Tag Archive | birds in calgary

Calgary Area Bird Photos

Blog reader and photographer Duane Starr has sent us a couple of  links to his beautiful bird photographs.

You can see his collection at Northern Hawk Owl slide show or view a variety of Calgary birds here, including some great shots of the tiny Brown Creeper.

Thank you Duane, for sharing your work!

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Rare Bird Alert Calgary: Jan 6

Have you seen an unusual bird in Calgary? If it is on this Reportable_Birds (PDF), please report it to the Nature Calgary Rare Bird Alert line at 403 221-4519 and leave a message after the beep at the end of the recording. If you would like some help with species identification, us email us at zoxox@shaw.ca  To report injured wildlife call the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society at 403 239-2488, or the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation at 403 946-2361.

This report was prepared on Thursday, Jan 5.

Wednesday, JANUARY 4
–TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE (4) – Elbow River monthly survey by Gus Yaki and CFNS field trip
–RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (1) – George Lane Park in High River by Jeff ____

Tuesday, JANUARY 3
–HOODED MERGANSER (1m) – Elliston Park in SE Calgary by Terry Korolyk and Bob Lefebvre
–NORTHERN PINTAIL (1m) – Ralph Klein Park in SE Calgary by TK
–KILLDEER (10) – 6 at Hull’s Wood, 1 at Bankside, 3 at Mallard Point,all in Fish Creek PP, by TK
–TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE (2) – Brittania subdivision in SW Calgary by Phil Cram
–RED CROSSBILL ( 25) – Britannia by PC

Monday, JANUARY 2
–LESSER SCAUP (1f, 1m) – Hwy 22x bridge over the Bow R by TK
–GREEN-WINGED TEAL (1f) – Mallard Point in Fish Creek PP by TK
–COMMON GOLDENEYE X BARROW’S GOLDENEYE (1m) – Policeman’s Flats, SE of Calgary off Dunbow Rd, by TK

Sunday, JANUARY 1
–KILLDEER (3) – Carburn Park by Jeff Bingham
The Fish Creek PP annual New Year’s Day Bird Count reported the following:
–REDHEAD (1)
–GADWALL (1)
–RED-TAILED HAWK (1)
–PRAIRIE FALCON (1) – Hwy 22x bridge over the Bow R
–KILLDEER (record 15)
–EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (1) – new for the count

Wednesday Wings: Varied Thrush

On of my favourite Christmas presents this year was an adult male Varied Thrush that arrived in our front yard on Christmas Day, just as we were opening our gifts.

When it first flew across our front yard, I thought it was a robin, a bird it is closely related to.  I saw a robin in the neighbourhood as recently as December 17.  But the male Varied Thrush has unmistakable orange and black markings.

These beautiful birds are not too common in Calgary, with just a few reports every year on migration, and the occasional one overwintering here.  This one appears to be trying to overwinter in our neighbourhood, as it has now been seen feeding in our yard for three straight days.  This is the first time we’ve had one in our yard, and only the second one I’ve seen in Calgary.  We didn’t have one reported on the recent Christmas Bird Count, so I wonder where this bird was then?

Here is a video of the Varied Thrush feeding on niger and sunflower seed.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Winter Killdeer

Last weekend on the Christmas Bird Count, I came across a very photogenic Killdeer. These abundant shorebirds, usually only stay the summer in Calgary, several birds, however, also stay the winter.

Despite our frigid winters, these hardy Killdeer seem to manage all right, we see them throughout the winter which must mean that they are surviving. They are definitely finding food, as can be seen in the photo below.

This Killdeer seemed to be finding enough food

At one point, I even saw this particular bird with a small morsel of food clenched in its beak.

This Killdeer was fearless and approached me; which is quite a nice change as a photographer! It also engaged in the species peculiar method of moving; they run for a few feet, stop, look around, flick their tail up, bob their head up and down a couple times, and then repeat this cycle over again.

Just finished a short run, the Killdeer stops, looks around and...

Bobs it's head out of the photo, leaving the photographer with an unusual result; but a good story!

Each year, Killdeer are seen wintering in Calgary, somewhere on the Bow River. Though it may seem like a daft idea to many of us, this species obviously are doing just fine!

A Merry Christmas to you from all of us here at the blog!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Schoolyard Swainson’s

Last July, right before I moved to Texas, I was treated to an incredible sight: a dark-morph Swainson’s Hawk perched on a fence in a school parking lot. This hawk was incredibly close to the sidewalk and allowed for some great photos, all the while sitting calmly on its perch.

 This hawk didn’t seem to be injured, it just seemed to be very tolerant of people. Supposedly, Swainson’s Hawks are accepting of human activity and tolerate even more in areas where this activity is more frequent. This species will often become accustomed to disturbance from humans, thus the higher level of tolerability. This hawk, however did still seem to be giving me the evil eye!

After a couple minutes, the impressive raptor, slowly turned away (above) and resumed its activities as if I wasn’t even there.

This is not the first time this year that a Swainson’s Hawk has allowed me to get very close to it, back in May, while we bloggers were doing the Big Sit, we observed a Swainson’s that allowed us to watch it from merely several feet away http://birdscalgary.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/swainsons-hawk/.

This was definitely one of the cooler birding parts of the summer!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Carburn and Southland Park Christmas Bird Count

This year, I also did the Christmas Bird Count; I was assigned the S1 route, encompassing both Carburn and Southland Park. We started the morning birding from the Eric Harvie bridge in Southland, right beside the dog park, before splitting up, 2 groups going south along the river (one on each side) and 2 groups going north along the river. The day was off to a good start as we observed 2 adult eagles and 2 immature eagles flying low overhead; the rising sun was beautiful, adding to the good beginning and silhouetting the many ducks and geese on the Bow River.

We observed thousands of Mallards, Common Goldeneyes and Canada Geese throughout the day with several hundred Buffleheads as well. There were also several Barrow’s Goldeneyes in these waterfowl flocks.

The Common Goldeneyes weren’t quite as numerous as the Mallards however they were still present in large numbers.

We continued to walk further down the river, spotting Redpolls, plenty of waterfowl, Killdeer, magpies and… RUSTY BLACKBIRD!!! As we were hiking along the river, we flushed up a brownish-black bird about the size of a Robin from the bank. It landed nearby at the top of a poplar where we all got good looks at it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my photographs of this species! This blackbird, is an unusual bird in Calgary, explaining, perhaps, my excitement at the sighting (also, this was only my second time seeing this species).

We headed back to the meeting spot, the Eric Harvie Bridge, where we saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk and discovered that another group had found an American Wigeon. We then headed to our next stop, Tim Hortons! After warming up and getting refreshments at Tim Hortons, we headed out near the Glenmore bridge, where at a pullout, we walked out and did some more birding, turning up a Killdeer and a Hairy Woodpecker.

The next and final stop for our group was Carburn Park. Our goal at Carburn, was to find an American Pipit  that had been reported here a little while earlier. Though we couldn’t agree to the location where this bird had been seen, we did manage to find it. This happens to be the first pipit recorded on the Calgary CBC since its beginning, 59 years ago.

Also in Carburn, we found a pair of Great Horned Owls, that were extremely well camouflaged against the tree branches they were perched on, several more Barrow’s Goldeneyes and another juvenile eagle. I decided to head home early and only found out later that the rest of the group had also found a Northern Pintail and a Wood Duck in Carburn. I birded around my neighborhood, which was inside our count circle, and managed to add both species of crossbills, a robin and a Merlin to our list, among other species.

The pipit and the Rusty Blackbird were definitely the highlights of the day for me, however they were only two of the 33 species and 7924 individuals recorded by 10 counters in this particular area. Here are the complete results:

Canada Goose, 1500; Wood Duck, 1; American Wigeon, 1; Mallard, 3000; Northern Pintail, 1; Bufflehead, 150; Common Goldeneye, 2800; Barrow’s Goldeneye, 20; Common Merganser, 20; Bald Eagle, 5; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Merlin, 1; Killdeer, 5; Rock Pigeon, 25; Great Horned Owl, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Hairy Woodpecker, 2; Northern Flicker, 3; Black-billed Magpie, 125; American Crow, 3; Common Raven, 12; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; American Robin, 1; Dark-eyed Junco, 1; Rusty Blackbird, 1; House Finch, 4; Red Crossbill, 12; White-winged Crossbill, 26; Common Redpoll, 25; House Sparrow, 110; American Pipit, 1.

Posted by Matthew Sim

It’s good to be back…

I flew in to Calgary from Houston last Friday night and was greeted by snow on the ground! Something that I haven’t seen since April. Never thought that I would be so excited to see snow. My first day back, Saturday, I took a walk around my neighborhood and was fortunate enough to see most of the locals; no not the neighbors, the birds.

First thing in the morning, I woke to see several Black-billed Magpies jumping and hollering about in the willow. Several Common Ravens flew overhead and 2 pairs of Chickadees visited the feeders. I was very happy to see the Black-capped Chickadees, nothing can compare with this species’ friendliness!

I have been following the reports from Albertabird still and I have seen all the reports of winter finches; I knew what a good year it was for these birds. I just didn’t know how good! In my hour or so walk, I saw more Crossbills then I did all last winter. I must have seen more than 100 crossbills!

Most of the crossbills were White-winged however there were a few Red Crossbills in the mix ( see photo above). I also observed many Pine Siskins that were flocking with the crossbills and feeding on the abundant cones.

My neighborhood, for some reason, never seems to be popular with Common Redpolls, however this year, within my first 24 hours of being back in Calgary, I had already seen 2 in my community. Also, we hosted a Pine Grosbeak, which is unusual for us. At one point, I was privileged to see several crossbills, a redpoll and many siskins on the ground just feet in front of me, licking up some sort of salt or rock from the ground.

Then, later on in the day, I discovered why my feeders were so empty. Three Sharp-shinned Hawks were all together in a tree. When 3 raptors start calling your neighborhood home, there are definitely going to be some songbird declines.

All in all, it’s good to be back!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Rare Bird Alert Calgary: Dec 12

Have you seen an unusual bird in Calgary? If it is on this Reportable_Birds (PDF), please report it to the Nature Calgary Rare Bird Alert line at 403 221-4519 and leave a message after the beep at the end of the recording. If you would like some help with species identification, us email us at zoxox@shaw.ca  To report injured wildlife call the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society at 403 239-2488, or the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation at 403 946-2361.

This report was prepared on Monday December 12.

December 8
— NORTHERN PINTAIL, Cave & Basin, Banff NP, J&M McDonald, Jerry Pilny
— WESTERN GREBE, Lake Minnewanka, same obs
— WILSON’S SNIPE, Cave & Basin, same obs
— SNOWY OWL, Lynnwood yard flyby, Pat Bumstead
— COMMON GRACKLE, Lynnwood yard, PB

December 10
— AMERICAN WIGEON, Pine Coulee Reservoir, Terry Korolyk
— NORTHERN HARRIER, east of Stavely, TK
— NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL, south of Water Valley, J&MMcD
— GREAT GRAY OWL, near Elkton, J&MMcD
— SHORT-EARED OWL, near Ovans Slough, J&MMcD
— AMERICAN ROBIN 5, Queen’s Park Cemetery, Bill Wilson

December 11
— RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER, George Lane Park, High River, Peter Maksymiw
(second provincial record if accepted)

The next scheduled update of the Bird Alert is on Thursday December 15.

Juvenile Raptor Identification

Do you like a birding challenge? This beautiful raptor visited my southeast Calgary yard late in November. I thought I would post these pictures without identifying the species, to give you a chance to test your raptor identification skills. Leave us a comment below, and tell us what you think it is.

This bird isn't injured, he's just wearing some of his lunch.

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Tips on Bird Photography

I think it is safe to say that most of us here have an interest in birdwatching. Some of us are also interested in photographing birds, documenting what we see and also enabling others to enjoy these sightings . Bird photography can be very tricky though and doesn’t always come out the way we want it to. Through trial and error as well as tips from other nature photographers, I have slowly learned different tricks of the trade and am still learning. Here is one trick that I have found helps me a lot.

Take a look at the picture above. Probably doesn’t do much for you, right? Just a killdeer photograph, nothing exciting about the shot itself. What could have been done to make this a better photograph? I have found that getting low can often drastically improve the photo. Get down at eye level with the bird, you can often create better eye contact with the bird, bringing the viewer into a connection with the photo. The Killdeer will then seem more interesting, not only because of the lower angle, but because of the  change in the depth of field of the shot.

Depth of field (also known as DOF), is the term for the amount of distance between the closest and farthest objects that appear sharp in the photograph. In the second picture above, a shallower depth of field (meaning a blurry background) makes the photo less distracting and more pleasing to the eye. In the photo pictured below, I took it one step further, instead of simply kneeling, I lay on my stomach, creating a very shallow depth of field and therefore, a picture that is more likely to catch your eye than the first photo.

Changing the depth of field is a remarkably simple technique but incredibly powerful in the way a photo comes out. By getting low, chances are you can improve your bird photography.

Posted by Matthew Sim