Tag Archive | alberta birds

Birding Locations: Marsland Basin

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

A little-known gem of a birding location near Calgary is Marsland Basin, a Ducks Unlimited wetland on a private farm about halfway between Eagle Lake and Namaka Lake, southeast of Strathmore. A 75-acre lake with mud flats and cattail marshes can be viewed from the edge of a wooded farmyard.

The homeowners have created a great natural environment for all kinds of birds here, and they invite any interested birders to come by at any time. There are chairs set up at the viewing area, and you can walk around the farmyard as well. Sign the guest book.

Marsland Basin

To get to Marsland Basin, take Twp Road 232 one mile east from the village of Namaka, then go north a half mile on RR 242. This road dead-ends by the yard. Just drive right up into the yard.

Birders are encouraged to enter their sightings on eBird. Use the Marsland Basin HotSpot. Having a lot of public reports of both nesting birds and migrants is a good way to ensure that the importance of a wetland is recognized, and it is more likely to be protected and preserved.

There is an upcoming Nature Calgary field trip to this location on Sunday July 26. Meet at the parking lot at Carburn Park at 8 am to carpool.

Birding Call-in Show Today

Today, Friday December 19, CBC Radio 1’s Alberta@Noon show will feature local bird expert Sid Andrews taking calls from listeners about their bird sightings. The show starts just after the 12:30 news.

In Calgary, CBC is at 99.1 FM or 1010 AM.

Tundra Swans Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Tundra Swans
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Tundra Swans with Canada Geese by the Bow River. Photo by Dan Arndt.

The Latest From Fish Creek Park

Tony LePrieur photographed a nice variety of wildlife in the park on October 5.


Pileated Woodpecker.


Greater Yellowlegs.


American Three-toed Woodpecker (male).


Boreal Chickadee.


White-breasted Nuthatch.


Yellow-rumped Warbler.


Red-breasted Nuthatch.


American Robin (immature).


Downy Woodpecker.




White-tailed Deer.

Hummingbird in Snowstorm

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Last week’s late summer snowstorm in southern Alberta flattened crops and gardens, caused power outages, and damaged or destroyed trees numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It must also have been devastating for many migrating birds. A storm like this, lasting for several days, blanketing the ground with snow throughout the southern half of the province, and accompanied by temperatures as low as -7 degrees Celsius, must surely have caused high mortality among warblers and other neotropical migrants.

Here are some photos taken on September 10 of a hummingbird caught in the snow. I believe this is a Rufous Hummingbird, the last of which usually move through Calgary in early September. Fortunately there are still plenty of flowers around so perhaps it was able to find enough food to continue on its southern migration.

All photos by Debbie Reynolds.







Wednesday Wings: Spruce Grouse

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

I found this young Spruce Grouse walking the trails at the Peninsula picnic area in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on August 5, 2013. Taken with a Canon Eos 40D with 100-400 mm lens. Spruce Grouse can be very unwary, and it would not move until I got really close to it. On the twisty trails it was often too close to get the whole bird in the shot.

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A hummingbird nest

Posted by Matthew Sim

Last year, I discovered a location in Fish Creek P.P. where I found 2 (and possibly all 3 species of hummingbirds that commonly occur in Calgary) nesting. In June, I had found a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and not long afterwards,  Hank Vanderpol and I discovered what appeared to be a female Calliope hummingbird sitting on a nest. A couple weeks later, a Nature Calgary field trip I led to the area discovered a Rufous hummingbird nest not far away.

This year, I was finally able to get out and search for the hummingbirds last week. It took me about an hour before I finally spotted a hummingbird moving about, but always returning close to me. That’s when I realized that this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (for this is what it was), might have a nest nearby.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Sure enough, before very long, the female Ruby-throated Hummingbird had flown to her nest which had not been too far away from me the entire time.

At first the nest was tough to spot...

At first the nest was tough to spot…

on nest

It was neat to watch the female as she sat on her nest, presumably incubating eggs. From time to time she would fly off but she was always alert and ready to defend her nest.

RT Hummingbird





Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The most interesting part of watching this hummingbird though was the way she defended her nest from anything she perceived to be a threat, including a confused and startled Cedar Waxwing who twice made the mistake of landing too near the hummingbird’s nest. She swiftly drove the waxwing off despite the fact it probably wasn’t a threat; I suppose one can never be too cautious!

action shot

Returning back to her nest

Returning back to her nest

I will do my best to follow this nest in the coming weeks and see what comes of it. Hoping that the female will successfully raise her brood of young!

Did you know…

Posted by Matthew Sim


I am going to try this out as a new weekly post in which I will feature a fact or two about a bird species or birding topic and hopefully with a photo included. So, for this week`s Did you know… we feature the Cedar Waxwing.


Did you know…

The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few birds in North America that can live primarily off fruit. Thanks to this eating habit, when young cowbirds are raised in Cedar Waxwing nests the cowbirds usually don`t survive because they can`t live off a diet of fruit. This is a double-edged sword for the waxwings though as sometimes they get quite drunk and can occasionally die when they eat overripe berries that are fermenting and producing alcohol.

Cedar Waxwing

Birds and Bugs of Dinosaur PP: Part 2

Posted by Matthew Sim

When we woke the next morning, we were hoping for fewer bugs but, much to out dismay, neither the numbers nor the ferocity of the mosquitoes had diminshed. Fortunately we had only planned to stay the morning anyways. I decided to brave the bugs and went out birding along the river where nighthawks and swallows seemed to do little to keep the bugs at bay! An Eastern Kingbird did pose for me, as did a preening Northern Flicker.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

This Northern Flicker paused from preening to give me a cautious look

This Northern Flicker paused from preening to give me a cautious look

Robins and Mourning Doves sang continuously and eventually I managed to spot three of the doves.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove


One of the highlights of the morning  for me, however was a mammal. I enjoyed close-up views of a pair of Nuttall’s Cottontail, a species pf rabbit we don’t get to see in Calgary.

Nuttall's Cottontail

Nuttall’s Cottontail

The other highlight was watching a group of Common Nighthawks chase down insects in the sky. While I was watching one particular individual, it proceeded to do a mid-air shake, ruffling out its feathers and fanning out its tail; of which I only managed to capture a mediocre image.



After spending an hour or so birding, we finished up our time at Dinosaur Provincial Park on a bus tour throughout the badlands where I got more good looks at Western Meadowlarks and Rock Wrens. I definitely loved the park, but I guess now I have to figure out when is the best time to visit without the bugs! I imagine there would be very few mosquitoes in December…


Birds and Bugs of Dinosaur PP: Part 1

Posted by Matthew Sim

This past Thursday, some family friends and I went camping for a night in the beautiful badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park, several hours east of Calgary. A very neat place to camp with some gorgeous scenery and good birds, we also discovered another attribute of the park; mosquitoes. Mosquitoes apart, we enjoyed the park and some of its avian inhabitants that we can’t see here in Calgary.

Dinosaur PP

No sooner had we parked the car by the river when a Ring-billed Gull began circling over us. Looking for handouts perhaps?!

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

After eating lunch by the Red Deer River, we headed up to the hoodoos for a hike, on where we were serenaded by Lark Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks and Rock Wrens who didn’t want to pose for the camera.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren, doing its best to be as uncooperative as possible

Lark Sparrows on the other hand, were quite willing to sit up for the camera and were fairly common throughout the park.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

As we stopped to admire the view from the top of one particular hoodoo, we were greeted by the song of a Vesper Sparrow and a croaking raven and we caught a glimpse of a Say’s Phoebe as it departed its perch when we arrived.



After we had finished our short hike, we went back to our campsite and relaxed by the river as swarms of mosquitoes buzzed around us. The river and its surrounding cottonwood trees held an assortment of birds including Violet-green Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, Least Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds.


Cedar Waxwing sitting pretty

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

I attempted to get some shots of the swallows but as is usually the case, they were moving far too fast for me to keep up. As the sun began to set, we decided to climb up into the hoodoos to watch the sunset. We didn’t get too far however, before we were turned around by mosquitoes. On our way up though we did see a Western Kingbird and a photogenic magpie on the hoodoos.

Black-billed Magpie at sunset

Black-billed Magpie at sunset

After beating a hasty retreat from the bugs, we retired for the night by our campfire, watching nighthawks and bats catching bugs above us.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow, stay tuned!