Tag Archive | calgary

New Spring Migrants at Bowmont Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

Another week of spring arrivals and a few surprises at Bowmont Park made for a great outing last week. While most of the pathways near the river had been damaged by the flood, we elected to take the high road (literally!) and walk along the upper ridge of the park before descending down to the always  bountiful ponds before walking back along the base of the hillside, turning up quite a few more great birds. Enjoy!

Bowmont Park May 18, 2014

Bowmont Park
May 18, 2014

While we are always on the lookout for any number of bird species, it’s always really nice to find some flowers in bloom. This group of Prairie Crocus was one of the few we saw on this hillside, and from what others in the group mentioned, they were blooming a little late!

Prairie Crocus Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Prairie Crocus
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

There was another group of Say’s Phoebes at the west end of the upper slope, but something on the horizon caught my eye flying down the Bow River being harassed by a group of American Crows. I had initially thought it was just another Common Raven, like we’d seen before. but as we watched the crows trail off and leave this soaring bird to close on us, we noticed white primaries, a pink head, and that is seemed really intent on simply soaring above either the Bow River, or Highway 1 before spiraling up and out of sight on a thermal. It was an unmistakable bird, but not one I’ve seen often around Calgary, and never before within the city limits. A Turkey Vulture!

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

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

This particular hillside was great for our group, as we also spotted this urbanized coyote in the distance, and when we reviewed our photos afterwards, noted that it was tagged and radio-collared, likely as part of this study being put on by the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary.

Coyote Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Coyote
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

We soon descended into the heavily wooded pathways down below and were completely pleased with the next group that popped up that have been seen in huge numbers around the Calgary area this spring, the Western Tanager. Both males and females in equal number, this group of four flitted about above us, and a few of them even came really quite close to provide great looks!

Western Tanager Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Western Tanager
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

So after some good time spent with these beautiful, colorful birds, we headed to the ponds. A kindly Belted Kingfisher flew from perch to perch, giving its signature rattling call while hunting for minnows in this well established pond. Just as we were preparing to leave, a Common Yellowthroat (which we saw here last year as well) decided to make a brief call and pop out to the pond and take a drink!

male Belted Kingfisher Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

male Belted Kingfisher
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Common Yellowthroat Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Common Yellowthroat
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Another traipse through the woods near the ponds turned up a few more Western Tanagers, a Cooper’s Hawk sitting quietly on her nest, and this pair of Downy Woodpeckers who are well on their way to starting a family of their own.

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

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

And as a great end to a great walk, we managed to come across our first House Wren of the year as well, singing in the trees nearby, and as we approached, she decided to come out and tell us exactly how she felt about us being nearby!

House Wren

House Wren
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Thanks again for reading, and good birding! Have a great week!

A turn in the weather is a turn for the better at Griffith Woods

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Following the blizzard conditions in Calgary on Saturday, it was finally time for our Sunday group to dodge the bad weather bullet. Beautiful blue skies greeted us as we met at the east end of Griffith Woods Park on the west edge of the city, and it was a much earned change, given the past number of weeks of poor weather.

Griffith Woods Park

Griffith Woods Park

Griffith Woods is a prime example of the Boreal Forest biome that is found in northern Alberta, but also winds its way down along the eastern edge of the foothills. With the extreme cold, I suspected we’d still not have much luck with birds, despite the clear skies and calm weather, but we still had good views of birds we’ve been seeing often, and some that we’ve only caught glimpses of so far this fall.

Griffith Woods Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 500

Griffith Woods
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 500

Aside from an early Blue Jay and the sound of Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees around us, the first real birds we were able to get a look at were these Canada Geese on one of tributary streams to the Elbow River. You know it’s a cold fall day when the ground water is giving off water vapor first thing in the morning.

Canada Geese in the mist Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Canada Geese in the mist
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Having very little luck with birds in the early minutes of our walk, I figured I’d take a few more scenery shots, and am I ever glad I did.

Griffith Woods Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 1250

Boreal Forest biome of Griffith Woods
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 1250

While searching for evidence of Three-toed or Black-backed Woopeckers, and listening for kinglets and chickadees, I did notice this series of bark beetle trackways in this spruce trunk, and with the bark stripped away by foraging woodpeckers, the network of tracks really stood out.

Bark Beetle Burrows Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Bark Beetle Burrows
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

It wasn’t until we had reached the end of our walk and began the trip back that our real luck with bird sightings started to turn around.

Elbow River looking east Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 200

Elbow River looking east
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 200

Elbow River looking west Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 125

Elbow River looking west
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 125

Our first good sighting was a Brown Creeper, and while watching it creep up the trees in search of food, we were also alerted to the presence of a nearby Pileated Woodpecker, and a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets. It was really quite a busy place!

Brown Creeper Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Brown Creeper
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Golden-crowned Kinglet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

The Pileated Woodpecker eluded us until we turned back onto the pathway under the power lines that runs from east to west straight through the middle of the park, but after giving a loud call, he flew overhead and gave us quite a show while working his way up a dead tree.

male Pileated Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

male Pileated Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

And that seemed to be it for the day, with the cold keeping most of the birds up high and out of sight for the most part, and even lacking any real chickadee flocks along the way back. On one of our brief listening stops, this Red Squirrel chattered at us to get away, but then went back to its task of nibbling on the spruce buds.

Red Squirrel Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Red Squirrel
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Of course this particular day ended a little early, considering the minimal activity and cold weather briskly pushing along our pace, but one of the Black-billed Magpies watched over us as we got into our cars and headed back to the warmth of home.

Black-billed Magpie Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Black-billed Magpie
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Once again, good birding, and have a great week!

Furry Friday: Foxes are Fun!

Posted by Dan Arndt

I have to thank Glenn Alexon for sharing the location of this pair of beautiful foxes with me near Calgary.

 

Enjoy!

fox 1

Red Fox near Calgary – August 1, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 @ 500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

fox 2

Red Fox near Calgary – August 1, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 @ 500mm
1/250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

fox 3

Red Fox near Calgary – August 1, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 @ 500mm
1/250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

fox 5

Red Fox near Calgary – August 1, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 @ 500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

fox 6

Red Fox near Calgary – August 1, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 @ 500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

fox 7

Red Fox near Calgary – August 1, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 @ 500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

fox 8

Red Fox near Calgary – August 1, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 @ 500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

fox 9

Red Fox near Calgary – August 1, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 @ 500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Thanks for reading, and good birding (or mammaling)!

Spring Migrants and a warm welcome at Carburn Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Finally we had a warmer day, and while there was a little wind and the light wasn’t perfect, there were certainly a few moments where everything made it all worth while, even the last few weeks of dreary, snowy misery.

Carburn Park

Carburn Park

We started, and finished, with the show-stealers of the day, and it made it difficult to really have anything match the incredible sight.

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls

Protective male Great Horned Owl

Protective male Great Horned Owl

While Dad was protecting the young, the mother and babies were well guarded and seemed to be completely unfazed by the presence of 14 people checking out the area.

In the first pond at Carburn Park, we saw quite a bit of evidence of beaver activity, and we did manage to spot a pair of them swimming about, with this one getting close enough for me to photograph.

Beaver

Beaver

While we headed south in the earliest start of the season so far, we got lucky with a few birds we hadn’t seen before, like the Song Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow, but neither were in any position for me to get photos. Swarmed by low flybys of literally hundreds of Tree Swallows at a time, our eyes were on the sky much of the time, allowing me to spot this distant Rough-legged Hawk circling above the parking lot, most likely rising on thermals to continue his northward migration.

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

As we neared the parking lot again, and scanned along the river to see what we could see, we were gifted with this beautiful flyby of a male American White Pelican. Awesome.

male American White Pelican

male American White Pelican

We headed up along the bank of the river, and while we saw a good number of Franklin’s, Ring-billed, and California Gulls, and even bigger numbers of Tree Swallows, but due to the number of boats on the river, the photo opportunities were slim. That all changed once we turned back onto main pathway and reached the second pond. We got really good looks at Red-necked Grebes and a single Common Loon, and I knew that if they stuck around, I’d be back later on with the Swarovski ATX 85 to take some much closer shots.

Common Loon

Common Loon

Our next good views were on the river, one of which was, I think, one of the most surprising of the day. A lone Yellow-headed Blackbird was flocking with a group of European Starlings. For a bird that is almost always seen in cat-tail wetlands, seeing it foraging on the bank of the river was really odd!

Yellow-headed Blackbird and European Starlings

Yellow-headed Blackbird and European Starlings

Another of the awe-inspiring sights was the Tree Swallows banking, diving, and feeding over the Bow River, and I think we had just as much fun watching them.

Tree Swallows on nest box

Tree Swallows on nest box

Tree Swallow in flight

Tree Swallow in flight

Tree Swallows going for a drink

Tree Swallows going for a drink

We headed back, prepared to call it a day, and had our best views of a pair of Osprey in the distance.

Osprey

Osprey

After the rest of the group left, I returned to the bank of the second pond to see what I could see through the scope, and get some better photos of the Red-necked Grebes, Common Loon, and I ended up getting some nice ones of the Great Horned Owls as well!

Common Loon

Common Loon

Common Loon

Common Loon

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Muskrat

Muskrat

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Aren't they just adorable?

Aren’t they just adorable?

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we’re off to South Glenmore Park, to see what we can see on the Glenmore Reservoir, and maybe luck out with some early arriving warblers and a few more sparrows.

 

Good birding!

Spring Blizzarding in Elliston Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

While last week was chilly, and a bit overcast, it wasn’t really too much to complain about. This week, the Sunday Curse has struck again. As the weekend approached, the forecast for 10-25 cm of snow by Monday night seemed a bit overzealous, maybe even pessimistic. Sadly, this was one time that the weatherman was right. Sunday morning greeted us with about 10cm of already accumulated snow, and a brisk wind out of the north made for risky driving and for terrible visibility at times, though we were lucky and also had some clear patches. A small, hardy group greeted us at 8 AM, and while some of the walk was abbreviated due to the conditions, we still had a good number of new species (or at least newly photographed species) for the year.

Earlier in the week I had finally received the Swarovski ATX 85 that has been graciously loaned to us, so I’ve included a good number of photos that were taken with the Swarovski TLS APO digiscoping adapter, taken with my Pentax K-30. I have to say, I’ve never been quite so happy that that camera is weather sealed as I was today. As I mentioned to the birding students, this is a scope that after an hour of playing with it at home had me wanting to buy it for myself, and after spending some time with it this afternoon and seeing the results I managed to get in the terrible light and low visibility, that decision has been set in stone. You’ll see what I mean below…

 

Elliston Park

Elliston Park

You might notice first of all that it doesn’t look like we saw much on the southern portion of our walk. That is mostly true. By the time we cleared the eastern edge of the tree cover, the clouds had lowered, the wind picked up, and the snowfall really started coming in sideways, pelting us with wet ice crystals, and some of us were simply not prepared for things to get as bad as they did, so we powered on straight to the parking lot to get out of the wind and sleet.

Despite all that doom and gloom, as I mentioned above, we got a whole pile of new bird sightings! Almost as soon as we started, we heard, then saw, a flock of American Tree Sparrows flitting about, barely pausing long enough for any of us to get good looks until they were quite far away.

American Tree Sparrows

American Tree Sparrows

From our vantage point we could see out onto the water quite well at this point, and with the trees covering us from the wind, we took a few minutes to look out over the lake, and managed to spot the first new species for the group, this American Wigeon. There were about half a dozen of these birds on Elliston Lake, standing out in stark contrast to the other waterfowl present. Additionally, this was where we had good views of the second new species of the day, the Lesser Scaup.

American Wigeon (rear) and Mallards (foreground)

American Wigeon (rear) and Mallards (foreground)

Lesser Scaup (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

Lesser Scaup
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

While we have seen Townsend’s Solitaires this year, finding this one in the storm was a stroke of luck and good field identification on the part of some of our students! They are always such a pleasure to see! With the wind and snow picking up a bit at this time, we did check out a pair of Northern Flickers waiting out the storm on the leeward side of a low tree. Where they might have been nesting in or around this park is a mystery, as there really aren’t any trees large enough or old enough to provide them a suitable nest area!

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire

Male (above) and female (below) hybrid Northern Flickers

Male (above) and female (below) hybrid Northern Flickers

We turned our attention back to the water, and found this lone American Coot. These aren’t a bird you expect to see all by its lonesome, nor in this kind of weather! An early arrival, and quite the surprise to see here! There were also a good number of Northern Shovelers in the north-east section of lake, though with the snow and wind picking up, good photos were hard to come by.

American Coot

American Coot

female (left) and male (right) Northern Shovelers

female (left) and male (right) Northern Shovelers

male Northern Shoveler (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

male Northern Shoveler
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

From here on, we powered through to the end, with a few stops to check out some unusual sounds and sights, and a few nice finds in the sloughs east of Elliston Park, including many more Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, and even a lone male Ruddy Duck, the blowing snow played havoc with my auto focus, and I didn’t make it back around after the walk with the digiscoping setup.

 

I did end up heading back to check out the gulls with the digiscope rig, and while I didn’t find anything particularly uncommon, the practice with both stationary birds and birds in flight was absolutely priceless. While I’ve already had some experience with digiscoping, the ease which I was able to pick up the different skills that this scope requires, as well as the particular idiosyncrasies of the setup were very quick to adapt to, and the learning curve was extremely shallow. I have to say, it’ll be a hard sell to go back to the other gear once June comes around!

Herring, California, and Ring-billed Gulls (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

Herring, California, and Ring-billed Gulls
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

California Gull in flight (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

California Gull in flight
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

Herring Gull in flight in the snowstorm (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

Herring Gull in flight in the snowstorm
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

See you next week, and good birding!

Sunday Showcase: Great Grey Owls of Grand Valley Road

Posted by Dan Arndt

In late March of this year, Paul Turbitt and I headed out to Grand Valley Road in search of Great Grey Owls, and I had both my best day in terms of numbers of owls, but also in terms of photos. This individual owl seemed incredibly tolerant of people, and patient enough to make three hunting attempts in the hour that we sat and watched. More than a few times, the owl flew in our direction, seemingly unthreatened by our presence.

Enjoy the photos.

This Great Grey Owl was little wary when we first showed up...

This Great Grey Owl was little wary when we first showed up…

But after a little patience and some sun to distract, we were all but forgotten about.

But after a little patience and some sun to distract, we were all but forgotten about.

This owl must have felt a little exposed though, as it kept a keen eye on the skies.

This owl must have felt a little exposed though, as it kept a keen eye on the skies.

Oh! What's that?

Oh! What’s that?

Looks like lunch!

Looks like lunch!

Hmm... nope, missed it.

Hmm… nope, missed it.

I blame you, you know.

I blame you, you know.

Ready for takeoff...

Ready for takeoff…

Maybe the hunting's better down here...

Maybe the hunting’s better down here…

Nailed the landing!

Nailed the landing!

And one more wing-spread shot. Can't get enough of these gorgeous owls!

And one more wing-spread shot. Can’t get enough of these gorgeous owls!

Bye for now!

Bye for now!

 

Chasing Rarities – Northern Mockingbird in Vulcan, AB

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Well, today is a statutory holiday here in Calgary, and as such, my regular post of our Friends of Fish Creek birding courses will be delayed until tomorrow, as I’m spending most of Sunday and Monday with family. Instead, here’s a post about a rare bird sighted within a 90 minute drive from our city that I managed to track down and photograph last weekend, with the help of local birder and excellent nature and wildlife photographer, Jeff Bingham, who first spotted the bird on February 3.

 

As I was composing my blog post for February 4, on the quiet and peaceful outing we had to Griffith Woods, I was sent a small thumbnail photo of a bird that I knew entirely by reputation and similarity than by having ever seen one before in my life. The photo was of a Northern Mockingbird, which had apparently been taken that day by a local photographer and birder, Jeff Bingham. After confirming the ID, and ensuring that yes, that bird had been seen on that day about an hour and a half outside the city, I was already planning my trip. Thankfully, Jeff agreed to take me down to that same spot the following Saturday in hopes of a repeat performance by the rather unusually occuring bird.

You see, Northern Mockingbirds, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” page on this species, don’t occur in Alberta, except for the very southerly edge of the province. There have been a handful reported here and there throughout the province in the past, most recently one in Nanton, AB, in the winter of 2006, and another in North Glenmore Park here in Calgary in the summer of 2011.

Northern Mockingbird Range Map, by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Northern Mockingbird Range Map, by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

So, as Saturday February 9th rolled in, we were up and on the road by 8 A.M. and hoping for some great light and good opportunities to find this rare bird.

On the way down, we were treated to a nice close look of a Bald Eagle sitting low on a fencepost. It wasn’t until after it was flushed that we realized it was guarding the carcass of a coyote that was thawing out of a snow drift.

Bald Eagle flushed from a carcass

Bald Eagle flushed from a carcass

As we headed east on Highway 23, we came across not one, but two rather tolerant Snowy Owls.

Snowy Owl on a grain silo

Snowy Owl on a grain silo

This particular Snowy Owl let us drive right up beside him and shoot this out the window.

One very brave Snowy Owl who isn't the slightest bit disturbed by cars.

One very brave Snowy Owl who isn’t the slightest bit disturbed by cars.

As we continued on to Vulcan, we had high hopes of the Northern Mockingbird showing up right where it was before. Unfortunately, it made us wait. And wait. And wait. We even decided to drive around town looking for other birds in our frustration.

It wasn’t until we had just about given up and went to get a cup of coffee that it decided to give us a show, and boy did it ever not disappoint! We followed it on its circuit around the area for a good hour and a half, allowing us some pretty close views and photo opportunities. It always makes for a great day when you find not only the bird you’re looking for, but more than a few good shots of the ones that you didn’t even plan for!

This Northern Mockingbird looks very smug

This Northern Mockingbird looks very smug

The typical Northern Mockingbird side profile. Note the heavy white wing bars and tail feathers.

The typical Northern Mockingbird side profile. Note the heavy white wing bars and tail feathers.

This bird was so smug, in fact, he did not hesitate to look down on us.

This bird was so smug, in fact, he did not hesitate to look down on us.

Thanks again for the tip, Jeff, and I look forward to our next outing!

 

 

 

 

 

Friends of Fish Creek Birding Course – Week 4 – Carburn Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

One of the regular parks attended by the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses is Carburn Park. Located just off Deerfoot Trail, it is an oasis of mixed deciduous and coniferous forest in the middle of the urban landscape, and is adjacent to Beaverdam Flats to the north, and the Southland Dog Park to the west. The route we took this week took us from the parking lot, south to a small grove of trees containing a special surprise for us, exploring some bird feeders just off the main trail, then back up along the river before returning to our vehicles by way of the east bank of the middle pond.

 

For some reason, I was pretty gung-ho about taking photos for the first half of the walk, but once we got near the ponds there weren’t a lot of opportunities given the general shyness of the birds, the close foliage, and shooting into the light, I didn’t really get many good opportunities.

Carburn Park

Carburn Park

Our first stop of the morning was at the bridge that crosses the Bow River, and but unfortunately there weren’t too many birds on, or over the water. What we did get was this (relatively) gorgeous Rock Pigeon posing gracefully on this dead tree limb.

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon

Heading south along the river, we had hopes of flushing a Ring-necked Pheasant, or seeing something interesting on the river, or at the very least, getting some interesting birds at the bird feeders, but as they hadn’t been seen on any of the walks this week, we were quite surprised at a trio of Great-Horned Owls at the southern-most point of our walk!

Great-horned Owl

Great-horned Owl

Great-horned Owl

Great-horned Owl

This one thought that he could hide from the shutterbugs clicking away with their cameras…

Great-Horned Owl

Great-Horned Owl

Moving over to the feeders and allowing these owls their space, we came upon a large mixed flock of sparrows and warblers in a large Russian Olive tree. Orange-crowned Warblers, Yell0w-rumped Warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and even a pair of American Tree Sparrows!

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Our walk continued with a few other nice sightings. Common Mergansers fishing alongside large flocks of Ring-billed Gulls resting on the gravel bars, and even a small flock of Green-winged Teals flushed up by one of the many fishing rafts on the river. One of the Ring-billed Gulls had managed to pluck a small fish from the river, causing all the other gulls around to fly at it in an attempt to steal away an easy meal. Sadly, I don’t think any of them ended up with lunch in all the commotion!

Along the river was also a stretch of about 10 meters that was highly productive, with many Black-capped Chickadees, a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets, another pair of Orange-crowned Warblers, Belted Kingfishers, Northern Flickers and a Downy Woodpecker to top off the list. Around the corner from there was another gravel bar populated entirely by Ring-billed Gulls, and this juvenile posed nicely for us. It wasn’t until it began walking away that we noticed that it was injured, with its tail-feathers skewed off to the side making it seemingly unable to fly.

juvenile Ring-billed Gull

juvenile Ring-billed Gull

We trudged through the woods getting very good, close looks at a lone Golden-crowned Kinglet, a Red-necked Grebe on the middle pond, and a few Buffleheads on the far north pond. On our way back along the east side of the middle pond, we were assaulted by another small flock of Black-capped Chickadees in search of a handout.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

As we rounded the bend and neared the parking lot, a few of us were reflecting that we hadn’t seen a Muskrat in any of the ponds. Sure enough, within a few moments, this little guy swam over to the far bank and hung around just long enough for us to get some shots of him.

Looks like we’ll be touring the Elbow River, from Stanley Park through to the Glenmore Dam.

Good birding!

 

 

 

 

Lafarge Meadows – Flooding, baby birds, and a tern for the better

Posted by Dan Arndt

The final week of the Friends of Fish Creek Spring Birding course once again took us to the south end of Fish Creek Provincial Park, specifically, to the Boat Launch and south to Lafarge Meadows sloughs, which Matthew Sim has recently posted about. It was a good finish to a great course, and I am looking forward to joining a new group of fresh-faced and enthusiastic birders as fall migration is in full swing by September.

 

We started off with a new bird for our group (and for myself) for the year. Just north of the boat launch were a trio of American White Pelicans, one of which decided it was a bit too rainy for his liking and flew off before I took this photo. The water level both on the Bow River and in the sloughs adjacent to the pathway were incredibly high, and in some areas of the city, the weekend of June 24th was a time of some minor, or not so minor flooding. It seemed that the pelicans didn’t mind it so much, as they were seen regularly at this point all week long.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

As we got looks at these gorgeous white birds, we couldn’t help but notice that a family of Tree Swallows had set up a nest inside one of the horizontal access gate poles. This male stood guard while the female was on the nest deep inside the gate.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Just south of the boat launch, on the west side of the path, there are normally three large sloughs on the north side of 22X. Because of the flooding, they all had merged into one incredibly large slough, and this Black Tern, along with three of its buddies, were making short work of the small fish, arthropods, and worms that were found within.

Black Tern

Black Tern

As we headed underneath the 22X bridge, and emerged on the other side, we stayed close to the river in hopes of spotting another of our target species for the day, the Western Kingbird. While not quite what we were looking for, this Eastern Kingbird was harassing (or being harassed by?) a Black-billed Magpie. Inter-species territorial disputes are always fun to watch.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

While having great views of one species of the tyrant flycatchers is always good, not fifty meters away we were greeted by the sound of at least three Western Wood-Pewees harassing a family of Common Ravens, not to far from their likely nest site. Once again, inter-species territory disputes are the rule of the day!

Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee

As we headed further south along the river bank, we began heading into a bit more open grasslands and sloughs, and got much closer views of a number of waterfowl and other wetland birds. As we rounded one corner, we saw a Spotted Sandpiper give a bit of a broken wing display before flying up off her nest and, seemingly, abandoning it. We got some very good views of the nest, albeit brief, before moving off to a safe distance. We weren’t twenty meters away before the doting mother was back down on top of her clutch of eggs.

Spotted Sandpiper nest

Spotted Sandpiper nest

Meanwhile, this female Common Merganser was not about to leave her perch no matter how close we got to her. This is the same female and nest that Paul and I noted on the May species count.

Common Merganser female

Common Merganser female

The closer we got to the southernmost sloughs at Lafarge Meadows, the more the landscape changed from woods to grassland. Savannah Sparrows became the norm, compared with the Song Sparrows and Clay-colored Sparrows back to the north, and we even got a few good looks at a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds, clearly indicating that we were in a well developed wetland.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

No visit to the wetlands in the spring would be complete without seeing the assorted ducklings, and we got quite a treat on that front! Not only did we see a trio of Common Goldeneye chicks, but also a female Hooded Merganser with her brood in tow!

Common Goldeneye chicks

Common Goldeneye chicks

Hooded Merganser chicks

Hooded Merganser chicks

Hooded Merganser (female)

Hooded Merganser (female)

And last but not least, this Blue-winged Teal was eager to show off his namesake, and sat patiently while not one, not two, but five photographers got good, clear shots of the blue flight feathers that inspired his name.

Blue-winged Teal (male)

Blue-winged Teal (male)

A great note to end off another great season of birding.

 

Over the summer, I have a number of various blog posts planned, mostly based around a few road trips and birding trips I have planned here and there. I look forward to sharing my stories and photos with all of you all summer long!

 

Good birding!

South Glenmore Park – Grosbeaks and Hybrids

Posted by Dan Arndt

Back in June, the Friends of Fish Creek Birding Course took an excursion into the west end of South Glenmore Park. We’d been nearby just weeks beforehand when Bernie Diebolt’s group spotted a couple of Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Gus that by that time, both the Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks would be back. While I normally have a map, I didn’t track this walk, so just the photos will have to do.

Starting off at the parking lot at the west end of 90th Avenue SW we walked along the top of the south bank before dipping down onto the hillside. The mosquitos were out in force that early in the morning, and while there were plenty of birds calling, many of us were regretting our lack of bug spray. The American Robins, Warbling Vireos, and various thrushes were calling once again up and down the slope, but one of our first birds of the day was this beautiful hybrid Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak, who flew from tree to tree responding to our recorded Rose-breasted Grosbeak calls.

Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak Hybrid

Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak Hybrid

While this one called to us from nearby, we could hear Rose-breasted Grosbeaks calling from both up and down the slope, and we elected to hunt down the down-slope caller, as it was along the route we were already following. Another lifer for me, though we didn’t get the greatest views…

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

While we were listening for the calls of this male, we could hear a Red-eyed Vireo calling nearby as well, and upon playing some calls for it, it too flew in to investigate.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Along the rise and down to the east end of the beaver ponds at the southernmost point of the Weaselhead, we were greeted by another Eastern Phoebe nesting under one of the bridges in the area.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

A trek back up the hill netted a beautifully serene viewpoint overlooking much of the Weaselhead, sporting a couple of benches, bird feeders, and even quite a few birds (and other visitors) enjoying the treats provided for them. Definitely a place I’ll be back to. We even spotted what we’re pretty sure was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but no one was able to snap a photo in time!

Male Brown-headed Cowbird

Male Brown-headed Cowbird

The male and female Brown-headed Cowbirds seemed to not even care that we had intruded upon their feeding station.

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

While the Pine Siskins hid behind the tube feeders, hoping to guard themselves from prying eyes.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

And of course, no feeder in the mixed spruce and deciduous forest is complete without a woodpecker sighting. This Downy Woodpecker was waiting for us, and stuck around for some photo ops before the crowd became too much for it.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Last but not least are the mammalian visitors to the feeders. We had no less than three of these nervous and scurrying Least Chipmunks at our feet at any given time.

Least Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk

Most memorable though, was this Red Squirrel that continuously gave us the Stare of Death™ any time we disturbed its feeding schedule.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

While this wasn’t yet our last trip with the Friends of Fish Creek, we were heading into the final weekends… which I will finish up later this week!

Good birding!