Tag Archive | christmas bird count

Bow Valley Birding

Posted by Ethan Denton

Though it is not birded by many people, the Bow Valley – Banff, Canmore and area – can be an amazing place to bird. Whether it’s just for a few hours, or if you have a day or more, visiting the valley is an unforgettable experience. Recently, hotspots in Banff and especially Canmore have been heaving with birds, from late a Red-tailed Hawk and American Coots to a plethora of Rusty Blackbirds and Common Redpolls. Here are some of my photos – all taken within the last week. If you have time, visiting the area would be a great idea. Main hotspots are Policeman’s Creek (Canmore) and the Cave and Basin (Banff), but birds turn up anywhere, so check out some other locations on eBird or the local Facebook group, Bow Valley Birding.

Common Goldeneye, Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Clark’s Nutcracker, South Canmore, November 8, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Injured American Coot, Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

And they’re not all birds, either. This Long-tailed Weasel was seen on Policeman’s Creek, in addition to Muskrat, Voles, Mule Deer and Red Squirrels.

Long-tailed Weasel (winter coat), Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Finally, if you are looking for a way to spend a Saturday helping birds and bird research, the Banff/Canmore Christmas Bird Count is coming up, on Saturday December 16th. It’s always a great time, and usually you see some interesting birds. Afterwards, there’s a big potluck in the senior’s centre in Banff, where we talk about the day, tally up the results and enjoy fabulous food! Anybody interested can contact me at birdboy.ca@gmail.com, or head over to birdboy.ca for more information.

Black-capped Chickadee, South Canmore, November 10, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Christmas Bird Count For Kids, 2017

The second annual CBC For Kids event in Calgary will be held on Saturday December 9th at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. This is a great educational opportunity for kids, so if you have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew that you’d like to introduce to birding, register for this free event.

There will be experts on hand to teach the kids how to find and identify birds, but they could always use some more experienced birders to lead the participants on guided walks. If you’d like to help out, contact Zoe MacDougall, Nature Kids Program Coordinator, at naturekids[at]naturealberta.ca.

Wee Little Nuthatch Nest Camera

Posted by Bob Lefebvre. Photos copyright by themorningsideoflife.ca.

An avid birdlover in Calgary has set up a nest box camera in her yard, affording great views of a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches that are trying to nest there. I say “trying” because after they brought in loads of nesting material, a pair of Black-capped Chickadees, working together very quickly,  moved in and cleaned it all out again. Then the nuthatches recaptured the box and are bringing in more grass and wood shavings to line their nest. (The chickadees settled into a different nest box in the yard.)

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One of the Nuthatches in the nest box, no doubt keeping a watch for Chickadees.

The nest box can be watched live on Ustream at this link. There are also many saved video clips that you can play to see what has happened up to now. The live camera is not always online, but it usually is during the daytime, and when it’s on you can comment on what you see using your Facebook or Twitter account. The nuthatches are most active at the nest from 6 to 10 am.

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The female nuthatch, named Lucy, at the nest box.

It will be extremely interesting to watch if they they do successfully have young. The vocalizations and behaviors recorded up to now are fascinating to see and hear. It’s a view of Red-breasted Nuthatches that we don’t usually get!

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The male nuthatch, named Ricky (of course), ready to drive off chickadees.

The camera link will be on on our right-hand sidebar throughout the nesting season, along with the Osprey and Peregrine Falcon camera links. The camera link can also be found at the camera owner’s blog, The Morning Side Of Life. Check it out for great bird photos. You can also find a link to her blog on our sidebar with the other blog links.

You might want to also check out a new Facebook group called Alberta Backyard Birds (& Feeder Watch) for more photos and discussion of yard birds.

Christmas Bird Count in Inglewood

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For the Calgary Christmas count on December 20 I was once again part of a group that covered the Inglewood Golf Course, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, the Zoo, and surrounding neighbourhoods. As usual we started with breakfast at the golf clubhouse, and then split into two groups to cover the river and golf course north and south of there.


Canada Geese and Mallards on the open water.

It’s a challenge to get accurate counts of the thousands of birds on the water, and on this stretch of the river, it’s a challenge to find anything other than Canada Geese and Mallards. But we knew that three Snow Geese had been seen regularly along here, and we soon found them resting on the bank with the other geese. This was the first time that Snow Geese had ever been reported in the 72 years of Calgary Christmas Bird Counts, so it was great to add them to the list.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese – one adult and two immatures, a new species for the Calgary CBC.

There are usually quite a few Bald Eagles on this stretch of the river in winter, and we had nine on the count, seven immatures and two adults.

Bald Eagles

Three of the eight immature Bald Eagles we saw from the golf course.

Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle wondering what I am up to down there.

One of the other waterfowl species we were looking for among the Mallards and Canada Geese was Cackling Goose, a very small relative of the Canadas. It can be very tricky to find these among some of the small subspecies of Canada Goose that overwinter here. I took quite a few photos of some small geese, and we later decided we had seen at least four Cackling Geese. This photo shows one just to the right of the Mallard with its wings up. It is short-necked and stubby-billed, and only about one and a half times the size of a Mallard.

Cackling Geese

Cackling Goose

During Christmas Bird Counts you have to count all the birds you see in your territory, but we are collectively trying to find as many species as we can. Each group in the field is also in a friendly competition with all the other groups to see who can get the most species, and the most unique species, in their territory. So it was good to get Snow Goose, which no one else was likely to find.

While our half of the group went south and found the Snow Geese, the other half was counting birds at the north end of the golf course. One of their targets there was a Harris’s Sparrow, which I had seen there while scouting the area the week before, and which had been seen daily since, usually with or near a mixed flock of chickadees, nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a Brown Creeper. This was the only Harris’s that we were aware of in the count circle, so it was important to find it in case no others turned up elsewhere during the count. Unfortunately our group wasn’t able to find this shy bird in the morning.

We decided that we would try again for the Harris’s, so three of us went back to that area while the others went to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Although we added a couple of other new species, we again failed to find the Harris’s Sparrow.

Next stop, in the early afternoon, was the Calgary Zoo grounds. Quite a number of wild birds are attracted to the grounds due to the cover, open water, and food available there. Four of us explored the zoo while one of our group covered Pearce Estate and another drove the residential areas to check bird feeders. However, while the other two were adding some new species to our list, we found it very quiet at the zoo this year for wild birds. We had a few species but nothing new for the count.

Unidentified Bird

We looked all through our Birds of Alberta field guide but weren’t able to identify this bird we saw at the zoo.

At 3 pm, we decided there was just enough time to take one more trip to the golf course to try to get the Harris’s Sparrow before sunset at about 4:30. The two of us that remained explored the whole north end for the third time that day. Again we found mixed flocks of passerines and lots of crossbills of both species, but no sign of the sparrow.

WW Crossbill

White-winged Crossbill. Both this species and Red Crossbills can be found all over the city this winter.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper, in a mixed winter flock of small foraging birds.

Kinglet 1

Golden-crowned Kinglet. Briefly playing their song drew three kinglets out to inspect us, where we had only been seeing one.

Kinglet 2Golden-crowned Kinglet in the setting sun.

Kinglet 3

Golden-crowned Kinglet. A male, showing the red in the crown.

As the sun touched the horizon we decided we had better call it a day and started walking back along the river to the parking lot. I saw a robin at the water’s edge and was watching it when I saw a dark shape move just below the bank. Just the top of its head and a bit of its back was showing below a bank of snow, but I waited for a minute of so, and it finally walked slowly into view – the Harris’s Sparrow! It moved up into a bush and I got a photo in the fading light.

Harris's Sparrow

It was 4:18 pm, just 13 minutes before sunset. It had taken us most of the day to get that one bird, and it brought our group’s total to a very respectable 29 species.

Then it was off to the wind-up dinner and compilation of results. We are already looking forward to next year to see if we can crack 30 species!

Here is a better photo of the Harris’s Sparrow, taken in good light by Trevor Churchill on December 13.

Trevor Churchill Harris's Sparrow, IGC

Harris’s Sparrow. Photo by Trevor Churchill, Inglewood Golf Course, December 13, 2015.

The results of the Calgary Christmas Bird Count, and several counts in surrounding areas, will be presented at the meeting of Nature Calgary’s Bird Studies Group on January 6, 2016.

2015 Calgary Christmas Bird Counts

It’s time again for the Christmas Bird Counts. Calgary’s count is Sunday December 20. You can help to count birds within the circle by going out with a group and walking or driving an area, or by watching birds at your feeders. To participate contact Phil Cram at crampj(at)gmail.com, or the Feederwatch coordinator, Donna Wieckowski at astolat(at)shaw.ca.

The Calgary Count Circle is fifteen miles in diameter.


There are many counts in the Calgary area in the period December 15 to January 3. See this Nature Calgary page for a complete list and the contact information for each.

Travel Tuesday – Christmas Bird Counting

Posted by Dan Arndt


This year I participated in a few Christmas Bird Counts, and while I wasn’t able to get too many photos from some of them, I did manage a few here and there.

Calgary Christmas Bird Count:

As per usual, my area this year was the Weaselhead, and I managed a few photos of some good birds while down there. While we did miss out on some expected birds in that area, we didn’t have too bad a day overall. Of course the most reliable birds here are the Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Ruffed Grouse. One of the pleasant surprises in our area was a small flock of Common Redpolls, which quickly flew in, landed for a minute or two, and flew off as quickly as they arrived.

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

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

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

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

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

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

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

Canmore Christmas Bird Count:

Most years, the Canmore Christmas Bird Count is one of the first ones I participate in, as it’s on a Saturday, and Calgary’s count is on a Sunday. This year, the beginning of the Christmas Bird Count window fell on a Sunday, and so the Canmore count was scheduled for the following Saturday. Because I wasn’t in quite as much of a rush to get home and get prepared for the Calgary count the next day, I had some time to actually spend a bit of time with the subjects, and explore a bit of a different range of habitats. My extra time paid off and I was able to find a couple more species in this area that I hadn’t found before!

American Three-toed Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

American Three-toed Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Brown Creeper Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Brown Creeper
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Mountain Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Mountain Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

male Pine Grosbeak Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

male Pine Grosbeak
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Fish Creek Christmas Bird Count (and bonus bird):

The unofficial Fish Creek Provincial Park Christmas Bird Count is always conducted on New Year’s Day, which also gives me a great opportunity to get a solid start on my bird list for the year. For the past couple of years I’ve joined Phil Cram and the group that searches along the south-east corner of the park, including Sikome Lake, Hull’s Wood, and the area around the boat launch, so we tend to get a pretty good variety of birds. Following the morning count, I did manage a trip over to Bebo Grove to search for the elusive Northern Pygmy-Owl that had been seen here recently, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint, but not before I was heading back to the car to head home. Sure enough, just as I was preparing to leave, he had already been found by another photographer who pointed him out to me at the parking lot!

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

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

Killdeer Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Pygmy-Owl Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Northern Pygmy-Owl
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

This week marks the beginning of the Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding Course, so check back here next Monday to find out what we saw on our first Sunday outing!

Christmas Bird Counts 2014


Barred Owl in Fish Creek Park, Calgary, December 7, 2014. Photo by Tony LePrieur

The 115th annual Christmas Bird Count season runs from December 14, 2014 to January 5, 2015. There are many one-day counts taking place in the Calgary region. New participants are always welcome, and in many cases there are opportunities to contribute by watching birds at your feeder as well as by going out in the field. If you are interested in taking part, contact the count compiler.

There are over 2,600 Christmas Bird counts taking place this season. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding one near you on a date that you are available.

CBC circles

Just a few of the 2,600+ circles where counts are taking place this year. Calgary is near the centre of this screen shot, Edmonton near the top.

Here are details of a few of the nearby counts. You can find information on all of the Canadian counts on the Bird Studies Canada site, and more information on the Audubon site. If anyone can help fill in the blanks below or has updated information, please let us know at birdscalgary at gmail.com.







Sun Dec 14

Phil Cram


crampj at telus.net

Calgary Feeder Watchers

Sun Dec 14

Donna Wieckowski


astolat at shaw.ca

High River

Tues Dec 16

Greg Wagner


greg.wagner at athene.ca


Sat Dec 20

Heather Dempsey


hjdempsey at shaw.ca


Sun Dec 21

Mike Truch


mike_truch at shaw.ca

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Mon Dec 22

Yousif Attia


ysattia at gmail.com

Horseshoe Canyon/Drumheller

Tues Dec 23

Mike Harrison


tringa at telus.net


Sat Dec 27

Frank Hennessey


Frankhennessey at gmail .com

Cochrane Wildlife Preserve

Sun Dec 28

Jamey Podlubny

svisser at ucalgary.ca

Sheep River/Turner Valley

Tues Dec 30

Doug Collister


collistr at gmail.com

Fish Creek Park (1/2 day)

Thurs Jan 1

Jim Washbrook


jwashbrook at prairiesky.ab.ca

Sundre (Snake’s Head)

Sat Jan 3

Doug Collister


collistr at gmail.com


Sat Jan 3

Christmas Bird Count Week 2013

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The Calgary Christmas Bird Count is coming up this Sunday, December 15, and that means that we are now in the Count Week period.  Any species which are seen from December 12 to 18, but missed on the count day itself, are included in the database as Count Week birds.  Sometimes there are very good birds which are known to be around but can’t be found on count day, and sometimes it’s an unexpected bird showing up before or after the count. Even better is to find a good bird on the count day itself.

If you see an unusual or out-of-season bird during count week, and it is inside the Count Circle, make a note of the sighting (please get details about the bird and the time and place of the sighting – a photo also helps!).  If the bird is not reported on count day, pass the information about your sighting to us at Birdscalgary(at)gmail.com.


 Note that the circle doesn’t include the entire city.

There are many other Christmas Bird Counts in the Calgary area (and throughout North America). Check your area for a count and see if you can find an unusual species there.

Calgary-area counts listed here.

Calgary Christmas Bird Count – Weaselhead

Posted by Dan Arndt


It may seem a bit repetitive, but a week following our last Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding course, my Christmas Bird Count area was also down in the Weaselhead. Our route took a bit longer though, and covered a huge amount of area, and took the better part of the day. We had some really great helpers this time around, as we usually do, and had some awesome birds, a few fewer species than our usual number, and a few different species than we had turn up last year, but all in all, it was a beautifully warm day, and a good time was had by everyone involved. Hope you enjoy these photos I took while we were out!



Merlin coming in for a landing

Merlin coming in for a landing

This Merlin gave us quite a show, hunting while we watched from the bridge over the Elbow River. I believe that it was hunting one of the many Bohemian Waxwings we saw that day.

American Robin

American Robin

A nice surprise for us was the often spoken-of and quite legendary American Robin. We do have a few that end up trying to spend their winters here in Calgary, and just a week prior, one of Gus Yaki’s groups had a flock of fifty of them. I was happy just to see one!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

This male Pileated Woodpecker gave us a few flybys throughout the day, but in the grove we usually find Boreal Chickadees he flew in for a closer look. We played a few calls which he came to investigate even closer, allowing us a bit better vantage.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

We headed back towards the South Glenmore Park side of the park and stopped for lunch, and it seemed this little Boreal Chickadee wanted some lunch as well.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Another gorgeous little Golden-crowned Kinglet, the first one we saw that day, was spotted just before lunch. After lunch we heard another dozen or so in the dense spruce on the south slope of the Glenmore Reservoir.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

And of course, what day in the Weaselhead would be complete without a few adorable Red Squirrels hamming it up for the camera.



Calgary Christmas Count in Inglewood

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Last Sunday was a great day to be out counting birds. The weather was pleasant for the most part, and the sun came out, allowing for a few good photographs. I was covering the Inglewood Golf Course, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Pearce Estate, and adjacent areas with Ian Neilson and Troy Bourque (both excellent photographers). At the end of the day I checked out the zoo grounds by myself – counting only wild birds.

We started the day walking the golf course and spent about two and a half hours checking the Bow River and looking for passerines. (We had permission from the club to be on their grounds for the count – you don’t need permission to walk the riverbank, but it is a very difficult walk in spots.) There were plenty of Canada Geese and Mallards on the river, plus a few Common Goldeneyes, but nothing else.

Troy Mallards

Mallards on the river.  Photo by Troy Bourque

On the golf course itself we did find one mixed flock of several Black-capped Chickadees, three White-breasted Nuthatches, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a Brown Creeper. A Rough-legged Hawk made a low flyover – the first RLHA I recall seeing in this part of the city. Across the river we spotted an adult Bald Eagle, which then flew over us, and was joined by its mate. The pair settled in the same tree on the golf course where they have nested for the past few years (they always overwinter and spend a lot of time near this tree).

Troy Eagle 1

Bald Eagle on the Inglewood Golf Course.  Photo by Troy Bourque


One of the adult eagles. Photo by Ian Neilson

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Eagle on takeoff.  Photo by Ian Neilson

A little farther along we came upon a porcupine perched in a Water Birch at eye level, feeding. The porcupine didn’t mind us at all, so the photographers got some very close shots!

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You don’t see these every day!  Photo by Ian Neilson

Troy Porcupine 1

Don’t you just want to give him a big hug?  Photo by Troy Bourque

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Photo by Ian Neilson

Troy Porcupine 2

Our best mammal of the day.  Photo by Troy Bourque

It was some pretty tough walking through the snow and brush along the river, so we stopped for a rest and a hearty breakfast at the clubhouse. Then we were off to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary across the river.  It was the middle of the day and pretty quiet. The chickadees were aggressively looking for handouts of seeds as usual, but we offered only to take their portraits.

Troy me

Can you please hold still for 1/500 of a second?  Photo by Troy Bourque

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Photo by Bob Lefebvre

We had an unusually low number of woodpeckers for the day – no Downies, only one Northern Flicker, and this bird.

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Hairy Woodpecker at IBS.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

After the sanctuary Ian had to depart, and Troy and I had a quick walk around Pearce Estates, which was even quieter than IBS. Then Troy had to leave, and I rushed over to cover the zoo before it got dark. The zoo grounds attract quite a few wild birds because there is a lot of food scattered around for the zoo animals, and lots of cover. It was a little strange to be rushing past Snow Leopards and Siberian Tigers with hardly a glance, but taking note of every House Sparrow.


Mallards.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

Over half of the European Starlings reported on the count were at the zoo – 56 out of 109, which is a fairly low number for starlings on the Calgary count.


European Starlings in winter plumage.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

As the light started to fade, I heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet in a stand of Spruces, but couldn’t see the bird. I remembered something that Dan Arndt had told me – kinglets will respond strongly to a playback of their call even in winter – so I played the call on my smart phone app. Within a fraction of a second, three aggressive little kinglets materialized right in front of me, flitting about, vocalizing, and flaring their crown feathers.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre


Here you can even see some of the red in the centre of the golden crown.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

Then it was off to Arthur and Donna Wieckowski’s to compile the data and enjoy a great chili dinner. For a while it looked like we were going to have a low number of species for the count, but as the last few routes reported, we ended up with 65 species, exactly on our average for the last twenty years.

It was a very long day of birding but also very enjoyable, as always!