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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!

Carburn Park, Part 1 – South of the Sue Higgins Bridge

Posted by Dan Arndt

Our walk last week took us to Carburn Park once again. We actually headed there this week as well, so I’ll cover the birds we found on the south end of the park this week, and the north end in next week’s post.

 

Carburn Park - April 19, 2015

Carburn Park – April 19, 2015

The Sue Higgins Bridge south of the parking lot in Carburn Park is a regular roost (and nesting location) for any number of Rock Pigeons, and you can usually find at least a few here. It was really nice to find this rather beautifully colored bird, and in great light to show off some of the iridescence on the neck.

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

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

On the gravel bar just south of the bridge were over a hundred Franklin’s Gulls, and also a few Ring-billed Gulls flying by eating the freshly hatched insects flying up from the river. One of the advantages of being out so early is that the insects aren’t too high up, and neither are the gulls and swallows yet either.

Ring-billed Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 500

Ring-billed Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 500

Did I say swallows? Yes indeed, the Tree Swallows have really started showing up in big numbers too, and we had flocks overhead almost the whole time, wheeling and darting around and getting their fill of hatching mayflies and midges.

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

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

We followed the river edge south and came across some interesting sights, as well as the real first returning migrant Song Sparrows. We also found lots of American Robins foraging about, posing, and searching for nesting materials in preparation of the coming breeding season.

Ring-billed Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

American Robin
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Ring-billed Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

Song Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

One of the most amazing finds last week was a group of four Wood Ducks perched high up in a tree, set exactly at the wrong angle for our approach. By the time I got around to have the light in at least a little bit of a helpful angle, three of them had moved into hiding, but at least I got this lone female! Yes, Wood Ducks are tree nesting ducks. How crazy is that? They’re one of the few ducks that have strong feet and claws capable of gripping branches and bark.

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

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

At the far south end of our walk we found another large group of Franklin’s Gulls, many showing quite a bit of pink in the breast and bright red bills typical of fresh breeding plumage. Their raucous cacophony followed us all throughout the park these past two weeks, often drowning out some of the more subtle songs and chip notes of other returning birds, but it is really great to have these birds back!

Franklin's Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

Franklin’s Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

On our way back we came across a couple of active nests as well, one containing a pair of Northern Flickers (and presumably their eggs), as well as a Black-billed Magpie nest, with either mom or dad standing guard and keeping a sharp eye on us.

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

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

So that was another week with the Friends of Fish Creek. Next week we’ll see how the north end of the park treated us!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Friends of Fish Creek Spring Birding begins at the HQ, Sikome, and Burnsmead

Posted by Dan Arndt

I did say spring, right? Where did all the snow come from? While our last outing to South Glenmore Park was relatively cool, there wasn’t too much snow left, but in the week since we got a fresh dump of snow which is typical of our usual Calgary spring weather. Certainly the birds and mammals we saw on our walk showed at least a little displeasure at the situation!

Headquarters area, Sikome Lake and Burnsmead ponds - April 5, 2015

Headquarters area, Sikome Lake and Burnsmead ponds – April 5, 2015

We had three stops on our initial outing last week, with a visit to the Fish Creek Provincial Park Headquarters area, then down to Sikome Lake, and finally ended up at the Burnsmead ponds to check out some puddle ducks that one of our leaders, Rose Painter, had spotted before the beginning of our walk. We’ve also begun our walks at 8 AM for the spring course, so we’re getting out a little bit earlier and closer to sunrise to maximize the bird activity for the duration of our outing.

White-tailed Jackrabbit Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@230mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

White-tailed Jackrabbit
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@230mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

We spotted this little jackrabbit under a spruce tree, taking refuge from the snow. You can see she’s been hanging out in the same spot for at least a while, and possibly even a few hours given that there’s a completely cleared area right under her. It’s not easy for these rabbits at this time of year, as their camouflage can be almost entirely useless in the snow now that their coats have changed colour!

The main reason we stopped in this area though was to check on a couple of Great Horned Owls in the area, which we were able to find without too much trouble.

Great Horned Owl and owlet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Great Horned Owl and owlet
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Great Horned Owl and owlet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Great Horned Owl and owlet
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Here’s mom with a very chilly looking little owlet. Dad is nearby keeping a sharp eye on things though, and it looks like everyone’s happy and healthy, albeit a little cold and snowy!

Herring Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/9.0, ISO 400

Herring Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/9.0, ISO 400

We headed down to the Boat Launch and the area around Sikome Lake in search of some more owls, but also got some good looks at a few other birds as well, including this Herring Gull, part of a flock of about thirty of them on one of the larger gravel bars just north of the launch area!

Canada Goose on stormwater ponds Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Canada Goose on stormwater ponds
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

This was probably the best sighting of the day. The stormwater ponds are open and entirely ice-free! Soon we’ll have Cinnamon Teal, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and tons of other puddle ducks and shorebirds surrounding these ponds, and hopefully the Forster’s Terns will return and breed on their west ends as well again this year!

Red-winged Blackbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Red-winged Blackbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Maybe the second best sighting I’ve had all year was this young Red-winged Blackbird. My first of the year, and in many ways, the true “spring” bird. While I suspect that this little guy got lost in a flock of European Starlings that were heading north earlier than the rest of the blackbirds, they are starting to show up at more and more wetlands in and around Calgary!

male American Robin Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

male American Robin
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

This male American Robin was at the furthest south extent of our walk, searching among the rocks for a nice juicy arthropod or worm in the water below. There were a few of them along this stretch of rocks near a water outflow, picking their way up and down the little stream.

After that, we headed up to the ponds at Burnsmead in search of the Wood Ducks, Gadwall, and Northern Shovelers that Rose had seen earlier in the morning, and sure enough, we found them all! Wood Ducks are sometimes pretty hard to find, but we had a pair of males at these ponds last Sunday and there have been a few more that have shown up around the city this week as well.

Wood Ducks in flight Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Wood Ducks in flight
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

With all those colors, it’s easy to believe that these are the most photographed waterfowl in North America!

male Gadwall in flight Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

male Gadwall in flight
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

While Gadwall are relatively nondescript, they sure do show some stark contrasts in flight, and while they’re often quite hard to spot, this male (and his mate) were fairly accommodating as long as I was quiet, moved slow, and there wasn’t too much activity around the pond.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 200

Red-tailed Hawk in flight
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 200

All the activity on the ponds drew the attention of this Red-tailed Hawk, who made a fly-by at a bit of a distance to check out what all the fuss was about before flying off to the north.

Looking forward to the next outing and most definitely excited for all the new spring birds coming to Calgary over the next few months!

Have a great week, and good birding!

 

Some Spring Sparrows at Mallard Point

Posted by Dan Arndt

Our outing on March 15, 2015 was a bit chillier than we’ve been accustomed to the past few weeks, but it didn’t dampen our spirits on the slightest. In fact, we had quite a few new spring arrivals to keep us busy in the park, and to keep our eyes and ears attentive all morning long!

Mallard Point - 3-15-2015

Mallard Point – March 15, 2015

Sometimes it takes just the right light and the right conditions to make a relatively normal and common bird stand out. It was no different with the Mallards we saw occasionally at their namesake area in Fish Creek Provincial Park. With their bright green iridescent heads, bright yellow bills and curly tail feathers, they do take on a character of their own in the spring!

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

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

We were also greeted along our walk by quite a number of American Robins feeding in the nearby trees. Some on some Mountain Ash, some on local crab apple trees, and a few just sitting pretty and singing away. It’s really nice to see these guys back again! Pretty much all of the American Robins we found were males, which is exactly what we’d expect this time of year as they return from their overwintering grounds and establish territories. It’s usually the first early birds on the block that get the most coveted territories, so for them it pays to stay as close to ones own breeding grounds as possible. While many non-birders consider them the true harbinger of spring, it’s a well documented fact that there are quite a few of them that spend the winter right here in Calgary!

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

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

On the other hand, it’s relatively uncommon for us to have any gulls stick around over winter. They usually depart in mid- to late- November and return in early March. The two species that tend to show up the soonest are both the Ring-billed and the California Gull, both of which were present on the Bow River on our walk that Sunday morning.

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

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

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

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

We were delighted to find a couple of surprises on our walk though as well, the first being a lone Song Sparrow, giving chip calls and high pitched “seep” calls while it foraged under the overhanging sections of the river bank, and in a small willow nearby. While it didn’t sing, it did respond to both pishing and a quick call playback by popping up into view allowing a few of us to get both good looks, and a few good close pictures of it!

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

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

The second was a White-throated Sparrow hanging around a yard full of typical feeder birds, both House Sparrows and House Finches. Once again it was the diagnostic chip notes that made its presence known to us, and it did take a little while to pick it out from the underbrush. Once we had it found though, a little playback of chip notes and a bit of pishing brought it out into the open as well!

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

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

On the last leg of our journey one of our group drew our attention to a hawk-shaped outline in the trees bordering on the edge of the park. Its large size and relatively identifiable coloration pointed out the species to us right away, it’s just unfortunate that a couple of walkers passed right underneath it and flushed it from its perch just as we were getting into the open. Hopefully you can make the ID on this bird as well as we were able to!

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

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

It seems like every week more and more birds are arriving back in our beautiful city, and soon the leaves will be out on the trees and the warblers, vireos, and flycatchers of summer will be nesting, laying eggs, and raising their young!

Have a good week, and good birding!

 

Reliable stand-by boreal birds at Bebo Grove

Posted by Dan Arndt

Our trip last week took us to Bebo Grove in search of some recently found twitches that I was all too excited to search for. American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Black-backed Woodpeckers, and even a Barred Owl were regular sightings, but sadly not by our group on Sunday morning! We did have a good, long walk through both Bebo Grove and Shannon Terrace, and had a few special sightings of our own, but the great finds were the most reliable ones. Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, a few Red Squirrels, Blue Jays(!) and a good number of Pine Grosbeaks, counter to my interpretation of the Winter Finch Forecast which I posted about a few weeks ago.

Bebo Grove and Shannon Terrace - October 26, 2014

Bebo Grove and Shannon Terrace – October 26, 2014

An initial pass through the picnic area just down the stairs from the parking lot at Bebo Grove turned up none of the three target birds for the week, despite our constant scanning of every trunk and every branch that could potentially harbor them. After nearly half an hour in that area, we headed west towards Shannon Terrace, where things really started to pick up. The chatter of an angry Golden-crowned Kinglet alerted us to a mixed flock of chickadees and nuthatches, so we sat and watched them for a while, many of the photographers in our group (myself included) snapping away dozens of shots to make up for our dip earlier in the morning.

female White-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

female White-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

We moved on shortly after, and passed into a deeper, quieter section of the park between Bebo Grove and Shannon Terrace, and were pleased to find a few Boreal Chickadees and even spotted some Pine Grosbeaks quite high up in the trees, giving their easily identified calls.

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

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

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

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

Over at the west end of the park, just outside the Learning Center at Shannon Terrace, this adorable little Red Squirrel decided to ham it up for our group, sitting pretty while chewing away on one of the many spruce cones available from the trees in the area.

Red Squirrel Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Red Squirrel
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

It seems like Blue Jays are just about everywhere this fall. We’ve seen and heard many in just about every park we’ve been this year, and yet another one posed nicely for me while calling rather insistently at something out of our line of sight. Either that, or it just liked the sound of its own voice.

Blue Jay Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Blue Jay
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Around the corner from here we heard a flock of Pine Grosbeaks fly in, and flew down to the creek to take a drink. While I wasn’t quite close enough to snap the action, I did get a shot of this young male transitioning from juvenile (yellow) to adult (red) plumage, hence the ochre coloring.

Pine Grosbeak Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Pine Grosbeak
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

So we headed back to the east end of the park and another pass through the picnic area in search of our targets. Sadly, we dipped on them again, but we did find a very photogenic male White-breasted Nuthatch in the middle of a meal!

male White-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

male White-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

male White-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

male White-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Thanks as always for reading, and good birding!

Carburn Park – Part 1: The Ponds

Posted by Dan Arndt

My last two outings with the Friends of Fish Creek Spring Birding course were at Carburn Park, both on Thursday, April 17 and Sunday, April 20. Both days had their high points, and so I’ll be mixing and matching photos from each of those days here.

Carburn Park April 17 and April 20. 2014

Carburn Park
April 17 and April 20. 2014

While each day we did the route a little differently, the best birds were always in the same spots. On Sunday, we headed down to the Eric Harvie Bridge then walked back along the river with the sun behind us. While there weren’t too many birds near the bridge itself, as we moved northward we found our first Common Goldeneyes, an American Beaver, and shortly thereafter, a lone Muskrat above the beaver’s dam!

Common Goldeneye Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Common Goldeneye
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

American Beaver Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@200mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

American Beaver
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@200mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Muskrat Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Muskrat
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

We were also treated to some vigorously displaying Downy Woodpeckers, chasing each other up and down from tree to tree. These two especially were really going at it!

Downy Woodpeckers displaying Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Downy Woodpeckers displaying
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

We headed up the river, seeing a few Tree Swallows, a few Ring-billed and Franklin’s Gulls, and even heard a lone Song Sparrow calling from across the river before we headed back into the denser foliage. Most interestingly though was a little spot we had found on Thursday which was host to half a dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglets was still holding one little one singing away while the sun shone bright…. unlike Thursday, which was cloudy, gloomy and rather snowy!

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Up on the north end of the park we saw the local nesting pair of Bald Eagles in the distance, and both days it appeared that the female was still on the nest, brooding her eggs, while dad hunted for dinner.

Bald Eagle near nest Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Bald Eagle near nest
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

The real highlight of the trip on Thursday though was seeing this flock of nearly a hundred swallows, both Violet-green (look for the ones with the white rump band above the tail) and Tree Swallows (all the rest of them, with the bluish-black backs) flying low over the river chowing down on their lunch of freshly hatched insects. While I had initially guessed that we had seen about four or five Violet-green Swallows, looking back over at my photos I was able to find at least 10 individuals, the largest number of that species I’ve seen in Calgary at once!

Violet-green and Tree Swallows Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Violet-green and Tree Swallows
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Of course, they weren’t there in any great numbers on Sunday, which was much warmer, and much nicer weather, but there was a beautiful Mourning Cloak butterfly, my first of the season, sunning itself near the second of the large ponds. It was a great end to a great day!

Mourning Cloak butterfly Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Mourning Cloak butterfly
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Thanks again for reading, and good birding!

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

 

Travel Tuesday – Kinbrook Island Provincial Park

In all the commotion of the flood, the heartache, and the hard times many of us, our loved ones, and our friends are going through, sometimes you just need to get away for a little while. On Thursday night, my neighborhood was evacuated, and having expected the news earlier in the day, I packed up the jeep and convinced the better half that it would be a good idea to go camping for the weekend, until we could safely return home, so we packed up the only valuables in our basement (our camping supplies) and headed out.

Our destination was unknown initially, and we just wanted to get away from the swelling rivers and get a good night’s rest, but we found ourselves in Brooks, and headed down to the campground at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park.

Situated on Lake Newell, the campground is home to a number of grassland species that you’d be hard pressed to find here in Calgary, and many others that are here, but maybe a bit harder to track down. Located about an hour and a half south-east of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway, it is close enough that you can safely complete a full day trip there and back with plenty of birding time within the park grounds, but the camping is phenomenal, especially in early summer with all of the summer species singing their hearts out.

Tree Swallow hunting over the lake

Tree Swallow hunting over the lake

Western Kingbird looking quite regal

Western Kingbird looking quite regal

Baltimore Oriole catching some grub

Baltimore Oriole catching some grub

Mourning Dove skulking about

Mourning Dove skulking about

Brown Thrasher, lead vocals of the Dawn Chorus

Brown Thrasher, lead vocals of the Dawn Chorus

Ring-billed Gull portrait

Ring-billed Gull portrait

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

female Canvasback and young

female Canvasback and young

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

I'm very unused to seeing Brewer's Blackbirds in trees. Around Calgary they're most commonly seen on gravel roads near sloughs!

I’m very unused to seeing Brewer’s Blackbirds in trees. Around Calgary they’re most commonly seen on gravel roads near sloughs!

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

This male Northern Harrier was one of two Harriers I saw over the weekend. It was also the only species of raptor I saw on the campground over all three days.

This male Northern Harrier was one of two Harriers I saw over the weekend. It was also the only species of raptor I saw on the campground over all three days.

The irate chatter of the Marsh Wren was by far the most vocal bird I heard on the entire Nature Walk loop on Sunday morning.

The irate chatter of the Marsh Wren was by far the most vocal bird I heard on the entire Nature Walk loop on Sunday morning.

This Eastern Kingbird decided to come investigate what I was doing sitting down by the lake shore.

This Eastern Kingbird decided to come investigate what I was doing sitting down by the lake shore.

 

Now that I’m safely back in my unflooded home, my thoughts are turning more to the cleanup of our city, our parks, and hopes that all our readers made it through the worst of it unscathed.

Good birding, and stay safe.

European Starling Influx

A large number of blog readers have been emailing photos and leaving comments this week, asking about the large numbers of  ‘black’ birds in their yard. The answer to everyone is that they are European Starlings.

Large flocks of up to 100 birds at a time have been reported from many south east communities, and just outside the city. They are generally mentioned as visiting apple trees, crab apple trees, or in my case, a mountain ash tree loaded with berries. This winter fruit is heavily relied upon by native birds such as Bohemian Waxwings and American Robins that overwinter here, which is one reason many birders do not like to see Starlings in their yard.

First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks.