Tag Archive | carburn park

Carburn Park – Part 1: The Ponds

Posted by Dan Arndt

My last two outings with the Friends of Fish Creek Spring Birding course were at Carburn Park, both on Thursday, April 17 and Sunday, April 20. Both days had their high points, and so I’ll be mixing and matching photos from each of those days here.

Carburn Park April 17 and April 20. 2014

Carburn Park
April 17 and April 20. 2014

While each day we did the route a little differently, the best birds were always in the same spots. On Sunday, we headed down to the Eric Harvie Bridge then walked back along the river with the sun behind us. While there weren’t too many birds near the bridge itself, as we moved northward we found our first Common Goldeneyes, an American Beaver, and shortly thereafter, a lone Muskrat above the beaver’s dam!

Common Goldeneye Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Common Goldeneye
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

American Beaver Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@200mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

American Beaver
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@200mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Muskrat Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Muskrat
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

We were also treated to some vigorously displaying Downy Woodpeckers, chasing each other up and down from tree to tree. These two especially were really going at it!

Downy Woodpeckers displaying Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Downy Woodpeckers displaying
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

We headed up the river, seeing a few Tree Swallows, a few Ring-billed and Franklin’s Gulls, and even heard a lone Song Sparrow calling from across the river before we headed back into the denser foliage. Most interestingly though was a little spot we had found on Thursday which was host to half a dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglets was still holding one little one singing away while the sun shone bright…. unlike Thursday, which was cloudy, gloomy and rather snowy!

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Up on the north end of the park we saw the local nesting pair of Bald Eagles in the distance, and both days it appeared that the female was still on the nest, brooding her eggs, while dad hunted for dinner.

Bald Eagle near nest Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Bald Eagle near nest
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

The real highlight of the trip on Thursday though was seeing this flock of nearly a hundred swallows, both Violet-green (look for the ones with the white rump band above the tail) and Tree Swallows (all the rest of them, with the bluish-black backs) flying low over the river chowing down on their lunch of freshly hatched insects. While I had initially guessed that we had seen about four or five Violet-green Swallows, looking back over at my photos I was able to find at least 10 individuals, the largest number of that species I’ve seen in Calgary at once!

Violet-green and Tree Swallows Carburn Park - April 17, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Violet-green and Tree Swallows
Carburn Park – April 17, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Of course, they weren’t there in any great numbers on Sunday, which was much warmer, and much nicer weather, but there was a beautiful Mourning Cloak butterfly, my first of the season, sunning itself near the second of the large ponds. It was a great end to a great day!

Mourning Cloak butterfly Carburn Park - April 20, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Mourning Cloak butterfly
Carburn Park – April 20, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Thanks again for reading, and good birding!

A Monday Two-fer: Bebo Grove (again!) and Carburn Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

The depths of the bitterly cold winter have finally subsided, and so I think it’s about time I get caught up on our last two outings.

Two weeks ago we headed to Bebo Grove in search of the Great Gray Owl, Barred Owl, and American Three-toed Woodpecker that had been seen there once again through the winter. We explored some of the back trails which I had never been on, but now that I know these areas exist, I’ll definitely be back, especially come summer!

Bebo Grove -

Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014

After a search where the Three-toed Woodpecker had been seen before, we moved deeper into Bebo Grove. As we crossed Fish Creek, this nearly adult Bald Eagle flew into the trees nearby, and was promptly mobbed by Black-capped Chickadees and a few Downy Woodpeckers before flying off once again.

Bald Eagle Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Bald Eagle
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

It was cold. Bitterly cold. The birds seemed distant, and few and far between, but sometimes the lack of birds will draw attention to some of the other features worth photographing. These grasses were poking up through the water of one tributary stream to Fish Creek, and had accumulated a good coating of frost on them.

Frost on Fish Creek Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Frost on Fish Creek
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

As we passed the area where the Great Gray Owl had been seen, we heard a single White-breasted Nuthatch singing away, and a little later, one of three Pileated Woodpeckers for the day flew by, and if we hadn’t turned at just the right time, we would have completely missed the fly-by.

Pileated Woodpecker Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Pileated Woodpecker
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

White-breasted Nuthatch Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

White-breasted Nuthatch
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

As we walked through another area I’d never explored before in search of the Barred Owl, we came up empty once again, but of course I did find something to shoot. There’s no point spending three hours in -30 degree weather unless you get some images to take home with you! This stand of aspen looked like a black and white photo as it was, and I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I never get tired of seeing row after row of them.

Aspen  Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/640sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 320

Aspen
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/640sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 320

From that point onward, things started getting busier and louder. Another pan through the grove where the Three-toed Woodpecker had turned up for others only turned up a Golden-crowned Kinglet, a few of both White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches, and our only Hairy Woodpecker we found that day.

Golden-crowned Kinglet Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

female Hairy Woodpecker Bebo Grove - February 23, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

female Hairy Woodpecker
Bebo Grove – February 23, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

The following week, we visited Carburn Park. This was the first time since the floods last year that I’d really spent any appreciable time in Carburn Park, so it was really quite striking to see the damage that had been done.

Carburn Park March 2, 2014

Carburn Park
March 2, 2014

Two weeks earlier, a Hermit Thrush had been seen here, but once again sub -30 temperatures kept the park quiet, and none of our attendees even came out, so Gus, Bob and I walked the park in a little over two hours.

The Bow River was full of life, much of which had only recently begun moving for the day. The Buffleheads were by far the most active of any of the birds on the river, diving again and again in search of food.

female Buffleheads Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

female Buffleheads
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

As before in Bebo Grove, when things slowed down in terms of wildlife activity, nature provided. Shooting across the river at the opposite bank, hoarfrost coated the willows and smaller bushes beautifully.

Hoarfrost Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 160

Hoarfrost
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 160

Very few birds were present as we headed away from the river, but this Northern Flicker posed, um, interestingly, showing us what it really thought of the bitter cold. I do like the detail and color in the shafts of the flight feathers and the wispy body feathers.

Northern Flicker Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Flicker
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

We even had to double-take when we began hallucinating and seeing mythical creatures, like this (very cold) unicorn Canada Goose.

female Buffleheads Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Unicorn (Canada Goose)
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

One thing that really stood out all along the floodplain in Carburn Park was the height of the flood debris, once again completely covered in hoarfrost, at waist level, looking for all the world like little frozen bird nests.

Frosted flood debris Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 200

Frosted flood debris
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/800sec., ƒ/5, ISO 200

And as we finished up our walk, we did find one of the local celebrities here in Carburn Park in the form of a small herd of White-tailed Deer. Not only were there a few very docile females, but there was also a pair of males, one with a well established rack of antlers, while the younger looked like a sad impersonation attempt.

femaleWhite-tailed Deer Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

femaleWhite-tailed Deer
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

adult male White-tailed Deer Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

adult male White-tailed Deer
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

young male White-tailed Deer Carburn Park - March 2, 2014 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/125sec., ƒ/18, ISO 1600

young male White-tailed Deer
Carburn Park – March 2, 2014
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/125sec., ƒ/18, ISO 1600

Thanks for reading folks, and good birding! I’m very, very happy that the weather here in Calgary has made a significant turn for the better, and look forward to many migrants arriving in the coming weeks!

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!

Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding, Week 4 – Carburn Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

A week after our visit to Griffith Woods and the weather in Calgary has taken a turn for the better. We were greeted this morning by blue skies, above-zero temperatures, and a mild winter’s day with plenty of birds, which was a nice change from last week!

We took our usual route, heading south from the parking lot to the bridge crossing to the Southland Dog Park, continuing a bit further south to get a good look at some of the waterfowl in the clear morning sunlight.

Carburn Park

Carburn Park

View from the bridge

View from the bridge

Our first birds of the morning were a group of White-winged Crossbills hanging out in the trees near the parking lot, quite likely the same ones that Tim Hopwood was able to get some gorgeous photos of recently.

female or juvenile White-winged Crossbill

female or juvenile White-winged Crossbill

As we reached the bridge, it seemed that iridescence would be the word of the day. With the low angle of the sun, and the weather giving us a hint of the warmer spring soon to come, it seemed like every bird was showing off its brightest colors, including this normally drab Rock Pigeon.

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon

The real prize of the day were these Buffleheads, showing off their iridescence that we so rarely get to see in our dull grey winters. It certainly was a beautiful sight to see!

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Male Buffleheads in the morning sun

Male Buffleheads in the morning sun

We headed south from the bridge after pausing to investigate some birds near the gazebo at the east side of the river. We spotted a Barrow’s Goldeneye at the far south end, and quite a number of Common Goldeneye as well. This female was kind enough to allow some decent flight shots, and the huge number of Canada Geese and Mallards on the river banks was too good to pass up.

female Common Goldeneye

female Common Goldeneye

mixed Waterfowl

Canada Geese, Mallards, and a few other waterfowl

We headed back north and followed the river around the bend, stopping a few times to watch some distant Bald Eagles on the far side of the river, but were also treated to some rather unusual activity from a group of Northern Flickers foraging around in the gravel at the edge of the river.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Another great bird to find in Calgary in the winter are the American Crows, which have been overwintering in Carburn Park for a number of years now, in ever-increasing numbers. Our group saw no less than 20 individuals during our exploration of the banks of the Bow River today.

American Crow

American Crow

With that said, waterfowl watching is not for everyone, but we did manage to spot a few unusual winter ducks in our excursion. This pair of Redheads gave us quite the views, and we were also treated to a pair of either Lesser or Greater Scaup a bit later on, though the ID is still up in the air on those ones.

Redheads

Redheads

A little more common around here, but still a welcome sight, are the Common Mergansers. This group of four males appeared to be trying to woo this lone female, who would have nothing of it, by all appearances.

Common Mergansers fighting for a female

Common Mergansers fighting for a female

It was clear that spring was getting just that much closer as we saw many birds beginning their preparation for the new breeding season. Northern Flickers were drilling out nest holes, Black-billed Magpies were displaying and pursuing each other, and this pair of male Downy Woodpeckers were flitting about, displaying and attacking each other in a fight for territory.

male Downy Woodpeckers

male Downy Woodpeckers

Next week we head back to Votier’s Flats in search of American Dippers, Wilson’s Snipe, and American Three-toed or Black-backed Woodpeckers.

Good birding!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Spring Birding in Carburn Park – What a difference a month makes!

Posted by Dan Arndt

It seems like it was only yesterday that the Friends of Fish Creek Birding Course visited Carburn Park. While it has been a little over a month, the differences are astounding. The ice on the river has almost completely cleared up, and all three ponds are completely ice-free and full of waterfowl and gulls of all kinds.

After a couple of weekends away, it was nice to get back into the city and back to a place that is always full of surprises, and Carburn Park was just what the doctor ordered.

With a few fresh faces, and plenty of old familiar ones from the Winter Course, we started out bright and early at 7:30AM and got off to a great start.

We decided our best course of action would be to head south to the bridge, then follow a trail as far south as we could before turning back north and following the river with the sun at our backs, both for the best photos, but also for the best light to view the birds at.

Carburn Park - April 22, 2012

One major difference that stands out to my mind between winter and spring birding, at least before the leaves come out and change the game entirely, is that the birds that overwinter here in Calgary are fairly large-bodied overall. Sure, we get Common Redpolls, various finch species, and even a few odd sparrows here and there, but for the most part the overwintering birds are roughly robin-sized or larger. Geese, ducks, a few killdeer here and there, as well as the hawks, owls, and woodpeckers make up the bulk of the birding biomass in the winter. Spring, on the other hand, is when the smaller birds make Calgary home. Song Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, along with Warblers, Vireos, and Pipits of all kinds make getting just the right light and just the right angles vitally important for a positive visual identification, since these birds are relatively tiny, generally between 10 and 20cm from tip of the bill to the tip of the tail.

The first couple sightings of the day were well known to us already, with a Red-breasted Nuthatch working away at a nest hole, and a Northern Flicker calling out to proclaim his territory.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

After spending some time on the bridge, Bob Lefebvre and I discussed the best route to take, to which I suggested the south leg of the walk, and then returning with the sun at our backs. I even suggested we might get lucky and find a Savannah Sparrow in the grassy area just east of the river, or maybe a Ring-necked Pheasant. It was a mere moments later that this beautiful little Savannah Sparrow popped out into the open to give me the my first sightings of the year for this species.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Along the trail to the south we heard a number of Song Sparrows and possible Lincoln’s Sparrows calling from an island in the center of the Bow River, but over the din of the Canada Geese, Franklin’s Gulls, and American Robins, it was hard to make out any that we could completely confirm. We did manage to get some good views of some Bufflehead on the Bow River, and this Red-tailed Hawk that decided to keep itself a healthy distance away from the group.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Heading back north along the river seemed a lot quieter than the last few times, but as the river opens up and the ice melts off, the concentration of birds on the river is much more dispersed. Add to that the increased number of people fishing both in, and on, the river tends to flush any large groups of birds, even at 7:30 in the morning.

We cut over to the get a couple of looks at the ponds before cutting back to the river when we noticed a few pair of Redheads on the furthest south pond, along with an industrious beaver taking a break on the north shore.

Redheads

Redheads

Heading back over to the river, we heard our first clear Lincoln’s Sparrow song of the day, and shortly after that, our first Tree Swallows flitting about overhead. A few Franklin’s Gulls decided it was a good morning for a bath, and allowed great views of their bright red bills and white eye-ring that are great markers for the species’ breeding plumage.

Franklin's Gulls having a bath

Franklin's Gulls having a bath

A little further north gave us a couple of great views of a Song Sparrow, singing high up in a tree, and hopping from branch to branch before flying off once we’d all gotten near.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

A search of the dense woods by the river for the Northern Saw-whet Owl came up empty, but not before this pair of patient and camera-savvy Common Mergansers hammed it up and posed nicely for us.

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

Another nice surprise was this pair of Canada Geese perched in Calgary’s oldest Water Birch. This legacy tree is massive, and at over 100 years old, is home to a number of nest holes for Mergansers, Flickers, and likely many more in the higher boughs that aren’t easily seen from the ground.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

We continued heading north to the last pond, but not before stopping to check across the river for a Bald Eagle pair that has regularly nested, and were given a few glimpses of the female sitting on the nest, poking her head up, but at such a distance that my lens didn’t show much more than a spot in the distance. I tried to make up for it with a nice close-up shot of this American Robin with a mouth full of… sludge? I guess what they say about one person’s trash being another’s treasure is true even for birds! I’d imagine he’s taking this back for nesting material.

Sludge! Delicious sludge!

American Robin

At the third pond we had a couple of good views of a Common Loon, had a low flyover of a Northern Goshawk, and saw what must have been a flock of 150 or more Franklin’s and Ring-billed Gulls both on the lake and above it, chasing down a flurry of freshly hatched insects. It was quite the feeding frenzy!

Springtime in Carburn Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

Once again the Friends of Fish Creek Birding course made its way to Carburn Park, without the lure of the Northern Saw-whet Owl back in January. Since then, the weather has warmed, the birds have begun preparations to nest, and while most have chosen their mates, others are still in the process of defining their territory and competing with their rivals for the few mates still unspoken for. We were gifted with a few wonderful displays of an incredible number of Northern Flickers all throughout the park, as well as the beautifully crimson male House Finch, and huge numbers of Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Mallards, and Canada Geese.

Carburn Park Route

Carburn Park Route

This time around, we headed south from the parking lot to the bridge over the Bow River, which is one of the best places in the city to get good views, and good photos, of birds in flight. Both Canada Geese and the juvenile Bald Eagles came low over the bridge, almost posing as they flew by.

View from the bridge at Carburn Park

View from the bridge at Carburn Park

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

From there, we headed further south along the river to get views of the duck species present, and were allowed particularly good views of Buffleheads, Mallards, Common Goldeneye, and even my first female Common Merganser of the year.

Buffleheads & Mallard

Buffleheads & Mallard

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

We headed east about a hundred meters before heading north along the back fences of the community adjacent to the park. Here we were greeted by the melodious sounds of House Finches and Black-capped Chickadees at the feeders.

House Finch

House Finch

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Cutting back over to the river bank, the overcast skies opened up to let the blue shine through, and the light was absolutely incredible for the better part of an hour. Along this stretch of river, we were constantly hearing the drumming and calling of the Northern Flickers, and across the river, a family of Bald Eagles was down on the ice. Overhead, the Canada Geese continued their flyovers before heading eastward to the outlying fields for the day.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

From there, we headed along the shoreline in a clockwise direction. While the light remained good, we came across a curious Black-billed Magpie, and a group of Common Mergansers also swam in close, the males showing off their beautiful green head plumage.

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

Common Mergansers

Common Mergansers

While the number of ducks and geese was incredibly high, the evidence of their predation by the ever present Bald Eagles was apparent.

Juvenile Bald Eagles

Juvenile Bald Eagles

Mallard Carcass

Mallard Carcass

We continued to trek onwards, and in our search for the Northern Saw-whet Owl seen here in January that came up empty, we almost literally stumbled upon a herd of twenty or so White-tailed Deer, spread out along the trails in the northwest section of the park.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

While the remainder of the walk was a little rushed, it remained relatively relaxing, as the birds had quieted down quite a lot, and none really seemed to pay us any mind as we strolled the interior of the park along the pond, back to our vehicles, and then home.

See you next week!

Birding Carburn Park (or the Bird Paparazzi find a local celebrity)

Posted by Dan Arndt

This week the Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding course was at Carburn Park. After some initial reports of large flocks of Mallards, Canada Geese, along with Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye and Buffleheads, it seemed a great locale with the warmer winter weather. The Thursday group discovered a Northern Saw-whet Owl that has been found in its current location two other times in the last 12 years. Once in 2000, and again in 2005, which makes this bird, if it is the same individual, at least 13 years old. The route through the park was fairly circuitous, though we managed to identify twenty-three species in the three and a half hour tour of the park.

Carburn Park

Carburn Park

We started at the parking lot and headed north along the river, spotting a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, and a small flock of House Sparrows as we headed to the north end of the park. At the river we were greeted by a large flock of Mallards and Canada Geese, and a few even flew directly overhead.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Along the opposite bank were a flock of ten to fifteen Common Ravens, squawking and cawing at each other between the trees. From the river, we headed south along the path, stopping briefly to feed some Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches, while a pair of Downy Woodpeckers moved up and down the nearby birch trees searching for a meal.

Before I knew it, we were at the location of the local celebrity that had drawn its own crowd. Along with the group of fifteen birders with the FCPP birding course were no less than ten other local bird photographers, which led to some concern about the stress that type of crowd would put upon the small Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

After our brief visit with this beautiful little animal, we headed along the riverbank and stumbled across both a trio of White-tailed Deer, and a very unfortunate Coyote suffering from the worst case of mange I have ever seen.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

Coyote

Coyote

Just beyond the coyote’s path, we stumbled across a fairly large flock of American Crows. We suspected they may be early migrants, as this flock numbered into the seventies, and they were harassing a trio of juvenile Bald Eagles on the far side of the river.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

As we continued down towards the southern end of Carburn Park, towards the bridge leading across to Southland Park, we scanned the flocks of Common Goldeneye for a few elusive Barrow’s Goldeneye. Our hard work paid off when one member of our group spotted a male and female pair very close to the near shore.

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye

After a slight loop south to look for a reported Song Sparrow and Ring-necked Pheasants, which we did not find, we headed back north to the vehicles. A few Common Redpolls were in the birch trees nearby, and many House Sparrows along the feeders behind the row of houses, but no Song Sparrow or Pheasants were to be found. After a brief stint at the bridge, we did manage to find one parting mystery, this Harlan’s Hawk, which we initially had passed over as one of the juvenile Bald Eagles!

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

Harlan's Hawk

Harlan's Hawk

Looks like next week is a trip down to Votier’s Flats in Fish Creek Provincial Park. Thanks for reading, and good birding!