Posted by Bob Lefebvre
The lower Bow River in Calgary, downstream of the weir, is a great spot for winter eagle-watching. There is a plentiful food source, consisting of dead or dying Canada Geese, Mallards, and other waterfowl. Among the tens of thousands of birds on the open parts of the river, there are always some that are sick or injured (some of them wounded by hunters). Bald Eagles will readily scavenge the dead birds.
Near-adult Bald Eagle eating a Mallard, Beaverdam Flats, December 8, 2013. Photo by Dan Arndt.
The Bow River is warmed by runoff from the waste-water treatment plants and other city runoff. Because of this, the Bow below downtown Calgary is often the only large body of open water in the area during cold winters. (This has only been the case since about 1975. Before that, there were no waterfowl here in the winter since there was no open water. There were very few eagles seen here until about 2000, as they recovered from critically low numbers caused mostly by DDT poisoning.) These days, good numbers of eagles, mostly juveniles, are seen on the river in winter at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Inglewood Golf course, Carburn Park, Beaverdam Flats, and all the way down through Fish Creek Park. The largest concentrations seem to be at Carburn and Beaverdam.
When the wind is blowing from the west, as it often is, you can watch the eagles soaring right over your head. Here are some photos taken by John Stegeman on a Friends of Fish Creek outing in January.
Adult Bald Eagle in flight, Beaverdam Flats, January 24, 2015. Photo by John Stegeman.
Adult Bald Eagle, Beaverdam Flats, January 24, 2015. Photo by John Stegeman.
Juvenile Bald Eagle in flight, Beaverdam Flats, January 24, 2015. Photo by John Stegeman.
Occasionally the eagles will gather in a small area and you see quite a number of them together. Here is a photo taken in January by Ron Friend.
Five Bald Eagles and four Common Ravens in one tree, Beaverdam Flats, January 21, 2015. Photo by Ron Friend.
A few years ago I saw fourteen juvenile Bald Eagles in one tree at Carburn Park. I mentioned this to Gus Yaki, and he said he had seen seventeen at once at Beaverdam Flats, and he once met a person from the adjacent Lynnwood neighbourhood who claimed he had a photo of an incredible thirty-one!! (He agreed to send Gus the photo but either couldn’t find it or lost the email address – if you’re out there, please send it to us!)
Thirty-one might be the unofficial Calgary record, but here we have an amazing photo of twenty-six Bald Eagles (and two Common Ravens) taken at Beaverdam in January 2009 by Ron Kube. (Click the photo to enlarge it. It can be hard to spot every last one, but there are indeed 26 eagles. The one that’s really hard to see is just above and to the right of the adult that is at 9 o’clock, a little in from the left edge. The ravens are together at the lower centre of the photo.)
Adult and juvenile Bald Eagles (26) and Common Ravens (2). Beaverdam Flats, January 3, 2009. Photo by Ron Kube.
Tomorrow, Family Day, will present a good opportunity to look for eagles in Calgary. Dan Arndt and Rose Painter are leading a Nature Calgary field trip to Carburn Park. See the Nature Calgary field trip page here.