Tag Archive | birding locations

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.

Travel Tuesday: The Road Less Travelled at Frank Lake – Part 1

As you no doubt have realized by now, not only do I love shorebirds, but I also love Frank Lake. Today’s post is here to highlight not only the photos that I’ve taken at Frank Lake already this year, but also some areas that may be a little bit less familiar to the visitors to the Ducks Unlimited Protected Wetland just 50km SE of Calgary.

 

Frank Lake

Frank Lake

Of course everyone knows what great shots you can get just sitting at the established viewing blind, or on the mudflats around the parking loop at the end of the road at the main basin. For instance, Ruddy Ducks, Eared Grebes, and even Western Grebes can be regularly seen within a few meters of the main blind.

Western Grebe and young Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Western Grebe and young
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

eared grebe

Eared Grebe
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

female Ruddy

female Ruddy Duck
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

There are a couple of other places along the main access road that are good for shorebirds, Common Yellowthroat, White-faced Ibis, and even Black-crowned Night Herons. The first, labelled (1) on the map, is just east of the water inflow canal. The nutrients in the water provide a huge volume of nutrients in suspension to feed insects, plants, algae, and even shorebirds who eat small particulate food. Here are a few of the species that can often be found at this location in the summer.

Long-billed Dowitchers Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Long-billed Dowitchers
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

 

Common Yellowthroat Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Common Yellowthroat
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

American Avocets Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

American Avocets
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

 

Wilson's Snipe Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Wilson’s Snipe
Frank Lake – August 23, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

 

Great Blue Heron Frank Lake - August 23, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Great Blue Heron
Frank Lake – August 23, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

These are just a few of the areas off the beaten path at Frank Lake. With waterfowl hunting season opening on September 8, and the main gate being locked, there are a few other access points at Frank Lake that might be a bit better for drive-up birding. Check in next week for part 2 of this series on Frank Lake!

Finding Birds with eBird

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Note: You don’t have to be an eBird user or have an eBird account to do this. Anyone with an internet connection can use eBird as a resource, so please read on.

eBird, the online database of bird sightings, has many useful features that birders can use to study patterns of bird movements in time and space. The one I use the most is the Interactive Range and Point Maps. This shows a map of all sightings reported for a particular species for any place and time specified. You can set the time period to be as long or as short as you like, and thus see the distribution of the bird.

By setting a short time period of the most recent month or two, you can find out what is being seen in your birding area right now. I will run through an example of the process to show how you can easily find out exactly where your target bird has been seen.

Step 1: Go to the eBird Website home page. (In the example it is eBird Canada, but you could also use the US site.) Your screen will look something like this:

eBird article p1

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Step 2: Click the “Explore Data” tab. There will be three choices: Range and Point Maps, Bar Charts, and Line Graphs.

eBird article p2

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Step 3: Select “Range and Point Maps” to bring up the world map.

eBird article p3

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Step 4: Specify the date range for your search.  Click the “Date” tab (which is defaulted to “Year-Round, All Years) to select a time period. In the example, I set it to December only of the current year. It was early December when I did this example, so only sightings from the previous few days would be shown. Then click “Set Date Range” in the green box.

eBird article p4

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Step 5: Select the target species. A new screen has come up with the date range set to “Dec-Dec, Current Year”. Go to the “Species” box and type in the bird. I used “Snowy Owl” in the example. As you type, various species possibilities that fit what you have typed so far will show in the blue box below. Once the correct species name appears in the blue box, click it to select the species.

eBird article p5

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Step 6: Zoom in on the map to see sightings in your area. You could also at this point set the location (to Calgary, for example) in the upper right-hand box, but it is just as easy to zoom in on the Calgary area by double-clicking your mouse or scrolling your mouse wheel until you get close. Any area that is purple on the map will have at least one Snowy Owl sighting.

eBird article p6

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Below, I have zoomed in to the Calgary area. Paydirt! Snowy Owls have been reported inside the two purple rectangles. Now I just have to zoom in a little closer on them to see the exact locations.

eBird article p7

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Step 7: Get the sighting data from a point location. The two red teardrops show the exact locations reported for Snowy Owls. By clicking on them, you bring up the sighting information. In the example, I clicked the westernmost teardrop and discovered that it was Daniel Arndt who reported one owl on December 1. You could now scroll in some more to see a close-up map of the area with the names of the roads. But you can also get more information from Dan’s checklist.

eBird article p8

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Step 8: See the checklist from the reported sighting.  Click “Checklist” next to the name of the observer, to bring up all the particulars of the sighting. If there had been other species seen at that location, they would have been listed there.

eBird article p9

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Step 8: See the location on a Google map. On the above screen, click “Map” at the end of the location line to get a Google map with the precise location and GPS coordinates. You can now drive to the exact spot where Dan saw this owl, where, if you’re lucky, it will be still be sitting on the same pole.

eBird article p10

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Give this a try to see how easy it is to find out what’s being seen in your area. Of course, the only sightings you’ll find are those submitted by eBird users, so the more people using eBird, the better!

Links:

eBird Canada

eBird US

A trip to Waterton

Posted by Matthew Sim

Recently, the Fur & Feathers 500 team ( a group of 4 birders/ naturalists from Calgary attempting to see 500 species of birds and mammals in Canada in 2012) visited Waterton Lakes N.P. in the hopes of adding several species of birds and mammals to their year totals and they kindly invited me along. We left the afternoon of Wednesday July 18th and came back the next evening after a great trip. You can see the full story on the Fur & Feathers 500 blog here.

Cameron Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park

Barn Swallow; en route at Frank Lake near High River

South Glenmore Park – Grosbeaks and Hybrids

Posted by Dan Arndt

Back in June, the Friends of Fish Creek Birding Course took an excursion into the west end of South Glenmore Park. We’d been nearby just weeks beforehand when Bernie Diebolt’s group spotted a couple of Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Gus that by that time, both the Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks would be back. While I normally have a map, I didn’t track this walk, so just the photos will have to do.

Starting off at the parking lot at the west end of 90th Avenue SW we walked along the top of the south bank before dipping down onto the hillside. The mosquitos were out in force that early in the morning, and while there were plenty of birds calling, many of us were regretting our lack of bug spray. The American Robins, Warbling Vireos, and various thrushes were calling once again up and down the slope, but one of our first birds of the day was this beautiful hybrid Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak, who flew from tree to tree responding to our recorded Rose-breasted Grosbeak calls.

Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak Hybrid

Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak Hybrid

While this one called to us from nearby, we could hear Rose-breasted Grosbeaks calling from both up and down the slope, and we elected to hunt down the down-slope caller, as it was along the route we were already following. Another lifer for me, though we didn’t get the greatest views…

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

While we were listening for the calls of this male, we could hear a Red-eyed Vireo calling nearby as well, and upon playing some calls for it, it too flew in to investigate.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Along the rise and down to the east end of the beaver ponds at the southernmost point of the Weaselhead, we were greeted by another Eastern Phoebe nesting under one of the bridges in the area.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

A trek back up the hill netted a beautifully serene viewpoint overlooking much of the Weaselhead, sporting a couple of benches, bird feeders, and even quite a few birds (and other visitors) enjoying the treats provided for them. Definitely a place I’ll be back to. We even spotted what we’re pretty sure was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but no one was able to snap a photo in time!

Male Brown-headed Cowbird

Male Brown-headed Cowbird

The male and female Brown-headed Cowbirds seemed to not even care that we had intruded upon their feeding station.

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

While the Pine Siskins hid behind the tube feeders, hoping to guard themselves from prying eyes.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

And of course, no feeder in the mixed spruce and deciduous forest is complete without a woodpecker sighting. This Downy Woodpecker was waiting for us, and stuck around for some photo ops before the crowd became too much for it.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Last but not least are the mammalian visitors to the feeders. We had no less than three of these nervous and scurrying Least Chipmunks at our feet at any given time.

Least Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk

Most memorable though, was this Red Squirrel that continuously gave us the Stare of Death™ any time we disturbed its feeding schedule.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

While this wasn’t yet our last trip with the Friends of Fish Creek, we were heading into the final weekends… which I will finish up later this week!

Good birding!

Springtime in Carburn Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

Once again the Friends of Fish Creek Birding course made its way to Carburn Park, without the lure of the Northern Saw-whet Owl back in January. Since then, the weather has warmed, the birds have begun preparations to nest, and while most have chosen their mates, others are still in the process of defining their territory and competing with their rivals for the few mates still unspoken for. We were gifted with a few wonderful displays of an incredible number of Northern Flickers all throughout the park, as well as the beautifully crimson male House Finch, and huge numbers of Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Mallards, and Canada Geese.

Carburn Park Route

Carburn Park Route

This time around, we headed south from the parking lot to the bridge over the Bow River, which is one of the best places in the city to get good views, and good photos, of birds in flight. Both Canada Geese and the juvenile Bald Eagles came low over the bridge, almost posing as they flew by.

View from the bridge at Carburn Park

View from the bridge at Carburn Park

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

From there, we headed further south along the river to get views of the duck species present, and were allowed particularly good views of Buffleheads, Mallards, Common Goldeneye, and even my first female Common Merganser of the year.

Buffleheads & Mallard

Buffleheads & Mallard

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

We headed east about a hundred meters before heading north along the back fences of the community adjacent to the park. Here we were greeted by the melodious sounds of House Finches and Black-capped Chickadees at the feeders.

House Finch

House Finch

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Cutting back over to the river bank, the overcast skies opened up to let the blue shine through, and the light was absolutely incredible for the better part of an hour. Along this stretch of river, we were constantly hearing the drumming and calling of the Northern Flickers, and across the river, a family of Bald Eagles was down on the ice. Overhead, the Canada Geese continued their flyovers before heading eastward to the outlying fields for the day.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

From there, we headed along the shoreline in a clockwise direction. While the light remained good, we came across a curious Black-billed Magpie, and a group of Common Mergansers also swam in close, the males showing off their beautiful green head plumage.

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

Common Mergansers

Common Mergansers

While the number of ducks and geese was incredibly high, the evidence of their predation by the ever present Bald Eagles was apparent.

Juvenile Bald Eagles

Juvenile Bald Eagles

Mallard Carcass

Mallard Carcass

We continued to trek onwards, and in our search for the Northern Saw-whet Owl seen here in January that came up empty, we almost literally stumbled upon a herd of twenty or so White-tailed Deer, spread out along the trails in the northwest section of the park.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

While the remainder of the walk was a little rushed, it remained relatively relaxing, as the birds had quieted down quite a lot, and none really seemed to pay us any mind as we strolled the interior of the park along the pond, back to our vehicles, and then home.

See you next week!