Tag Archive | bald eagle

Carburn Park – Part 1: The Ponds

Posted by Dan Arndt

My last two outings with the Friends of Fish Creek Spring Birding course were at Carburn Park, both on Thursday, April 17 and Sunday, April 20. Both days had their high points, and so I’ll be mixing and matching photos from each of those days here.

Carburn Park April 17 and April 20. 2014

Carburn Park
April 17 and April 20. 2014

While each day we did the route a little differently, the best birds were always in the same spots. On Sunday, we headed down to the Eric Harvie Bridge then walked back along the river with the sun behind us. While there weren’t too many birds near the bridge itself, as we moved northward we found our first Common Goldeneyes, an American Beaver, and shortly thereafter, a lone Muskrat above the beaver’s dam!

Common Goldeneye Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Common Goldeneye
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

American Beaver Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@200mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

American Beaver
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@200mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Muskrat Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Muskrat
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

We were also treated to some vigorously displaying Downy Woodpeckers, chasing each other up and down from tree to tree. These two especially were really going at it!

Downy Woodpeckers displaying Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Downy Woodpeckers displaying
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

We headed up the river, seeing a few Tree Swallows, a few Ring-billed and Franklin’s Gulls, and even heard a lone Song Sparrow calling from across the river before we headed back into the denser foliage. Most interestingly though was a little spot we had found on Thursday which was host to half a dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglets was still holding one little one singing away while the sun shone bright…. unlike Thursday, which was cloudy, gloomy and rather snowy!

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Up on the north end of the park we saw the local nesting pair of Bald Eagles in the distance, and both days it appeared that the female was still on the nest, brooding her eggs, while dad hunted for dinner.

Bald Eagle near nest Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Bald Eagle near nest
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

The real highlight of the trip on Thursday though was seeing this flock of nearly a hundred swallows, both Violet-green (look for the ones with the white rump band above the tail) and Tree Swallows (all the rest of them, with the bluish-black backs) flying low over the river chowing down on their lunch of freshly hatched insects. While I had initially guessed that we had seen about four or five Violet-green Swallows, looking back over at my photos I was able to find at least 10 individuals, the largest number of that species I’ve seen in Calgary at once!

Violet-green and Tree Swallows Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Violet-green and Tree Swallows
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Of course, they weren’t there in any great numbers on Sunday, which was much warmer, and much nicer weather, but there was a beautiful Mourning Cloak butterfly, my first of the season, sunning itself near the second of the large ponds. It was a great end to a great day!

Mourning Cloak butterfly Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Mourning Cloak butterfly
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Thanks again for reading, and good birding!

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!

Sunday Showcase: Bald Eagle Fledgling

Rob English got these photos of a recently fledged Bald Eagle in Carburn Park in early August 2012.  The bird had just recently left the nest across the river.

IMG_5220

IMG_5227

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There was one of the adult eagles with this young one:

IMG_5199

IMG_5200

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Wednesday Wings: Juvenile Eagle

Marg Matheson and Alan Plumb are new to the hobby of photographing birds, and sent us some juvenile Bald Eagle pictures. They are quite proud of these shots, and have every right to be! Click to enlarge.

Christmas Bird Count

As a follow-up to Bob’s post on the Christmas Bird Count this year, I am posting from my experiences last year.

For the 2010 Big Year birding here in Calgary, I decided to participate in my first Christmas Bird Count. I had heard great stories about this annual winter event and I was not disappointed. I was scheduled to a very productive route on the Bow River, with Southland Park and Carburn Park our main birding spots. We had a very good turnout for species, recording about 29, if I remember correctly. Some of the highlights on our route, were Killdeer, a Northern Shrike, a Rough-legged Hawk, a pair of Great Horned Owls and two immature Trumpeter Swans. These swans were seen continually in January of 2011 and were identified as one immature Tundra Swan and one immature Trumpeter Swan.

A fellow bird-counter participating in the 2010 Calgary CBC

Overall, almost 200 people took part in the 2010 count, with 102 feeder-watchers and 92 birders in the field. Temperatures ranged from -15 to -13 degrees Celsius with some light snow falling in the morning. Birders in the field put in a combined
205 party-hours total, 230 km  on foot and 881 km by car. These stats were compiled by Phil Cram, Donna and Arthur Wieckowski, Bob Lefebvre and John McFaul and can be more extensively viewed  by following this link:

http://birdscalgary.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/59th-calgary-christmas-bird-count-results/

Bald Eagles are usually seen on the Bow River

My group divided ourselves up into small parties in the morning, scanning the Bow River on either sides in and around Southland Park. Once we had spent several hours scouring the snow-swept landscape for birds, we headed to the nearest Tim Hortons for some warmth, where we traded stories and identification tips over refreshments. We headed back out, this time to Carburn Park, where we added Bohemian Waxwings, the shrike and some Barrow’s Goldeneyes. We ate lunch in our heated cars at Carburn and spent the afternoon searching our range for any missing species. That evening, all CBC participants from all over the city flocked to the Flynn’s house where we were served delicious chili and shared our tales from the day.

Birds are not the only wildlife seen on the Christmas Bird Count

The 2010 Christmas Bird Count was very enjoyable; if you have never done it before I highly recommend it. Calgary is historically a very high count in North American for number of participants; last year we had a total of 194 participants which was the 7th highest count in the US and Canada (Edmonton was 1st in North America with 439 participants!!!). Calgary also had the most species of birds recorded on the CBC in Alberta with a grand total of 64.

I will be back in Calgary for the holidays and I hope to see you there!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Fish Creek Park Birding

I had a very slow birding summer, with a knee problem that kept me out of the field and off my bike for three months.  But now my knee is better and I am back birding with Gus Yaki and the Friends of Fish Creek Society.  I went out twice with this group to the Hull’s Wood/Sikome/Lafarge Meadows area in mid-September.  Here are some pictures from those trips (click on the pictures to enlarge them).

Two Double-crested Cormorants, and on the right, an Osprey, silhouetted against the rising sun.

A cormorant dries its wings.

Double-crested Cormorant, this time with the light on the right side of the bird.

The Osprey perched in a tree.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

Northern Flickers.

Greater Yellowlegs, in one of the ponds by highway 22X.

We found a single Wood Duck (centre) hanging out with the Mallards.

Great Blue Heron on its usual rock.

Juvenile Bald Eagle.

This Cedar Waxwing was picking insects out of a spider web high in a tree.

American Kestrel.

Killdeer on the pond.

Killdeer on the river.

Common Raven calling near where they nested in Lafarge Meadows.

Finally, there is this bird, which we found sitting on a path that runs from the Sikome boat launch parking lot to the river.  I’ll tell its story next week.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Help Us With the May Species Count!

The May Species Count is an event held on the last weekend of May each year, in which birders try to find every species of bird in the Calgary area.  Over the two-day period, teams or individuals scour their assigned areas to identify every bird species they see and hear, and also note the total numbers of each species.  This year the count will be on May 28 and 29.

How many Mallards?

The area covered is huge – a circle 160 kilometres in diameter centred on the Centre Street bridge in Calgary.  Organizers have broken the count circle into many smaller territories, and assigned volunteers to each area.  We need a lot of birders to cover all this territory!

          The Count Circle.  The numbers indicate the territories to which birders or teams of birders are assigned.  Click on the map to enlarge it.

There are still some territories that are not covered, so if you want to contribute to a very worthwhile citizen science project, contact the co-ordinator:

Terry Poulton  -  May Species Count, May 28-29, 2011

phone    403-274-7393        email    tpoulton@yahoo.com

Everyone is invited to participate, whether beginner or seasoned pro.  You can do a whole day, a half day, or both days.  Terry will try to assign you to an interesting route, and try to match new-comers with experienced birders, and drivers with riders.  There are a wide variety of environments, from urban to prairie to foothills habitats. Most years, more than 200 bird species are seen in total within the circle.

This is a great opportunity to get involved in Calgary and area birding, and to see as many as one hundred species of birds in a single day.  If you can identify most birds you see, you can survey an area yourself.  If you are a new birder, you will be assigned to a team with other experienced birders where you can help to spot and count birds, and learn about the process.

If you are at all interested in this, please contact Terry to get more information.  It’s one of the funnest birding experiences of the year, at the birdiest time of the year!

Posted by Bob Lefebvre