Tag Archive | Cinnamon Teal

5 Must-see birds: July

July is another great month to go birdwatching in the Calgary region. By now, most birds are in the process of raising hungry families while others, such as hummingbirds and certain shorebirds, start their southward migration in late July. Our must-see birds for July are as follows:

1. Western Grebe

Featured before in one of our previous posts (Grebes, Grebes, Grebes), the Western Grebe is a gregarious grebe that is easily recognized thanks to its contrasting black and white plumage, thin green-yellow bill and slender neck. Colonial nesters, the Western Grebe is usually found on medium to large lakes such as Frank Lake ( Glenmore reservoir during migration) where they mainly consume small fish.

A pair of Western Grebes, front, on a crowded Frank lake.

2. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a beautiful black-and-white songbird with a rosy red breast, lives up to its name. The female is a brownish-streaked bird with yellow wing linings. Emitting a robin-like song, only richer, more energetic and more rapidly delivered, both male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeak sing.  This bird may be seen in the Glenmore and the Weaselhead area or at Griffith Woods along the banks of the Elbow River in southwest Calgary.

Adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak feeding a juvenile.

3. Canvasback

The largest diving duck found in the province, I find Canvasbacks to be very beautiful.  The male is resplendent with a canvas coloured back and a chestnut head and neck.  This species prefers lakes and ponds with emergent vegetation and vegetated margins. Weed lake is a good place to observe these ducks. The Canvasback uses its long sloping bill to strain seeds from the mud on the bottom of ponds.

4. Wilson’s Phalarope

The only shorebirds that normally swim,  the sex roles are reversed in phalaropes, the female being larger and more colorful than the male; a black stripe going down from the eye, down the side of the neck and then merging into chestnut. Favouring sloughs and shallow lakes where wet meadows and grassy marshes are present, the Wilson’s Phalarope may be seen on most southeast sloughs and lakes.

5. Cinnamon Teal

Our final bird for the month of July is the Cinnamon Teal, a conspicuous cinnamon red duck that is striking in the right light. This teal prefers shallow lake margins, marshes and ponds; on larger bodies of water, it is never found very far from shore. Look for Cinnamon Teal in early July, before they molt, in the southeast sloughs, Frank Lake, or in Fish Creek at Burnsmead, among other spots.

Let us know which of these birds you saw this month! Happy Canada Day!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Bountiful Birding at Frank Lake

Last week I took the short drive out to Frank Lake, east of High River (see the directions under the “Birding Resources” tab above).  I was hoping to see some of the many Short-eared Owls that are often seen there at dusk, and I had about two hours before that to scope out the lake for waterfowl and other birds.  This is a very productive wetland, and I managed to see 24 species of birds, 13 of which were new ones for the year for me.

The water level is very high this year.  As you can see, the path to the observation blind was flooded.  There was also still quite a bit of ice on the lake, but much of Basin 1 was open.

By far the most common bird there was the Franklin’s Gull.  Frank Lake is home to perhaps the largest breeding colony of these gulls in the world, with up to 55,000 pairs.  They build floating nests in the cattails, and if the water levels remain this high they may not be able to breed here successfully.

There were other gulls as well.  This one, which I believe is a California Gull, was having eggs for dinner.

The gull took the egg onto the roof of the blind, and although it almost rolled off at one point, he finally did manage to eat it.

I had good views of Eared Grebes and Ring-necked Ducks…

But the highlight was when a flock of four White-faced Ibises flew in.  I had never seen this large, beautiful bird before.  It has dark, glossy, chestnut and bronze colouration, a long decurved bill, and of course a white face.

(Click on photos to enlarge them.)

The four flew on, but a little later another flock of twelve Ibises arrived…

They landed on the island…

And virtually disappeared in the grass…

(Cinnamon Teal in the foreground.)

At dusk, I started to drive back out on the dirt access road, but I didn’t get far, since I brake for Short-eared Owls…

This owl was right next to the road, so it flew before I could get very close.  However,  I saw another one hunting a little farther down the road…

All in all, a great evening of birding topped off by a fine southern Alberta sunset.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre