Tag Archive | black-capped chickadee

Twelve Birds of Christmas

Bohemian Waxwing by Dan Arndt.

Black-capped Chickadee by Tony LePrieur.

Red-breasted Nuthatch by Dan Arndt.

White-winged Crossbill by Tony LePrieur.

 Pileated Woodpecker by Tony LePrieur.

Pine Grosbeak by Tony LePrieur.

Golden-crowned Kinglet by Tony LePrieur.

Boreal Chickadee by Tony LePrieur.

Downy Woodpecker by Tony LePrieur.

Dark-eyed Junco by Dan Arndt.

Brown Creeper by Dan Arndt.

Common Redpoll by Dan Arndt.

Sunday Showcase: Autumn in Calgary’s Parks

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Catching up with some great autumn photos of Calgary Birds and Mammals, taken by Tony LePrieur from September 25 to October 16, 2016. The locations were the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Carburn Park, Fish Creek Provincial Park, and the Weaselhead Nature Area.


Boreal Chickadee, Bebo Grove, FCPP, September 25, 2016. The bird has no tail. Birds don’t molt all their tail feathers at once, so this indicates it probably survived an attack of some kind.


Great Horned Owl, Bebo Grove, FCPP, September 25, 2016. These resident owls are fairly common it the city. Pairs will be spending the days resting on their winter roosts now, and by February (or sometimes even January) they will be on their nests, incubating eggs.


Great Blue Heron, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, October 16, 2016. The herons have usually all migrated by mid-October, but a few may stay later.


Harris’s Sparrow, seen at the south end of the big bridge over the Elbow River in the Weaselhead on October 16, 2016. The bird was seen for at least a week, from October 16 to October 25. These Sparrows mostly migrate well east of Calgary and are a bit of a rarity here. They sometimes overwinter, so it is worth looking for.


American Tree Sparrow. These arctic breeders are passing through here now and some overwinter here.


Dark-eyed Junco. These sparrows are pretty common here in the winter and can be seen in residential areas right now, often feeding on the ground under bird feeders.


American Robin bathing.


American Robin. They passed through here on migration in huge numbers a few weeks ago, but there are always quite a few that overwinter here, mostly in the river valleys.


Northern Flicker (male). A migratory woodpecker, but again there are always lots in Calgary in the winter – either some local breeders that overwinter, or birds that bred farther north and migrated this far. They will readily come to suet and nut feeders.


Downy Woodpecker (male). A year-round resident that also will come to feeders.




Black-backed Woodpecker. A bit of a rarity in the city, they are occasionally seen in the west end of Fish Creek Park, from Bebo Grove to Shannon Terrace. This one was photographed there on October 23, 2016.


Pileated Woodpecker (male). Another resident woodpecker.


Rough-legged Hawk. This is the common buteo in our region in the winter. They have arrived in good numbers from their northern breeding grounds. Most commonly seen outside the city, especially west of the city.


Black-capped Chickadee. Year-round resident.


Muskrat. They are active all winter in open water.


Mule Deer buck.

See more of Tony’s Photos on his Flickr page.

Share your bird photos from the Calgary area. Just email them to birdscalgary@gmail.com.

Mid-winter birding in Votier’s Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

As any birder knows, it’s nearly impossible to predict what your success will be like on any given day out in the field. Some days, you can go out and find a huge variety of species in the gloomiest and most terrible weather, while on a perfect weather day the birds all seem to disappear. My last few outings have been a lot quieter than usual, but with the above-seasonal weather we’ve had since late January it’s not entirely unusual. Our visit to Votier’s Flats on January 31 was one of those rather quiet days, but we still managed to see some good birds on the two outings I attended that week.

Votier's Flats - January 31, 2016

Votier’s Flats – January 31, 2016

While I attended one walk earlier in the week, and my regular Sunday outing, I only tracked the walk on Sunday, so one of our better sightings isn’t mapped here.

We had a fairly typical array of winter birds at Votier’s Flats, with Pine Siskins, White-winged and Red Crossbills, Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, and of course the ever present Black-billed Magpies and Common Ravens were readily apparent. As we entered the woods, we were hailed by the calls of a White-breasted Nuthatch high up in the trees, claiming this particularly good territory for itself and announcing its presence to any female that might be paying attention.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

[exif id=”15357″]

Mid-week, we had found a recently killed White-tailed Deer carcass, likely taken down by coyotes in the park, but that didn’t deter the rest of the White-tailed Deer from roaming around seemingly without a care in the world. This deer was photographed less than 30 meters from where we had found the kill.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

[exif id=”15352″]

One of the things we’ve been observing recently is Pine Siskins feeding a bit lower in the trees than usual, allowing us much better looks at much closer distances that we have for much of the winter so far. They yellow tones in the flight feathers and underwing are really starting to pop now too, making them a little nicer to photograph than your typical Little Brown Jobs.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

[exif id=”15353″]

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

[exif id=”15358″]

After we cleared the wooded area made up mostly of spruce trees, things got really, really quiet. We headed up the hill to the area that borders on the south end of Fish Creek Provincial Park, where a number of homes have bird feeders set up, and even up there it was incredibly quiet. The only bird to be found when we checked on our first pass was this lone sickly looking Black-capped Chickadee. You can see in this photo that the feathers surrounding the eyes are all missing, and that the eyes themselves also appear a bit puffy. I have no idea what might be the cause of this, but suspect it could be ticks or some illness caused by these feeders not being cleaned regularly. It’s vitally important if you put out bird feeders to ensure that they’re cleaned regularly. The rule of thumb that I always use is that every two times I fill a feeder, I run it through the dishwasher for a good, thorough wash.

Black-capped Chickadee

sick Black-capped Chickadee

[exif id=”15354″]

We did a quick loop up top, but aside from a few magpies flying by overhead, and a few other small finches flying overhead, the only bird we were able to get close to was yet another (healthy this time) Black-capped Chickadee.

healthy Black-capped Chickadee

healthy Black-capped Chickadee

[exif id=”15355″]

We headed back down the hill and through the wooded area a second time, but following Fish Creek itself in hopes of finding some birds along the creek bed. Unfortunately for us, our only additional sighting was this near-perfectly camouflaged Brown Creeper, with its high-pitched trills and even a brief little attempt at a song!

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

On the earlier outing that week, we had headed over towards Raven Rocks to search for Townsend’s Solitaires, and sure enough we found two singing high on the slope, and one even popped down to check us out for a few minutes before my camera decided to stop working for the day!


Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire

[exif id=”15359″]

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire

[exif id=”15360″]

Following our outing on January 31, I headed out of town for the next two weeks, and so our next week’s update should bring us up to our outing on February 21 where we returned to Bebo Grove!

Have a good week, and good birding!

Travel Tuesday – Christmas Bird Counting

Posted by Dan Arndt


This year I participated in a few Christmas Bird Counts, and while I wasn’t able to get too many photos from some of them, I did manage a few here and there.

Calgary Christmas Bird Count:

As per usual, my area this year was the Weaselhead, and I managed a few photos of some good birds while down there. While we did miss out on some expected birds in that area, we didn’t have too bad a day overall. Of course the most reliable birds here are the Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Ruffed Grouse. One of the pleasant surprises in our area was a small flock of Common Redpolls, which quickly flew in, landed for a minute or two, and flew off as quickly as they arrived.

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

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

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Red-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

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

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

Canmore Christmas Bird Count:

Most years, the Canmore Christmas Bird Count is one of the first ones I participate in, as it’s on a Saturday, and Calgary’s count is on a Sunday. This year, the beginning of the Christmas Bird Count window fell on a Sunday, and so the Canmore count was scheduled for the following Saturday. Because I wasn’t in quite as much of a rush to get home and get prepared for the Calgary count the next day, I had some time to actually spend a bit of time with the subjects, and explore a bit of a different range of habitats. My extra time paid off and I was able to find a couple more species in this area that I hadn’t found before!

American Three-toed Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

American Three-toed Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Brown Creeper Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Brown Creeper
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

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

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

male Pine Grosbeak Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

male Pine Grosbeak
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Fish Creek Christmas Bird Count (and bonus bird):

The unofficial Fish Creek Provincial Park Christmas Bird Count is always conducted on New Year’s Day, which also gives me a great opportunity to get a solid start on my bird list for the year. For the past couple of years I’ve joined Phil Cram and the group that searches along the south-east corner of the park, including Sikome Lake, Hull’s Wood, and the area around the boat launch, so we tend to get a pretty good variety of birds. Following the morning count, I did manage a trip over to Bebo Grove to search for the elusive Northern Pygmy-Owl that had been seen here recently, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint, but not before I was heading back to the car to head home. Sure enough, just as I was preparing to leave, he had already been found by another photographer who pointed him out to me at the parking lot!

Canada Goose Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Canada Goose
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Killdeer Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Pygmy-Owl Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Northern Pygmy-Owl
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

This week marks the beginning of the Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding Course, so check back here next Monday to find out what we saw on our first Sunday outing!

Christmas Bird Count

As a follow-up to Bob’s post on the Christmas Bird Count this year, I am posting from my experiences last year.

For the 2010 Big Year birding here in Calgary, I decided to participate in my first Christmas Bird Count. I had heard great stories about this annual winter event and I was not disappointed. I was scheduled to a very productive route on the Bow River, with Southland Park and Carburn Park our main birding spots. We had a very good turnout for species, recording about 29, if I remember correctly. Some of the highlights on our route, were Killdeer, a Northern Shrike, a Rough-legged Hawk, a pair of Great Horned Owls and two immature Trumpeter Swans. These swans were seen continually in January of 2011 and were identified as one immature Tundra Swan and one immature Trumpeter Swan.

A fellow bird-counter participating in the 2010 Calgary CBC

Overall, almost 200 people took part in the 2010 count, with 102 feeder-watchers and 92 birders in the field. Temperatures ranged from -15 to -13 degrees Celsius with some light snow falling in the morning. Birders in the field put in a combined
205 party-hours total, 230 km  on foot and 881 km by car. These stats were compiled by Phil Cram, Donna and Arthur Wieckowski, Bob Lefebvre and John McFaul and can be more extensively viewed  by following this link:


Bald Eagles are usually seen on the Bow River

My group divided ourselves up into small parties in the morning, scanning the Bow River on either sides in and around Southland Park. Once we had spent several hours scouring the snow-swept landscape for birds, we headed to the nearest Tim Hortons for some warmth, where we traded stories and identification tips over refreshments. We headed back out, this time to Carburn Park, where we added Bohemian Waxwings, the shrike and some Barrow’s Goldeneyes. We ate lunch in our heated cars at Carburn and spent the afternoon searching our range for any missing species. That evening, all CBC participants from all over the city flocked to the Flynn’s house where we were served delicious chili and shared our tales from the day.

Birds are not the only wildlife seen on the Christmas Bird Count

The 2010 Christmas Bird Count was very enjoyable; if you have never done it before I highly recommend it. Calgary is historically a very high count in North American for number of participants; last year we had a total of 194 participants which was the 7th highest count in the US and Canada (Edmonton was 1st in North America with 439 participants!!!). Calgary also had the most species of birds recorded on the CBC in Alberta with a grand total of 64.

I will be back in Calgary for the holidays and I hope to see you there!

Posted by Matthew Sim

The Lookout

In South Glenmore Park, just where the trail drops down into the Weaselhead, there is a path leading through the bush to a spot with two benches.

Not only does it provide a great view of the pond and Weaselhead, but someone has turned it into a feeding station for the birds.  I have been there a few times, and there is always birdseed on the rails and ground, and oranges in the trees.  If you sit still and are patient, you get great close-up views of the birds.  These pictures were taken on June 17, and we saw 23 species from the lookout that day.  Here are some of them.  You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Downy Woodpecker:

Hairy Woodpecker:

Clay-colored Sparrow:

Black-capped Chickadee:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

Brown-headed Cowbird:

Some small mammals got in on the action as well.  Red Squirrel:

Least Chipmunk:

A Pine Siskin and a Red-breasted Nuthatch squabble over a good feeding spot:

Pine Siskin:

Red-breasted Nuthatch:

White-breasted Nuthatch:

Finally, this little Red Squirrel rested his head on his hands while he patiently waited his turn at the feeder:

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Early Morning Birding

At this time of year, the earlier you can get out birding the better.  The sun is up and the birds are singing before 6:00 am.  Sometimes it can be a little cold, but it’s a beautiful time of day to be out in the field.

Every Wednesday during the spring migration, Gus Yaki has been leading an early morning bird walk at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.   Last week I was able to join Gus and a small group of birders, and we found 42 species of birds.

This is a Nature Calgary field trip, so it is free and open to everyone.  The walk begins at 6:30 am at the parking lot and lasts for about two hours.  This coming Wednesday, May 25, will be the last of these early morning walks, so if you can manage it, it’s a good opportunity.

Here are some highlights of last weeks’ walk.

There is a partially albino female American Robin which has building a nest near the south end of the lagoon, opposite Walker House.  We were lucky enough to see it at close range, with its mate…

There were several pairs of Canada Geese and a few broods of goslings around…

A female Belted Kingfisher was perched over the lagoon…

Several Yellow-rumped Warblers were seen.  This one is an Audubon subspecies…

Two male Harlequin Ducks on a distant island in the river…

Two male Wood Ducks on the river…

A yawning female Common Merganser…

And lots of these guys looking for handouts…

Afterwards I went over to the adjacent Inglewood Wildlands Park.  There were several Savannah Sparrows singing…

And hovering over the pond, a Say’s Phoebe…

You don’t see these flycatchers in the city too often, and I got a good look at it…

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Never a Dull Moment: Mallard Point

On Saturday, upon finally having good weather after a long winter, the Friends of Fish Creek Park group went to Mallard Point to see what could be found on the river.  There were seventeen people on the outing, which meant lots of pairs of eyes on the lookout for birds.  We saw many of the usual species, but even so, one never tires of the quirks of bird behavior.

Black-capped Chickadee excavating a nest hole…

… and emerging with a beak full of sawdust.

Male Common Goldeneye declaring his love…

…and then a pair of Goldeneyes demonstrating how diving ducks have to run on takeoff.

Male Ring-necked Pheasant chasing the female all over the island.

And for some reason it always seems odd to see Canada Geese up in the trees:


They can’t be thinking of nesting on the picnic table, can they?

We were also lucky enough to see some returning migrants:

Franklin’s Gulls.  The one on the right has a pinkish breast colour.

But the highlight was a rare bird sighting, a male Red-breasted Merganser.  These are only seen in southern Alberta on migration, and not very frequently within the city.  This was a life bird for about ten of us, and even Gus Yaki, the trip leader, said he had not seen one in Calgary for about five years.



Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Foraging Flocks

We’ve seen it often enough; you’re out bird watching, looking at the deserted trees and bushes and wondering where all the birds are. Suddenly, they are upon you, lots of them, making it next to impossible to follow them all. It’s a foraging flock. But what is a foraging flock?

These congregations of several different species, often insectivorous, occur where there is an abundance of food. There has to be a ‘nuclear’ species as a basis for the flock’s hierarchy; with this species being central to the flock’s formation and movement.

Attendants come next. Attendant species often don’t join in on the activities until the flock’s activities enter their territory.  Titmice and chickadees often fill the roles of a ‘nuclear’ (‘core’) species in North America and are soon followed by nuthatches, creepers, woodpeckers, kinglets and New World warblers all of which are insect-eating birds. These flocks are seen mostly in the non-breeding season when birds come out of the secrecy of breeding and raising a family.

Downy Woodpeckers use chickadees as sentinels in the foraging flocks

The benefits are great for birds in these flocks, namely; the increased vigilance by more eyes, lowering the risk of predation. There could also be a rise in feeding efficiency; as bugs flee from one bird, they head right into the beak of another. Feeding together heightens the chance that someone will locate a rich feeding patch and birds benefit from the different abilities, such as a woodpecker’s strong beak.

Chickadees often act the part of the ‘nuclear’ species

Nuthatches will often join in on the action of feeding flocks.

But there are costs as well, for example, kleptoparasitism, or parasitism by theft. This is when one more aggressive bird, steals the food caught by another bird. The costs, however, are often outweighed by the more advantageous benefits.

Well, birds of a feather don’t always flock together, but they sure know who to flock with!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Inglewood Birds

We received the following email this weekend, and four incredible bird pictures. Thank you so much for sending them to us Rosanna!

My husband and I were down at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary this past week and were able to capture these images. Hope you can use them!

Mrs. Rosanna Evans
Calgary, AB