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Wednesday Wings: World Shorebirds Day (and other days!) at Weed Lake

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Shorebirds are my thing. I love watching flocks of them wheel and turn in flocks of tens, hundreds, and even thousands at a time, so when I heard about the initiative of World Shorebirds Day, I immediately signed up for a few sites at one of my favourite shorebirding locations just outside the city. Leading up to it, there had been some great sightings of somewhat uncommon birds, and between July 29th and September 6th, I probably spent at least one day a week visiting it for at least a few minutes.

Killdeer Weed Lake July 29, 2014

Killdeer
Weed Lake
July 29, 2014

Early on, the usual shorebirds that breed in and around Calgary were abundant and relatively easy to find. Killdeer, Wilson’s Phalarope, Willets, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets and Spotted Sandpipers were everywhere, but as migration ramped up into mid-August, the shorebirding really began heating up.  The first Black-bellied Plovers were seen in early August, and by August 10th, just about every species of shorebird we can expect to move through the Calgary area was there to be counted!

Lesser Yellowlegs Weed Lake August 10, 2014

Lesser Yellowlegs
Weed Lake
August 10, 2014

Semipalmated Plover Weed Lake August 10, 2014

Semipalmated Plover
Weed Lake
August 10, 2014

So many shorebirds! Weed Lake August 10, 2014

So many shorebirds!
Weed Lake
August 10, 2014

Baird's Sandpipers Weed Lake August 10, 2014

Baird’s Sandpipers
Weed Lake
August 10, 2014

A trio of Ruddy Turnstones showed up at the lake in late August, and on my scouting weekend they turned up and I had a chance to get relatively close looks at them. One of the more colorful shorebirds that we get around here, I think!

Ruddy Turnstones Weed Lake August 30, 2014

Ruddy Turnstones
Weed Lake
August 30, 2014

Ruddy Turnstones Weed Lake August 30, 2014

Ruddy Turnstones
Weed Lake
August 30, 2014

Willet Weed Lake August 30, 2014

Willet
Weed Lake
August 30, 2014

And if you ever need some sense of scale for some of these small but powerful fliers, my current phone is roughly the same size as a Semipalmated Sandpiper. I’m not quite sure what caused the demise of this little fellow, but in the wild there are so many more things to be worried about than just predators. Disease, untreated injuries, or even simple medical anomalies can bring natural selection into play.

Unfortunate Semipalmated Sandpiper Weed Lake August 30, 2014

Unfortunate Semipalmated Sandpiper
Weed Lake
August 30, 2014

And finally, after months of anticipation, the magical day arrived. Sadly the big numbers of shorebirds were nowhere to be found, though I did still get some good finds on the day!

American Avocet clearing its throat Weed Lake September 6, 2014

American Avocet clearing its throat
Weed Lake
September 6, 2014

Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers taking off Weed Lake September 6, 2014

Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers taking off
Weed Lake
September 6, 2014

Stilt Sandpipers and California Gull Weed Lake September 6, 2014

Stilt Sandpipers and California Gull
Weed Lake
September 6, 2014

Pectoral Sandpiper Weed Lake September 6, 2014

Pectoral Sandpiper
Weed Lake
September 6, 2014

Oh yeah, and I mentioned predators before, didn’t I? A pair of beautiful Peregrine Falcons were doing a great job of scattering the shorebirds that had stuck around. One of them even managed to snag a distant Lesser Yellowlegs while we watched on, and its mate gave us some good fly-bys as well!

Peregrine Falcon Weed Lake September 6, 2014

Peregrine Falcon
Weed Lake
September 6, 2014

Thanks for reading, and good birding!

August in Carburn Park

The last few weeks, Tony LePrieur has been sending us some outstanding photos of birds at Carburn Park. We had some technical difficulties with the blog and have been unable to post, but we’re back to full speed now. Here is Tony’s great collection of photos from the last three weekends in Carburn.

This is a good year for wood warblers, and there should be several species around until Sept 20 or so. Carburn Park has been a great place to see them, or anywhere along the river. Confederation Park is another warbler hot spot in the city.

Some of these fall birds can be tricky to ID, so please comment if you think we’ve got any wrong. There are two we weren’t at all sure about, the recently fledged one and the orange one, both captioned “???” – give us your thoughts on those!

Carburn1.1

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Carburn3.9

Canada Warbler

Carburn3.8

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Carburn3.7

Red-eyed Vireo

Carburn3.6

female Tennessee Warbler

Carburn3.5

Wilson’s Warbler

Carburn3.4

Warbling Vireo

Carburn3.3

Nashville Warbler

Carburn3.2

American Redstart

Carburn3.1

Townsend’s Warbler

Carburn2.8

Warbling Vireo

Carburn2.7

Red-eyed Vireo

Carburn2.6

Northern Waterthrush

Carburn1.8

Canada Warbler

Carburn1.7

female/immature Tennessee Warbler

Carburn1.3

Orange-crowned Warbler

Carburn1.2

???

Carburn1.5

immature Baltimore Oriole

Carburn1.4

House Wren

Carburn1.9

Sora

Carburn1.10

???

Carburn2.4

Solitary Sandpiper

Carburn2.5

Eastern Kingbird

Carburn2.9

American Goldfinch

 

New Spring Migrants at Bowmont Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

Another week of spring arrivals and a few surprises at Bowmont Park made for a great outing last week. While most of the pathways near the river had been damaged by the flood, we elected to take the high road (literally!) and walk along the upper ridge of the park before descending down to the always  bountiful ponds before walking back along the base of the hillside, turning up quite a few more great birds. Enjoy!

Bowmont Park May 18, 2014

Bowmont Park
May 18, 2014

While we are always on the lookout for any number of bird species, it’s always really nice to find some flowers in bloom. This group of Prairie Crocus was one of the few we saw on this hillside, and from what others in the group mentioned, they were blooming a little late!

Prairie Crocus Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Prairie Crocus
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

There was another group of Say’s Phoebes at the west end of the upper slope, but something on the horizon caught my eye flying down the Bow River being harassed by a group of American Crows. I had initially thought it was just another Common Raven, like we’d seen before. but as we watched the crows trail off and leave this soaring bird to close on us, we noticed white primaries, a pink head, and that is seemed really intent on simply soaring above either the Bow River, or Highway 1 before spiraling up and out of sight on a thermal. It was an unmistakable bird, but not one I’ve seen often around Calgary, and never before within the city limits. A Turkey Vulture!

Turkey Vulture Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Turkey Vulture
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

This particular hillside was great for our group, as we also spotted this urbanized coyote in the distance, and when we reviewed our photos afterwards, noted that it was tagged and radio-collared, likely as part of this study being put on by the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary.

Coyote Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Coyote
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

We soon descended into the heavily wooded pathways down below and were completely pleased with the next group that popped up that have been seen in huge numbers around the Calgary area this spring, the Western Tanager. Both males and females in equal number, this group of four flitted about above us, and a few of them even came really quite close to provide great looks!

Western Tanager Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Western Tanager
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

So after some good time spent with these beautiful, colorful birds, we headed to the ponds. A kindly Belted Kingfisher flew from perch to perch, giving its signature rattling call while hunting for minnows in this well established pond. Just as we were preparing to leave, a Common Yellowthroat (which we saw here last year as well) decided to make a brief call and pop out to the pond and take a drink!

male Belted Kingfisher Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

male Belted Kingfisher
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Common Yellowthroat Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Common Yellowthroat
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Another traipse through the woods near the ponds turned up a few more Western Tanagers, a Cooper’s Hawk sitting quietly on her nest, and this pair of Downy Woodpeckers who are well on their way to starting a family of their own.

Downy Woodpeckers Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Downy Woodpeckers
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

And as a great end to a great walk, we managed to come across our first House Wren of the year as well, singing in the trees nearby, and as we approached, she decided to come out and tell us exactly how she felt about us being nearby!

House Wren

House Wren
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Thanks again for reading, and good birding! Have a great week!

Bankside to Mallard Point – A one-way trip into spring

Posted by Dan Arndt

Last week’s visit to Fish Creek Provincial Park’s northeast corner was a beautiful, sunny, and bird-filled day. We managed to just tick 50 species in a little over three hours, though photos were few and far between, as most of the birds were highly active in their foraging endeavors and didn’t sit still. Despite that, the few I did manage to capture were quite memorable, (and all new species for my blog posts for the course, as I promised earlier!) Enjoy!

Bankside to Mallard Point (plus the Burnsmead Ponds) - May 11, 2014

Bankside to Mallard Point (plus the Burnsmead Ponds) – May 11, 2014

As usual for this route, we met up at the Mallard Point parking lot and car-pooled down to Bankside, giving us some time up near the bushes at the parking lot to tally up 15 species before we even really got “started” on our walk. Blue Jays, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds and even a Wilson’s Warbler made for good sightings before the start of our walk. One stop we made as well to add on a few more year-birds for the group were the ponds at Burnsmead, where this Northern Shoveler and his mate were displaying their colors quite proudly, along with about a dozen Red-winged Blackbirds!

Northern Shoveler (male) Ring-necked Pheasant Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Shoveler (male)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

As our walk began in earnest at the Bankside parking lot, we headed down towards the river bank and heard our first Ring-necked Pheasant of the day, as well as many Lincoln’s, Song, and Savannah Sparrows, more than a few of which we even had great looks at. We also found both a Red-naped and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker right near the parking lot, but the Yellow-bellied was the only one to stick around for some photos.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

The Savannah Sparrows nearly drowned everything else out in the area surrounding the pathways, almost drowning out the calls of a pair of distant White-crowned Sparrows. This little fellow was singing away to his heart’s content just six feet away from the end of my lens.

Savannah Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Savannah Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

We walked onward and found a few raptors right after each other, first a Swainson’s Hawk, then a couple of Red-tailed Hawks, and finally a Great Horned Owl in a spot where we hadn’t ever seen one before. Must have been some good eating around this area earlier in the year. He’s likely raising a family somewhere on Poplar Island right now! This was also the area where we got a brief look at a Western Tanager, and a really nice close approach by a Lincoln’s Sparrow pausing for a drink of water.

Lincoln's Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Lincoln’s Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

As our walk neared its end, we finally, after a few solid hours of tacking on species after species, were allowed the briefest of views of one of the male Ring-necked Pheasants that we’d heard calling throughout the morning. Hopefully I can get a better shot later this season, because this one is terrible!

Ring-necked Pheasant Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Ring-necked Pheasant
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Good birding! Just remember, by the time you’re reading this on Monday morning, (Victoria Day here in Canada), I’ll be out with Nature Calgary’s annual field trip to find 100 species in the Calgary city limits… in the rain!

Carburn Park Part 2: The Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

One of the areas of Carburn Park that we visit a little less often are the flats and backwater ponds south of the main parking lot, and even further south of the Eric Harvie bridge all the way down south to the Ivor Strong Bridge where Deerfoot Trail crosses the Bow River (again). Last week’s outing was really quite incredible. Three new species that I’d never seen on the Friends of Fish Creek outings, and two that I’d never seen within the city limits before, which was really quite a treat! Enjoy!

Carburn Park south of the Eric Harvie Bridge April 27, 2014

Carburn Park south of the Eric Harvie Bridge
April 27, 2014

As we started out, we headed over to the spot where we saw the North American Beaver last week, and were greeted by a small flock of hunting Yellow-rumped Warblers, a few of which stopped to pose for some nice photos.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Yellow-rumped Warbler Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

We headed across the Eric Harvie bridge in search of a number of Red-winged Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, and a few other distant birds, but one of our surprising visitors flew overhead, and in the moment, I correctly, then incorrectly identified it. My gut instinct off the bat was to call this beauty a Ferruginous Hawk, but after a moment I changed my ID to a Red-tailed Hawk. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I was right in the first place after all, but Ferruginous Hawks aren’t really the most common bird in the Calgary area!

Ferruginous Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

Ferruginous Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

This immature Red-winged Blackbird was still showing quite a bit of rusty edging on the scapulars and secondary flight feathers, indicating that this is an immature male.

Red-winged Blackbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Red-winged Blackbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

We headed further south along the trails and happened upon the first American White Pelican that our group would see for the year. The crest on the mandible indicates that this is a male, and he seemed content to just snooze away the morning.

American White Pelican Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

American White Pelican
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

In the trees nearby were a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees begging for a meal, a lone Ruby-crowned Kinglet going about his business of looking for some food, but in an open expanse to the south an odd shape presented itself. At first, I thought it to be an American Robin, but on closer inspection it was certainly a flycatcher of some sort, and once I got even a little closer, I knew for sure that the yellowish-brown undertones, white wing bars, grayish “vest”, and crest must indicate a Say’s Phoebe, which was a great find for our group!

Say's Phoebe Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Say’s Phoebe
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Another good look at yet another new spring species was this Song Sparrow that led a few of our photographers on a merry chase before stopping for a quick pose right in front of me in great light!

Song Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Song Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Down at the far south end we did find a group of Franklin’s Gulls feeding in some oddly smelling water at the mixture point between the fast-moving river water, and the slower moving back-channel. Whatever it was, they sure seemed to enjoy it!

Franklin's Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Franklin’s Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

My first Osprey pair of the season also showed up in one of their usual spots in the area near the Lafarge gravel pit at their Bow River Aggregates site, just one of at least three pair of Osprey in and around the Carburn Park area!

Osprey having a bite Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Osprey having a bite
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

From here we headed back, and most of my group headed on their way home, but if they had stuck with me for just a few more minutes, they would have been treated to two great sights. The first of which, this Broad-winged Hawk, was my first sighting of this species in the Calgary area. While they do happen through on occasion during spring and fall migration, they had so far eluded me! You can identify this uncommon species by the broad black and white tail bands, and the black fringing on the very edge of the wings, with very light speckling on the belly and underwing.

Broad-winged Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Broad-winged Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

That encounter I didn’t even realize the weight of until I returned home to review my photos! So off I went, over to the second pond in search of a Common Loon that had been seen there earlier in the week. I even lucked out with a kayaker doing laps around the pond, occasionally pushing the loon just a little closer each time until I got a shot I felt was post-worthy.

Common Loon Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Common Loon
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Hope you enjoyed reading this post, and as always, we’ll see you next week!

Good birding!

 

Where are the warblers?

Posted by Dan Arndt

On our outing last week, I mentioned an idea to Bob Lefebvre about setting up a post showing our readers where some of our summer migrants are right now, and maybe keeping it updated on a weekly basis. Easy enough to do using eBird, but in doing a quick Google search, I found out that Greg Miller (yes, that Greg Miller,) had already done a similar post, which I’ll link to below.

I do plan on setting up a resource page right here on Birds Calgary, tailored to our own favourite locals, but for now, here’s Greg’s great summary this topic.

Where are the Eastern Wood Warblers Now? – 2014

Just follow the link and click on any of the names of your favourite Wood Warbler species for an up to the minute update on their migration progress! As of this post, almost all of these species have landed in the southern United States, pushing northward on a daily basis. Many of them first arrive on the coast of Florida, Texas, and Louisiana before moving ever northward to their breeding grounds in the Boreal Forest of northern Canada, while others may breed further south in their preferred breeding habitats. The hardiest of them all, the Yellow-rumped Warblers, most of which over-winter in the continental United States, have pushed even further northward, into the interior of British Columbia, Washington state, and in the interior, as far north as northern Colorado and Utah.

Spring is on the way!

Travel Tuesday: Fall Migration in Confederation Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Now here’s a post that’s a major blast from the past.

I originally started this post over a year ago, with the plan of getting out as often as I could during the height of warbler and vireo migration to the titular hotspot in the Calgary area, or at least, the one I see the largest number of people at the most often. While I didn’t get out nearly as much as I wanted last year, with my current employment situation I had more than enough time on my hands, and was out visiting Confederation Park at least three days a week for four weeks straight. While it was a lot more birding and a lot more challenging than I was prepared for, I was quite happy to nab a handful more life birds and as wide a variety of warblers and vireos as I have ever seen in my life.

Confederation Park is located between 24 Ave. & 14 St. N.W. and 30 Ave. & 10 St. N.W.. and covers over 400 acres. It contains stream channel whose banks are covered with water willow, aspen, and a wide variety of small shrubs which are perfect for insects to roost on in the evening and overnight, and even more perfect for the vireos and warblers to hunt in the early morning light. As the insects warm and begin to fly, so do the warblers, allowing brief, and rarely satisfying views of each and every one of them. Another advantage to the park is that is is a fairly continuous green belt, which is the last major park before the Bow River Valley, and following the expanses of relatively poorly vegetated communities and grassed over parks, perfect for warblers to end a night of nocturnal migration.

The attached map shows the three primary locations where the majority of the warbler activity is localized, but since they’re birds, and they do have the ability to fly, just about anywhere in the park can be a hot spot. That said, about 75-80% of all the warblers, vireos, thrushes and the like that I have seen in this park have all been at one of these three locations.

Confederation Park

Confederation Park

One major advantage to birding this area in the fall, especially during warbler migration, are the huge number of other birders around, some of which are incredibly experienced and know their warbler IDs pretty much spot on every single time. I’ve learned a lot just by tagging along with some of them on some of the more productive days!

One of the most amazing things I noted this year, while keeping track of both my own sightings and those of others, is that it appeared that just about every species that breeds in the boreal forests of Alberta, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon were found on their way through at this magical place.

Here are just a few of the warblers, vireos and sparrows that I’ve managed to find here at Confederation Park in the past few years.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - September 11, 2011 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/250sec., ƒ/8, ISO 1250

Yellow-rumped Warbler – September 11, 2011
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/250sec., ƒ/8, ISO 1250

 

White-crowned Sparrow - September 15, 2012 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

White-crowned Sparrow – September 15, 2012
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – September 15, 2012
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

Lincoln's Sparrow - August 12, 2012 Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/180sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

Lincoln’s Sparrow – August 12, 2012
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/180sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

Blue-headed Vireo - August 29, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Blue-headed Vireo – August 29, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Black-and-White Warblers - August 29, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Black-and-White Warblers – August 29, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Northern Waterthrush - August 12, 2012 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/8, ISO 1600

Northern Waterthrush – August 12, 2012
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/8, ISO 1600

Wilson's Warbler - August 29, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Wilson’s Warbler – August 29, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Warbling Vireo - August 21, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Warbling Vireo – August 21, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

American Redstart Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

American Redstart
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

 

And of course, anywhere you find small songbirds, there’s always someone looking for a quick meal.

Cooper's Hawk - August 12, 2012 Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/250sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

Cooper’s Hawk – August 12, 2012
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/250sec., ƒ/8, ISO 800

 

Gulls, Grebes and Grackles at Elliston Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

After being away in Ucluelet, B.C. last week to take part in Wild Research’s annual pelagic birding trip, which I posted about over at Bird Canada, this week I’m back home and enjoying the first full day of fall with the Friends of Fish Creek.

Elliston Park - September 22, 2013

Elliston Park – September 22, 2013

Almost immediately after I arrived, we headed west from the parking lot, as Bob had seen a good number of warblers working their way around a small pond and trees at the very edge of the park, which none of us had ever really noticed before. After spending a good half hour and turning up a small flock of Wilson’s Snipe and nearly fifty Yellow-rumped Warblers, a pair of White-throated Sparrows, and a lone Orange-crowned and Palm Warbler, we headed back to the lake proper to attend to our usual route.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

Just down from the parking lot we had a couple of other great finds, with a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, and a good number of Double-crested Cormorants, and this young one gave us a close fly-by.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

As we slowly circled the lake, it quickly became clear to us that, in an unusual turn of events, there were actually more Bonaparte’s Gulls around the lake than Franklin’s. The Bonaparte’s Gulls were flying at eye level around the edge of the lake, and feeding off the surface of the lake. While we were stopped, we took a few minutes to scan the center of the lake, and happened to find a small group of Hooded Mergansers quite a ways out, but the male Hooded Mergansers are so distinct that they were easy to pick out. We did have some fairly distant views of both Eared and Horned Grebes as well as a few Ruddy Ducks, but nothing close enough to get a half decent photo.

Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

A little further around the lake we found our fourth grebe species, as we got nice and close to a Red-necked Grebe as it surfaced nice and close to us, and while we watched it dive a few times, the clear chattery calls of a flock of twenty-five or so Common Grackles flew overhead, and a few of them paused atop a poplar to pose for a photo.

Common Grackles

Common Grackles

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Further to the south, at the far southeast corner of the lake, a pair of Horned Grebes allowed us to get in nice and close. I find them really quite a challenge in their non-breeding plumage. and get the IDs wrong at least 75% of the time!

Eared Grebe in non-breeding plumage

Horned Grebe in non-breeding plumage

Our last really good looks at any of the birds on the lake was this immature Ring-billed Gull, which we suspect was injured, as it swam close to shore while we all got the closest views of this bird we’ve had all year.

immature Ring-billed Gull

immature Ring-billed Gull

All in all, it was a great morning out, and a bit of a different time of year to visit Elliston Park than our usual timing in the fall course, but it was worth the change in schedule!

Next week we’re off to South Glenmore Park, and hopefully we find some unusual species on the reservoir, or at least see a few more fall migrants on their way through.

Good birding, and have a great week!

 

Travel Tuesday: The Road Less Travelled at Frank Lake – Part 1

As you no doubt have realized by now, not only do I love shorebirds, but I also love Frank Lake. Today’s post is here to highlight not only the photos that I’ve taken at Frank Lake already this year, but also some areas that may be a little bit less familiar to the visitors to the Ducks Unlimited Protected Wetland just 50km SE of Calgary.

 

Frank Lake

Frank Lake

Of course everyone knows what great shots you can get just sitting at the established viewing blind, or on the mudflats around the parking loop at the end of the road at the main basin. For instance, Ruddy Ducks, Eared Grebes, and even Western Grebes can be regularly seen within a few meters of the main blind.

Western Grebe and young Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Western Grebe and young
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

eared grebe

Eared Grebe
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

female Ruddy

female Ruddy Duck
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

There are a couple of other places along the main access road that are good for shorebirds, Common Yellowthroat, White-faced Ibis, and even Black-crowned Night Herons. The first, labelled (1) on the map, is just east of the water inflow canal. The nutrients in the water provide a huge volume of nutrients in suspension to feed insects, plants, algae, and even shorebirds who eat small particulate food. Here are a few of the species that can often be found at this location in the summer.

Long-billed Dowitchers Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Long-billed Dowitchers
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

 

Common Yellowthroat Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Common Yellowthroat
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

American Avocets Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

American Avocets
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

 

Wilson's Snipe Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Wilson’s Snipe
Frank Lake – August 23, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

 

Great Blue Heron Frank Lake - August 23, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Great Blue Heron
Frank Lake – August 23, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

These are just a few of the areas off the beaten path at Frank Lake. With waterfowl hunting season opening on September 8, and the main gate being locked, there are a few other access points at Frank Lake that might be a bit better for drive-up birding. Check in next week for part 2 of this series on Frank Lake!

Fall Migration at Sikome Lake with the Friends of Fish Creek

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

The Autumn Birding Course with the Friends of Fish Creek began this week at one of the better places relatively untouched by the floods: Sikome Lake. We had quite a variety of birds on our walk, tallying up 38 species in just over two hours, and even netting another new year bird for my own personal list, which was a great bonus!

Sikome Lake September 8, 2013

Sikome Lake
September 8, 2013

We began our walk by heading south of 22X in search of waterfowl and shorebirds in either of the two ponds on the south end of Sikome Lake, but sadly didn’t get very good results. Thankfully, one of the Osprey gave us a few close fly-bys, and even perched up on one of the light standards to allow us all to get a good look at it.

Osprey giving us a fly-by Sikome Lake, September 8, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Osprey giving us a fly-by
Sikome Lake, September 8, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Osprey 2

Osprey on a light standard
Sikome Lake, September 8, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

While we were looking at the Osprey, both Bob Lefebvre and I heard a quiet chip-note in the bushes behind us, which turned out to be a pair of Clay-colored Sparrows. This little bird decided to fluff up its feathers and sit quite still while we all snapped away with our cameras and stared at it in full view.

Clay-colored Sparrow Sikome Lake - September 8, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Clay-colored Sparrow
Sikome Lake – September 8, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Unfortunately even the pond on the south side of 22X had very little activity as well, so we headed back towards the wooded area north of the two ponds, and boy did we get some great results! At first, we got some good close looks at two birds we can expect to see reliably over the next fourteen weeks. Both the Black-capped Chickadee and White-breasted Nuthatch were really hamming it up for us, but as we were preparing to move on, we had a surprise visit by a Blue-headed Vireo!

Black-capped Chickadee Sikome Lake - September 8, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@270mm + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/800sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 1600

Black-capped Chickadee
Sikome Lake – September 8, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@270mm + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/800sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 1600

White-breasted Nuthatch Sikome Lake - September 8, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

White-breasted Nuthatch
Sikome Lake – September 8, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

 

Blue-headed Vireo Sikome Lake - September 8, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Blue-headed Vireo
Sikome Lake – September 8, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

We headed up to a spot that is well known as the “Feeding Station”, a series of short posts that Gus Yaki has placed black-oil sunflower seeds on on each visit. It’s a great place to find chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches each time we visit, but this time around we were also treated to a wide variety of warblers, vireos, and even a good number of House Wrens. The only bird that managed to stay still long enough for me to get a shot of it was this Red-eyed Vireo, but I was happy with that!

Red-eyed Vireo Sikome Lake - September 8, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Red-eyed Vireo
Sikome Lake – September 8, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Before our walk had even started though, I did get a chance encounter with a pair of Cooper’s Hawks chasing each other through the treetops. This particular hawk seems like he’d had enough chasing for the time being, and was taking a break in the same tree our Great Horned Owl family was roosting in back in May.

Cooper's Hawk Sikome Lake - September 8, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Cooper’s Hawk
Sikome Lake – September 8, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Thanks for reading, and good birding. See you next week!