Tag Archive | calgary bird blog

A hummingbird nest

Posted by Matthew Sim

Last year, I discovered a location in Fish Creek P.P. where I found 2 (and possibly all 3 species of hummingbirds that commonly occur in Calgary) nesting. In June, I had found a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and not long afterwards,  Hank Vanderpol and I discovered what appeared to be a female Calliope hummingbird sitting on a nest. A couple weeks later, a Nature Calgary field trip I led to the area discovered a Rufous hummingbird nest not far away.

This year, I was finally able to get out and search for the hummingbirds last week. It took me about an hour before I finally spotted a hummingbird moving about, but always returning close to me. That’s when I realized that this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (for this is what it was), might have a nest nearby.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Sure enough, before very long, the female Ruby-throated Hummingbird had flown to her nest which had not been too far away from me the entire time.

At first the nest was tough to spot...

At first the nest was tough to spot…

on nest

It was neat to watch the female as she sat on her nest, presumably incubating eggs. From time to time she would fly off but she was always alert and ready to defend her nest.

RT Hummingbird

 

 

 

 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The most interesting part of watching this hummingbird though was the way she defended her nest from anything she perceived to be a threat, including a confused and startled Cedar Waxwing who twice made the mistake of landing too near the hummingbird’s nest. She swiftly drove the waxwing off despite the fact it probably wasn’t a threat; I suppose one can never be too cautious!

action shot

Returning back to her nest

Returning back to her nest

I will do my best to follow this nest in the coming weeks and see what comes of it. Hoping that the female will successfully raise her brood of young!

Did you know…

Posted by Matthew Sim

 

I am going to try this out as a new weekly post in which I will feature a fact or two about a bird species or birding topic and hopefully with a photo included. So, for this week`s Did you know… we feature the Cedar Waxwing.

 

Did you know…

The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few birds in North America that can live primarily off fruit. Thanks to this eating habit, when young cowbirds are raised in Cedar Waxwing nests the cowbirds usually don`t survive because they can`t live off a diet of fruit. This is a double-edged sword for the waxwings though as sometimes they get quite drunk and can occasionally die when they eat overripe berries that are fermenting and producing alcohol.

Cedar Waxwing

Birds and Bugs of Dinosaur PP: Part 2

Posted by Matthew Sim

When we woke the next morning, we were hoping for fewer bugs but, much to out dismay, neither the numbers nor the ferocity of the mosquitoes had diminshed. Fortunately we had only planned to stay the morning anyways. I decided to brave the bugs and went out birding along the river where nighthawks and swallows seemed to do little to keep the bugs at bay! An Eastern Kingbird did pose for me, as did a preening Northern Flicker.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

This Northern Flicker paused from preening to give me a cautious look

This Northern Flicker paused from preening to give me a cautious look

Robins and Mourning Doves sang continuously and eventually I managed to spot three of the doves.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Robin

One of the highlights of the morning  for me, however was a mammal. I enjoyed close-up views of a pair of Nuttall’s Cottontail, a species pf rabbit we don’t get to see in Calgary.

Nuttall's Cottontail

Nuttall’s Cottontail

The other highlight was watching a group of Common Nighthawks chase down insects in the sky. While I was watching one particular individual, it proceeded to do a mid-air shake, ruffling out its feathers and fanning out its tail; of which I only managed to capture a mediocre image.

Nighthawk

 

After spending an hour or so birding, we finished up our time at Dinosaur Provincial Park on a bus tour throughout the badlands where I got more good looks at Western Meadowlarks and Rock Wrens. I definitely loved the park, but I guess now I have to figure out when is the best time to visit without the bugs! I imagine there would be very few mosquitoes in December…

 

Birds and Bugs of Dinosaur PP: Part 1

Posted by Matthew Sim

This past Thursday, some family friends and I went camping for a night in the beautiful badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park, several hours east of Calgary. A very neat place to camp with some gorgeous scenery and good birds, we also discovered another attribute of the park; mosquitoes. Mosquitoes apart, we enjoyed the park and some of its avian inhabitants that we can’t see here in Calgary.

Dinosaur PP

No sooner had we parked the car by the river when a Ring-billed Gull began circling over us. Looking for handouts perhaps?!

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

After eating lunch by the Red Deer River, we headed up to the hoodoos for a hike, on where we were serenaded by Lark Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks and Rock Wrens who didn’t want to pose for the camera.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren, doing its best to be as uncooperative as possible

Lark Sparrows on the other hand, were quite willing to sit up for the camera and were fairly common throughout the park.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

As we stopped to admire the view from the top of one particular hoodoo, we were greeted by the song of a Vesper Sparrow and a croaking raven and we caught a glimpse of a Say’s Phoebe as it departed its perch when we arrived.

Raven

Raven

After we had finished our short hike, we went back to our campsite and relaxed by the river as swarms of mosquitoes buzzed around us. The river and its surrounding cottonwood trees held an assortment of birds including Violet-green Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, Least Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds.

Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing sitting pretty

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

I attempted to get some shots of the swallows but as is usually the case, they were moving far too fast for me to keep up. As the sun began to set, we decided to climb up into the hoodoos to watch the sunset. We didn’t get too far however, before we were turned around by mosquitoes. On our way up though we did see a Western Kingbird and a photogenic magpie on the hoodoos.

Black-billed Magpie at sunset

Black-billed Magpie at sunset

After beating a hasty retreat from the bugs, we retired for the night by our campfire, watching nighthawks and bats catching bugs above us.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow, stay tuned!

 

Fish Creek Big Day

Posted by Matthew Sim

So how many species of birds can you find in a single day in Fish Creek P.P.? Last year, I set out to find the answer. I turned up 93 species, 7 short of my goal of 100. This year, I was back out again, trying my luck once more.  Once again though, I fell short, managing to find a total of 89 species for the day.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon were common throughout the park.

I won’t write up too much here or I could have several pages of notes but I will point out some of the highlights, and of course, low points. Surprising this year was the lack of quite a few species that should have been easy to find. Notably, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Ruddy Duck, Tennessee Warbler, Forster’s Tern, Black Tern and Pied-billed Grebe were missing. Some of these were absent due to the (until quite recently), low water levels at the Lafarge Meadows sloughs. I had wondered why there were few birds at the sloughs and Dan helped me out by pointing out the fact that the sloughs had been quite low for the last few weeks, perhaps turning away some species.

Brewer's Blackbird

While I did have some surprising misses, I also found some good species, including the Brewer’s Blackbird above.

Clay-colored Sparrow

Although some of the common species such as Osprey were absent, most, including the Clay-colored Sparrow above and the American Goldfinch below were relatively easy to find.

Goldfinch

Then there were some species that I missed last year but were easy to find this year. I could not find any LeConte’s Sparrows last year but this year I managed to find nearly a dozen. This little guy posed nicely for a few minutes near the Ranch.

LeConte's Sparrow

Perhaps I forgot to mention too that it was an early start? I was at the park just before 5, when the songsters were just getting started.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

One of the many birds to be singing early on was the Red-eyed Vireo. These little birds sing nice and loud but can be very tricky to spot. Luckily for me, this one Red-eyed Vireo below sang right from the top of a poplar. So although he was easy to see, he was still a long way up!

Red-eyed Vireo

It was a good day and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year. I guess then it will have become the 3rd Annual Fish Creek Big Day…

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Quite the act

Posted by Matthew Sim
Recently down here in Texas, the local Killdeer have started nesting and their nests can be found in many open spots, such as open lots and around athletic fields. Down at my high school, there were at least 2 nests around the track, which was quite surprising considering the amount of disturbance this location gets daily. While out for a walk last weekend, I found another nest near a local pond. I chanced upon this nest when the female Killdeer incubating her eggs scurried off her nest and proceeded to preform the Killdeer’s broken wing act to try and lure me away from her nest.

Killdeer

On the alert!

When Killdeer see a potential predator approaching their nests, they try to distract the predators from the nest by dragging one of their wings on the ground as though it were broken. They scamper away, stopping from time to time to make sure the predator is still following and then, when they feel a safe distance away from their nests, they fly off, returning to their eggs to continue incubating. It really is quite the trick!

Quite the convincing act!

Quite the convincing act!

act

I let myself be led away by this act but before I left I did make a brief attempt to find the Killdeer’s eggs, which I did, snapping a photo from a good distance away so as to ensure I didn’t disturb the Killdeer again before I left.

Killdeer eggs

Leucistic Rough-legged Hawk

Posted by Matthew Sim

We’ve done posts here on this blog about leucism before, which is when a bird has reduced pigmentation, meaning it has more white in it’s feathers than normal for the species. We’ve had some examples before, including a leucistic House Finch, American Robin, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and others. For the past few months, Calgary has had a very neat leucistic bird in the area. This Rough-legged Hawk frequents the area around Highway 40, just west of Calgary.

Leucistic Rough-legged Hawk

flying

Now compare this with a more normal Rough-legged Hawk.

Rough-legged Hawk

On January 1rst, I found this leucistic hawk on Highway 40 near its intersection with Range Road 40.

A walk in the Weaselhead

Posted by Matthew Sim

While currently back in Houston, Texas, I spent a very enjoyable 2 weeks in Calgary over Christmas. Despite the cold (!), I got out a couple times, including an afternoon walk in the Weaselhead Natural area, taking photos of the local bird life as I walked.

A couple of Ravens announced their presence with distinctive loud croaks; as well as some more unfamiliar vocalizations.

A couple of Ravens announced their presence with distinctive loud croaks; as well as some more unfamiliar vocalizations.

Redpolls were abundant at the feeders

Redpolls were abundant at the feeders

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

Waxwings ended up stealing the show though through sheer numbers

Waxwings ended up stealing the show though through sheer numbers

A small fraction of the waxwings.

A small fraction of the waxwings.

It was quite a nice walk and good to see so many waxwings.