Tag Archive | birds calgary blog

Spring Birding Course 2015

The Friends of Fish Creek are now taking registrations for the very popular Spring Birding Course. New for this spring is the option to go out twice a week rather than just once. These courses are a great value for all the time you get to spend to spend in the field, and the rate for youths sixteen and under is still only $5 (with a registered adult) for the entire twelve-week course! Register online here.

Spring Birding Course 2

Sunday Showcase: Eagles of Beaverdam Flats

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The lower Bow River in Calgary, downstream of the weir, is a great spot for winter eagle-watching. There is a plentiful food source, consisting of dead or dying Canada Geese, Mallards, and other waterfowl. Among the tens of thousands of birds on the open parts of the river, there are always some that are sick or injured (some of them wounded by hunters). Bald Eagles will readily scavenge the dead birds.

11281326655_fd22bd9a73_kNear-adult Bald Eagle eating a Mallard, Beaverdam Flats, December 8, 2013. Photo by Dan Arndt.

The Bow River is warmed by runoff from the waste-water treatment plants and other city runoff. Because of this, the Bow below downtown Calgary is often the only large body of open water in the area during cold winters. (This has only been the case since about 1975. Before that, there were no waterfowl here in the winter since there was no open water. There were very few eagles seen here until about 2000, as they recovered from critically low numbers caused mostly by DDT poisoning.) These days, good numbers of eagles, mostly juveniles, are seen on the river in winter at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Inglewood Golf course, Carburn Park, Beaverdam Flats, and all the way down through Fish Creek Park. The largest concentrations seem to be at Carburn and Beaverdam.

When the wind is blowing from the west, as it often is, you can watch the eagles soaring right over your head. Here are some photos taken by John Stegeman on a Friends of Fish Creek outing in January.

Bald Eagle adult 2Adult Bald Eagle in flight, Beaverdam Flats, January 24, 2015. Photo by John Stegeman.

Bald Eagle adult 1Adult Bald Eagle, Beaverdam Flats, January 24, 2015. Photo by John Stegeman.

Bald Eagle juvenileJuvenile Bald Eagle in flight, Beaverdam Flats, January 24, 2015. Photo by John Stegeman.

Occasionally the eagles will gather in a small area and you see quite a number of them together. Here is a photo taken in January by Ron Friend.

Eagles- Beaver Dam Flats-Jan 21,2015 029Five Bald Eagles and four Common Ravens in one tree, Beaverdam Flats, January 21, 2015. Photo by Ron Friend.

A few years ago I saw fourteen juvenile Bald Eagles in one tree at Carburn Park. I mentioned this to Gus Yaki, and he said he had seen seventeen at once at Beaverdam Flats, and he once met a person from the adjacent Lynnwood neighbourhood who claimed he had a photo of an incredible thirty-one!! (He agreed to send Gus the photo but either couldn’t find it or lost the email address – if you’re out there, please send it to us!)

Thirty-one might be the unofficial Calgary record, but here we have an amazing photo of twenty-six Bald Eagles (and two Common Ravens) taken at Beaverdam in January 2009 by Ron Kube. (Click the photo to enlarge it. It can be hard to spot every last one, but there are indeed 26 eagles. The one that’s really hard to see is just above and to the right of the adult that is at 9 o’clock, a little in from the left edge. The ravens are together at the lower centre of the photo.)

Ron Kube 26 eaglesAdult and juvenile Bald Eagles (26) and Common Ravens (2). Beaverdam Flats, January 3, 2009. Photo by Ron Kube.

Tomorrow, Family Day, will present a good opportunity to look for eagles in Calgary. Dan Arndt and Rose Painter are leading a Nature Calgary field trip to Carburn Park. See the Nature Calgary field trip page here.

Calgary Birding Podcast

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

A welcome addition to the Calgary birding community is the Wild Bird Watcher site. This blog, by Brian “Hurricane” Smith, is dedicated to birding in Calgary. The blog consists mostly of interviews with local birders, and occasionally with experts from out-of-province. The interviews are in the form of podcasts (short audio files) that you can listen to right on the site, or download to your computer.

Wild Bird Watcher logo 343 pix by 124 png

Recently there was an interview with Nature Calgary president Andrew Hart, and there is a new interview with our own Dan Arndt. Be sure to go to the home page and go through the archives and listen to previous interviews as well. The blog was started in September 2014, and there are nine podcasts so far. You can also subscribe to the blog so you get email notifications of all new posts.

Brian Smith is a long-time professional in audio and video production, broadcasting, and voice work, and this shows in the high quality of the podcasts.

The podcasts are sponsored by the Wild Bird Store, Calgary’s only store dedicated solely to wild birds.

Family Day Birds & Beers

The February Birds & Beers get-together will take place on Family Day, Monday February 16. The location is the Royal Canadian Legion #284, 606-38 Avenue NE Calgary. Everyone is welcome, including children. Drop in any time between 3 and 6 pm to talk about birds and birding! (After 6 pm the venue is adults-only.)

See the Facebook page here.

More information on Birds & Beers events can be found here and here.

Fuglsang_Black_BirdPhoto by Jacob Bøtter, via Wikimedia Commons

Birds & Beers Update

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The Birds & Beers event held last Tuesday at the Horton Road Legion was a great success! About thirty-five people attended. It was nice to meet some people that we’ve only known from internet posts and photos, and to see some old friends. Dan Arndt and I were there representing both the blog and the 2015 birding competition. We were able to answer quite a few questions and discuss many birding issues.

The venue is very good for this sort of get-together. It is quiet enough so that you can carry on a conversation, and good meals and drinks are available at reasonable prices.

There is no end to the number of topics to discuss with a subject as vast and fascinating as birding, so we plan to continue to have Birds & Beers events regularly.

The next Birds & Beers will be held on Family Day, Monday February 16, so save the date! This Legion is closed that day so we are looking for another venue, but it will be all-ages so you can bring your kids. We will announce the time and location soon.

Many thanks to Wayne Walker for setting this up and being there to sign everyone in.

Winter Birding Targets

By Brian Elder, posted by Bob Lefebvre

At the December 3, 2014 meeting of Nature Calgary’s Bird Studies Group, Brian Elder presented Calgary Competition: Winter Birding Targets. Brian gives great advice on how to get a good start in the competition, by targeting birds that are only here in the winter, rare birds, and birds that may be around all year but are easier to find in the winter. He includes many of his outstanding photos.

There is still plenty of winter left this year, and if you can’t get out and find these birds in February and early March you can always try again in November and December. Scroll through the PDF file of the presentation below.

Note: The file might not show on the blog in all web browsers or on mobile devices. If you click this link it should open in a new page:

Calgary competition – winter birding


Download the PDF file .


Sunday Showcase: White-headed Red-breasted Nuthatch

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

If you find yourself in the Bebo Grove area of Fish Creek Provincial Park (perhaps looking for the Northern Pygmy-Owls) you might come across this unusual little male Red-breasted Nuthatch. It has been in the same area of Bebo Grove, just southeast of the parking lot, for at least three years. At first glance it can be mistaken for a White-breasted Nuthatch because there is so much white on the face.

image6Leucistic Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

This bird is leucistic, lacking some of the coloured pigments that normal birds have. It is usually accompanied by a female, and will readily come to your hand. It actually seems to be the most aggressive bird of the local nuthatches and chickadees.

!cid_109118BD-C845-499E-BD8D-D7F8BB4730F3@telusPhoto by Wayne Walker.

!cid_A371242A-1824-4F7F-BA33-62E62441EC41@telusPhoto by Wayne Walker.

It’s always an interesting bird to see, and very reliable, so have a look for it.


Birds and Beers: A Social Get-together for Birders

Birds and Beers, Tuesday January 27, 2015, 6:00 pm.

Royal Canadian Legion, 9202 Horton Road SW Calgary.

Whenever birders get together, they love to talk about birding – what’s being seen locally, where to find good birds, and everything that’s happening in the world of birding. Often these discussions are brief chats before and after meetings, field trips, and bird counts. A few years ago Sharon Stiteler of the Birdchick blog came up with the brilliant idea of arranging informal get-togethers for birders to just meet face-to-face and discuss anything they want. These “Birds and Beers” events are now very popular and have been held in many states and provinces.

We here at the blog have done three previous Birds and Beers events, and they were all well-received and a lot of fun. This is something we plan to continue, and we will hold several of them during 2015 in conjunction with the eBird Calgary 2015 Birding Competition.

Next Tuesday, January 27, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm (or perhaps until closing if it goes really well), we will have our first Birds and Beers of 2015 at the Royal Canadian Legion #285, 9202 Horton Road S.W. Calgary. Food and drinks are available. We will be inviting all the eBird competition participants and I’m sure some of us will be discussing the competition and eBird, but anyone with an interest in birding in the area is welcome to come, and you can talk about anything birding-related. It is very informal. Unfortunately this is an adults-only venue in the evenings, but we plan to have some child-friendly get-togethers this year too.

For a map to the location and more information, see the Birds and Beers Calgary meetup page on Facebook. There is no need to register or let us know you plan to attend; just come at any time after 6:00 pm and join us.

IMPORTANT – upon arrival, mention to the staff that you are there for Birds and Beers, and they will direct you to the room.

See you there!

The Bird Boy Blog

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Many of you may already be readers of the blog Bird Boy (we have a link to it on our sidebar). It is written by Ethan Denton, an enthusiastic young birder and photographer from Canmore. I recommend that all birders in Southern Alberta subscribe to it.

For participants in the eBird Calgary 2015 birding competition, there is a special reason to check it out: Ethan and his father Neil have entered the competition, and they have put together a page on which they will highlight which birds you should be looking for. They will update the page each month with new information from the eBird database. Check out the January page here.

Hawk Owl Dan Arndt

Northern Hawk-Owl. January is usually the month with the best chance to find one.

Photo by Dan Arndt

Thanks again to Ethan and Neil for all your hard work on this, and good luck in the competition!

Sunday Showcase: Winter Woodpeckers

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Fish Creek Park is a great place to find woodpeckers. In the winter, there are up to six species that can be found there: Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, and Black-backed Woodpecker. Flickers are migratory but there are always some around in the winter here. Downy, Hairy, and Pileated are resident species. Three-toed and Black-backed are generally only seen here in the winter, and not every winter. This winter they have both been seen in Fish Creek Park, and in fact it appears that there are at least six Three-toes and three Black-backed in the park, which is an unusually high number for them.

Over the past couple of months Tony Leprieur has managed to get photos of all six of these species inside Fish Creek Park. All photos by Tony Leprieur.

Pileated Woodpecker:






Northern Flicker:



Downy Woodpecker:



Hairy Woodpecker:



American Three-toed Woodpecker:





Black-backed Woodpecker: