Though it is not birded by many people, the Bow Valley – Banff, Canmore and area – can be an amazing place to bird. Whether it’s just for a few hours, or if you have a day or more, visiting the valley is an unforgettable experience. Recently, hotspots in Banff and especially Canmore have been heaving with birds, from late a Red-tailed Hawk and American Coots to a plethora of Rusty Blackbirds and Common Redpolls. Here are some of my photos – all taken within the last week. If you have time, visiting the area would be a great idea. Main hotspots are Policeman’s Creek (Canmore) and the Cave and Basin (Banff), but birds turn up anywhere, so check out some other locations on eBird or the local Facebook group, Bow Valley Birding.
Common Goldeneye, Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton
Clark’s Nutcracker, South Canmore, November 8, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton
Injured American Coot, Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton
And they’re not all birds, either. This Long-tailed Weasel was seen on Policeman’s Creek, in addition to Muskrat, Voles, Mule Deer and Red Squirrels.
Long-tailed Weasel (winter coat), Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton
Finally, if you are looking for a way to spend a Saturday helping birds and bird research, the Banff/Canmore Christmas Bird Count is coming up, on Saturday December 16th. It’s always a great time, and usually you see some interesting birds. Afterwards, there’s a big potluck in the senior’s centre in Banff, where we talk about the day, tally up the results and enjoy fabulous food! Anybody interested can contact me at email@example.com, or head over to birdboy.ca for more information.
Black-capped Chickadee, South Canmore, November 10, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton
Photos taken by Tony LePrieur on the weekend of June 26, 2016, at Fish Creek park and Bridlewood Wetlands in Calgary, at Frank lake, and in the Priddis area. There are lots of juvenile birds being fed out there right now!
Male Red-winged Blackbird feeding juvenile.
American Coot babies.
Yellow-headed Blackbird feeding juvenile.
Willet in an unusual spot.
Mallard with ducklings.
Hungry Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird.
Adult Black Terns.
Female Mountain Bluebird with nesting material – raising a second brood?
Last week, I, along with many other keen birders, did the Calgary and area May Species Count. Two other great birders and I were assigned the south part of the city, our borders were; north to Glenmore Trail, west and south to the Bow river and east to the City limits. We had a great time, birding for 9 hours on Saturday, driving 139 kilometers and recording 87 birds. We saw many great birds, some of the highlights being 2 Hooded Mergansers, a Western Grebe, a Ferruginous Hawk, a Veery, a Blackpoll Warbler and a Townsend’s Solitaire. The Solitaire was a real surprise as it was far away from its normal habitat and was way too far south.
A Townsend’s Solitaire, way off course.
The Solitaire caught a bug and attempted to swallow it…
But had some difficulty. Eventually, the Solitaire got the bug down the hatch.
Other birds seen included several coots on nests…
Many Red-winged Blackbirds…
And a posing crow.
The May Species Count is held annually and will therefore be held again next year, if you haven’t done it yet, it could be a great time to start.
Two weeks ago I was in Edgemont in NW Calgary, so I stopped at Edgemont Ravines to check out the two ponds there. I didn’t have my camera, which was too bad, because I was able to see the elusive Sora. Soras are small waterbirds in the rail family, who spend a lot of time hiding in the reeds.
Last week I returned to the ponds, with camera in hand, to try to get a picture of the Sora. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it, but I did find some other interesting birds and mammals. The pictures below are from that second trip.
Park on the east side of Edgebrook Boulevard NW.
The easternmost pond.
On my first visit I walked around both ponds, and saw an American Coot, several Mallards, and lots of male Red-winged Blackbirds. Suddenly, a strange bird popped up onto a cattail…
Every time the first of these comes into view in the spring, I briefly believe that I have discovered a bird unknown to science. This, of course, is a female Red-winged Blackbird. They look so unlike the males that at first it seems to be a different species altogether.
It turned out that there were many Red-winged Blackbirds, both male and female, and they were engaged in courtship behaviour and nest-building.
As I finished up the circuit, I heard the hair-raising whinny of a Sora coming from a corner of the pond. This Sora specialty is one of my favourites, because it sounds like demented laughter.
Soras are very elusive birds, who skulk around the margins of ponds, rarely showing themselves. You hear them far more often than you see them.
I slowly moved towards the spot where the Sora was hidden: step, wait; step, wait; until I was finally rewarded with a shoe-ful of water. Drat. I was too close to the pond.
Luckily, back on shore, there was a convenient “surveillance bush” right near the spot where the Sora was concealed.
I lurked behind the bush for ten minutes or so, trying to hold still while mosquitoes treated my neck like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Finally, there was some movement in the grass, and there was the Sora! The bird came almost out into the open. I regretted not having that camera. Naturally, when I returned the following week with camera, there was no sign of the bird. The shot below remains the best picture I’ve got of a Sora, taken at Valleyview Park pond in southeast Calgary in 2008.
Soras almost always seem to keep some vegetation between themselves and the camera.
Despite missing out on the Sora, I continued to the second pond, where last year I had found a Pied-billed Grebe. Wouldn’t you know it; this time there were no grebes, but there was a pair of scaup.
Lesser or Greater Scaup?
A breeding American Coot didn’t like them around and repeatedly emerged from the rushes to chase them off.
Determined Coot chug-chug-chugging towards his foes!
On my way back to the parking lot, I noticed a small plump rodent scurry into the bushes. Eventually, I got some pictures. It was a Vole, probably a Meadow Vole.
So although you don’t always find what you’re looking for, you usually see something interesting, even at the smallest ponds. All in all, a rewarding outing.