Tag Archive | dinosaur provincial park

Christmas Bird Counts – Part II

Posted by Dan Arndt

Just before Christmas I had to send my long lens (Sigma 150-500mm) in for repair, so am back to using my original birding lens, my Sigma 70-300mm. As such, I can’t get quite as close to the birds as I used to, but it does allow me to have a bit better control over framing more “artsy” shots, but also making do with what I’ve got to use, rather than relying on the reach of the lens to make the image better. I do hope that I managed to do that well with the few photos I was able to take on the Dinosaur Provincial Park Christmas Bird Count, and the annual New Years Day Fish Creek Provincial Park Bird Count.

While it’s a great area to bird in both the summer and winter, the day we headed out there (December 30) was bitterly cold, and it seemed that the birds were nowhere to be found. In previous years, there were a few groups covering the whole area, but this year Nick Bartok and I were the only two out on the count so we had to cover the entire count circle, giving us only enough time to see and hear the birds we could observe from the car. What that meant for us was that we would miss out on a lot of the smaller birds we usually would hear on a walked route, but it did mean we got to cover way more area.

The cold weather made shooting from the vehicle a little tough, with the heat distortion from the vehicle and from the heat radiating off the snow from the bright sunlight, but I managed a few shots.

Great Horned Owl, east of Patricia - December 30, 2015

Great Horned Owl, east of Patricia – December 30, 2015

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One of the first good birds of the day was this Great Horned Owl that we stumbled upon while driving down one back road east of Patricia.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Patricia - December 30, 2015

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Patricia – December 30, 2015

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Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Steveville - December 30, 2015

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Steveville – December 30, 2015

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By far, the most numerous birds that we found on the Dinosaur Provincial Park count were Sharp-tailed Grouse. They seemed to be everywhere in the trees and shrubs nibbling on the buds for their breakfast and lunch!

Back in Calgary, the Fish Creek Provincial Park New Years Day Bird Count was a little bit (but not too much!) warmer, but we got a few good birds to start off the year.

Great Horned Owl - Fish Creek Provincial Park - January 1, 2016

Great Horned Owl – Fish Creek Provincial Park – January 1, 2016

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Brown Creeper - Fish Creek Provincial Park - January 1, 2016

Brown Creeper – Fish Creek Provincial Park – January 1, 2016

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At the Ranche, the usual pair of Great Horned Owls were present, along with a great opportunity to see the elusive Brown Creeper as the sun came over the horizon.

Sikome Lake - January 1, 2016

Sikome Lake – January 1, 2016

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The snow covered poplars at Sikome Lake made for a great backdrop to see all these great birds.

Mallards, Geese, and a Wigeon - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Mallards, Geese, and a Wigeon – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

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Mallards in flight - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Mallards in flight – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

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Bald Eagle - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Bald Eagle – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

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The usual accumulations of waterfowl along the Bow River were no exception to the rule, and there were even a couple of great surprises in the water, including an American Wigeon, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and more than a few Common Mergansers. A couple of fly-bys of Bald Eagles flushed many of the birds up briefly, but they soon came back down into the water at the confluence of Fish Creek and the Bow River.

American Robin - Shaw's Meadow - January 1, 2016

American Robin – Shaw’s Meadow – January 1, 2016

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Hermit Thrush - Shaw's Meadow - January 1, 2016

Hermit Thrush – Shaw’s Meadow – January 1, 2016

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At the compilation lunch, Bob and I waited around to hear if there had been any particularly noteworthy observations, and when we heard that a Hermit Thrush and American Robins had been seen at the water outflow at Shaw’s Meadow, we headed over there right away. It took us a while of watching the American Robins and got to see them feeding in the water, and finally got a great look at the Hermit Thrush, but only briefly. Two shots later, it disappeared into the deep brush, but it was more than long enough to get a look at the bird, identify it, and snap a few frames.

While normally this post would be a recap of the first week of the Friends of Fish Creek outings, I was away for that first trip, so keep an eye out for my post next week for the birds from our second week out at Bebo Grove!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Birds and Bugs of Dinosaur PP: Part 2

Posted by Matthew Sim

When we woke the next morning, we were hoping for fewer bugs but, much to out dismay, neither the numbers nor the ferocity of the mosquitoes had diminshed. Fortunately we had only planned to stay the morning anyways. I decided to brave the bugs and went out birding along the river where nighthawks and swallows seemed to do little to keep the bugs at bay! An Eastern Kingbird did pose for me, as did a preening Northern Flicker.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

This Northern Flicker paused from preening to give me a cautious look

This Northern Flicker paused from preening to give me a cautious look

Robins and Mourning Doves sang continuously and eventually I managed to spot three of the doves.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove


One of the highlights of the morning  for me, however was a mammal. I enjoyed close-up views of a pair of Nuttall’s Cottontail, a species pf rabbit we don’t get to see in Calgary.

Nuttall's Cottontail

Nuttall’s Cottontail

The other highlight was watching a group of Common Nighthawks chase down insects in the sky. While I was watching one particular individual, it proceeded to do a mid-air shake, ruffling out its feathers and fanning out its tail; of which I only managed to capture a mediocre image.



After spending an hour or so birding, we finished up our time at Dinosaur Provincial Park on a bus tour throughout the badlands where I got more good looks at Western Meadowlarks and Rock Wrens. I definitely loved the park, but I guess now I have to figure out when is the best time to visit without the bugs! I imagine there would be very few mosquitoes in December…


Birds and Bugs of Dinosaur PP: Part 1

Posted by Matthew Sim

This past Thursday, some family friends and I went camping for a night in the beautiful badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park, several hours east of Calgary. A very neat place to camp with some gorgeous scenery and good birds, we also discovered another attribute of the park; mosquitoes. Mosquitoes apart, we enjoyed the park and some of its avian inhabitants that we can’t see here in Calgary.

Dinosaur PP

No sooner had we parked the car by the river when a Ring-billed Gull began circling over us. Looking for handouts perhaps?!

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

After eating lunch by the Red Deer River, we headed up to the hoodoos for a hike, on where we were serenaded by Lark Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks and Rock Wrens who didn’t want to pose for the camera.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren, doing its best to be as uncooperative as possible

Lark Sparrows on the other hand, were quite willing to sit up for the camera and were fairly common throughout the park.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

As we stopped to admire the view from the top of one particular hoodoo, we were greeted by the song of a Vesper Sparrow and a croaking raven and we caught a glimpse of a Say’s Phoebe as it departed its perch when we arrived.



After we had finished our short hike, we went back to our campsite and relaxed by the river as swarms of mosquitoes buzzed around us. The river and its surrounding cottonwood trees held an assortment of birds including Violet-green Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, Least Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds.


Cedar Waxwing sitting pretty

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

I attempted to get some shots of the swallows but as is usually the case, they were moving far too fast for me to keep up. As the sun began to set, we decided to climb up into the hoodoos to watch the sunset. We didn’t get too far however, before we were turned around by mosquitoes. On our way up though we did see a Western Kingbird and a photogenic magpie on the hoodoos.

Black-billed Magpie at sunset

Black-billed Magpie at sunset

After beating a hasty retreat from the bugs, we retired for the night by our campfire, watching nighthawks and bats catching bugs above us.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow, stay tuned!