a longer white tail. Snowshoe hares have huge hind feet, as their name indicates.

Although they are usually quite common in places like the Weaselhead, they are secretive during the daytime and are rarely seen. You often see their tracks in the snow when birding in these wooded areas. Snowshoe Hares also blend in to their surroundings very well – the white winter coat you see in this photo will soon turn to a rusty brown to help camouflage it during the summer months.

Furry Friday: Coyotes

Photos of Coyotes from Calgary and area, photographed by Tony LePrieur and Judi Willis.

Fish Creek Park, February 12, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Queen’s Park Cemetery, January 15, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Weaselhead, December 18, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Weaselhead, September 25, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Fish Creek Park, November 14, 2016. Photo by Judi Willis.

Weaselhead, December 18, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Weaselhead, January 31, 2016. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Weaselhead, November 28, 2015. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

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!

Furry Friday: Nose Hill Porcupine

The wooded ravines on Nose Hill are one of the most reliable places in the city to find North American Porcupines. Tony LePrieur photographed this one on January 28, 2017.

North American Porcupine, Nose Hill, January 28, 2017.

North American Porcupine, Nose Hill, January 28, 2017.

Furry Friday: Red Foxes

Here are a couple of Red Foxes photographed recently by Tony LePrieur.

This Red Fox was seen just outside the city limits on September 25, 2016.

The same fox showing the very wide tail that these animals have.

This one was seen in Carburn Park in the city, December 4, 2016.

Furry Friday: Muskrat

Tony LePrieur photographed this Muskrat in the Weaselhead Nature Area on November 20, 2016. Muskrats are semi-aquatic rodents related to voles and lemmings. They feed mostly on aquatic vegetation such as cattails. They are active all year and can be found in the winter in Calgary along the rivers, and around lakes and ponds. They are well adapted for the cold and for swimming under the ice.

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You can see more of Tony’s photos on his Flickr page.

Do you have photos of Mammals from the Calgary area that you’d like to share? Send them to birdscalgary@gmail.com and we may post them for Furry Friday!

Sunday Showcase: Autumn in Calgary’s Parks

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Catching up with some great autumn photos of Calgary Birds and Mammals, taken by Tony LePrieur from September 25 to October 16, 2016. The locations were the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Carburn Park, Fish Creek Provincial Park, and the Weaselhead Nature Area.

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Boreal Chickadee, Bebo Grove, FCPP, September 25, 2016. The bird has no tail. Birds don’t molt all their tail feathers at once, so this indicates it probably survived an attack of some kind.

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Great Horned Owl, Bebo Grove, FCPP, September 25, 2016. These resident owls are fairly common it the city. Pairs will be spending the days resting on their winter roosts now, and by February (or sometimes even January) they will be on their nests, incubating eggs.

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Great Blue Heron, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, October 16, 2016. The herons have usually all migrated by mid-October, but a few may stay later.

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Harris’s Sparrow, seen at the south end of the big bridge over the Elbow River in the Weaselhead on October 16, 2016. The bird was seen for at least a week, from October 16 to October 25. These Sparrows mostly migrate well east of Calgary and are a bit of a rarity here. They sometimes overwinter, so it is worth looking for.

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American Tree Sparrow. These arctic breeders are passing through here now and some overwinter here.

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Dark-eyed Junco. These sparrows are pretty common here in the winter and can be seen in residential areas right now, often feeding on the ground under bird feeders.

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American Robin bathing.

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American Robin. They passed through here on migration in huge numbers a few weeks ago, but there are always quite a few that overwinter here, mostly in the river valleys.

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Northern Flicker (male). A migratory woodpecker, but again there are always lots in Calgary in the winter – either some local breeders that overwinter, or birds that bred farther north and migrated this far. They will readily come to suet and nut feeders.

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Downy Woodpecker (male). A year-round resident that also will come to feeders.

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Coyote.

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Black-backed Woodpecker. A bit of a rarity in the city, they are occasionally seen in the west end of Fish Creek Park, from Bebo Grove to Shannon Terrace. This one was photographed there on October 23, 2016.

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Pileated Woodpecker (male). Another resident woodpecker.

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Rough-legged Hawk. This is the common buteo in our region in the winter. They have arrived in good numbers from their northern breeding grounds. Most commonly seen outside the city, especially west of the city.

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Black-capped Chickadee. Year-round resident.

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Muskrat. They are active all winter in open water.

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Mule Deer buck.

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

Share your bird photos from the Calgary area. Just email them to birdscalgary@gmail.com.

Sunday Showcase: Birds of Carburn Park and IBS

Bird and mammal photos taken by Tony LePrieur on September 11, 2016. The Wood Duck and Great Blue Heron were at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and the rest were at Carburn Park.

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Osprey.

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Wood Ducks.

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Great Blue Heron.

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Belted Kingfisher.

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Wilson’s Warbler.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler.

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Merlin.

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Eastern Gray Squirrel.

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American Mink.

Do you have some bird photos you’d like to share? Send them to our email address and we may post them on the blog.