Tag Archive | calgary birding locations

Migratory Bird Day: The Big Sit

Saturday May 14 is World Migratory Bird Day.  To celebrate this, and to see the birds of Calgary at the peak of our spring migration, Birds Calgary will be doing a Big Sit at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Sit birding is an activity that requires the birder to count all the birds that are seen and heard while remaining within a circle seventeen feet in diameter.  Essentially, you stay put and let the birds come to you.  On May 14, the Birds Calgary writers will see how many species they can find from a spot in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary near the Bow River.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, 2425 9 Avenue SE, Calgary

We will begin the count at 8 a.m. and go until 11 a.m (noon if the birds keep coming).  Anyone who wants to join us for the count and help out is welcome.  You can also just drop by at any time during the count to see how we are doing.  If you plan to stay, bring a lawn chair, binoculars, water, and either sunscreen or rain gear (or both) as the weather requires.

Harlequin Ducks, male and female, seen last year from our Big Sit spot.

Here is a link to the World Migratory Bird Day website:  http://www.worldmigratorybirdday.org/2011/

I hope you can join us next Saturday for a great morning of birding!

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Here’s Looking at You-Whoo!

As 2011 began, the Northern Saw-whet Owl was right at the top of my list of Birds I Must See.  I had heard them singing in the spring before in both the Weaselhead area and in Bowness, but I had never seen one.  They are very small, about eight inches (20 cm) high, and active at night.  They spend the daytime roosting in tree cavities or dense conifers.  So although they are quite common, they are rarely seen.


On Saturday, March 19, the Friends of Fish Creek Park Society outing was at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, where we were looking for returning gulls and waterfowl.  Before starting, the leader, Gus Yaki, mentioned that a Northern Saw-whet Owl had been reported a few days previously at the sanctuary.  We would look for this little bird near the end of our walk, in the row of spruce trees that run north from Walker House. 


However, as we turned north by the lagoon, I noticed a pair of Black-capped Chickadees that seemed quite agitated.  Two of us hung back to investigate as the rest of the group went ahead.  After a couple of minutes a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches arrived, and then a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches and another pair of chickadees.  All the birds were noisy, flicking their tails, and making short sweeping flights into the tree.  I have seen birds behave like this before – they are trying to drive away a predator.  Still, despite circling the tree a couple of times, I could see nothing.  Finally, from a spot right under the tree branches, I found the owl:

Then he found me back:



These owls sit still when confronted, and this one barely moved, except for batting his eyes, as you can see in the video.


Good Birding!

Bob Lefebvre

Crows By The Thousands

Originally posted August 27, 2009

Note: It appears that the crows are not roosting in the usual spot on Nose Hill this year.  If anyone knows of a large night-time crow roost in the city, please leave a comment.

A sure sign that autumn is here is the sight of thousands of American Crows gathering together in huge communal roosts every night.  On August 20/09 at 6:00 pm there were several hundred gathered along the south side of Nose Hill Park west of 14th Street in NW Calgary.  The crows accumulate throughout the evening, arriving from all over the city and from the surrounding countryside, and then move farther into the park to roost in trees overnight.  Yesterday, August 25, I walked into the pre-roost area at 8:45 pm, as it was getting dark. I can only guess at the number of crows gathered there but it surely must have been many thousands.  At 9:00 pm they were still arriving from the south at the rate of about one hundred a minute.

American Crow

This same area was used as a roost last fall.  One observer reported on Albertabird that there were almost 8,000 crows there on August 25, 2008.   The largest night-roost reported, from Oklahoma, had over a million birds!

The reason that crows gather in large roosts like this is for protection from predators, which large numbers in a small area offers.  In the daytime the crows are scattered over hundreds of square miles.  If they were to stay there overnight, they potentially would be prey to the dozens of Great Horned Owls which occupy that large area.  By concentrating in a small area, the crows reduce their losses to a minimum – one or two that might be taken by the owls that occupy this small territory.

Unless you are the kind of person who is freaked out by being surrounded by a huge mob of chattering birds in near-darkness, it is well worthwhile to take a walk to this roost before the crows migrate.  The area is easily accessible.  Park in the lot near Brisebois Drive NW, on the north side of John Laurie Boulevard, about halfway between 14 Street and Shaganappi Trail.  A short walk up the paved path in Many Owls Valley will take you into the midst of the crows.

If you know of another nighttime crow roost in the city, please leave a comment.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Previously posted comments:

  • c lannan Says:
    September 22, 2009 at 1:21 am editfor the last two weeks, hundreds (maybe a thousand)crows arrive on the rooftops and fences of Edgebrook Point (which backs on to Shaganappi Trail) across from the NW corner of Nose Hill around 7 p.m and stay for about an hour. Do you have any idea how much longer this will last and if it is likely to reoccur in future years.
    • Bob L Says:
      September 24, 2009 at 1:15 am editThe crows will probably depart in mid- to late October. They roosted in the same area last year and sometimes crows will use the same roost for years, so they may be back again next fall. But they do sometimes change roost locations, so maybe not.
  • Marlo Says:
    October 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm editLast night (October 1st, 2009) I left my office building about 7:40 pm (around dusk) at 7th Street and 5th Avenue SW. Across the street at MacDougall Centre, there were anywhere from 200-400 crows, maybe more, perched on the building and the park that surrounds it. They were flying back and forth, and you could see massive spots on the sidewalk and street where they collectively relieved themselves. I had never seen any birds on the building as there are gargoyles on the roof to keep the pigeons away, so it came as quite a surprise. My colleage mentioned to me that she’s seen them cluster in that spot around dusk and dawn at this time of year for the last few years now.
  • Kevin Says:
    October 5, 2009 at 1:31 am editI have been working the graveyard shift @ my work downtown on 3rd Ave and 6th for the past week. I have noticed that every evening hundreds of these crows fly in from the north between 7:00pm – 7:15pm, and perch themselves on the nearby apartment buildings. It’s almost eerie to watch, with their precise timing and all, and if you’re ever up to see, they all flee back to where they came around sunrise. A word of warning though, make sure you carry an umbrella if you’re in the area then.
  • Darlene Says:
    October 12, 2009 at 11:59 pm editThank you to all who took the time to put these comments in. I just watched a program about crows, and they are quite smart. I used to feed them in my backyard and am fascinated with them. I will for sure be out with umbrella to watch them next year at McDougal and Nose hill.
  • Sara Says:
    October 29, 2009 at 5:17 am editwe just got freaked out but the hundred or so crows roosting in the trees surrounding our house tonight. about a mile from the park but still in a populated residential area. i was worried it was some sort of bad omen.
  • Rob Jobst Says:
    February 25, 2010 at 8:54 am editThe Mount Royal Escarpment, which separates eastern Mount Royal from the community of Cliff Bungalow, sees hundreds of crows gathering every evening from mid- to late-summer through some point in the fall. If you want to take in a good show, go to the little park at 5th Street and 24th Avenue SW and watched the “squadrons” of crows fly in from the east and settle on the wooded hilllside. Every once in a while they will get spooked and all explode into the sky at once and the sky almost goes black with the hundreds of swirling crows. I very much enjoy the spectacle from my apartment a block away, but I wouldn’t want to be those people that live in the condos right across the street from the roost… 800 crows make a lot of noise!
  • Elbow River Bird Survey

    (Note:  The Elbow River Bird Survey is a Nature Calgary field trip.  Like all of Nature Calgary’s field trips, it is free, and anyone can participate – you don’t have to be a member.  Meet in the parking lot at Stanley Park on 42 Avenue SW,  just west of Macleod Trail, at 8:30 am.  If you would like to join us, call Gus or Aileen at 403-243-2248.)
    When I began to bird seriously, I found that the fastest way to learn was to go on field trips offered by Nature Calgary (also known as the Calgary Field Naturalists’ Society).  The best way to see a lot of bird species and learn to identify them is to go out in the company of experienced birders.
    One of my favourite field trips is the Elbow River Bird Survey.  This is a walk along the Elbow from Stanley Park to the Glenmore Dam.  It has been led on the first day of each month for over fifteen years by Gus Yaki and his wife, Aileen Pelzer.  The walk starts shortly after dawn and takes about three and a half hours.
    IMG_1826 adj
    Wood Ducks perched beside the river, March 1, 2008.
    A Common Merganser on the River near Stanley Park, November 1, 2009.

    Gus is a lifelong naturalist and is very informative about birds, plants, and other natural history.  He keeps track of all the bird and mammal species seen, and the numbers of each.  He is gathering valuable data on the changes in bird populations along the river.

    IMG_0970 trimmed
    Gus Yaki (pointing) leading a walk on the Elbow River pathway, November 1, 2009.
    The walk is mostly flat and easy, with one small hill between Sandy Beach and the Glenmore dam.  There are a variety of habitats on the walk.  You can see waterfowl on the river and the reservoir, songbirds in the parks and along the tree-lined urban streets and backyards, woodpeckers in the stand of old poplars in Riverdale Park, and the occasional raptor almost anywhere.  In recent years Gus has been posting the list of species seen each month on the Albertabird Listserv.  You always see something interesting.
    Goshawk - Elbow River trimmed
    This Northern Goshawk had just knocked a Common Goldeneye down onto the ice on the river. It flew off without pursuing the attack. February 1, 2009.
    Like all of Nature Calgary’s field trips, this walk is free and open to everyone.  You do not have to be a member of Nature Calgary to participate.  If you plan to attend, since this is a one-way walk, call Gus and Aileen ahead of time, so they can arrange to carpool us back to the starting point.  The starting time changes throughout the year so check the field trip list on the Nature Calgary website or on the Calgary Rare Bird Alert (RBA) on Albertabird.
    To participate, meet in the parking lot at Stanley Park on 42 Avenue SW,  just west of Macleod Trail at 8:30 am.  If you would like to join us, call Gus or Aileen at 403-243-2248.
    The Elbow River with the Glenmore Dam in the Backgound.
    IMG_0976 adj
    The Elbow River between Glenmore Dam and Sandy Beach.
    IMG_0972 Adj
    Downstream from Sandy Beach.

    Some Recent Results of the Elbow River Bird Survey:  

      Wednesday, December 1, 2010. Sunny, calm, -02 to 02C.

    1. Canada Goose-262
    2. Mallard-60
    3. Common Goldeneye-1f
    4. Rock Pigeon-2
    5. Downy Woodpecker-2
    6. Hairy Woodpecker-1
    7. Northern Flicker-1
    8. Black-billed Magpie-31
    9. Common Raven-5
    10. Black-capped Chickadee-22
    11. Red-breasted Nuthatch-1
    12. White-breasted Nuthatch-3
    13. Townsend’s Solitaire-2
    14. American Robin-2
    15. Eur. Starling-4
    16. Bohemian Waxwing-60
    17. Dark-eyed Junco-1
    18. House Finch-1
    19. House Sparrow-12

    (Eastern Gray Squirrel – 6 )

    November 1, 2010, 9:20-11:50am. Partly cloudy, calm –1 to 6 C.



    1. Canada Goose-5
    2. Wood Duck-2
    3. Mallard-50
    4. Hooded Merganser-3
    5. Bald Eagle-1
    6. Rough-legged Hawk-1
    7. Ring-billed Gull-20
    8. Rock Dove-3
    9. Downy Woodpecker-4
    10. Northern Flicker-3
    11. Blue Jay-2
    12. Black-billed Magpie-52
    13. American Crow-1
    14. Common Raven-3
    15. Black-capped Chickadee-22
    16. Red-breasted Nuthatch-3
    17. White-breasted Nuthatch-1
    18. American Robin-4
    19. European Starling-13
    20. House Finch-7
    21. House Sparrow-15


     October 1, 2010. Mostly sunny, becoming windy, 20kph, 02-10C.
    1. Canada Goose-60
    2. Wood Duck-3
    3. Mallard-2
    4. Osprey-1
    5. Bald Eagle-1 ad/1 imm.
    6. Harlan’s Hawk, light morph-1, chased by 20 starlings, then harassed by 25 B.b. Magpies.
    7. Merlin-1
    8. Ring-billled Gull-4
    9. Rock Pigeon-4
    10. Northern Flicker-10
    11. Blue Jay-1+
    12. Black-billed Magpie-60
    13. American Crow-24
    14. Common Raven-1
    15. Black-capped Chickadee-16
    16. Red-breasted Nuthatch-6
    17. White-breasted Nuthatch-2
    18. American Robin-70
    19. European Starling-30
    20. Yellow-rumped Warbler-1
    21. House Sparrow-7
    • Eastern Gray Squirrel-9
    • Red Squirrel-1


    September 1, 2010. Mostly cloudy, NW wind 20kph, 7-12C.  

    1. Canada Goose-2
    2. Wood Duck-4
    3. Mallard-17
    4. Common Merganser-3
    5. Red-necked Grebe-1
    6. Osprey-2
    7. Bald Eagle-1 imm.
    8. Sharp-shinned Hawk-1
    9. Cooper’s Hawk-1
    10. Merlin-1, repeatedly diving at Northern Flickers.
    11. Ring-billed Gull-1+
    12. California Gull-60
    13. Rock Pigeon-1
    14. Northern Flicker-12
    15. Western Wood-Pewee-1
    16. Red-eyed Vireo-1
    17. Blue Jay-3
    18. Black-billed Magpie-25
    19. Am. Crow-44
    20. Common Raven-4
    21. Black-capped Chickadee-1, unusually low number.
    22. Red-breasted Nuthatch-3
    23. American Robin-40
    24. Gray Catbird-1
    25. European Starling-5
    26. Cedar Waxwing-40
    27. Yellow-rumped Warbler-2 imm.
    28. Wilson’s Warbler-11
    29. Clay-colored Sparrow-1+
    30. House Finch-3
    31. Pine Siskin-20
    32. Am. Goldfinch-1 m.
     (Amazingly, first time without a House Sparrow).
    Eastern Gray Squirrel-1
    Mule Deer-1
     August 1, 2010, 0700-1045. Heavy overcast, light drizzle, 14-15C. 7 observers.

    1.. Mallard-25
    2.. Common Merganser-11
    3.. Common Loon-2
    4.. Osprey-1
    5.. Merlin-1
    6.. California Gull-41
    7.. Rock Pigeon-25
    8.. Downy Woodpecker-3
    9.. Northern Flicker-18
    10.. Western Wood-Pewee-3
    11.. Least Flycatcher-1
    12.. Black-billed Magpie-46
    13.. American Crow-23
    14.. Common Raven-5
    15.. Tree Swallow-8
    16.. Cliff Swallow-500
    17.. Black-capped Chickadee-3
    18.. Red-breasted Nuthatch-4
    19.. House Wren-6
    20.. American Robin-48
    21.. Gray Catbird-5
    22.. Cedar Waxwing-30
    23.. Yellow Warbler-3
    24.. Western Tanager-3, all 3 at different sites.
    25.. Chipping Sparrow-6
    26.. Clay-colored Sparrow-1
    27.. Song Sparrow-1
    28.. Brown-headed Cowbird-1
    29.. Baltimore Oriole-1 juv. m.
    30.. House Finch-15
    31.. American Goldfinch-1 m.
    32.. House Sparrow-60.
    Also seen, amidst dense leaves at the Glenmore Dam, was a warbler head with a
    gray face, eye-ring, light throat and with a yellow wash, apparently on the
    upper chest. The first impression was that of a female American Redstart, but
    the yellow was definitely on the chest, not on the flanks. At no time was any of
    the rest of the body seen. The only other choice was a Virginia’s Warbler. Both
    species of course are unlikely at this time. A birding mystery.

    Eastern Gray Squirrel-1
    Least Chipmunk.

    July 1, 2010, 0630-11am, Stanley Park-Glenmore Dam.

    1.. Canada Goose-51
    2.. American Wigeon-1 m.
    3.. Mallard-7 + young.
    4.. Common Goldeneye-2 f.
    5.. Common Merganser-3 f.
    6.. Osprey-1 on nest
    7.. Swainson’s Hawk-1
    8.. Red-tailed Hawk-1+
    9.. Rock Pigeon-5
    10.. Downy Woodpecker-2
    11.. Northern Flicker-9
    12.. Least Flycatcher-3
    13.. Red-eyed Vireo-1
    14.. Black-billed Magpier-46
    15.. American Crow-11
    16.. Tree Swallow-10+
    17.. Bank Swallow-3
    18.. Cliff Swallow-20+
    19.. Black-capped Chickadee-5
    20.. Red-breasted Nuthatch-1
    21.. House Wren-6
    22.. American Robin-32
    23.. Gray Catbird-4
    24.. European Starling-14
    25.. Cedar Waxwing-15
    26.. Yellow Warbler-12
    27.. Clay-colored Sparrow-4
    28.. Song Sparrow-1
    29.. Lincoln’s Sparrow-1
    30.. White-throated Sparrow-1
    31.. Brown-headed Cowbird-3
    32.. House Finch-10
    33.. House Sparrow-10
    Eastern Gray Squirrel-12
    June 1, 2010, 0640-1100.  Mostly cloudy, S wind 10kph, 5-12C.

    a.. Canada Goose-34 + 15 yg/
    b.. Mallard-15 m
    c.. Common Goldeneye-2 f
    d.. Common Merganser-1 f
    e.. Osprey-1
    f.. Red-tailed Hawk-1+
    g.. Spotted Sandpiper-2
    h.. Franklin’s Gull-10
    i.. Rock Pigeon-14
    j.. Downy Woodpecker-2
    k.. Northern Flicker-10
    l.. ?Western Wood-Pewee-1
    m.. Black-billed Magpie-23
    n.. Am. Crow-4
    o.. Tree Swallow-36+
    p.. Bank Swallow-1
    q.. Cliff Swallow-20+
    r.. Black-capped Chickadee-16
    s.. Red-breasted Nuthatch-4
    t.. House Wren-5+
    u.. Swainson’s Thrush-1
    v.. Am. Robin-36
    w.. Gray Catbird-4+
    x.. European Starling-20
    y.. Yellow Warbler-16+
    z.. Chipping Sparrow-5
    aa.. Clay-colored Sparrow-8+
    ab.. Song Sparrow-1 heard
    ac.. Common Grackle-2
    ad.. Brown-headed Cowbird-6+
    ae.. House Finch-3
    af.. House Sparrow-14
    a.. Eastern Gray Squirrel-7
    b.. Red Squirrel-1

    Saturday May 1, 2010 0700-1200. Mostly sunny, calm, 0-10C.
    1. Canada Goose-15, with three clutches of 5, 5, and 3 young.
    2. Wood Duck-3 m.
    3. Mallard-20
    4. Bufflehead-10
    5. Common Merganser-6
    6. Ring-necked Pheasant-4 m
    7. Common Loon-1
    8. Horned Grebe-4
    9. Red-necked Grebe-1
    10. Cooper’s Hawk-1
    11. Red-tailed Hawk-1
    12. Merlin-2
    13. Rock Pigeon-8
    14. Franklin’s Gull-60+
    15. white-headed gulls, high in flight-10+
    16. Yellow-bellied? Sapsucker-3
    17. Downy Woodpecker-8
    18. Hairy Woodpecker-1
    19. Northern Flicker-10
    20. Blue Jay-1
    21. Black-billed Magpie-26
    22. American Crow-10+
    23. Tree Swallow-3
    24. Northern Rough-winged Swallow-6, over river, seen by Aileen.
    25. Black-capped Chickadee-35
    26. Red-breasted Nuthatch-10
    27. White-breasted Nuthatch-1 hear
    28. American Robin-60
    29. European Starling-12
    31. Song Sparrow-1
    33. House Finch-12+
    34. Pine Siskin-3
    35. House Sparrow-10

    Eastern Gray Squirrel-6

    Wednesday March 31, 2010 (for April), Partly cloudy, calm,
    0-8C. Ice at Reservoir Dam still frozen.

    1.. Canada Goose-16
    2.. Mallard-20
    3.. Common Merganser-2
    4.. Ring-billed Gull-12
    5.. Rock Pigeon-6
    6.. Downy Woodpecker-8
    7.. Northern Flicker-6
    8.. Blue Jay-1
    9.. Black-billed Magpie-16
    10.. American Crow-4
    11.. Common Raven-8
    12.. Black-capped Chickadee-12
    13.. Red-breasted Nuthatch-5
    14.. American Robin-36
    15.. European Starling-6
    16.. House Finch-10
    17.. Pine Siskin-1
    18.. House Sparrow-6
    Eastern Gray Squirrel-2

    Monday March 1, 2010, 8:00-12:30. Sunny, calm, -4 to 9C.

    1. Canada Goose-140
    2. Wood Duck-1 pr.
    3. Mallard-60
    4. Common Goldeneye-1 m.
    5. Common Merganser-4
    6. Merlin-1 carrying prey.
    7. Rock Pigeon-5
    8. Great Horned Owl-2
    9. Downy Woodpecker-8
    10. Hairy Woodpecker-5
    11. Northern Flicker-6+
    12. Blue Jay-1+ heard.
    13. Black-billed Magpier-30
    14. Common Raven-3
    15. Black-capped Chickadee-22
    16. Red-breasted Nuthatch-5
    17. White-breasted Nuthatch-3
    18. Brown Creeper-2
    19. European Starling-5
    20. House Finch-6+
    21. Pine Siskin-2+
    22. House Sparrow-16

    Eastern Gray Squirrel-6

    Monday, February 1, 2010, 0815-1145. Sunny, Calm, -6 to -2C.
    1.. Canada Goose-190
    2.. Mallard-160
    3.. Common Goldeneye-2
    4.. Common Merganser-2
    5.. Bald Eagle-1 ad.
    6.. Rock Pigeon-4
    7.. Downy Woodpecker-4
    8.. Hairy Woodpecker-1
    9.. Northern Flicker-2
    10.. Black-billed Magpie-45
    11.. Common Raven-9
    12.. Black-capped Chickadee-62, counted by Tony T.
    13.. Red-breasted Nuthatch-1
    14.. White-breasted Nuthatch-1
    15.. European Starling-8
    16.. Bohemian Waxwing-350
    17.. House Finch-6
    18.. House Sparrow-24
    Eastern Gray Squirrel-4

    Saturday January 3, 2010: 8:30-12noon, Sunny, calm, -12C. 7 participants

    1.. Canada Goose-450
    2.. Mallard 500
    3.. Common Goldeneye-8
    4.. Common Merganser-2
    5.. Downy Woodpecker-7
    6.. Hairy Woodpecker-2
    7.. Black-billed Magpie-60
    8.. Common Raven-14
    9.. Black-capped Chickadee-32
    10.. Red-breasted Nuthatch-7
    11.. White-breasted Nuthatch-1
    12.. Bohemian Waxwing-200
    13.. House Finch-1
    14.. Common Redpoll?-5
    15.. House Sparrow-35
    a.. Eastern Gray Squirrel-7
    b.. White-tailed Jackrabbit-tracks.
    c.. Coyote tracks

    Posted by Bob Lefebvre


    1. Canada Goose-262
    2. Mallard-60
    3. Common Goldeneye-1f
    4. Rock Pigeon-2
    5. Downy Woodpecker-2
    6. Hairy Woodpecker-1
    7. Northern Flicker-1
    8. Black-billed Magpie-31
    9. Common Raven-5
    10. Black-capped Chickadee-22
    11. Red-breasted Nuthatch-1
    12. White-breasted Nuthatch-3
    13. Townsend’s Solitaire-2
    14. American Robin-2
    15. Eur. Starling-4
    16. Bohemian Waxwing-60
    17. Dark-eyed Junco-1
    18. House Finch-1
    19. House Sparrow-12

    Eastern Gray Squirrel – 5

    Birding the Irrigation Canal

    Inspired by Pat’s recent post about birding the irrigation canal in Calgary, I headed down last week to check it out.  I started at the bridge on Gosling Way by the Inglewood Golf Course in southeast Calgary and headed south.  I often bird this area in the summer, but I’ve never been there in the fall after the water flow is stopped in September.  Trout Unlimited did their annual Fish rescue near the Max Bell arena on September 30.  They remove a lot of the larger fish, which would die in the winter, but there are many small fish left  in the canal.  There is still quite a bit of standing water, and some mudflats and exposed mats of vegetation.

    IMG_0805 auto adjusted

    The Canal near the Inglewood Golf Course

    On the canal I saw several Mallards and Ring-billed Gulls, one Blue-winged Teal, one Common Goldeneye, and six Greater Yellowlegs.  The yellowlegs would occasionally catch small fish.  Also hunting in the water was a  juvenile Great Blue Heron.  A man who walks there every day told me that the heron had been there daily for about three weeks.  He also saw a lone swan there about two weeks previously – the only one he has ever seen in the canal.  I’m not sure if there was enough water now for a swan to be able to take off.
    IMG_0810 corrected

    Juvenile Great Blue Heron

    There was one Merlin in the trees on the west side of the canal, which took a run at a squirrel and then chased off a harassing magpie.  Bald Eagles nest on the golf course and have overwintered here for the past few years, but I didn’t see them that day.  As I walked south (still only about 100 metres from the bridge), I came across a group of eight Common Mergansers and two groups of Hooded Mergansers, twelve in all, including five adult males.

    IMG_0816 trimmed

    Hooded Mergansers, conveniently demonstrating 3 different positions of their crests.

    On the way back, some new birds had arrived.  There were three Long-billed Dowitchers feeding in the canal (very late migrants), and then a group of six Rusty Blackbirds on the mudflats.  These birds are not very common, and these were the first ones I’ve ever seen.

    I returned to the canal on the weekend to get some photos and see what was new.  Most of the same bird species were there, plus one male Redhead.

    IMG_0841 trimmed

    Redhead (right) with female Hooded Merganser.

    I also walked north from the bridge to the source of the canal north of the Max Bell arena.  There were Mallards, Ring-billed Gulls, Canada Geese, and a muskrat building a lodge in the middle of the canal.  I’m not sure how he’ll make out when it gets colder – he’ll probably have to move to the open water on the river.

    Muskrat Still 1 auto adj

    Muskrat at lodge.

    The canal is a great place for fall birds, and seems to get some late migrants.  Lately it has been freezing over at night, and there are birds there only on warm afternoons.

    The canal stretches east for many miles, so there is a lot to explore.  It is also a good location to do Non-Motorized Transport birding, since there is a paved pathway running alongside it.  In the summer I have ridden my bike all the way to Lake Chestermere (25 kms) and back, birding all the way.

    Black-crowned Night-herons

    Black-crowned night heron

    Black-crowned night heron

    Most birders in Calgary have seen Great Blue Herons along the city waterways or flying overhead as the birds come and go from their communal roosts.  But many people are not aware that you can also see their smaller relative, the Black-crowned Night-heron, within the city limits.

    These birds are not very common in this area.  During the past five May Species Counts, between 6 and 21 Night-herons were counted, and that is within an 80 kilometre radius of the city centre.  In the 2009 count, only 13 birds were seen, all of them in the prairie area and none within the city limits.

    There may well be many more birds around than these numbers indicate, since Night-herons, as their name suggests,  are mostly active at night.  During the day they roost in trees, bushes, or reeds and can be difficult to see, despite standing about 64 cm (two feet) high.

    These birds have an almost worldwide distribution and in this part of their range they are migratory.  They arrive in the Calgary area during the second week of April.

    The best place I know to see Black-crowned Night-herons within the city of Calgary is at a pond near Country Hills Boulevard and Deerfoot Trail in the Northeast.  The pond lies in the southwest corner of that intersection.  There is a gravel road (15 Street NE) that runs just west of the pond.  You can park there and see the herons from the road, or walk down.  I don’t recommend going near the pond until at least mid-July since American Avocets nest there and get quite agitated if you approach.  We don’t want to scare them off.

    I don’t know if the Night-herons breed near this pond.  The earliest I have seen them there is the last week of  June, so I suspect that they breed elsewhere and come to feed after the breeding season is over.

    In 2008 I saw as many as seven birds there at once, including two juveniles.  This year I have only seen adults.

    Juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron

    Juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron

    Black-crowned Night-Herons have also been reported at the ponds near Airport Trail (96 Avenue) on the west side of Deerfoot Trail, which is about one kilometre south of the Country Hills Boulevard location.  But it is very difficult to access that area safely.  The best you can do is pull on to the shoulder of Deerfoot Trail to have a look.

    If you know of any other reliable locations for these birds within the city limits, please post a comment.