Tag Archive | birds calgary blog

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.

Competition Update, June 30

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

We have reached the halfway point in the eBird Calgary 2015 competition. May and June is the busiest time of the year for birding, and offers the best chance to add new species to your list. Some of the species totals that competition participants have recorded are very impressive. The Calgary area also continues to stand out for the number of eBird checklists submitted and the the number of different species reported.

The overall leader of the competition is Brian Elder, with 252 species within the competition circle so far in 2015. This is a really good total for July 1, and I think Brian has a good chance to beat the 2005 winning total of 265. Here is a link to Brian’s complete list as of June 24. He has since added Brewer’s Sparrow and Sedge Wren.

Here are the current standings (as of July 1) in the competition categories (top five shown).


Brian Elder 252

Ray Woods 230

Blake Weis 223

John Thompson 213

George Best 205

(Daniel Arndt-236 and Andrew Hart-211 are not eligible for prizes.)


Nicole Pellerin 206

Graeme Mudd 187

Aphtin Perratt 185

Christopher Naugler 183

Darlene Shymkiw 181


Birdboy Canada (Ethan Denton) 174

Simone Pellerin-Wood 172

Aidan Vidal 148

Robin Naugler 48

Lucianna Lybbert 30

Yard List:

Phil Ulmann 68

John Anderson 43

Laurie Anderson 43

John Bargman 39

Judy Swan 34

(Bob Lefebvre-41 not eligible for prizes.)

The increase in eBird usage in the Calgary area is very impressive. So far in 2015, 18,984 checklists have been submitted to eBird in Alberta. Calgary county, which makes up the bulk of our competition circle (but is a very small part of the entire province) accounts for 8,372 of those, or 44%. A total of 314 species have been reported in Alberta on eBird this year, and the total for Calgary county is 281.

You’ll notice that even Brian’s impressive total of 252 is well short of the total number of species reported here so far, so there are always new birds to be found!

If you are not among the competition leaders, remember that there is plenty of time to catch up. It will be more difficult for the top birders to add new species as the year goes on, but if you missed a lot of species on spring migration, you can get them on the fall migration. If you haven’t been out birding much in the first half of the year, you can start start now to get out and build your list. The fall shorebird migration is already under way, and the warblers will start moving south through the area on about August 10th.

Dan Arndt, Rose Painter and I have led quite a few field trips for Nature Calgary in the last couple of months and found lots of great birds. We will continue to lead trips so please join us, or go on any of the other Nature Calgary birding outings. You can also join the Friends of Fish Creek Fall birding course, which begins August 31.

Even if you don’t have designs on finishing in the prizes, you can still set some personal goals for birding in 2015. At the start of the year I had two goals. From the time I started using eBird on January 1, 2012 until the end of 2014, I had recorded 230 species in the Calgary count circle, and my first goal was to reach that total just for 2015. (I’m at 202 so I have a chance!)

Secondly, I decided to submit at least one eBird checklist each day, as long as I was here in the count circle. So far so good on that one, as I have only missed three days in April when I was in Montana (I did several lists from there though!), and I have submitted a total of 363 eBird checklists in 2015. Does anyone else want to take up the challenge of submitting a checklist every day for the rest of the year?

I also hoped to add several life birds to my list and I have six so far.

So set some birding goals for the second half of the year and get out and see some birds!

IMG_0917Mountain Bluebird, Glenbow Ranch, May 17, 2015

June Birds of Calgary

Some shots from in and around Calgary. Taken June 14 and June 20 in Fish Creek Park and Bridlewood wetlands by Tony LePrieur.

image1Great Blue Heron with lunch (sucker?)

image3Cedar Waxwing

image1Ring-necked Pheasant

image2Tennessee Warbler

image6American Wigeon pair

image5Eastern Kingbird

image3Black-crowned Night-Heron

image2Great Blue Heron

image6Great Blue Heron

image7Franklin’s Gull

image4Spotted Sandpiper

image5Red-necked Grebe with young, on nest.

Furry Friday: City Foxes

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

I recently found a Red Fox den in the city of Calgary. There are five kits, and although I didn’t have my camera when I found them, I returned later and was able to get a couple of photos before the adult spotted me. The den is in a very exposed and quite busy spot, so I didn’t want to stay and disturb them.

IMG_1337Adult Red Fox with one kit at den.

IMG_1343Red Fox kit.




Wednesday Wings: Merlin with Rock Pigeon

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

I have often seen Merlins chasing Rock Pigeons, but it seems to be a very hard bird to catch. On April 10, 2015, near 19 Street NE and the Trans-Canada Highway, Chris Johnson got this excellent shot a Merlin with its Rock Pigeon prey.


Merlin with Rock Pigeon. Photo by Chris Johnson.

Taken with a Canon 6D 70-200 2.8 lens. At 200mm, f/4.5 1/400 and ISO 100.

May Birds & Beers Event

Birds and Beers, Saturday May 23, 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

Royal Canadian Legion, 9202 Horton Road SW Calgary.

The next Birds & Beers social get-together for Calgary birders will be held on May 23. Drop in to the Horton Road Legion anytime after 6 pm and have an informal chat about birds. Everyone of all ages is welcome. Food and drinks are available.

See the Facebook Event Page here.

IMG_0946 (2) Mountain Bluebird, male. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, April 21, 2015. Photo by Bob Lefebvre

2015 Peregrine and Osprey Nest Cams

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Ospreys are now back in the city, and Peregrine Falcons have been back for a few weeks. The regular nesting Peregrines returned to the University of Calgary a month ago, and as of yesterday, four eggs were in the nest. That should be it for egg-laying, so now you can watch until they hatch and the young fledge.

Watch live here, and there is a link where you can view the nest on YouTube, and comment on what you see.

Meanwhile, both the male and female Osprey were back at the Calgary Zoo nesting platform by April 16. You can watch live here.

Links to both cameras will be at the top of our right-hand sidebar until the birds have left, so you can always come to Birds Calgary for a quick link to the nest cams.

We have now removed the Snowy Owl sightings link for the season. You can check eBird for all this year’s Snowy sightings here.

April Birds & Beers

The next Birds & Beers event in Calgary will be held Friday, April 17 at the Horton Road Legion, 9202 Horton Road SW, from 6 to 9 pm. Everyone is welcome, including kids if they are accompanied by an adult. So come on out any time after six to chat with your fellow birders.

More information and a map can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

The eBird Calgary 2015 competition will be awarding the prizes for the first challenge, and there will also be a door prize. The event is not just for people in the competition but for anyone who wants to socialize with other birders and have a drink and a bite to eat.


Passing the Torch

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

I think that most birders would love to live in a world with stable and prospering bird populations so that we could study and enjoy birds merely as a pleasurable hobby. Unfortunately that is not the case, as birds and other animals face serious threats almost everywhere on the planet. Many birders now spend much of their time and energy trying to combat habitat loss and other threats to the birds.

Traditionally, a typical birder is middle-aged or older. It is often a hobby taken up seriously by adults after their children have left home. When we get together for meetings and field trips, the majority of us are over 50 years old.

The percentage of the population that is interested in birds and birding is quite large – birding is second only to gardening as a hobby in North America. But only a small percentage of those backyard birders do it seriously. Consequently, our political voice is not as strong as it could be, or as it needs to be to effect positive changes for our natural world.

Most children have an innate fascination with nature and truly enjoy seeing birds and animals, and learning about the natural history of the earth. Unfortunately this eagerness to appreciate nature is often not fostered, resulting in a waning interest in nature and a lack of awareness of environmental issues. We need to raise a new generation that can be a strong voice for conservation.

Paul PGPhoto by Paul Gee. Many of us have seen a look of  delight like this when sharing our birding experiences with children, or with adults who are new to birding.

One of the most important things we can do as birders, as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, is to teach the children in our lives to respect and understand nature, and to be a force for conserving and restoring our natural heritage. This is one of the main motivations for many of us who do things like writing for bird blogs, leading field trips, running bird counts, and organizing birding competitions.

There are many opportunities to get and keep kids interested and involved. Nature Calgary offers many field trips of all kinds, which are free and open to everyone. Children can attend as long as they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. Similarly, the Friends of Fish Creek birding course welcomes any paid adult participant to bring children along, for which they are charged only a nominal $5 fee per child for the entire course.

One of our goals in organizing the eBird Calgary 2015 Big Year birding competition was to try to encourage more children (and adults who are novice birders) to get involved in the local birding community. As of today we have 23 beginners, and 13 youths under 17 registered. We would love to have more, and the deadline to enter is Tuesday, March 31.

If you can’t get out with your kids, there is still a lot you can do. I know of one parent in Calgary who takes his three kids on a nature walk to a new location every Saturday – just to get out and enjoy the birds, mammals, flowers, and trees. You could do this in your own yard or local park. You can also make a point of regularly watching nature shows on TV with them, and encouraging them to read about nature.

I ran into one of the youths in the competition early this year, and talked to his mother about his interest in birds. She regularly drives him to various parks and other locations to look for birds, and told me that birding has changed their lives. The following is an excerpt from an email she sent me:

In an age where kids are connecting more with social media and video games, I am very grateful that my son is growing up connecting to the natural world by his own choice. I have not yet bought him a cell phone because I want him to be in his world first, thinking and aware, without electronic distraction. Birding really requires that one is fully present…and it is clear he is learning to use his senses to hear and see birds. Through birding, he is excited to sleuth out (this is a phrase he has used with me) new species; happy to spot birds that he’s only seen in his books or posted by others.

I really should write the producers and actors of the movie “The Big Year” to thank them….that movie lit the fire for my son’s interest in birding. His next steps were birding sites like Nature Calgary and then eBird. Although he still likes a few video games, a good deal of the time he is on eBird, reading his new Sibley’s, looking at his photos…or now setting up his Flickr account.

Birding HAS changed our lives. We were pretty stuck inside, lots of screen time (computer and TV) and it seemed like I was always instructing him on something or asking him to stop the video games on the computer. Ours days were often not as positive as I would have liked. It is delightful to have birding where he is on point rather than me – both for technical content and motivation. I view this as a natural progression of independence for him and it’s wonderful for me to relax and just be with him. When he found the Northern Saw-whet Owl the other day we were both jumping up and down and high-fiving it in the frigid weather :) He was thrilled to find it (our second trip looking) and it’s great to see him so happy. Those are golden moments for me…both to be included in the find and to celebrate with him. Our birding trips are some of our happiest times together. He researches and plans, I drive, the world slows, we look and listen…and companionably walk together. Wow, that’s really what I want in life right now….for both of us!

I am acutely aware that my time with my son is limited; soon (4-1/2 years) he will be off to University. Birding has refocused our priorities and energy towards something rewarding and enjoyable and it’s getting us out and moving. I really believe that birding is drawing us closer while providing him with a pursuit he can call his own his whole life. It’s the best of what we like – books, travel, a worthwhile quest… and beautiful birds. My son said it himself the other day: “Birding really helps you appreciate things.”

What a gift it is, for both the child and our world, to be able to instill that sense of wonder and belonging. I welcome you to share this post, and to please share with us your stories of how connecting with nature has affected your lives.