Tag Archive | american white pelican

Autumn Migrants at Lafarge Meadows

Posted by Dan Arndt

My first week back leading the Friends of Fish Creek outings after being away at work for most of the month of September turned out to be quite the adventure, with a few really great finds.

Lafarge Meadows - October 4, 2015

Lafarge Meadows – October 4, 2015

The light was a bit dim early on, but it seemed as though the day would be productive as the first really impressive birds we found were a couple of Green-winged Teal, back in their striking breeding plumage. The poor light didn’t do them justice though.

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Green-winged Teal – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Not too far from him was a young Pied-billed Grebe, one of the seven we would see throughout the day.

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Pied-billed Grebe – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

We followed the bank of the Bow River north at the beginning of our outing, turning up a Bald Eagle perched across the river in a tree. A couple of us remarked how this might have even been the same bird in the same tree as we had seen earlier this year in the winter course.

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Bald Eagle – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

We were a little surprised a few minutes later when we were passed by a lone American White Pelican, which we would see nine more of later in the day. I think this might be the latest I have seen these massive white birds within the city.

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American White Pelican – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

While he was flying by, we also heard a chip note of a nearby Yellow-rumped Warbler, another migrant that was foraging in the low trees and shrubs. IMGP1356

Yellow-rumped Warbler – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Things got a lot quieter for the next half hour or so, as we crossed the tributary stream and walked along the banks of the river that had been hardest hit by the flood two years ago. We were almost ready to turn around and head back to the south ponds when things began to chatter and chirp all around us. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers were the first ones to draw our attention.

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female Downy Woodpecker – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

While we were watching her, we heard the chip notes of some sparrows in the nearby shrubs, and on investigation, we found a couple of Song Sparrows (and a Lincoln’s sparrow that we heard, but could not track down for the life of us!)

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Song Sparrow – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

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Song Sparrow – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

The best sighting of the day (and maybe of the year?) was found while I was crouched down taking some photos of this dragonfly who was all but immobilized due to the cold, and hanging under a blade of grass.

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Dragonfly sp. – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

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Dragonfly sp. – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

While I was carefully focusing on the detail of this beautiful little insect, the call of “HOODED WARBLER!” from Bob Lefebvre came about fifty meters south, as much of the group had continued on and were carefully scanning a group of songbirds foraging in the low brush. After a good half hour, I did manage to capture a few images of this quick little skulking bird, though I was more than happy to just see it!

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Hooded Warbler – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/400s|
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Hooded Warbler – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

It was an incredible find, and we all left quite satisfied with how the day had turned out. We headed back to end our walk and stopped briefly to enjoy the antics of the American Coots and American Wigeon fighting over the vegetation they were picking up from the bottom of the south pond.

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American Wigeon and American Coots – ::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Exposure bias: +1.3EV|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

So all in all, I’d say that my first outing back was a rousing success!

I did manage a few outings during the next week to the Bow River Irrigation Canal, so keep an eye here for that next Tuesday!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Fall Birding Course Begins – Carburn Park

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society Fall birding course began again on August 31, 2015. Many of our readers look forward to Dan Arndt’s posts every Monday with a narrative of the previous week’s outing accompanied by his outstanding photos of some of the birds seen. As usual Dan is scheduled to lead the Sunday morning group, one of the fifteen weekly outings that are needed to accommodate the 196 registered participants. However, work commitments will keep Dan away for many of the fall outings. With the help of Rose Painter and George Best, I will fill in for him when he is away.

I don’t usually carry a camera when helping to lead a group, but George does, and he is an excellent photographer as many of you know. I will try to summarize our walks and illustrate them with George’s photos.

For the first week of the course we went to Carburn Park, which had been a great spot for fall warblers in the weeks leading up to the start of the course. Many of the earlier-migrating species had more or less finished passing through Calgary by the beginning of September, but we hoped to see quite a few Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped, and Orange-crowned Warblers on our outing on September 6.

Carburn September 6

Carburn Park walk, 6 September 2015.

We did see about 30 Yellow-rumped and possibly one Yellow Warbler, but none of the other warbler species. However, we did see huge numbers of birds of the river, including the largest concentrations of Common Mergansers and Double-crested Cormorants that many of had ever seen. (All photos by George Best.)

Mergansers

A few Common Mergansers (55 by my count) and two Canada Geese.

Cormorant in tree

A Treeful of Cormorants.

We counted about 100 mergansers and 150 cormorants on the day. Most of them were concentrated at the north end of the park, just south of the Glenmore Trail Bridge over the Bow. This is the area that used to be the northernmost pond in Carburn park, before the flood of 2013 turned it into a major river channel, gravel bars, and an island. It is usually a very birdy part of the river.

Cormorant on Branch

Double-crested Cormorants resting on a partially-submerged tree in what used to be the north pond at Carburn Park. The birds with light breasts are juveniles, hatched this year.

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Double-crested Cormorant in flight.

We also saw about 65 American White Pelicans in this area. They no longer go to the old weir in Pearce Estate to feed, and Carburn Park is about as far upriver as the big groups usually go. (The Sunday afternoon FFCPP group counted 106 pelicans that day, and an incredible 225 Common Mergansers!)

Pelican in flight

American White Pelican coming in for a landing.

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A Pelican on the Bow River at Carburn Park.

Other highlights in Carburn Park in September are the usually-reliable Wood Ducks, often seen in the quiet channel between the big island and the river shore in the central part of the park, and raptors like Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Swainson’s Hawks. We saw three of each that day, as well as this Merlin:

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A Merlin scanning for prey. Merlins and Bald Eagles can be seen in this area year-round; Swainson’s Hawks and Osprey have already departed.

We counted 38 species of birds for the day, and three mammal species: the usual White-tailed Deer and Eastern Gray Squirrels, and a less-commonly-seen American Mink.

Next post: In week two of the course we returned to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary for the first time in over two years.

A “fallout” of thrushes from Bankside to Mallard Point

Posted by Dan Arndt

Last Sunday was a great day for birding along the Bow River. The weather had been a little iffy for a couple days before, and overnight had cleared up enough to allow a whole lot of birds to begin moving through, and boy did we see and hear a lot of migrants!

Bankside to Mallard Point - May 17, 2015

Bankside to Mallard Point – May 17, 2015

We walked around at Mallard Point for a bit early on, and found a whole lot of Swainson’s Thrushes in the underbrush (say that five times fast) and hearing a number of Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers singing in the bushes. From there, we drove down to the ponds at Burnsmead to look for the Wood Ducks we had there earlier in the year, but dipped on those. We did hear a couple of Western Tanagers in the saplings on the north side of the road, one of which posed nicely for us.

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

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

From there we headed over to Bankside, in search of sapsuckers and maybe a few other warblers, but aside from hearing a couple here and there, none of them popped up into view. We headed north along the river and one of our keen-eyed participants noticed this Say’s Phoebe across the river, which was quickly harassed and scared off by a newly arrived Eastern Kingbird, but eventually the two of them worked out their differences.

Say's Phoebe Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Say’s Phoebe
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Moments after we spotted this fellow, a pair of American White Pelicans gave us a very close flyover, enough to tell this male by the large crest present on the bill.

American White Pelican Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

American White Pelican
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

The morning continued with us finding Song Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, and Swainson’s Thrushes absolutely everywhere, but none of them really allowed us to get too close, and despite our efforts, we couldn’t quite pick out a Hermit Thrush or a Veery from the pack. We did hear a few of these beautiful male Baltimore Orioles singing in the poplar trees across the river!

Baltimore Oriole Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Baltimore Oriole
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Upstream in a section of the bank that had been carved out in the 2013 flood we found a colony of Bank Swallows setting up shop. It’s always fun to watch them dip and weave over the river and in and out of their tiny homes.

Bank Swallows Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 2000

Bank Swallows
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 2000

We continued upstream to find a grove where we’ve found nesting American Kestrels in one of the large hollowed out trees, but unfortunately came up empty in the trees. On the river though, we found a lifer for most of our group, great looks at a usually hard to spot warbler, and yet another great look at one of the Swainson’s Thrushes along our path.

Northern Waterthrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Northern Waterthrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

We noticed this Northern Waterthrush darting along the bottom of the logs and accumulated debris, but popped out a couple of times for us to take photos. We also had some of our best looks at a couple of Swainson’s Thrushes bobbing up and down along the brush pile.

Swainson's Thrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Swainson’s Thrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Our best bird of the day, and arguably of the entire course so far, was this Gray-cheeked Thrush. They’re a rare migrant in southern Alberta, and it seems that a few of them might have been included in the overnight thrush fallout, as they also banded 5 of them at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary bird banding station that morning.

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

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

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

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

We spent some time with the thrushes before heading back upstream, to find our first goslings of the season, and remarked at just how big they were already!

Canada Goose goslings Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

Canada Goose goslings
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

As we wrapped up for the day at Mallard Point, we heard the Least Flycatchers calling from the bushes again and I decided I had to at least try to get a picture. All I was able to snap was this record shot before it flew off. I’m sure I’ll get better ones later on this year!

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

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

 

 

Perfect Pelicans

Last Tuesday when I was down at the Bow River, I was witness to a great birding spectacle; photogenic pelicans putting on a show of flying, landing and swimming. I was able to count up 27 of these social and gregarious birds at one time, half of them circling in the sky while the other half loafed around on the banks of the river. Among the world’s largest birds and gracing the air with a wingspan of over 2 meters, the American White Pelican can swallow fish up to 30cm (12 inches) long and must eat 2 kg (4 lbs) of fish a day.

Several Pelicans made a show of coming in for a landing.

They came closer and closer…

Until it seemed as though they were right beside me…

Their feathers were absolutely stunning against the blue sky.

This Pelican was demonstrating the mechanics of a good landing…

Before finally putting down the landing gear.

If you look carefully at this last photo, you may just be able to make out a Franklin’s Gull at the far right of the screen. This gull was flying at roughly the same altitude as the pelicans and shows the massive size difference between the two. After Tuesday, Pelicans have become a bird I love to watch.

Posted by Matthew Sim

Family Time For The Birds

I had a day off this last Tuesday so I took the opportunity to go biking and birding in Fish Creek Provincial Park. It was a beautiful morning; the sun was out, the sky was blue, the birds were singing and the weather was warm; finally! I got to Fish Creek at around 8:30 a.m. entering the park just off the intersection of Canyon Meadows drive and Acadia . I was preparing to go down the steep hill into the park only to find that the trail was flooded! Instead I followed the trail around the ridge until I entered the park beside the ranch.I did some random wandering on small paths through Fish Creek, finding a pheasant, a kingfisher, several catbirds and 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, among other birds. I then carried on to bridge number 11, leading to Hull’s Wood. Rounding a bend in the path I was surprised to see a male Pileated Woodpecker, just  meters from the path. Before I could get my camera out of my bag, he had flown further away; apparently he was surprised to see me!

I reached Sikome Lake and rode my bike up the hill, in hopes of finding some Great Horned Owls and their owlets; I was not disappointed! There in their regular tree, was the Great Horned Owl family, two young ones and one adult.

As I continued my circuit, I found some more interesting birds, including some Green-winged Teal.

And the Pelicans! The water is so high in the river that pelicans are everywhere; I was able to count up to 27 pelicans at one time, half in the water, half circling in the sky, their bright white feathers contrasting magnificently with the clear blue sky. Another post on the pelicans will follow this one. However, this day, was truly the day of families. At one secluded spot near the river, I found 4 different nests all within a couple of feet of each other. The first belonged to a Downy Woodpecker, the second to a House Wren and the last two to Tree Swallows.

At the Downy Woodpecker nest, the male would visit the hole every couple of minutes and would be instantly greeted with the call of the hungry young in the inside. He continued his work incessantly, feeding his ever hungry offspring.

The House Wrens hardly ever came in and out of their nest but the male was always nearby, singing very loudly and stopping only for the occasional break.

The Tree Swallows would vigorously defend their nests from potential threats, such as the kestrel that flew over several times. The Kestrel in turn would chase away a Swainson’s Hawk that could have been a potential threat to the Kestrel’s family.

As I was leaving the park in late morning I came across a coyote sitting on a hill, looking very content as well as many Savannah Sparrows singing.

Family time for the birds is a busy time of year; I saw 52 species of birds that morning and I had luck as I got to see  some of them raising their families.

Posted by Matthew Sim