Posted by Bob Lefebvre
I saw this healthy-looking Coyote on Bearspaw Dam Road on April 19.
Posted by Dan Arndt
Sorry for the late update everyone! We’ll be back to regular weekly posts tomorrow morning, so consider this a double-shot to finish off the Friends of Fish Creek Winter birding course with a bang!
Our outing on March 22 took us to Carburn Park on a bright, sunny, but slightly chilly morning. We had hopes of possibly finding some more early sparrows in the feeders near the park, or a new gull species or two, or even some early arriving hawks, but things did seem to slow down a bit after the initial spring migration rush from the previous couple of weeks!
We started off heading south into the sun so we could continue the majority of our walk with the sun at our backs and upon reaching the bridge and nearby gazebo we found a bit of activity. While there were a few indicators that while spring was officially here, winter, as always in Calgary, was still holding on strong. This Canada Goose was sporting a jacket of frost and was a little reluctant to begin the day until we walked across the bridge above it.
Nearby, the House Sparrows were hard at work foraging in the gazebo and preparing their nests in the eaves. This female stopped briefly to allow a few photos before continuing on to work on her nest building.
Quite often the gravel bars here at Carburn Park are full of gulls in the morning, and we always take a few minutes to pick through them to see if we can identify some locally uncommon species, but on this morning we didn’t have too many gulls as the fishermen had an earlier start than we did, and had flushed most of them before we really had a chance to take any good long looks at them. We did get up close and personal with this Ring-billed Gull though, so hopefully that’s a decent consolation picture!
We headed over to the larger ponds in the middle of the park and while they weren’t open and the couple beaver and muskrat channels had closed up a bit as well, but we did hear this little Brown Creeper in the trees nearby, and managed a few half-decent shots of this normally quite reclusive bird!
One nice surprise of the morning were a few photos I took of what we often consider a “trash” bird. I’ve always said though that if these birds weren’t so common around here, they’d be something that people would drive for hours just to see one and all the beautiful colors they can show off in good light. This Black-billed Magpie was trying to snap off a few twigs to take back to its nest nearby when we came across it and disturbed its hard work.
We ended off our walk by following the east edge of the ponds, and had a close encounter with some White-tailed Deer, a few Eastern Grey Squirrels, and this rather healthy looking Coyote that burst out of the trees well behind our group and ran across the pond. Much braver than any of us would have been, given the warm weather we’ve had all winter!
We ended off our walk looking for the Great Horned Owls who had nested right beside the parking lot the past two years, and we did manage to find this male keeping watch over the well hidden nest. Looks like he didn’t really appreciate us discovering him!
Watch this space tomorrow for our final update on the Winter Birding course!
Posted by Dan Arndt
Another week of spring arrivals and a few surprises at Bowmont Park made for a great outing last week. While most of the pathways near the river had been damaged by the flood, we elected to take the high road (literally!) and walk along the upper ridge of the park before descending down to the always bountiful ponds before walking back along the base of the hillside, turning up quite a few more great birds. Enjoy!
While we are always on the lookout for any number of bird species, it’s always really nice to find some flowers in bloom. This group of Prairie Crocus was one of the few we saw on this hillside, and from what others in the group mentioned, they were blooming a little late!
There was another group of Say’s Phoebes at the west end of the upper slope, but something on the horizon caught my eye flying down the Bow River being harassed by a group of American Crows. I had initially thought it was just another Common Raven, like we’d seen before. but as we watched the crows trail off and leave this soaring bird to close on us, we noticed white primaries, a pink head, and that is seemed really intent on simply soaring above either the Bow River, or Highway 1 before spiraling up and out of sight on a thermal. It was an unmistakable bird, but not one I’ve seen often around Calgary, and never before within the city limits. A Turkey Vulture!
This particular hillside was great for our group, as we also spotted this urbanized coyote in the distance, and when we reviewed our photos afterwards, noted that it was tagged and radio-collared, likely as part of this study being put on by the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary.
We soon descended into the heavily wooded pathways down below and were completely pleased with the next group that popped up that have been seen in huge numbers around the Calgary area this spring, the Western Tanager. Both males and females in equal number, this group of four flitted about above us, and a few of them even came really quite close to provide great looks!
So after some good time spent with these beautiful, colorful birds, we headed to the ponds. A kindly Belted Kingfisher flew from perch to perch, giving its signature rattling call while hunting for minnows in this well established pond. Just as we were preparing to leave, a Common Yellowthroat (which we saw here last year as well) decided to make a brief call and pop out to the pond and take a drink!
Another traipse through the woods near the ponds turned up a few more Western Tanagers, a Cooper’s Hawk sitting quietly on her nest, and this pair of Downy Woodpeckers who are well on their way to starting a family of their own.
And as a great end to a great walk, we managed to come across our first House Wren of the year as well, singing in the trees nearby, and as we approached, she decided to come out and tell us exactly how she felt about us being nearby!
Thanks again for reading, and good birding! Have a great week!
This family of coyotes was seen by David Pugh and I on our Alberta Big Day stalking some waterfowl on this pond at the entrance to Kinbrook Island Provincial Park. Luckily, they were still there a week later when I returned there in refuge from the flooding here in Calgary. They were quite fun to watch, and didn’t seem to mind having their photos taken!
I had a day off this last Tuesday so I took the opportunity to go biking and birding in Fish Creek Provincial Park. It was a beautiful morning; the sun was out, the sky was blue, the birds were singing and the weather was warm; finally! I got to Fish Creek at around 8:30 a.m. entering the park just off the intersection of Canyon Meadows drive and Acadia . I was preparing to go down the steep hill into the park only to find that the trail was flooded! Instead I followed the trail around the ridge until I entered the park beside the ranch.I did some random wandering on small paths through Fish Creek, finding a pheasant, a kingfisher, several catbirds and 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, among other birds. I then carried on to bridge number 11, leading to Hull’s Wood. Rounding a bend in the path I was surprised to see a male Pileated Woodpecker, just meters from the path. Before I could get my camera out of my bag, he had flown further away; apparently he was surprised to see me!
I reached Sikome Lake and rode my bike up the hill, in hopes of finding some Great Horned Owls and their owlets; I was not disappointed! There in their regular tree, was the Great Horned Owl family, two young ones and one adult.
As I continued my circuit, I found some more interesting birds, including some Green-winged Teal.
And the Pelicans! The water is so high in the river that pelicans are everywhere; I was able to count up to 27 pelicans at one time, half in the water, half circling in the sky, their bright white feathers contrasting magnificently with the clear blue sky. Another post on the pelicans will follow this one. However, this day, was truly the day of families. At one secluded spot near the river, I found 4 different nests all within a couple of feet of each other. The first belonged to a Downy Woodpecker, the second to a House Wren and the last two to Tree Swallows.
At the Downy Woodpecker nest, the male would visit the hole every couple of minutes and would be instantly greeted with the call of the hungry young in the inside. He continued his work incessantly, feeding his ever hungry offspring.
The House Wrens hardly ever came in and out of their nest but the male was always nearby, singing very loudly and stopping only for the occasional break.
The Tree Swallows would vigorously defend their nests from potential threats, such as the kestrel that flew over several times. The Kestrel in turn would chase away a Swainson’s Hawk that could have been a potential threat to the Kestrel’s family.
As I was leaving the park in late morning I came across a coyote sitting on a hill, looking very content as well as many Savannah Sparrows singing.
Family time for the birds is a busy time of year; I saw 52 species of birds that morning and I had luck as I got to see some of them raising their families.
Posted by Matthew Sim
Guest Post: Coyote and Beaver
The amazing sequence of photographs below was taken last week by Rob English, who kindly shared them with us. This interaction between a Coyote and a Beaver took place at the large pond just North of the highway 22X bridge, on the west side of the Bow River in Fish Creek Park. The photos were taken on two consecutive days, so this is a persistent Coyote (assuming it is the same one both days).
Although this is a birding blog, we are interested in all aspects of nature, and we particularly love mammals. One just doesn’t get the chance to see and photograph mammals as often as birds. And one is rarely lucky enough to see an encounter like this.
If you have interesting nature photos that you’d like to share, please send them to us and we may post them here.
Thanks again to Rob English.
He got away.
Maybe if I sneak up from this angle…
He looks pretty big…
How about a sudden attack from this side?
Pretty big from this side, too.
Back to Meadow Voles…
Coyotes are very opportunistic feeders, and have been known to eat Beavers. But a lone Coyote would have quite a bit of trouble with a full-grown Beaver like this one. As you can see, the Coyote is quite hesitant to attack.
Photos by Rob English
Posted by Bob Lefebvre