Tag Archive | canada goose

Another no owl day at Griffith Woods Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

Our walk this week returned to Griffith Woods, in search once again of the Great Gray Owl that had been a regular visitor there for well over a month now, as well as the Great Horned Owls and even a Northern Pygmy Owl that had been seen and heard there recently. The week got off to a good start, with Monday’s group having no trouble finding the Great Gray Owl, and the Tuesday group only missed it by a less than an hour before it flew off deeper into the dense spruce forest that are the hallmark of Griffith Woods.

Griffith Woods February 16, 2014

Griffith Woods
February 16, 2014

The story throughout the day was that of distant birds and minimal photo opportunities, but I was very pleased that I was able to snap the shots that I did. When I downloaded my camera card at home, I found that I had only taken 31 shots in the course of the outing, so to have  a 25% “keep” rate I think is pretty good!

The first real opportunity came when we spotted a small flock of Bohemian Waxwings high up in a spruce tree, and I was able to capture a pair of them breaking off from the group showing their rufous undertail coverts and the bright lemon yellow on the tip of the tail feathers.

Bohemian Waxwings Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Bohemian Waxwings
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

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

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

We hunted along the trail under the power lines for any sign of the Great Gray Owl that was our quarry, but the only evidence we were able to find of it was this hunting impression in the deep snow, showing the impression of the head and wings as the owl hunted one of many unfortunate voles that had become its dinner.

Great Gray Owl hunting impression Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 80

Great Gray Owl hunting impression
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 80

Never let it be said that I know everything there is to know about all of the parks we visit. This week’s surprise was the discovery of another small pond on the north-west end of Griffith Woods Park. All it really would have taken was for me to look at one of the many maps that I’ve published even here on this website to actually notice its presence, but thankfully Gus Yaki came to the rescue again and showed us where all the Canada Geese we had seen all morning were flying to. Also on this pond was a lone Common Goldeneye, and much to our surprise and delight was a solitary, and very uncharacteristically quiet, Blue Jay along the hedgerow behind one of the nearby houses.

Canada Geese Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Canada Geese
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Common Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Common Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Blue Jay Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Blue Jay
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Another nice surprise was a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos feeding underneath a spruce on the way back into the park after we had finished exploring the pond.

Dark-eyed Junco Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Dark-eyed Junco
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

And then the wind picked up, and everything got quiet. While we retreated deeper into the wooded trails, the birds came fewer and further between, and only stayed in sight for mere moments at a time. Even our last species of the day, this Rough-legged Hawk, disappeared a few seconds after I spotted it soaring high above the nearby homes, but enough to positively identify it with its distinct dark wrist patches.

Rough-legged Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Rough-legged Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

And so wraps up another week of the Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding course. Next week we head back to Bebo Grove in search of last week’s quarry, the American Three-toed Woodpecker, along with another Great Gray Owl, a Barred Owl or three, and hopefully a Northern Saw-whet Owl!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Watching Waterfowl at Beaverdam Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

After a nearly complete washout last week, with only a handful of species and no real photo opportunities, this week was only slightly better. The lack of large numbers of waterfowl on the Bow River at Beaverdam Flats, the dropping temperatures, and the constant wind seemed to keep the birds away. The icy conditions of the main pathways also put a damper on things, and even gave me a bit of a start, leaving me with a broken lens hood and a bit of a sore hip early on in the walk. Not to worry though, my camera, lens, and body are all A-OK!

Beaverdam Flats - January 26, 2014

Beaverdam Flats – January 26, 2014

The morning began with some fairly diffuse light and a bitterly cold wind out of the north, but not bitter or cold enough to keep us from scanning a group of waterfowl at the water treatment plant outfall. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t pick out the Redhead, American Wigeon, or even the domestic or leucistic Mallards that had been seen by other groups this week. Maybe they had decided it was a little too cold for them and stayed home! We did get some good looks at a few Canada Geese in flight, some of which were missing some flight feathers, and others were just showing off.

Canada Geese and Mallards Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Canada Geese and Mallards
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Canada Geese Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Canada Geese
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

I had hoped to get some Bald Eagle shots for the blog while we were here, as there were as many as 12 Bald Eagles seen at one time throughout the week, but they too were noticeably absent. We did get more than a few Common Ravens, and I find it interesting how it’s nearly impossible to get the two-toned appearance of the raven’s flight feathers to show up in anything but the most diffuse light. I also found it interesting to note just how worn the feathers of this particular bird are, which I only really took note of after downloading my shots this afternoon.

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

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

As the morning progressed, our luck seemed to improve, and we headed away from the river into the stands of tall poplar and aspens. We did manage to find a pair of Northern Flickers, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a few Downy Woodpeckers, along with an assortment of White-breasted Nuthatches and a few Black-capped Chickadees, but all in all, it was even quieter away from the water.

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

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

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

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

As we returned to the water’s edge, the light was progressively improving, and allowed some higher speed flight shots of the always gorgeous Common Goldeneye.

Common Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Common Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

While we were able to watch a particularly fun interaction between a 4th-year Bald Eagle and a flock of about seven Common Ravens and a pair of Black-billed Magpies, they were a little too far off and amongst some challenging terrain to get any usable shots. It was quite nice though, to get a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees fluttering about the pathway on our return to the parking lot, posing quite nicely as we snapped away with our cameras.

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

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

Have a great week, keep safe, and good birding!

Winter’s lingering grasp in Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Posted by Dan Arndt

Another cold, snowy, and dull day here in Calgary. The Sunday curse has struck again, leaving us with a bitterly cold north wind, and the least bird activity we’ve seen all spring. While we did get some decent new birds for the year, and a couple of great surprises while walking in Inglewood Bird Sanctuary on Sunday, our participant numbers were still low, and so were the species we found.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

While the wind was blowing and the skies were grey, our first new species of the day was the Eurasian Collared-Dove. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen one of these birds inside the bird sanctuary, or so it was a nice find!

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove

As we approached the river, we were on the lookout for the Mountain Bluebirds that I had seen earlier in the week, but instead we happened across a group of American Pipits on the river bank, with a brief stop out on the nearest gravel bar before heading up stream.

American Pipits

American Pipits

As we watched the pipits and scanned the far bank, we were lucky enough to spot a Franklin’s Gull fly in and land among a few other gulls, but given how far it was, getting a clear shot was quite the challenge.

Franklin's Gull

Franklin’s Gull

We soon came upon a lone Coyote raiding a Canada Goose nest, and saw him stealing away an egg. Sad for the geese, but there were many pairs successfully nesting in the sanctuary, and their numbers really are ever in question. This one was seen nesting in the same cavity that I’ve seen her in for the last three years at least.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Our last surprise of the day was a second small flock of Bohemian Waxwings going down to the river for a drink before flying off. They stopped briefly for us before flying off, hopefully symbolizing the end of the winter weather and bringing on spring in full force!

Good birding!

Bird-brained

Who ever said birds were stupid? They were quite wrong. Many birds are quite intelligent and we get a fine chance to observe this intelligence in the migration of geese.

Everybody can associate geese flying in a ‘V’ formation with fall; the geese head south for the winter and are most often seen flying this way. Down here in Texas, we can often see Cattle Egrets flying this way, demonstrating their often overlooked wisdom. There is actually an intelligent method behind this flight, showing us that birds are smarter than we think.

Birds fly in a ‘V’ to save energy; by traveling this way, they render themselves as a group, more aerodynamic. If these birds were to fly in an unorganized group, flying would be a lot harder. Picture it this way; which car is more aerodynamic, a sports car or a dump truck? The sports car is by far the more aerodynamic of the two, its sleek form enabling it to reduce drag, therefore allowing it to go faster. When the geese and the egrets fly this way, they render themselves more aerodynamic, reducing the wind they have going against themselves and therefore applying less energy into flying. The bird flying at the point of the V though, has all the wind going against him, however this is not permanent. Studies have shown that after flying at the point for some time, upon becoming tired, the lead bird will drop to the back where flying is the easiest, and take a well-deserved break. This just goes to show that birds are a lot smarter than we think.

Posted by Matthew Sim

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

Hidden in Plain Sight

Canada Geese are abundant in Calgary year-round, and for the last month or so they have been nesting in various spots around the city.  Like all birds, they try to find nesting sites that are secure from predators like coyotes.  They will often nest on top of flat-topped buildings, and one of the best locations a goose can find is the top of a large broken tree.

Another good location is an island in a pond or the river.  I’m always amazed at how difficult it can be to see the nesting goose even if it’s in the open like this…

Above, the male Canada Goose stands watch near the nest and is fairly conspicuous on the left-hand side of the gravel bar, but can you see the female on her nest?

There she is, on the right-hand side.

As seen below, it’s amazing how the colour pattern of a Canada Goose can allow it to blend in to its surroundings so that it is nearly invisible…

There are still plenty of geese on their nests in the city.  I just saw my first goslings on Saturday, May 14, about ten days later than usual.  For the next couple of months we will be treated to scenes like this:

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Free Summer Bird Walks

Last week, the first of Nature Calgary’s Tuesday evening bird walks was held.  For those of you who can’t make it out on weekend mornings, these evening walks may be a good opportunity.  Throughout the spring and summer, a free birding field trip to one of Calgary’s many parks will be offered every Tuesday beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

For information on upcoming walks, check the “Free Nature Walks” page on our banner above.  The page is updated regularly.  This evening, May 10, the field trip will be at Edworthy Park in the northwest.  Spring migration is getting into full swing, so get out and see the latest arrivals.

Carburn Park

All Nature Calgary field trips are free and open to all members of the public.  You don’t have to be a member of Nature Calgary to attend.  If you need any more information about a particular walk, you can phone the walk leader at the number listed.  But in general, you just have to show up!  Dress for the weather, have your binoculars and/or camera ready, and have fun while learning about the birds of Calgary and our natural areas.

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

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