Tag Archive | bird blog calgary

South Glenmore Park and the last gasp of winter

Posted by Dan Arndt

While I was away for Sunday morning’s walk, I spent some time on the following Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening visiting the reservoir and seeing what I could see. While I didn’t get any trees full of Tree Swallows, or violet-greens full of Violet-green Swallows, I did manage to get up close and personal with a number of beautiful species around the reservoir on both the north side and south side, and also managed to spot a new lifer, and an incredibly rare bird for Alberta! Unfortunately, I don’t have as much of a story to tell, as I was out by myself and spent quite a bit of time just sitting and waiting for the birds to either come to me, or allow me to get just a little closer.

Glenmore Reservoir

Glenmore Reservoir

In anticipation of knowing I wasn’t going to be around for the weekend walk, I did spend a little time at both North and South Glenmore Park, trying to capture some of the birds that I was certain we would see. On May 2, I headed to the ponds at North Glenmore Park for a little bit, where I found a few more Say’s Phoebes who allowed me much better opportunities for photographs, and a pair of Killdeer who were courting.

Killdeer North Glenmore Park May 2, 2014

Killdeer
North Glenmore Park
May 2, 2014

Say's Phoebe North Glenmore Park May 2, 2014

Say’s Phoebe
North Glenmore Park
May 2, 2014

I thought I’d share a photo of how I spent my Saturday night and Sunday morning, just so you know I wasn’t shirking my duties… it was definitely a challenge to stay warm under these conditions!

Shelter made from two tarps with my sleeping bag inside. Brr.

Shelter made from two tarps with my sleeping bag inside. Brr.

So once my Sunday trials were over and done with, I decided that the sudden squall of snow would make for some great birds at South Glenmore Park, where others had posted photos of hundreds of swallows in a single tree online, while others were reporting huge numbers of Western Tanagers at their feeders and at various parks around Calgary. I did get up close and personal with some swallows, but I also found a few obliging grebes, and a nice flyby of a young Herring Gull to boot!

immature Herring Gull South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

immature Herring Gull
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Western Grebe South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Western Grebe
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Horned Grebe South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Horned Grebe
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

And watching these swallows feeding on the surface of the water was mesmerizing. They would fly back about 100-200 meters, and slowly, against the slight wind, work their way back to the point I was sitting on before peeling back and repeating the process over and over and over again. It was really quite the sight!

Tree Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

The next night I got a call from another friend down at the reservoir who had found Alberta’s 5th (or 6th?) record of a Slaty-backed Gull on one of the sand bars. These guys are rarely seen in Calgary, and usually breed up in the high Arctic, so to get one here is really quite an accomplishment!

Slaty-backed Gull amongst Herring and Franklin's Gulls Glenmore Reservoir May 7, 2014

Slaty-backed Gull (larger, dark mantled gull beside Franklin’s Gull left of centre) amongst Herring and Franklin’s Gulls
Glenmore Reservoir
May 7, 2014

 

And with that, that wraps another week of birding in Calgary’s amazing, and surprising, spring migration!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Carburn Park Part 2: The Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

One of the areas of Carburn Park that we visit a little less often are the flats and backwater ponds south of the main parking lot, and even further south of the Eric Harvie bridge all the way down south to the Ivor Strong Bridge where Deerfoot Trail crosses the Bow River (again). Last week’s outing was really quite incredible. Three new species that I’d never seen on the Friends of Fish Creek outings, and two that I’d never seen within the city limits before, which was really quite a treat! Enjoy!

Carburn Park south of the Eric Harvie Bridge April 27, 2014

Carburn Park south of the Eric Harvie Bridge
April 27, 2014

As we started out, we headed over to the spot where we saw the North American Beaver last week, and were greeted by a small flock of hunting Yellow-rumped Warblers, a few of which stopped to pose for some nice photos.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Yellow-rumped Warbler Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

We headed across the Eric Harvie bridge in search of a number of Red-winged Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, and a few other distant birds, but one of our surprising visitors flew overhead, and in the moment, I correctly, then incorrectly identified it. My gut instinct off the bat was to call this beauty a Ferruginous Hawk, but after a moment I changed my ID to a Red-tailed Hawk. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I was right in the first place after all, but Ferruginous Hawks aren’t really the most common bird in the Calgary area!

Ferruginous Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

Ferruginous Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

This immature Red-winged Blackbird was still showing quite a bit of rusty edging on the scapulars and secondary flight feathers, indicating that this is an immature male.

Red-winged Blackbird Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Red-winged Blackbird
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

We headed further south along the trails and happened upon the first American White Pelican that our group would see for the year. The crest on the mandible indicates that this is a male, and he seemed content to just snooze away the morning.

American White Pelican Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

American White Pelican
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

In the trees nearby were a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees begging for a meal, a lone Ruby-crowned Kinglet going about his business of looking for some food, but in an open expanse to the south an odd shape presented itself. At first, I thought it to be an American Robin, but on closer inspection it was certainly a flycatcher of some sort, and once I got even a little closer, I knew for sure that the yellowish-brown undertones, white wing bars, grayish “vest”, and crest must indicate a Say’s Phoebe, which was a great find for our group!

Say's Phoebe Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Say’s Phoebe
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Another good look at yet another new spring species was this Song Sparrow that led a few of our photographers on a merry chase before stopping for a quick pose right in front of me in great light!

Song Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Song Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Down at the far south end we did find a group of Franklin’s Gulls feeding in some oddly smelling water at the mixture point between the fast-moving river water, and the slower moving back-channel. Whatever it was, they sure seemed to enjoy it!

Franklin's Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Franklin’s Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

My first Osprey pair of the season also showed up in one of their usual spots in the area near the Lafarge gravel pit at their Bow River Aggregates site, just one of at least three pair of Osprey in and around the Carburn Park area!

Osprey having a bite Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Osprey having a bite
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

From here we headed back, and most of my group headed on their way home, but if they had stuck with me for just a few more minutes, they would have been treated to two great sights. The first of which, this Broad-winged Hawk, was my first sighting of this species in the Calgary area. While they do happen through on occasion during spring and fall migration, they had so far eluded me! You can identify this uncommon species by the broad black and white tail bands, and the black fringing on the very edge of the wings, with very light speckling on the belly and underwing.

Broad-winged Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Broad-winged Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

That encounter I didn’t even realize the weight of until I returned home to review my photos! So off I went, over to the second pond in search of a Common Loon that had been seen there earlier in the week. I even lucked out with a kayaker doing laps around the pond, occasionally pushing the loon just a little closer each time until I got a shot I felt was post-worthy.

Common Loon Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Common Loon
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Hope you enjoyed reading this post, and as always, we’ll see you next week!

Good birding!

 

Spring Begins at Sikome Lake

Posted by Dan Arndt

As with each of our courses, we began the Spring course with the Friends of Fish Creek down at the Friends of Fish Creek Headquarters building, and then on down to Sikome Lake, once again in search of new spring migrants. From this point on in the season my goal with the blog will be to only post new species (or better/unique photos of species we’ve found before). Since we have such a variety of available birds here during spring migration, this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but here goes. Once more into the breach!

Sikome Lake and area April 6, 2014

Sikome Lake and area
April 6, 2014

It really seems like some weeks all the activity is centered around one particular area, and other weeks it’s a steady succession of interesting birds. This week was definitely the former. From the start, it seemed like a slow day. Many of the waterfowl had already been flushed by fishermen and boaters down the river, but this curious American Robin in the long dry grasses made for a nice early subject to shoot.

American Robin Sikome Lake April 6, 2014

American Robin
Sikome Lake
April 6, 2014

Of course we just had to check in on what is likely the most famous pair of Great Horned Owls in Calgary. There were no less than a dozen others already there by the time we arrived. The mother was just poking her head out from the nest, while dad was hidden away.

female Great Horned Owl Sikome Lake April 6, 2014

female Great Horned Owl
Sikome Lake
April 6, 2014

While we were watching her, and then again on our return down the pathway, we found this pair of White-breasted Nuthatches foraging in some fallen logs. They were certainly a joy to shoot, and not always the most cooperative subjects! Thankfully they were more interested in the food than in staying away from us photographers!

White-breasted Nuthatch April 6, 2014

White-breasted Nuthatch
April 6, 2014

From there we headed south into the north end of Lafarge Meadows. While we did get some waterfowl on the Bow River, the photos weren’t that great, and certainly not quite up to snuff in comparison with everything else I shot that day! We did manage to see some more Lesser Scaup, Redheads, and even scoped out where a family of Common Ravens is nesting. This marks at least the fifth year (that I know of) that they’ve been nesting in the same place within the city limits.

As we returned to the starting area, we decided to take a bit of a stroll up to some well known feeding stations at the edge of Sikome Lake. While those stations didn’t turn up anything whatsoever, along the way we did see an American Tree Sparrow (not photographed) while on the same log, in fact, this Dark-eyed Junco posed quite nicely for myself and a few others.

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored subspecies) Sikome Lake April 6, 2014

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored subspecies)
Sikome Lake
April 6, 2014

And who could forget the mammals? As spring comes into bloom (see what I did there? huh? huh?) the mammal activity really heats up. At the very start of our walk last Sunday were a pair of Coyotes near the headquarters building. This was the best shot I managed, as I was on the far side of the field from this one.

Coyote FCPP Headquarters Building April 6, 2014

Coyote
FCPP Headquarters Building
April 6, 2014

Of course no one could forget the typical spring mammal that every Albertan knows to watch out for (especially on the roads!), the Richardson’s Ground Squirrel. This fellow sat stock still as soon as we laid eyes on him, allowing us to get in very close and observe him for as long as we could possibly have kept that up. Quite good camouflage at work there!

Richardson's Ground Squirrel Sikome Lake April 6, 2014

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel
Sikome Lake
April 6, 2014

Have a great week, and good birding!

The end of Winter at Pine Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant

Posted by Dan Arndt

I know, I know. With the title of the last two Monday morning blog posts having to do with the beginning of spring, or the end of winter, you’d think it would actually be over by now, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, one last winter storm made our last outing with the Winter session with the Friends of Fish Creek live up to its name. Blowing snow, -12 degrees C temperatures, and a whole lot of ice on the river made it feel like an outing more in line with early January than the last day of March! The quantity of species seen though, did begin to look a bit more like spring. The number of waterfowl species that were laying over on the south end of the Bow River in Calgary certainly showed us that spring, indeed, was finally just around the corner. In fact, there was so much activity on the south end of our trek that I’ve had to blow up the usual map to give proper detail on where each species was seen!

Pine Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant area Zoomed-out view March 31, 2014

Pine Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant area
Zoomed-out view
March 31, 2014

Pine Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant area Zoomed-in view March 31, 2014

Pine Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant area
Zoomed-in view
March 31, 2014

While few and far between, one of the first birds that I picked out on the water last week was one of a few Cackling Geese in amongst the Canada Geese. While superficially similar, they really do stand out when sitting (or standing) near their larger cousins. In fact, it wasn’t until 2004 that the Cackling Goose was identified as its own species, with 4 subspecies identified.

Canada Geese (left) and Cackling Goose (right)

Canada Geese (left) and Cackling Goose (right)

The presence of a few duck species typically associated with prairie ponds and sloughs spending their time on the river is also another sure sign of a changing of the seasons. Both the Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler were around in good numbers, but not too close. Even a single Tundra Swan flew down onto the river while we watched in awe.

Tundra Swan March 31, 2014

Tundra Swan
March 31, 2014

 

Northern Pintail March 31, 2014

Northern Pintail
March 31, 2014

Northern Shovelers March 31, 2014

Northern Shovelers
March 31, 2014

Our first real good looks at the first migrant shorebirds to come through were along this stretch of river. These Killdeer are really quite hardy little birds. It’s no wonder they can be so numerous throughout the Calgary area!

Killdeer March 31, 2014

Killdeer
March 31, 2014

In addition to the migrant waterfowl and shorebird species, there were also a couple of predatory birds around. A Merlin and Northern Goshawk made passes over us almost one right after the other, and we were treated to the disjointed yet beautiful song of this calling Northern Shrike for at least ten minutes before it was flushed by some dog walkers getting a bit too close.

Northern Shrike March 31, 2014

Northern Shrike
March 31, 2014

Our first good looks at Herring Gulls this season were also along this stretch, many of which flew quite close to us, and in some cases, seemed to be just as curious about us as we were of them!

curious Herring Gull  March 31, 2014

curious Herring Gull
March 31, 2014

Herring Gull in flight March 31, 2014

Herring Gull in flight
March 31, 2014

I mentioned Killdeer earlier, and we did come across a much larger group of them, but only thanks to the eagle eyes of Gus Yaki, which he had on loan from an eagle who decided to sleep in that day. Can you spot the Killdeer in this picture? (Hint: There are five Killdeer in this image.)

Killdeer camouflage March 31, 2014

Killdeer camouflage
March 31, 2014

My first sighting of the next species of the day happened out on Vancouver Island over Christmas of 2013, and despite many trips out last spring in search of this species, and despite their relative abundance here in the spring migration, this was my first Eurasian Wigeon in Alberta. Again, a nice bird to see at the best of times. He seemed to be having a bit of a spat with his American relatives though…

Eurasian and American Wigeon March 31, 2014

Eurasian and American Wigeon
March 31, 2014

Eurasian and American Wigeon March 31, 2014

Eurasian and American Wigeon
March 31, 2014

We did also have a nice close look at a Redhead a bit further upstream, before things seemed to get a little bit too far off in the snow to get any good images, and yet, we did seem to have some Common Mergansers stalking us as we headed back up towards the start of our journey.

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Redhead
March 31, 2014

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Canada Goose (left) and Common Mergansers (right)
March 31, 2014

And that was it for our last week of the Winter Birding Course with the Friends of Fish Creek!

With the start of our Spring course next week, I’ll definitely be trying to not duplicate species that I get photos of each week, much like I tried to last year, with relatively good success.

Have a great week, and until next Monday, Good Birding

Spring arrives at Pearce Estate Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Last week took the temperatures well above zero degrees C, and to another of the parks heavily impacted by the flood of 2013. Pearce Estate Park is just upstream from the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, which is currently still closed due to the damage it sustained, and likely will be until the summer or fall of 2015. Each year, we usually visit Inglewood Bird Sanctuary around this time in search for the first returning gulls of the season, and so we figured that Pearce Estate would also do us a solid and turn up some northward migrants, and we sure weren’t disappointed!

Pearce Estate Park March 16, 2014

Pearce Estate Park
March 16, 2014

Right from the start I knew it was going to be a good day when one of our first bird species seen were a pair of American Robins. It’s likely that they were either local migrants into the city, or overwintering birds dispersing as the temperatures rose. Unless we banded and tracked them, or attached a GPS transmitter to them, it’s hard to say for sure, but they were doing a good job gleaning something to eat from the tall grasses and low brush atop the hill just north of the parking lot.

American Robin

male American Robin

The calls of newly arrived European Starlings filled the park, along with the odd House Finch, Downy Woodpecker, and almost incessant calls of Northern Flickers asserting their dominance and claiming territory. Along the train bridge we ran into this punk rock Common Raven with his freshly stenciled grafitti.

Common Raven

Common Raven

Only a few moments later, we captured a pair of California Gulls, the first of the season for our group, flying by at a fairly low altitude, but fast enough that I only caught them moving away from us.

California Gulls

California Gulls in flight

On the ice down below was a lone Canada Goose, perhaps waiting for a mate to return, or just taking a breather on the iced up gravel bar.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Back on the pathway, this pair of Northern Flickers put on quite a show for us, flying to and fro and displaying at each other in a very long and drawn out territory dispute. I’m still not sure who the winner is!

dueling Northern Flickers

dueling Northern Flickers

dueling Northern Flickers

dueling Northern Flickers

It really seemed as if the area near the train bridge was the hub of our activity, as this male House Sparrow had been caught in the act of taking nest material back to one of the support struts for the bridge. Who’d have thought that’s where they’d make their home?

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

And once again back on the bridge we had some great views of the iridescence of the feral Rock Pigeons.

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon

Down on the ice they were feeding on something that had likely spilled from rail cars earlier in the week, and this oddly colored brownish pigeon stood out from the rest.

oddly colored Rock Pigeon

oddly colored Rock Pigeon

We decided that we’d seen enough of the area around the bridge, and were delighted to get some close up looks at the European Starlings that we would have had to have been deaf to miss hearing. This male European Starling posed quite nicely for the group, and proceeded to remove filler from the hole that he and his partner had decided would be their nesting area for the year.

male European Starling

male European Starling

We headed downstream a bit to see if we could see any more gulls, and also to show how badly cut the banks near the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary were. The damage was more extensive than I’d even imagined. Along the way we found a couple of Black-billed Magpie nests, and even saw a few of them taking materials to their nests to either build them anew, or to reinforce the structure that’s in place.

Black-billed Magpie at nest

Black-billed Magpie at nest

And so ends another week with the Friends of Fish Creek Winter birding course! Next week, we recap our visit to Lafarge Meadows, where even more migrants have been found!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Birding Bebo Grove in the depths of winter

Posted by Dan Arndt

This week’s trip was unfortunately cut short as my lined cargo pants and a pair of thick long johns still weren’t enough to keep the bitter cold bite of the wind away. I wasn’t the only one though, my camera quit after little more than an hour of walking in what felt like -36 degrees C. This is the first time my Pentax K-5 has actually powered down due to the cold, and I’ve birded in colder actual temperatures, but it must have been the wind chill that got to the battery as well, and no amount of battery switching in the field would keep it working. I really only managed to snap off a few photos of a Black-capped Chickadee and a mass of floating ice crystals above the creek itself. I realized my camera (and my legs) would have no more of it when I attempted to take a photo of a Red-breasted Nuthatch we saw a bit further along on our route and I watched the screen fade, and them simply turn off.

ice crystals over Fish Creek Bebo Grove

ice crystals over Fish Creek
Bebo Grove

Black-capped Chickadee Bebo Grove

Black-capped Chickadee
Bebo Grove

Have no fear. I’ll make it up to you, dear reader, tomorrow, with some photos I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

Good birding!

Watching Waterfowl at Beaverdam Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

After a nearly complete washout last week, with only a handful of species and no real photo opportunities, this week was only slightly better. The lack of large numbers of waterfowl on the Bow River at Beaverdam Flats, the dropping temperatures, and the constant wind seemed to keep the birds away. The icy conditions of the main pathways also put a damper on things, and even gave me a bit of a start, leaving me with a broken lens hood and a bit of a sore hip early on in the walk. Not to worry though, my camera, lens, and body are all A-OK!

Beaverdam Flats - January 26, 2014

Beaverdam Flats – January 26, 2014

The morning began with some fairly diffuse light and a bitterly cold wind out of the north, but not bitter or cold enough to keep us from scanning a group of waterfowl at the water treatment plant outfall. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t pick out the Redhead, American Wigeon, or even the domestic or leucistic Mallards that had been seen by other groups this week. Maybe they had decided it was a little too cold for them and stayed home! We did get some good looks at a few Canada Geese in flight, some of which were missing some flight feathers, and others were just showing off.

Canada Geese and Mallards Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Canada Geese and Mallards
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Canada Geese Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Canada Geese
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

I had hoped to get some Bald Eagle shots for the blog while we were here, as there were as many as 12 Bald Eagles seen at one time throughout the week, but they too were noticeably absent. We did get more than a few Common Ravens, and I find it interesting how it’s nearly impossible to get the two-toned appearance of the raven’s flight feathers to show up in anything but the most diffuse light. I also found it interesting to note just how worn the feathers of this particular bird are, which I only really took note of after downloading my shots this afternoon.

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

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

As the morning progressed, our luck seemed to improve, and we headed away from the river into the stands of tall poplar and aspens. We did manage to find a pair of Northern Flickers, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a few Downy Woodpeckers, along with an assortment of White-breasted Nuthatches and a few Black-capped Chickadees, but all in all, it was even quieter away from the water.

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

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

male Downy Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

male Downy Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

As we returned to the water’s edge, the light was progressively improving, and allowed some higher speed flight shots of the always gorgeous Common Goldeneye.

Common Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Common Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

While we were able to watch a particularly fun interaction between a 4th-year Bald Eagle and a flock of about seven Common Ravens and a pair of Black-billed Magpies, they were a little too far off and amongst some challenging terrain to get any usable shots. It was quite nice though, to get a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees fluttering about the pathway on our return to the parking lot, posing quite nicely as we snapped away with our cameras.

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Have a great week, keep safe, and good birding!

Griffith Woods: Lots of potential, but not much realized

Posted by Dan Arndt

After a week of great sightings at Griffith Woods, our walk on Sunday morning was greeted with a beautiful blue sky, above zero temperatures, and a whole lot of great birders out to see what we could see. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many birds around overall, and even fewer gave us any real photo opportunities.

As a bit of a filler, I thought I’d highlight my most recent post that was put up on Bird Canada on Sunday morning, recollecting my experiences over the Christmas holidays on Vancouver Island. I do hope you enjoy reading it, and look forward to providing many more photos of our local Calgary birds very soon!

Read my Bird Canada post here: Christmas Birding in the Comox Valley.

My 2013 Birding Year in Review

Posted by Dan Arndt

First and foremost, Happy New Year, and I wish you all the best in 2014.

Aside from all of the personal challenges 2013 brought me, I blew past my personal record in my first year of serious listing (and serious birding, for what it’s worth) of 236 bird species found within 80km of Calgary. 2013 netted me a total of 248 species in the Calgary region, and a whole lot more experience birding both in the Calgary area, in Alberta as a whole, and even in some more remote places.

My year started off in Mexico, after a night of some hearty ringing in of the new year, and a hangover that I haven’t experienced in a very long time. Some say that your first bird of the year has some significant meaning for how the rest of your year will go. Mine started off with the ubiquitous calls and chatter of a Hooded Oriole outside my room on the resort. I think it was one of only a few birds I managed to see that day, due to my very sorry state!

Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole
Yucatan Peninsula
January 2013

A couple highlights from my trip down south, which I hope to repeat in the future, included the incredible sights at Ria Lagartos on the Gulf of Mexico, a birding trip with a local guide, Rene, from Green Birding Tours out of Tulum, and being woken up a few mornings by a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl right outside my room!

Ria Lagartos

Pelicans, Gulls and a few shorebirds at Ria Lagartos
January 2013

pygmy-owl

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Gran Bahia Principe Coba, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
January 2014

February came in with a bang, and while the birding was fairly typical of an Alberta winter, a locally rare Northern Mockingbird showed up in Vulcan, prompting a trip with local wildlife and landscape photographer, Jeff Bingham. 

Northern Mockingbird Vulcan, Alberta February 2013

Northern Mockingbird
Vulcan, Alberta
February 2013

March’s highlights included a chance encounter with a pair of Short-eared Owls near Frank Lake, a second trip to Frank Lake later in the month heralded the beginning of spring migration, with tens of thousands of ducks, geese, and swans on the slowly thawing lake, and an incredible encounter on Grand Valley Road with a very accommodating Great Grey Owl the very next day, and my lifer Long-eared Owl a few days after that!

GGO

Great Grey Owl
Grand Valley Road
March 2013

migration at Frank Lake

migration flock at Frank Lake
March 2013

LEO

Long-eared Owl
north Calgary
March 2013

short-eared owl

Short-eared Owl
Frank Lake entrance
March 2013

In April I was able to photograph a family of White-winged Crossbills at my feeders, who had successfully fledged a winter brood in my neighbors spruce tree in their back yard. And then the Swarovski came, and along with it, a fallout of Mountain Bluebirds at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and along with them, an assortment of other usual spring migrants and great chances to shoot them, including my two favourites, this Red-necked Grebe and Northern Shoveler.

immature White-winged Crossbill Hillhurst, Calgary April 2013

immature White-winged Crossbill
Hillhurst, Calgary
April 2013

immature male White-winged Crossbill Hillhurst, Calgary

immature male White-winged Crossbill
Hillhurst, Calgary
April 2013 

Mountain Bluebirds Inglewood Bird Sanctuary April 2013

Mountain Bluebirds
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
April 2013

Red-necked Grebe Frank Lake April 2013

Red-necked Grebe
Frank Lake
April 2013

Northern Shoveler Weed Lake April 2013

Northern Shoveler
Weed Lake
April 2013

The highlights for May were another pair of lifers that I was incredibly happy to find. First, early in May, the first Alberta record of Purple Sandpiper showed up at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and one afternoon after work I stopped by to take some shots of it at the exact same spot I was at a month before with the bluebirds. The second was this adorable little Piping Plover I discovered north of Hanna, while on my way home from a work trip.

Purple Sandpiper Inglewood Bird Sanctuary May 2013

Purple Sandpiper
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
May 2013

Piping Plover north of Hanna May 2013

Piping Plover
north of Hanna
May 2013

June was a blur, but for a whole number of reasons. Evening Grosbeaks were a highlight early in the month, but by mid-June I was laid off, making the rest of the birding year a bit more of a challenge. I still went ahead with the Big Day I had planned with David Pugh, writer of the “A Calgary Birder” blog, which involved a whole lot of terrible weather, but remained an incredible experience, and one that I would definitely repeat, even with the close call we had near the end of our trip with this very curious Black Bear at the Waterton townsite. The now famous flooding of southern Alberta came less than a week later, forcing me from my home for a weekend, but also allowing an impromptu visit to Kinbrook Island Provincial Park and a thorough exploration of the region surrounding Brooks. On my return home, another trip up Grand Valley Road turned up both a Northern Pygmy-Owl and a nesting pair of Sandhill Cranes, both species I’ve never had a chance to photograph.

evening

Evening Grosbeak
Priddis, Alberta
June 2013

curious Black Bear Waterton Lakes National Park June 2013

curious Black Bear
Waterton Lakes National Park
June 2013

Dinosaur Provincial Park north of Brooks, Alberta June 2014

Dinosaur Provincial Park
north of Brooks, Alberta
June 2014 

SACR

Sandhill Crane
Grand Valley Road
June 2013

NOPO

Northern Pygmy-Owl
Grand Valley Road
June 2013

July was a matter of flood recovery for many of us in Calgary and the rest of southern Alberta, and while I spent a few days here and there out in the field, I spent others helping family and strangers with their own struggles. I did have time to check in on a family of Loggerhead Shrikes near Calgary that were found by our very own Matthew Sim last year, and as hoped, they had returned to the area and fledged a good number of young! The end of July allowed a brief trip down to the Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, and on the way down we checked out a side road that Alan Plumb and Marg Matheson reported finding Lark Buntings and Grasshopper Sparrows a few days before, and sure enough, there they were!

grasshopper

Grasshopper Sparrow
south-east of Vulcan, Alberta
July 2013

loggerhead

immature Loggerhead Shrike
north-east of Calgary
July 2013

In August, I joined a trip with Nature Calgary down to south-east Alberta, and a stop at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park turned up a great experience with an inquisitive Rock Wren, and more Common Nighthawks than I’ve ever seen in my life, with as many as 60 seen in one evening at our campsite in Foremost. It was also a month I spent many mornings up at Confederation Park, and had my first Canadian sightings of a few Black-and-White Warblers.

rowr

Rock Wren
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
August 2013

nighthawk

Common Nighthawk
Manyberries, Alberta
August 2013

Black-and-White Warbler Confederation Park, Calgary August 2013

Black-and-White Warbler
Confederation Park, Calgary
August 2013

As fall migration continued into September, the standouts were a great opportunity to shoot this Say’s Phoebe, and a fairly uncommon American Golden Plover out at Weed Lake, east of Calgary. Mid-September I took a visit to Ucluelet, British Columbia to take part in a pelagic birding trip put on by Wild Research. Needless to say, this was another highlight of my year overall, and the best sighting by far was the Black-footed Albatross. On another note, who would have thought I’d get my lifer Chestnut-sided Warbler while I was 40km out to sea?

albatross

Black-footed Albatross and Buller’s Shearwater
Wildresearch Pelagic trip out of Ucluelet, B.C.
September 2013

CSWA

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Wildresearch Pelagic trip out of Ucluelet, B.C.
September 2013

AMGP

American Golden Plover
Weed Lake, east of Calgary
September 2013

saph

Say’s Phoebe
Weed Lake, east of Calgary
September 2013

As the fall wore on, and the new and remarkable birds began to wane in number, it was a surprise year for Anna’s Hummingbirds in southern Alberta. With at least seven different individuals being reported in the Calgary area, it seemed to be a major invasion of these late little birds. A few days later, by complete surprise, this Sabine’s Gull (also a locally uncommon bird) turned up on the Glenmore Reservoir.

Sabine's Gull Glenmore Reservoir, Calgary October 2013

Sabine’s Gull
Glenmore Reservoir, Calgary
October 2013

Anna's Hummingbird Northwest Calgary October 2013

Anna’s Hummingbird
Northwest Calgary
October 2013

As autumn wore on into November, it felt like the depths of winter here in Calgary. Extreme low temperatures and massive amounts of snow led to a paucity of good weather days to go out birding, but still we all trudged on, in hopes of finding one of the incredibly rare winter finches that decided to stay up north this winter. A trip down to Lake McGregor before the worst of the weather came in turned up the last of the really huge numbers of Snow Geese on their way south.

Snow Goose flock Lake McGregor, east of Vulcan November 2013

Snow Goose flock
Lake McGregor, east of Vulcan
November 2013

December was marked early on with a trip out to the northeast of Calgary in search of Snowy Owls, and also gave me some great opportunities to get very close to one brave little Snow Bunting. Following the Christmas Bird Counts in Calgary and Canmore, my Christmas holidays took me out to the Comox Valley to visit the family of my better half, but also gave me a great opportunity to see some great winter birds on the coast before the year was through. No spoilers there though, because that will be the subject of my post for Bird Canada coming up on January 19th, 2014!

snowy owl

Snowy Owl
northeast of Calgary
December 2013

snow bunting

Snow Bunting
northeast of Calgary
December 2013

Thanks as always for reading, and best wishes for birding in 2014!

Sunday Showcase: Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Posted by Dan Arndt

Earlier this year, we were informed of what appeared to be a female Northern Saw-whet Owl sitting on a nest in a Edworthy Park. To make sure the owl successfully nested and fledged its young, we kept the location pretty quiet, and both Bob Lefebvre and myself visited the nest a few times just to check in on her and make sure she was still there. The area where the nest was located was a fairly low-traffic area, so we suspected chances were very good that she would successfully fledge a full nest of owlets. As the weeks progressed, things seemed to be going quite well, until one day she was simply gone. Here are a few photos of her checking me out as I checked her out:

female Northern Saw-whet Owl giving me the evil eye May 2013

female Northern Saw-whet Owl giving me the evil eye
May 2013

female Northern Saw-whet Owl checking me out from inside the nest May 2013

female Northern Saw-whet Owl checking me out from inside the nest
May 2013

Nobody's home. Go away. May 2013

Nobody’s home. Go away.
May 2013

I see you seeing me! May 2013

I see you seeing me!
May 2013