Search Results for: pileated

A Monday Two-fer: Bebo Grove (again!) and Carburn Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

The depths of the bitterly cold winter have finally subsided, and so I think it’s about time I get caught up on our last two outings.

Two weeks ago we headed to Bebo Grove in search of the Great Gray Owl, Barred Owl, and American Three-toed Woodpecker that had been seen there once again through the winter. We explored some of the back trails which I had never been on, but now that I know these areas exist, I’ll definitely be back, especially come summer!

Bebo Grove -

Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014

After a search where the Three-toed Woodpecker had been seen before, we moved deeper into Bebo Grove. As we crossed Fish Creek, this nearly adult Bald Eagle flew into the trees nearby, and was promptly mobbed by Black-capped Chickadees and a few Downy Woodpeckers before flying off once again.

Bald Eagle Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Bald Eagle
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

It was cold. Bitterly cold. The birds seemed distant, and few and far between, but sometimes the lack of birds will draw attention to some of the other features worth photographing. These grasses were poking up through the water of one tributary stream to Fish Creek, and had accumulated a good coating of frost on them.

Frost on Fish Creek Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Frost on Fish Creek
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

As we passed the area where the Great Gray Owl had been seen, we heard a single White-breasted Nuthatch singing away, and a little later, one of three Pileated Woodpeckers for the day flew by, and if we hadn’t turned at just the right time, we would have completely missed the fly-by.

Pileated Woodpecker Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Pileated Woodpecker
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

White-breasted Nuthatch Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

White-breasted Nuthatch
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

As we walked through another area I’d never explored before in search of the Barred Owl, we came up empty once again, but of course I did find something to shoot. There’s no point spending three hours in -30 degree weather unless you get some images to take home with you! This stand of aspen looked like a black and white photo as it was, and I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I never get tired of seeing row after row of them.

Aspen  Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/640sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 320

Aspen
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/640sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 320

From that point onward, things started getting busier and louder. Another pan through the grove where the Three-toed Woodpecker had turned up for others only turned up a Golden-crowned Kinglet, a few of both White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches, and our only Hairy Woodpecker we found that day.

Golden-crowned Kinglet Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

female Hairy Woodpecker Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

female Hairy Woodpecker
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

The following week, we visited Carburn Park. This was the first time since the floods last year that I’d really spent any appreciable time in Carburn Park, so it was really quite striking to see the damage that had been done.

Carburn Park March 2, 2014

Carburn Park
March 2, 2014

Two weeks earlier, a Hermit Thrush had been seen here, but once again sub -30 temperatures kept the park quiet, and none of our attendees even came out, so Gus, Bob and I walked the park in a little over two hours.

The Bow River was full of life, much of which had only recently begun moving for the day. The Buffleheads were by far the most active of any of the birds on the river, diving again and again in search of food.

female Buffleheads Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

female Buffleheads
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

As before in Bebo Grove, when things slowed down in terms of wildlife activity, nature provided. Shooting across the river at the opposite bank, hoarfrost coated the willows and smaller bushes beautifully.

Hoarfrost Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 160

Hoarfrost
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 160

Very few birds were present as we headed away from the river, but this Northern Flicker posed, um, interestingly, showing us what it really thought of the bitter cold. I do like the detail and color in the shafts of the flight feathers and the wispy body feathers.

Northern Flicker Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Flicker
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

We even had to double-take when we began hallucinating and seeing mythical creatures, like this (very cold) unicorn Canada Goose.

female Buffleheads Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Unicorn (Canada Goose)
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

One thing that really stood out all along the floodplain in Carburn Park was the height of the flood debris, once again completely covered in hoarfrost, at waist level, looking for all the world like little frozen bird nests.

Frosted flood debris Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 200

Frosted flood debris
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 200

And as we finished up our walk, we did find one of the local celebrities here in Carburn Park in the form of a small herd of White-tailed Deer. Not only were there a few very docile females, but there was also a pair of males, one with a well established rack of antlers, while the younger looked like a sad impersonation attempt.

femaleWhite-tailed Deer Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

femaleWhite-tailed Deer
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

adult male White-tailed Deer Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

adult male White-tailed Deer
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

young male White-tailed Deer Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/125sec., ƒ/18, ISO 1600

young male White-tailed Deer
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/125sec., ƒ/18, ISO 1600

Thanks for reading folks, and good birding! I’m very, very happy that the weather here in Calgary has made a significant turn for the better, and look forward to many migrants arriving in the coming weeks!

Expecting the unexpected in the Weaselhead

Posted by Dan Arndt

My first visit back to the Weaselhead Nature Area since the Christmas Bird Count in mid-December turned up a much different array of birds. I always seem to find that birding in the Weaselhead, no matter the time of year, comes in fits and starts. In the winter, this is even more pronounced, as there were times where we’d walked for twenty minutes between running into any birds whatsoever, let alone anything less common than a Black-capped Chickadee.

Weaselhead Nature Area February 2, 2014

Weaselhead Nature Area
February 2, 2014

Maybe it’s the abundance of birds at the start and at the end of this walk that sets the tone for the outings here. The first set of feeders were being visited by the usual Black-capped Chickadees, but with them were a trio of Downy Woodpeckers, a male and female Hairy Woodpecker, and half a dozen amorous House Finches, feeding and singing up a storm.

House Finch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

House Finch (male)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

House Finch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

House Finch (male)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

It was quite a sight to watch the female Hairy Woodpecker pick out a seed from the feeder…

Hairy Woodpecker (female) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Hairy Woodpecker (female)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

… and then climb up the tree a short way, place the sunflower seed into the hole, and crack it open with a few rapid taps.

Hairy Woodpecker (female) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Hairy Woodpecker (female)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

On our first pass of the feeders at the bottom of the hill, our only real bird of note was this White-breasted Nuthatch, “hank, hank, hank”ing away for no apparent reason, until a second male came into view before the two of them flew off in a scuffle.

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

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

While we headed from there to our usual Boreal Chickadee grove, flock after flock of Bohemian Waxwings flew overhead, and we even had a pair of chance sightings of a Bald Eagle, and then a few minutes later, a Rough-legged Hawk, which bulked up our species count just a bit more for the day.

Upon arriving at the grove, Bob stopped the group abruptly to point out a single Brown Creeper feeding at the base of one of the larger spruce trees and I snapped off a couple of photos of this elusive species. I suppose like most of the other birds we found today, these birds simply don’t care what a groundhog says about the season, they know that it’s time to breed soon, and they need to collect their energy before things get into full swing!

Brown Creeper Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Brown Creeper
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

We did also find a lone Boreal Chickadee after a few minutes of patience, but unfortunately it didn’t stick around long enough to pose for a photo. Shame!

And so began a long, quiet stretch of our walk. While we did have a few flocks of Black-capped Chickadees with the odd White- or Red-breasted Nuthatch thrown in, we observed no Northern Goshawks, no Merlins, no Cooper’s or Sharp-shinned Hawks, and the largest Bohemian Waxwing flock we found deeper into the Weaselhead was a whopping four (yes, 4) birds.

It all paid off though once we began our trip back. While I was bringing up the rear of the group, the lead observers spotted a female Pileated Woodpecker, which we had seen earlier on in the walk, but this time she was much closer. She flew back into some deadfall, out of sight, and while the rest of the group trudged on, I thought I’d try my luck photographing her.

What do you think?

Pileated Woodpecker (female) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Pileated Woodpecker (female)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

And closer still.

Pileated Woodpecker (female) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Pileated Woodpecker (female)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

By the time I reached the feeders again, the group was well ahead of me, and I wouldn’t catch up to them until we reached the end of our walk, but in the time since they had passed the lowermost feeders, a few surprises had moved in, in the form of a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos, a lone American Tree Sparrow, and a surprising first-winter White-throated Sparrow, picking through the seeds on the ground.

WT Sparrow

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

I didn’t tarry too long, but thought I’d pause for a moment at another of the lower feeders, as this male Downy Woodpecker obliged me with a few shots while he finished his brunch.

Downy Woodpecker (male) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Downy Woodpecker (male)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

All in all, another very successful day, and while the light was flat and gray, the birds were accommodating, vocal, and up to no end of entertaining antics! Next week, we head into Bebo Grove in search of the American Three-toed Woodpecker!

Have a great day, and good birding!

 

A turn in the weather is a turn for the better at Griffith Woods

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Following the blizzard conditions in Calgary on Saturday, it was finally time for our Sunday group to dodge the bad weather bullet. Beautiful blue skies greeted us as we met at the east end of Griffith Woods Park on the west edge of the city, and it was a much earned change, given the past number of weeks of poor weather.

Griffith Woods Park

Griffith Woods Park

Griffith Woods is a prime example of the Boreal Forest biome that is found in northern Alberta, but also winds its way down along the eastern edge of the foothills. With the extreme cold, I suspected we’d still not have much luck with birds, despite the clear skies and calm weather, but we still had good views of birds we’ve been seeing often, and some that we’ve only caught glimpses of so far this fall.

Griffith Woods Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 500

Griffith Woods
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 500

Aside from an early Blue Jay and the sound of Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees around us, the first real birds we were able to get a look at were these Canada Geese on one of tributary streams to the Elbow River. You know it’s a cold fall day when the ground water is giving off water vapor first thing in the morning.

Canada Geese in the mist Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Canada Geese in the mist
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Having very little luck with birds in the early minutes of our walk, I figured I’d take a few more scenery shots, and am I ever glad I did.

Griffith Woods Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 1250

Boreal Forest biome of Griffith Woods
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 1250

While searching for evidence of Three-toed or Black-backed Woopeckers, and listening for kinglets and chickadees, I did notice this series of bark beetle trackways in this spruce trunk, and with the bark stripped away by foraging woodpeckers, the network of tracks really stood out.

Bark Beetle Burrows Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Bark Beetle Burrows
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

It wasn’t until we had reached the end of our walk and began the trip back that our real luck with bird sightings started to turn around.

Elbow River looking east Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 200

Elbow River looking east
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 200

Elbow River looking west Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 125

Elbow River looking west
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 125

Our first good sighting was a Brown Creeper, and while watching it creep up the trees in search of food, we were also alerted to the presence of a nearby Pileated Woodpecker, and a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets. It was really quite a busy place!

Brown Creeper Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Brown Creeper
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Golden-crowned Kinglet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

The Pileated Woodpecker eluded us until we turned back onto the pathway under the power lines that runs from east to west straight through the middle of the park, but after giving a loud call, he flew overhead and gave us quite a show while working his way up a dead tree.

male Pileated Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

male Pileated Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

And that seemed to be it for the day, with the cold keeping most of the birds up high and out of sight for the most part, and even lacking any real chickadee flocks along the way back. On one of our brief listening stops, this Red Squirrel chattered at us to get away, but then went back to its task of nibbling on the spruce buds.

Red Squirrel Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Red Squirrel
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Of course this particular day ended a little early, considering the minimal activity and cold weather briskly pushing along our pace, but one of the Black-billed Magpies watched over us as we got into our cars and headed back to the warmth of home.

Black-billed Magpie Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Black-billed Magpie
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Once again, good birding, and have a great week!

Birding at South Glenmore Park never fails to impress

Posted by Dan Arndt

Before I start this post, I want to mention that this week’s entry is going to include some photos from a visit I took to the park a week ago as well, partly because there was a significant paucity of expected birds here this week, but also to highlight a local rarity that passed through late last week as well. The usual map will also indicate the location of the older photos.

This week’s location was South Glenmore Park, with the goal in mind to see some migrating waterfowl and other associated water birds, and to highlight that with some of the boreal and parkland birds along the north-facing slope of the Glenmore Reservoir. While we did have some incredibly memorable experiences with the latter, the uncannily quiet morning in general led to my decision to include some photos from last week as well.

South Glenmore Park and Glenmore Reservoir

South Glenmore Park and Glenmore Reservoir

Our morning started off on a high note, with one species I don’t know if I’ve ever actually posted a photo of to this blog. While House Sparrows are invasive, and by far my most numerous feeder bird at home, they’re more often heard than seen out on our walks, and even then, not one we get more than four or five times a season, since our walks are in more natural areas. I do think they’re quite an attractive bird overall, and one of the few sparrows where one can easily tell the males and females apart.

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

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

As we scanned the Glenmore Reservoir a few minutes later, it was clear just how quiet the day was going to be. The only bird on the water was a single Common Loon off in the distance. I mentioned in a previous post that the floods this summer flushed all the vegetation, and as such, all of the aquatic life out of the reservoir, meaning that any birds that touch down on the reservoir overnight typically are gone either before or shortly after dawn, as there’s next to nothing around for them to eat. One exception was a Sabine’s Gull that stuck around for three days last week. A hatch-year bird, by all indications, and as such, was incredibly unwary of people. When I took this photo, a group of workers at the Sailing Club to the left of the frame was moving around a few boats, and at the shop a hundred meters or so away, repairs were well underway with the constant din of saws, hammers, and lathes hard at work.

Sabine's Gull - October 10, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Sabine’s Gull – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Early in our walk, the Common Loon was quite far off, but after we scanned the reservoir and began our walk down the slope to the lower pathway, it took off and flew into one of the bays a bit further west, sitting only a few dozen meters off shore.

Common Loon in flight Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Common Loon in flight
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Along the lower pathway, we heard the brief calls of an American Tree Sparrow, and a few Dark-eyed Juncos, but didn’t get very good looks at them. It also seemed that their numbers were far fewer than they had been the week prior, for one reason or another.

 

American Tree Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

American Tree Sparrow – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Dark-eyed Junco - October 10, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Dark-eyed Junco – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

American Tree Sparrow - October 10, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

American Tree Sparrow – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

The distant Common Loon flight was quite reminiscent of the Sabine’s Gull of the week prior, flying along an almost identical path. In this photo of the Sabine’s Gull, you can see two very distinct field marks for identifying the species: both the jet black primary flight feathers, and the bold, pure white triangle formed by the secondaries and tertials are great identifying marks for the Sabine’s Gull.

Sabine's Gull in flight - October 10, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Sabine’s Gull in flight – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Our first looks at the Common Loon up close were fairly satisfying, but if you look closely in the photo of it in flight above, it appears to have suffered some damage to its flight feathers, which was pronounced when we were able to view it closer as it spread its wings twice to dry them off. Whether the damage is from an injury, or a late molt, one way or another this little bird is in for a rough few weeks.

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

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

And then came the quiet. For the next twenty or so minutes we walked along, feeding some Black-capped Chickadees, hearing a Golden-crowned Kinglet or two, but seeing almost nothing close on the reservoir. The most excitement we had was watching a Bald Eagle harass an unseen water bird (likely an American Coot) for a good ten minutes before tiring of the chase and perching nearby, just before we headed up and away from the reservoir.

Bald Eagle Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Bald Eagle
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Bald Eagle Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Bald Eagle
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Walking along the upper pathway was just as eerily quiet. We passed through at least three small flocks of Black-capped Chickadees on the upper trail before hearing the distinct call of a Pileated Woodpecker, a nice surprise on any walk. It appeared that a Cooper’s Hawk was harassing a small family of Pileated Woodpeckers. No less than three of them were flying back and forth along the upper ridge, until a flock of about ten Black-billed Magpies came in and flushed the hawk away. Unfortunately, the Pileated Woodpeckers stayed well away from the trail we were on, allowing very few photo opportunities.

Pileated Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Pileated Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

And to add insult to injury, that was our last good sighting of anything for the day. We did have a really nice view of the Calgary skyline from the pathway as we approached the parking lot, and a surprise visit by a Common Raven that flew in close to us as we prepared to leave.

Calgary skyline Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/320sec., ƒ/13, ISO 640

Calgary skyline
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/320sec., ƒ/13, ISO 640

Common Raven Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Common Raven
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

It’s not often you get close looks at Common Loons on the reservoir, so after the group left, I made an attempt to get close to the loon we’d seen earlier, and I was not disappointed. It seemed to not be particularly wary of my approach, and I spent a good 10 minutes with the bird before it swam out away from shore.

Common Loon Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Common Loon
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

 

Common Loon Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Common Loon
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

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

Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding, Week 5 – Votier’s Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

After a week of unseasonal sun and warmth, the mercury dipped down below zero again this morning, and with a bit of a north wind, made for a chilly trek through the park. Bob and I arrived a bit early to try to find signs of either the Northern Pygmy Owl or the American Three-toed Woodpecker that have been seen in the area but unfortunately came up empty handed, but were able to scout and find some signs of a few other species that we found with the larger group later on. We headed west from the parking lot, while Gus took his group south to look for some Pine Grosbeaks that had been seen earlier, only meeting up at the very end, despite following almost the exact same route.

The route through Votier's Flats and Bebo Grove

The route through Votier’s Flats and Bebo Grove

On our scouting trip, Bob and I found a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers working a series of dead poplar and spruce trees, and when we returned there with the group, they were joined by a third Pileated Woodpecker, which was quite an unexpected sight. There must have been some good eatin’ under the bark of those trees!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

After incredible views of the Pileated Woodpeckers, along with a few Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, and Red-breasted Nuthatches, we headed down the trail along Fish Creek in search of Townsend’s Solitaire’s which had been seen there the day before. We weren’t disappointed, as we spotted not one, but two individuals. This one, up above our heads, appeared to be displaying. As it flew off, the second one, not six feet away from us at waist level, followed it across the creek over into some low scrub.

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire

As these two flew off, we soldiered on, exploring the edge of the creek a little further west. One of our sharp-eyed attendees spotted a Northern Goshawk that flushed up from the creek bank, and we weren’t the only ones that spotted it. As it lighted on the far side of the river, it was almost immediately mobbed by a large contingent of Common Redpolls and House Finches.

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

As we continued on in search of our target species, we explored the next couple of bridges, and entered a large stand of old, tall spruce, which is where the American Three-toed Woodpecker was seen earlier this year. Sadly, we missed out on both that bird, as well as the Northern Pygmy Owl, so this posing Red-breasted Nuthatch will have to make up for that.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

On our trip back to the parking lot, our luck seemed to wane. The birds we saw were either in the distance, in the shade, or simply a little too out of the way to view properly, let alone photograph. As we neared the parking lot, a small herd of Mule Deer grazed along the hillside quite content to stare back at all the folks pointing their binoculars at them.

Mule Deer

Mule Deer

Once we got back to the parking lot, we thought it might be a good idea to go searching for those Pine Grosbeaks that were mentioned earlier. While we didn’t manage to find them, we did spot a couple of other woodpecker species that had eluded us earlier; the Hairy Woodpecker and the Northern Flicker, both working away at constructing nesting holes in the same dead tree.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

In our futile search, and as we neared the end of our walk, I heard the telltale wheezy “chick-dee” of the always welcome Boreal Chickadee. After playing a couple of recorded calls, a trio of them swooped in, investigated us for a few minutes, and then just as quickly flew off.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

Next week we’ll be heading to the deep south of Lafarge Meadows, in the south east corner of Fish Creek Provincial Park in search of even more new species. See you then!

Calgary Christmas Bird Count – Weaselhead

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

It may seem a bit repetitive, but a week following our last Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding course, my Christmas Bird Count area was also down in the Weaselhead. Our route took a bit longer though, and covered a huge amount of area, and took the better part of the day. We had some really great helpers this time around, as we usually do, and had some awesome birds, a few fewer species than our usual number, and a few different species than we had turn up last year, but all in all, it was a beautifully warm day, and a good time was had by everyone involved. Hope you enjoy these photos I took while we were out!

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin coming in for a landing

Merlin coming in for a landing

This Merlin gave us quite a show, hunting while we watched from the bridge over the Elbow River. I believe that it was hunting one of the many Bohemian Waxwings we saw that day.

American Robin

American Robin

A nice surprise for us was the often spoken-of and quite legendary American Robin. We do have a few that end up trying to spend their winters here in Calgary, and just a week prior, one of Gus Yaki’s groups had a flock of fifty of them. I was happy just to see one!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

This male Pileated Woodpecker gave us a few flybys throughout the day, but in the grove we usually find Boreal Chickadees he flew in for a closer look. We played a few calls which he came to investigate even closer, allowing us a bit better vantage.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

We headed back towards the South Glenmore Park side of the park and stopped for lunch, and it seemed this little Boreal Chickadee wanted some lunch as well.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Another gorgeous little Golden-crowned Kinglet, the first one we saw that day, was spotted just before lunch. After lunch we heard another dozen or so in the dense spruce on the south slope of the Glenmore Reservoir.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

And of course, what day in the Weaselhead would be complete without a few adorable Red Squirrels hamming it up for the camera.

 

 

Rare Bird Alert Calgary: Dec 20

Have you seen an unusual bird in Calgary?

If it is on this Reportable_Birds (PDF), please report it to the Nature Calgary Rare Bird Alert line at 403 221-4519 and leave a message after the beep at the end of the recording. If you would like some help with species identification, email us at birdscalgary@gmail.com .  To report injured wildlife call the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society at 403 239-2488, or the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation at 403 946-2361.

Compiled by Terry Korolyk

Dec. 15

CLARK’S NUTCRACKER, Hawkwood area in NW Calgary.Observer unknown.

Dec. 16

The following are highlights of species seen during the Calgary CBC on the 16th.:

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER; BOHEMIAN WAXWING(17,000); RED CROSSBILLS(237);WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS(1101);COMMON REDPOLLS(1940); NORTHERN
GOSHAWK(8);MOURNING DOVE(4);TRUMPETER SWAN(2);GADWALL(1);REDHEAD(23);LESSER SCAUP(9);

Dec. 17

RING-NECKED DUCK(1),Policeman’s Flats, Bow River,

Dec. 19

GREATER SCAUP(2),Bow River,Beaverdam Flats, by Terry Korolyk
NORTHERN PINTAIL(M),Bow River,Beaverdam Flats, by Bill Wilson
TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE, BROWN CREEPER, PILEATED WOODPECKER, Fish Creek PP, Ravens Rock area, by Phil Quinn.
BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER(f), Fish Creek PP,south of creek between bridges 5+6, by Andrew Slater.

The next scheduled update of the Bird Alert is on Mon. Dec.24, 2012

Calgary Christmas Bird Count Results

By Phil Cram

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 61st Calgary Christmas Bird Count on December 16, 2012. A record number of 249 birders took part in this year’s count, with 113 feeder-watchers and 136 observers in the field. Birders in the field put in a total of 239 party-hours, 77 percent on foot, covering 239 km on foot and 1156 km by car.

Some count highlights:

65 species were recorded, equalling our average for the past 20 years.

57,149 individual birds were counted, our fifth-highest. Bohemian Waxwings were the most numerous, with almost 17,000 counted, and over 1000 individuals were counted for another nine species.

We had a new species for the count, but unfortunately just for count-week. A Clark’s Nutcracker was seen in Hawkwood on Saturday, perhaps a first-ever sighting in the city. One other rarity was a Yellow-rumped Warbler in Wentworth, first seen and photographed earlier in December and which has survived at least until count-day.

Other unusual species (recorded in two or less years in the prior ten): Trumpeter Swan, 2; Gadwall, 1; and Common Grackle, 1.

Record numbers for: Trumpeter Swan, 2; Redhead, 23; Northern Goshawk, 8; Mourning Dove, 4; American Crow, 152; Common Raven, 537; and Brown Creeper, 31.

High Counts (more than three-times the prior ten-year average) for: Lesser Scaup, 9; Red Crossbill, 237; White-winged Crossbill, 1101; Common Redpoll, 1940 (second-highest count ever); and Hoary Redpoll, 9.

Low counts (less than one-third the prior ten-year average) for: Common Goldeneye, 332 (compared with 3062 last year, the highest in Canada); European Starling, 109; Cedar Waxwing, 2; and Snow Bunting, 1.

Missing species (seen on count-day in seven or more years in the prior ten, but missed this year) were: American Wigeon, Harlequin Duck, Hooded Merganser and Mountain Chickadee.

Species seen by only one route (All feeder-watchers counted as one route):  Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Ruffed Grouse, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Belted Kingfisher, American Dipper, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, Snow Bunting, Rusty Blackbird and Common Grackle.

Species seen by only two routes (All feeder-watchers counted as one route):  Trumpeter Swan, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Cooper’s Hawk, Mourning Dove, Pileated Woodpecker, Townsend’s Solitaire, White-throated Sparrow and Purple Finch.

Unverified Species, not included in species list (Awaiting further details and/or documentation): Double-crested Cormorant, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Song Sparrow.

I will be presenting the results at the Bird Study Group meeting on Wednesday January 9, 2013 at 7:30 PM in Room 211 of the Biosciences Building, University of Calgary, as part of the traditional Calgary region CBC review evening. Please let me know if you notice any omissions or errors in this provisional compilation. Final results will be posted on the Audubon database within two weeks. I will be putting together a route-by-route compilation and will be pleased to email you a copy on request.

List of species recorded on count-day:

Canada Goose, 8399; Trumpeter Swan, 2; Wood Duck, 10; Gadwall, 1; Mallard, 9465; Northern Pintail, 2; Redhead, 23; Greater Scaup, 2; Lesser Scaup, 9; Bufflehead, 148; Common Goldeneye, 332; Barrow’s Goldeneye, 8; Common Merganser, 101; Gray Partridge, 115; Ring-necked Pheasant, 7; Ruffed Grouse, 3; Bald Eagle, 25; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 8; Cooper’s Hawk, 2; Northern Goshawk, 8; Red-tailed Hawk, 1; Rough-legged Hawk, 6; Merlin, 24; Killdeer, 2; Rock Pigeon, 2518; Mourning Dove, 4; Great Horned Owl, 7; Belted Kingfisher, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 139; Hairy Woodpecker, 26; Northern Flicker, 135; Pileated Woodpecker, 2; Northern Shrike, 6; Blue Jay, 97; Black-billed Magpie, 2295; American Crow, 152; Common Raven, 537; Black-capped Chickadee, 1570; Boreal Chickadee, 27; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 632; White-breasted Nuthatch, 59; Brown Creeper, 31; American Dipper, 3; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 54; Townsend’s Solitaire, 2; American Robin, 86; European Starling, 109; Bohemian Waxwing, 16889; Cedar Waxwing, 2; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1; American Tree Sparrow, 4; White-throated Sparrow, 2; Dark-eyed Junco, 99; Snow Bunting, 1; Rusty Blackbird, 1; Common Grackle, 1; Pine Grosbeak, 152; Purple Finch, 2; House Finch, 1350; Red Crossbill, 237; White-winged Crossbill, 1101; Common Redpoll, 1940; Hoary Redpoll, 9; Pine Siskin, 65; and House Sparrow, 7898.

Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding – Week 14 – Weaselhead Natural Area

Posted by Dan Arndt

The Weaselhead Natural Area is located west of the Glenmore Reservoir, in the Elbow River Valley between North and South Glenmore Parks. It seems like only yesterday we started out this Autumn Birding Course at times, but at others, it seems like it’s been almost a lifetime since we were exploring the late summer environs of Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Mallard Point. With Christmas Bird Counts quickly approaching and the lure of longer days ahead as we move into January, it’s the days like today that are a harsh reminder of the realities of winter.

Weaselhead

Weaselhead

As we headed out from the parking lot into the cold, wintry morning, the sky was partially clear, but the beauty of the sunrise was deceptive. At -19 degrees Celsius, with the added wind, it felt like it was -27 degrees Celsius, reminding all of us of the reality of the season, and that we had been incredibly lucky so far!

From the top of the hill we stopped to look for coyotes, white-tailed or mule deer, as well as a Pileated Woodpecker that had been seen at the top of the hill earlier this week, but sadly came up short. At least it was a great view!

Glenmore Reservoir

Glenmore Reservoir

Into The Weaselhead

Into The Weaselhead

Unlike last year, the Pine Grosbeaks have been a little bit less active so far this winter, and the Common and Hoary Redpolls haven’t shown up in as large numbers as we saw last year either, but at least we saw a few of them at the feeders mid-way down the hill. No Pine Grosbeaks or Hoary Redpolls in this batch today though!

Common Redpolls

Common Redpolls

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

Just a little further down the hill, this male Downy Woodpecker seemed completely fearless of our group, flying off only when a group of joggers ran by. The red on his head was so vibrant and bright, it looked orange in the early morning light.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

As we headed down the hill and past the nearly empty feeders at the bottom of the hill, the distinctive upward trilling flight call of Bohemian Waxwings. While this flock was impressive in size, it was nowhere near the size of others we’ve seen here in the past!

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings

Crossing the meadow that is home to nesting Calliope Hummingbirds in the summer, we stopped to take a look at a Northern Goshawk off to the north of us. While I stopped to snap a photo of it, a group of birders behind us in the lead drew my attention to the “first” Northern Goshawk that all three of us “experienced” birders walked right by!

second Northern Goshawk

second Northern Goshawk

Turning back to take a look at the first one our group actually spotted, it took quite an interest in us, and in the sounds of my camera clicking away.

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk giving me the evil eye

Northern Goshawk giving me the evil eye

Northern Goshawk preparing to fly

Northern Goshawk preparing to fly

We took a brief detour into a small grove of spruce trees where we found Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, and even a Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper stopped by just as we were preparing to leave. Unfortunately, the Boreal Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper were a bit too elusive for me, staying high up in the dark overhanging spruce trees.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

After coming out from the grove, we headed straight west, then north along the far western pathway. The trails were incredibly quiet, with only a pair of Common Ravens and a handful of Black-billed Magpies flying overhead, and the usual swarms of Black-capped Chickadees following us for an easy handout. It wasn’t until we came nearer to the river again where we found that flock of Bohemian Waxwings again, but this time from a better angle.

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings

We did end up finally adding two more species to the list as we headed back to the vehicles, but only one that I got a photo of. It was surprisingly similar to the last bird we added to our list last week, both in composition and in timing, this Hairy Woodpecker popped up near the feeders on the way back up the hill!

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

While this was the last course for our Autumn Birders, I suspect many of them have already signed on again for the Winter birding courses, and I’ll make sure to post some updates in the following weeks about the Christmas Bird Counts I’m taking part in this Holiday Season, and of course I’ll post some photos of the birds I manage to add to my life list while I’m down in Mexico while the rest of you freeze up here in the frigid north… err, I mean, while you’re all enjoying time with your families and friends back here in Canada.

Rare Bird Alert Calgary: Dec 6

Have you seen an unusual bird in Calgary?

If it is on this Reportable_Birds (PDF), please report it to the Nature Calgary Rare Bird Alert line at 403 221-4519 and leave a message after the beep at the end of the recording. If you would like some help with species identification, email us at birdscalgary@gmail.com.  To report injured wildlife call the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society at 403 239-2488, or the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation at 403 946-2361.

Compiled by Terry Korolyk

Bird Sightings:

Nov 29:
EURASIAN WIGEON, female, slough at Hwy 2A/22x, Terry Korolyk.
RED CROSSBILLS (100), west end UofC, Hank Vanderpol.

Nov 30:
WESTERN MEADOWLARK, Mallard Pt, FCPP, Janet Gill/ NC field trip.

Dec 1:
EASTERN BLUEBIRD, male, Ajax Coulee, Medicine Hat, Elaine & Milt Spitzer.
ESTERN BLUEBIRD, male and female, as above, Barry & Judy Anderson.
DARK-EYED JUNCOS (10), Queen’s Park Cemetary, Bill Wilson.
REDHEADS (20), RING-NECKED DUCK, GREATER SCAUP, LESSER SCAUP x REDHEAD, Policeman’s Flats, SE of Dunbow Rd, TK.
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, Lake Minnewanka, Banff NP, Joan & Malcolm MacDonald.
NORTHERN HAWK OWL, Lookout Parking lot,Barrier Lake, Kananaskis, J&M M.
LONG-TAILED DUCK, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, PIED-BILLED GREBE, Henderson Lake, Lethbridge, Colton Prins.
SNOWY OWL, flyover, Elbow River survey, Gus Yaki.

Dec 2:
CAPE MAY WARBLER, Medford Place, SW Calgary, Liz Sargeant.
HARRIS’S SPARROW, Wyndam-Carseland PP, J&M M.
LINCOLN’S SPARROW (2), SONG SPARROW, Botteril Bottom Rd, Lethbridge, CP.
RING-NECKED DUCK (2), GREATER SCAUP (2), AMERICAN COOT (2), south of Calf Robe Bridge, Rob Worona.

Dec. 1
PRAIRIE FALCON, TwpRd 314 and RR 260, by Corine Griffin

Dec. 2
PILEATED WOODPECKER and SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, Glenmore/Weaselhead natural area, by Gus Yaki et al.

Dec. 3
HOARY REDPOLL, yard of Shonna Macleod in Breaside area of Calgary.

Dec. 4
TUNDRA SWAN(1), TRUMPETER SWAN(1), CACKLING GOOSE(2),GREEN-WINGED TEAL(F), NORTHERN PINTAIL(M), REDHEAD(7), RING-NECKED DUCK(M),GREATER SCAUP(2), LESSER SCAUP(7), AMERICAN COOT(1),KILLDEER(1), RED-TAILED HAWK(light morph). All seen by Bill Wilson on or near the Bow River between Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Carburn Park.

Dec. 5
BOHEMIAN WAXWING(200), Glenmore/Weaselhead area,Calgary, by GY et al.
AMERICAN ROBIN(50), same as above.

The next scheduled update of the Bird Alert is on Monday Dec.10.