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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.

 

Summer Birds by Tony LePrieur

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

We’re back! After a really long summer hiatus, it’s time to get posting again. I have a lot of great photos that readers have sent in, and we’ll start with some of Tony LePrieur’s excellent photos of summer birds. Be sure to check back on Friday for his photos of a wide variety of mammals.

First I wanted to mention that although it may seem like a quiet time of year, especially with the steady hot weather we have had, the past couple of weeks have been pretty good for fall warblers and other migrants. Confederation Park in the NW and several locations in the river valleys (notably Mallard Point in Fish Creek Park and Carburn Park in the SE) have had some good birds. Black-and-white, Townsend’s, Magnolia, Canada, Blackburnian, Mourning and Cape May Warblers have all been reported, among others. A Lark Sparrow has been seen at Mallard Point.

I also wanted to mention that a Peregrine Falcon has been seen perched on the Peter Lougheed Hospital in NE Calgary on two occasions by reader R. Michael Fisher, on August 12 and 20. It may be worth checking for it if you’re in the area.

And now for Tony’s photos.

Cedar Waxwing, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Eastern Kingbird, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Spotted Sandpiper, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Great Gray Owl, Priddis area, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Great Gray Owl, Priddis area, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Calliope Hummingbird, Weaselhead. June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Sora, Bridlewood Wetlands, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Fish Creek Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wood Duck female with chicks, Carburn Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow Warbler, Carburn Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Frank Lake, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wilson’s Phalarope, Frank Lake, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow Warbler, Fish Creek Park, July 3, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Fish Creek Park, July 3, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

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

 

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.

Wild Horses – Mothers and Foals

Tony LePrieur photographed these wild horses west of Sundre. He was trying to get a photo of a dam with a foal to give to his mother on Mother’s Day, and he succeeded!

Wild Horses, west of Sundre, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wild Horses, west of Sundre, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wild Horses, west of Sundre, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wild Horses, west of Sundre, May 13, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

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|

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.