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