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The end of Winter in the Weaselhead and North Glenmore Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

For our last outing for our Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding group, we headed to the Weaselhead and North Glenmore Park to see what winter birds remained, and if any spring migrants had shown up around the Glenmore Reservoir and in the Weaselhead itself. While many of our winter birds had already left, a few die-hards were still around in good numbers, and we definitely were not disappointed with the numbers of spring birds we found all around the park.

Weaselhead - March 20, 2016

Weaselhead – March 20, 2016

We headed down into the Weaselhead first thing, checking the feeders along the way. I had headed down before our group to fill some of the feeders, and managed to spot an overwintering American Goldfinch, but when the rest of our group headed down as a whole all of the feeders were completely devoid of activity. Part of the reason for the vacancy is that now that the weather has turned, the birds were not quite as reliant on the feeders as insects had begun to hatch, and caches stored during the winter would provide plenty of food. We did have one little fellow who turned up, as always, at the tail end of the winter session.

Least Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Fresh from his winter hibernation, this Least Chipmunk seemed completely oblivious to our presence as he stuffed his face full of black-oil sunflower, peanuts, and various other seeds I’d placed at the feeder earlier in the morning. I just love how much character these little mammals have, and how single-minded they can be when they first wake up.

female Hairy Woodpecker

female Hairy Woodpecker

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 320|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

While she wasn’t right at the feeder, this Hairy Woodpecker was hanging out nearby, hammering a hole in the side of this tree to pick out a tasty meal.

male House Sparrow

male House Sparrow

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1250|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

A little further down the path and across the bridge we found this male House Sparrow and his mate picking out some twigs, grass and leaves to make their nest for the coming season. Given where they were loafing about, they may have even been considering setting up shop in one of the Cliff Swallow nests on the bridge!

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 2000|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Before we turned around to head back up the hill, we stopped and checked the logs and information signs that have been used all winter as a feeding station, and sure enough we found some American Tree Sparrows singing away in the brush, and coming out to feed. These little sparrows have an amazing song, and are just as striking to look at.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

We headed back up the hill and off to the east end of the Glenmore Reservoir to find our returning migrants, and were not disappointed on the first pond. A pair of American Wigeon were floating along the back end of the pond, well away from the Canada Geese and Mallards who were clearly set up on their nesting territories closer in.

White-winged Crossbill

immature White-winged Crossbill

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/320s|

White-winged Crossbill

immature White-winged Crossbill

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1000|Shutter speed: 1/320s|

 

White-winged Crossbill

immature male White-winged Crossbill

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 2000|Shutter speed: 1/250s|

While we were scanning the ponds for waterfowl, sparrows, and anything else we could find, we heard a flock of late White-winged Crossbills in the spruce trees to the north, picking through the few remaining cones that had made it through the winter. Both males and females were in fine form, with the majority of the birds being immature, and as always, seemed to be completely oblivious to our presence.

Canada Geese harassing some Mallards

Canada Geese harassing some Mallards

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 100|Shutter speed: 1/250s|

These Canada Geese seemed to have their feathers ruffled by the Mallards (in the shade of the rock on the left). It wasn’t until the Mallards had simply had enough and moved on that the geese left them alone. Seeing these inter-species interactions is always a treat, and late winter and early spring can lead to some great opportunities for this behaviour.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

Our best surprise of the day was coming across this male Great Horned Owl high up in a spruce trying to have a nap… until we disturbed him. He wasn’t pleased to see us. At all.

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

These Common Goldeneye (and a very confused Mallard) were still trying to display for the few remaining single females, though most others of their kind we’d found this late in the winter/spring season. Despite that, at least two of them seemed to making a positive impression!

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 2000|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

One of our last birds of the day, and a great one at that, was this Dark-eyed Junco of the Oregon subspecies that sang a bit for us, but also perched high up in the nearby bushes and allowed everyone very good looks.

The spring course with the Friends of Fish Creek is now well under way, so expect some new posts in the next few weeks from our more recent outings. Have a great week, and good birding!

 

Back to Bebo for a Beautiful Bird

Posted by Dan Arndt

Our second visit to Bebo Grove this winter was in search of a well-documented Varied Thrush that had been seen there for a few weeks, and thankfully it decided to stay in almost the exact same spot for our Sunday morning outing. We also got some of the regular boreal birds that we’ve come to expect at Bebo Grove, and while the morning was fairly quiet in terms of numbers of individual birds, we did have some nice close encounters that highlighted the morning overall.

Bebo Grove - February 21, 2016

Bebo Grove – February 21, 2016

While the highlight of the morning was the Varied Thrush, a bird we found early on and spent a good amount of time with, I’m going to save those images for the very end, since there are a few of them in different poses, and really it’s always good practice to save the best for last!

Our morning was, as I mentioned in the intro, quiet overall in terms of bird sightings, but there wasn’t a moment while travelling through the trees that we didn’t have at least forty or fifty Pine Siskins in the trees above us, trilling and chattering away. We even had a brief sighting of a Merlin, a Dark-eyed Junco, and a few other birds that I we haven’t seen as a group since the late fall.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/250s|

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/160s|

It’s almost like clockwork the areas in Bebo Grove where we find mixed flocks of Boreal and Black-capped Chickadees, and where the bird activity picks up bit by bit to a startling cacophony of sound and being dive-bombed by chickadees, nuthatches, and the odd kinglet or creeper. There were a few more Boreal Chickadees here than the last time we visited this little grove, and they had a very well established pecking order, with one larger bird coming in first, then the next two coming in almost as soon as it had left.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

We even had a few close encounters with some Pine Siskins once again, coming down into the lower boughs of the spruce trees to feed on hatching insects as well as on the fallen cones.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

One of the bird species that seems to be diminishing in numbers in southern Alberta right now are the Pine Grosbeaks. While there are a few places to still reliably find them in the city limits, I suspect that they’re heading north and west as our early spring has really ramped up over the last few weeks. Similarly, both White-winged and Red Crossbills, as well as Bohemian Waxwings seem to have all but withdrawn from southern Alberta a few weeks earlier than they normally would, despite there still being an abundance of food for them.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/320s|

Another species we found picking through the lower branches in search of freshly hatched insects (in February, at that! The wonders of these long-lasting el Nino chinooks!) were a few Golden-crowned Kinglets. These birds were unusually unaware of our presence once again, and so we had really good looks at them while they fluttered about almost like hummingbirds feeding from the tips of the branches and all the way along each small branch and twig.

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/200s|

Of course the real highlight was this male Varied Thrush. I’ve been seeing quite a few of these birds in Revelstoke, British Columbia in my trips there all winter, but these are certainly a great bird to find in Alberta, especially one returning to the same area for such a long period of time in the winter!

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/320s|

We even got to hear him singing away for a few minutes, while a second male a little further off in the distance sung counter to him. If you’ve never really heard these birds before, their song is a long, high pitched piercing note, much like the sound of the brakes of a train squealing to a stop.

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 6400|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 6400|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/200s|

We must have spent a good half hour with this bird, watching him from all angles while he posed, sung, posed again, and eventually moved just a little higher in the trees as the sun came around to illuminate him a little bit. It was probably the best look at a Varied Thrush some members of our group had ever had, as these birds can be quite flighty, even where they are abundant.

Have a great week, and good “spring” birding!

Christmas Bird Counts – Part II

Posted by Dan Arndt

Just before Christmas I had to send my long lens (Sigma 150-500mm) in for repair, so am back to using my original birding lens, my Sigma 70-300mm. As such, I can’t get quite as close to the birds as I used to, but it does allow me to have a bit better control over framing more “artsy” shots, but also making do with what I’ve got to use, rather than relying on the reach of the lens to make the image better. I do hope that I managed to do that well with the few photos I was able to take on the Dinosaur Provincial Park Christmas Bird Count, and the annual New Years Day Fish Creek Provincial Park Bird Count.

While it’s a great area to bird in both the summer and winter, the day we headed out there (December 30) was bitterly cold, and it seemed that the birds were nowhere to be found. In previous years, there were a few groups covering the whole area, but this year Nick Bartok and I were the only two out on the count so we had to cover the entire count circle, giving us only enough time to see and hear the birds we could observe from the car. What that meant for us was that we would miss out on a lot of the smaller birds we usually would hear on a walked route, but it did mean we got to cover way more area.

The cold weather made shooting from the vehicle a little tough, with the heat distortion from the vehicle and from the heat radiating off the snow from the bright sunlight, but I managed a few shots.

Great Horned Owl, east of Patricia - December 30, 2015

Great Horned Owl, east of Patricia – December 30, 2015

::Aperture: ƒ/5.6|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 80|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

One of the first good birds of the day was this Great Horned Owl that we stumbled upon while driving down one back road east of Patricia.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Patricia - December 30, 2015

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Patricia – December 30, 2015

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 320|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Steveville - December 30, 2015

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Steveville – December 30, 2015

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/1250s|

By far, the most numerous birds that we found on the Dinosaur Provincial Park count were Sharp-tailed Grouse. They seemed to be everywhere in the trees and shrubs nibbling on the buds for their breakfast and lunch!

Back in Calgary, the Fish Creek Provincial Park New Years Day Bird Count was a little bit (but not too much!) warmer, but we got a few good birds to start off the year.

Great Horned Owl - Fish Creek Provincial Park - January 1, 2016

Great Horned Owl – Fish Creek Provincial Park – January 1, 2016

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/250s|

Brown Creeper - Fish Creek Provincial Park - January 1, 2016

Brown Creeper – Fish Creek Provincial Park – January 1, 2016

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 3200|Shutter speed: 1/200s|

At the Ranche, the usual pair of Great Horned Owls were present, along with a great opportunity to see the elusive Brown Creeper as the sun came over the horizon.

Sikome Lake - January 1, 2016

Sikome Lake – January 1, 2016

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 70mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/320s|

The snow covered poplars at Sikome Lake made for a great backdrop to see all these great birds.

Mallards, Geese, and a Wigeon - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Mallards, Geese, and a Wigeon – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 250|Shutter speed: 1/1600s|

Mallards in flight - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Mallards in flight – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 160|Shutter speed: 1/1600s|

Bald Eagle - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Bald Eagle – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 250|Shutter speed: 1/1600s|

The usual accumulations of waterfowl along the Bow River were no exception to the rule, and there were even a couple of great surprises in the water, including an American Wigeon, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and more than a few Common Mergansers. A couple of fly-bys of Bald Eagles flushed many of the birds up briefly, but they soon came back down into the water at the confluence of Fish Creek and the Bow River.

American Robin - Shaw's Meadow - January 1, 2016

American Robin – Shaw’s Meadow – January 1, 2016

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

Hermit Thrush - Shaw's Meadow - January 1, 2016

Hermit Thrush – Shaw’s Meadow – January 1, 2016

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 300mm|ISO: 320|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

At the compilation lunch, Bob and I waited around to hear if there had been any particularly noteworthy observations, and when we heard that a Hermit Thrush and American Robins had been seen at the water outflow at Shaw’s Meadow, we headed over there right away. It took us a while of watching the American Robins and got to see them feeding in the water, and finally got a great look at the Hermit Thrush, but only briefly. Two shots later, it disappeared into the deep brush, but it was more than long enough to get a look at the bird, identify it, and snap a few frames.

While normally this post would be a recap of the first week of the Friends of Fish Creek outings, I was away for that first trip, so keep an eye out for my post next week for the birds from our second week out at Bebo Grove!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Autumn Migrants at Lafarge Meadows

Posted by Dan Arndt

My first week back leading the Friends of Fish Creek outings after being away at work for most of the month of September turned out to be quite the adventure, with a few really great finds.

Lafarge Meadows - October 4, 2015

Lafarge Meadows – October 4, 2015

The light was a bit dim early on, but it seemed as though the day would be productive as the first really impressive birds we found were a couple of Green-winged Teal, back in their striking breeding plumage. The poor light didn’t do them justice though.

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Green-winged Teal – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Not too far from him was a young Pied-billed Grebe, one of the seven we would see throughout the day.

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Pied-billed Grebe – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

We followed the bank of the Bow River north at the beginning of our outing, turning up a Bald Eagle perched across the river in a tree. A couple of us remarked how this might have even been the same bird in the same tree as we had seen earlier this year in the winter course.

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Bald Eagle – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

We were a little surprised a few minutes later when we were passed by a lone American White Pelican, which we would see nine more of later in the day. I think this might be the latest I have seen these massive white birds within the city.

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American White Pelican – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

While he was flying by, we also heard a chip note of a nearby Yellow-rumped Warbler, another migrant that was foraging in the low trees and shrubs. IMGP1356

Yellow-rumped Warbler – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Things got a lot quieter for the next half hour or so, as we crossed the tributary stream and walked along the banks of the river that had been hardest hit by the flood two years ago. We were almost ready to turn around and head back to the south ponds when things began to chatter and chirp all around us. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers were the first ones to draw our attention.

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female Downy Woodpecker – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

While we were watching her, we heard the chip notes of some sparrows in the nearby shrubs, and on investigation, we found a couple of Song Sparrows (and a Lincoln’s sparrow that we heard, but could not track down for the life of us!)

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Song Sparrow – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

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Song Sparrow – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

The best sighting of the day (and maybe of the year?) was found while I was crouched down taking some photos of this dragonfly who was all but immobilized due to the cold, and hanging under a blade of grass.

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Dragonfly sp. – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

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Dragonfly sp. – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

While I was carefully focusing on the detail of this beautiful little insect, the call of “HOODED WARBLER!” from Bob Lefebvre came about fifty meters south, as much of the group had continued on and were carefully scanning a group of songbirds foraging in the low brush. After a good half hour, I did manage to capture a few images of this quick little skulking bird, though I was more than happy to just see it!

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Hooded Warbler – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/400s|
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Hooded Warbler – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

It was an incredible find, and we all left quite satisfied with how the day had turned out. We headed back to end our walk and stopped briefly to enjoy the antics of the American Coots and American Wigeon fighting over the vegetation they were picking up from the bottom of the south pond.

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American Wigeon and American Coots – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

So all in all, I’d say that my first outing back was a rousing success!

I did manage a few outings during the next week to the Bow River Irrigation Canal, so keep an eye here for that next Tuesday!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Free Ticket Winner for Film The Messenger

The winner of the pair of free tickets to the film The Messenger is David Severson. Thanks to all who entered.

If you plan to attend the show you can still use the discount code to get $2 off admission. The code is Birdcon-15! (include the exclamation point). The Messenger is an important film and has been getting excellent reviews.

The film plays at Eau Claire Cinemas on Friday October 2 at 7:15 pm and Saturday October 3 at 12 noon, as part of the Calgary International Film Festival. See this site for more information and to view the trailer.

See The Messenger at Calgary International Film Festival

The Messenger, an important film about the worldwide decline in songbird numbers, is playing in Calgary as part of the Calgary International Film Festival. There will be two showings: Friday October 2 at 7:15 pm, and Saturday October 3 at 12 noon, at the Eau Claire Cinemas.

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A Hot Docs 2015 Top Ten Audience Favourite, THE MESSENGER takes us on passionate journey around the world, as we learn about how the migratory patterns of the songbird are an essential component of our planet’s complex ecosystem. Through skillful narration and camerawork, THE MESSENGER takes on a visually stunning and intimate journey into the endangered world of the songbird and the need for immediate intervention to prevent their extinction. Director Su Rynard will be at both screenings, and University of Alberta biologist Erin Bayne at the Friday screening, for a Q&A.
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Birds Calgary has two pairs of free tickets to give away to our subscribers. To enter a draw for the free tickets, reply to the email version of this post, (which only subscribers get), and replace the “To” line (“donotreply[at]wordpress.com”) with birdscalgary[at]gmail.com. Winners will be drawn randomly from all replies received by midnight on Sunday September 27.
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If you want to buy tickets to the show, you can get a $2 discount off the admission price by entering the code “Birdcon-15!” when purchasing online. Go to The Messenger site for more information or to buy tickets.

Birds of the Weaselhead – May 31 and June 14

Posted by Dan Arndt

Wow, hard to believe it’s July already! The rush of spring birding is over, but there are still some birding outings to recap from the Friends of Fish Creek Spring course. We headed to the Weaselhead for the May Species Count on May 31, and headed back there again on June 14, and most of the same species were found each time, but we did have a couple unique finds on each trip. Because this is my first time trying to overlay two different walks into one post, I’ve color coded our outings in the attached map.

Weaselhead - May 31 and June 14 2015

Weaselhead – May 31 and June 14 2015

Our outing on May 31 is in red in the above image, while our trip on June 14 is in blue. We also had significantly different weather each morning, with the weather on May 31 being absolutely incredible, clear, and bright, while June 14 was a bit gloomy, dark, and overcast with occasional rain here and there.

We had a couple great birds on our first outing at the top of the hill, with both a Spotted Towhee and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird right at the top.

Spotted Towhee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

Spotted Towhee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

At the feeders a bit further down the hill, we found a couple of Tree Swallows guarding their nests early in the day, catching some sun and warming up for the busy day ahead.

Tree Swallow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

Tree Swallow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

We almost missed out on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird on June 14th, except for a brief glance up the hill caught this little guy hanging out in the gloom.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 80

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 80

The Rufous Hummingbirds are absolutely amazing and can always be found in the same place every year. I’ve yet to see a female on this slope, but I suspect that if it wasn’t a good area for the males to find a mate, they wouldn’t be here year after year! Forgive me for sharing as many photos as possible of these beautiful little fireballs.

Rufous Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Rufous Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Rufous Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Rufous Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Rufous Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Rufous Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Rufous Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Rufous Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

We headed back to the area south of the Elbow River and found the usual Eastern Phoebes at their regular spot as well, this one having caught some fresh breakfast!

Eastern Phoebe with diving beetle Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Eastern Phoebe with diving beetle
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

As we headed towards the silverberry meadow, we heard the typical buzzing of the Calliope Hummingbirds in this area, but none of them really cooperated with the us and the sunlight, but I’m still pretty happy with the results!

Calliope Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/9.0, ISO 640

Calliope Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/9.0, ISO 640

Calliope Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/4000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 2000

Calliope Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/4000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 2000

Calliope Hummingbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Calliope Hummingbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

We did hear a relatively uncommon bird back beyond the dense spruce where we have Boreal Chickadees each winter, and it turned out to be an Ovenbird singing on territory. Sadly, he had moved on by mid-June, but it was really quite a treat to hear and see one of these guys right our back yard!

Ovenbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Ovenbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Down at the far end of the Weaselhead, we had another Calliope Hummingbird in a spot I’d never seen one before, but at the far south end were a number of Grey Catbirds flitting around in the aspens, mewing away and singing their odd, disjointed songs.

Grey Catbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Grey Catbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Another nice treat were a few Ring-necked Ducks which have been at these south ponds for a few weeks. It seems like there’s a lot more of these around this year, as they just keep turning up all over the city, but maybe it’s just a matter of getting out into the places they like to hang around a little bit more.

Ring-necked Duck Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

Ring-necked Duck
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

On our walk back to the start we had our share of great birds as well, like this American Goldfinch singing from high in the trees, or the usual Cliff Swallows under the bridge over the Elbow River.

American Goldfinch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

American Goldfinch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Cliff Swallow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Cliff Swallow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Have a great week, and good birding! Watch for the Monday supplemental post covering what we found at our visits to North Glenmore Park on these two outings!

The Beautiful Birds of Bowmont

Posted by Dan Arndt

Two weeks ago our group visited Bowmont Park, one of the few parks we often visit in the northwest quadrant of Calgary with the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses. It’s a bit of a special park, as it borders on the Bow River, but also a gravel quarry which is home to a pair of Osprey in the summer, a few small ponds, and a south facing slope allowing for a wide variety of songbirds.

Bowmont Park - May 24, 2015

Bowmont Park – May 24, 2015

This was the first week of outings where Yellow Warblers were the most visible. All spring and summer long, these little yellow fireballs will be singing all over the place until they manage to find a mate and raise their young. They’re really quite fun little guys to watch, and it’s always nice when they’re so easy to photograph, like they were that morning!

Gray Catbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Yellow Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

I mentioned the Osprey nest earlier, and this is one area where Enmax has set up an Osprey platform to prevent the Osprey from nesting inside the gravel quarry on the power lines. When we rounded the corner to check out the nest, we were greeted to this sight:

Canada Goose Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

Canada Goose
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

The platform had been taken over by a family of Canada Geese, but thankfully the Osprey had found another location to nest nearby. We walked over to the river a little before coming out underneath the Osprey nest, and found this Tree Swallow picking up nesting material right off the pathway.

Gray Catbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

Tree Swallow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

On our way out to the main pathway, we spotted this Clay-colored Sparrow finishing up his shift at the gravel quarry and heading out for the day. They’re such industrious little workers! This was just after 8:00 in the morning and already he’d put in a full day of work.

Clay-colored Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Clay-colored Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Speaking of hard workers, this Osprey was taking trips to and from the new nest all morning, each time taking more and more branches in to build up the nest to an appropriate size, wedging them into the nest each time.

Osprey Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Osprey
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

The pond at the back of the quarry which is usually unbelievably productive turned up next to nothing for us. It seemed rather unusual, so we headed further up the north slope, and found this perched Swainson’s Hawk waiting for us up there.

Swainson's Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/10.0, ISO 800

Swainson’s Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/10.0, ISO 800

While we had some good looks at a few birds on the northwest hill, we had much better looks at them a bit later on, but thankfully we did manage to get a nice close look at a Northern Rough-winged Swallow on the river near the pathway on our way back. These birds can be somewhat hard to find around the city, but often along the Bow River.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/10.0, ISO 1600

Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/10.0, ISO 1600

We gave the pond a second chance to redeem itself, but sadly it was just as empty as it had been on our first visit, so we walked along the back end of the quarry and were treated to another great view of a male Yellow Warbler singing his heart out.

Yellow Warbler Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Yellow Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Our last good bird of the day was a lone Gray Catbird, of which we had seen a few earlier in the day but at a bit further distance. This beautifully drab bird was singing his heart out over and over again from the aspens and willows nearby. The cinnamon undertail and jet black cap are the only real splashes of color on these birds, but their song is unmistakable.

Gray Catbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Gray Catbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

And that was another great week of birding. Have yourself a wonderful week, and good birding!

A “fallout” of thrushes from Bankside to Mallard Point

Posted by Dan Arndt

Last Sunday was a great day for birding along the Bow River. The weather had been a little iffy for a couple days before, and overnight had cleared up enough to allow a whole lot of birds to begin moving through, and boy did we see and hear a lot of migrants!

Bankside to Mallard Point - May 17, 2015

Bankside to Mallard Point – May 17, 2015

We walked around at Mallard Point for a bit early on, and found a whole lot of Swainson’s Thrushes in the underbrush (say that five times fast) and hearing a number of Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers singing in the bushes. From there, we drove down to the ponds at Burnsmead to look for the Wood Ducks we had there earlier in the year, but dipped on those. We did hear a couple of Western Tanagers in the saplings on the north side of the road, one of which posed nicely for us.

Western Tanager Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

Western Tanager
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

From there we headed over to Bankside, in search of sapsuckers and maybe a few other warblers, but aside from hearing a couple here and there, none of them popped up into view. We headed north along the river and one of our keen-eyed participants noticed this Say’s Phoebe across the river, which was quickly harassed and scared off by a newly arrived Eastern Kingbird, but eventually the two of them worked out their differences.

Say's Phoebe Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Say’s Phoebe
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Moments after we spotted this fellow, a pair of American White Pelicans gave us a very close flyover, enough to tell this male by the large crest present on the bill.

American White Pelican Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

American White Pelican
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

The morning continued with us finding Song Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, and Swainson’s Thrushes absolutely everywhere, but none of them really allowed us to get too close, and despite our efforts, we couldn’t quite pick out a Hermit Thrush or a Veery from the pack. We did hear a few of these beautiful male Baltimore Orioles singing in the poplar trees across the river!

Baltimore Oriole Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Baltimore Oriole
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Upstream in a section of the bank that had been carved out in the 2013 flood we found a colony of Bank Swallows setting up shop. It’s always fun to watch them dip and weave over the river and in and out of their tiny homes.

Bank Swallows Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 2000

Bank Swallows
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 2000

We continued upstream to find a grove where we’ve found nesting American Kestrels in one of the large hollowed out trees, but unfortunately came up empty in the trees. On the river though, we found a lifer for most of our group, great looks at a usually hard to spot warbler, and yet another great look at one of the Swainson’s Thrushes along our path.

Northern Waterthrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Northern Waterthrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

We noticed this Northern Waterthrush darting along the bottom of the logs and accumulated debris, but popped out a couple of times for us to take photos. We also had some of our best looks at a couple of Swainson’s Thrushes bobbing up and down along the brush pile.

Swainson's Thrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Swainson’s Thrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Our best bird of the day, and arguably of the entire course so far, was this Gray-cheeked Thrush. They’re a rare migrant in southern Alberta, and it seems that a few of them might have been included in the overnight thrush fallout, as they also banded 5 of them at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary bird banding station that morning.

Gray-cheeked Thrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Gray-cheeked Thrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

We spent some time with the thrushes before heading back upstream, to find our first goslings of the season, and remarked at just how big they were already!

Canada Goose goslings Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

Canada Goose goslings
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

As we wrapped up for the day at Mallard Point, we heard the Least Flycatchers calling from the bushes again and I decided I had to at least try to get a picture. All I was able to snap was this record shot before it flew off. I’m sure I’ll get better ones later on this year!

Least Flycatcher Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Least Flycatcher
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

 

 

Sparrows, waterfowl, and warblers at South Glenmore Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

Our outing on May 3 took us to South Glenmore Park. Following our second week at Carburn Park, I headed over to the Glenmore Reservoir to try to find some water birds, and was able to get a couple photos of a distant female Red-breasted Merganser and White-winged Scoter, spurring on the visits for the following week. While we didn’t get either of them on our official outing, we did get a whole bunch of other great spring migrants, and had an amazing time finding all the new birds.

Red-breasted Merganser Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Red-breasted Merganser
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

White-winged Scoter Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

White-winged Scoter
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

South Glenmore Park May 3, 2015

South Glenmore Park
May 3, 2015

For the past few years, a family of Common Ravens has nested right near the parking lot. Apparently this adult Raven has decided that peanut butter is a perfect breakfast treat. I like his thinking.

Common Raven Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Common Raven
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

As we walked around the point, we found Red-necked, Western, and Horned Grebes but sadly we couldn’t pick out a single Clark’s among over 75 Western Grebes. At least we had a couple Horned Grebes that were willing to let us get close.

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

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

The view from the top of the hill above the main pathway allowed us to get even better looks at some of the Western Grebes out on the reservoir.

Western Grebes Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

Western Grebes
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

In the trees along the ridge there were Tree Swallows and Northern Rough-winged Swallows hawking for insects above the canopy, but the most numerous songbird of the day was the Yellow-rumped Warbler. Along this stretch, there must have been at least 20 of them!

Yellow-rumped Warbler Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Another new bird of the season was the Savannah Sparrow. This one seems to have a little less yellow in the lores than I’m used to, but his song was unmistakable!

Savannah Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Savannah Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

We then circled out to the west through the boreal and aspen parkland areas on the west end of the park, but came up with very little. We didn’t even see a single Common Loon on the entire reservoir that day, I think mostly because of how open the water was, and how many water bodies outside of the city were open after such a mild winter.

On our way back to the parking lot, we did have a close fly-by of this Swainson’s Hawk, one of our first ones of the season for the Sunday morning group!

Swainson's Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/7.1, ISO 500

Swainson’s Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/7.1, ISO 500

As we returned to the parking lot, I decided that we hadn’t really had much luck with the sparrows on the pond, so sat in the grass and waited for them to pop out. I was welcomed very shortly after by both a White-crowned Sparrow as well as a Lincoln’s Sparrow. Well worth the effort!

Lincoln's Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Lincoln’s Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

White-crowned Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

White-crowned Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Have a great week, and good birding!