Tag Archive | downy woodpecker

Exploring new trails at Shannon Terrace

Posted by Dan Arndt

Last week’s walk took us to Shannon Terrace in search of a Mountain Chickadee that had been seen there the week prior. The main trail between Bebo Grove and Shannon Terrace was washed out in the floods last summer, and so instead of doing the usual route walking between the two areas of the park and back again, we explored a few trails that are part of the Fish Creek Provincial Park Single Track bike way, much of which I haven’t explored by foot or by bike.

Shannon Terrace March 9, 2014

Shannon Terrace
March 9, 2014

One of the most shocking things this time around was just how docile and downright tame the Boreal Chickadees were. Feeding from the tree stump feeding trays, from our hands a number of times, and flying out into the open. It may have had something to do with the temperatures being well above zero that kept them so actively feeding!

male Red-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

male Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

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

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

Aside from that though, things were about as one would expect on the west side of Fish Creek Park. We ran into a pair of Brown Creepers on one stretch of single-track but unfortunately I wasn’t able to snap any usable images of them. Moments later, we were nearly run into by some cyclists getting some of the intended use out of the single track, bombing down on us at full tilt. Can’t really blame them though. These particular trails were built for them!

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

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

We crossed the bridge and found a couple of Red Squirrels feeding on the left over seeds at one feeding station, and this particular fellow decided to pose nicely for us. Along this loop of trail we found a few more Boreal Chickadees, a few more Black-capped Chickadees, and not much else.

female Red-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

female Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

male Downy Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

male Downy Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

It wasn’t until we nearly reached the end of our walk when we had another flurry of activity nearby. A few Red-breasted Nuthatches were actively feeding on another feeding station log, while this male Downy Woodpecker tapped away on some nearby aspen.

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

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

At the western extent of our walk, just before turning back to head to the parking lot, a small flock of 75 Bohemian Waxwings flew by, chirping, cooing and calling in the air above us, giving us some of the better views our particular group has had of them so far this year!

Next week: Pearce Estate Park  and Prince’s Island Park, just outside of Calgary’s downtown core. Stay tuned, and good birding!

Watching Waterfowl at Beaverdam Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

After a nearly complete washout last week, with only a handful of species and no real photo opportunities, this week was only slightly better. The lack of large numbers of waterfowl on the Bow River at Beaverdam Flats, the dropping temperatures, and the constant wind seemed to keep the birds away. The icy conditions of the main pathways also put a damper on things, and even gave me a bit of a start, leaving me with a broken lens hood and a bit of a sore hip early on in the walk. Not to worry though, my camera, lens, and body are all A-OK!

Beaverdam Flats - January 26, 2014

Beaverdam Flats – January 26, 2014

The morning began with some fairly diffuse light and a bitterly cold wind out of the north, but not bitter or cold enough to keep us from scanning a group of waterfowl at the water treatment plant outfall. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t pick out the Redhead, American Wigeon, or even the domestic or leucistic Mallards that had been seen by other groups this week. Maybe they had decided it was a little too cold for them and stayed home! We did get some good looks at a few Canada Geese in flight, some of which were missing some flight feathers, and others were just showing off.

Canada Geese and Mallards Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Canada Geese and Mallards
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Canada Geese Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Canada Geese
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

I had hoped to get some Bald Eagle shots for the blog while we were here, as there were as many as 12 Bald Eagles seen at one time throughout the week, but they too were noticeably absent. We did get more than a few Common Ravens, and I find it interesting how it’s nearly impossible to get the two-toned appearance of the raven’s flight feathers to show up in anything but the most diffuse light. I also found it interesting to note just how worn the feathers of this particular bird are, which I only really took note of after downloading my shots this afternoon.

Common Raven Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Common Raven
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

As the morning progressed, our luck seemed to improve, and we headed away from the river into the stands of tall poplar and aspens. We did manage to find a pair of Northern Flickers, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a few Downy Woodpeckers, along with an assortment of White-breasted Nuthatches and a few Black-capped Chickadees, but all in all, it was even quieter away from the water.

Northern Flicker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Northern Flicker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

male Downy Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

male Downy Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

As we returned to the water’s edge, the light was progressively improving, and allowed some higher speed flight shots of the always gorgeous Common Goldeneye.

Common Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Common Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

While we were able to watch a particularly fun interaction between a 4th-year Bald Eagle and a flock of about seven Common Ravens and a pair of Black-billed Magpies, they were a little too far off and amongst some challenging terrain to get any usable shots. It was quite nice though, to get a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees fluttering about the pathway on our return to the parking lot, posing quite nicely as we snapped away with our cameras.

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Have a great week, keep safe, and good birding!

Wednesday Wings: The Down in Downy

Posted by Bob Lefebvre.

I have three Downy Woodpeckers that come to my feeders regularly.  They are not shy, and I managed to get some close-up photos that show the prominent nasal tufts of this species.  These help to keep wood chips (and nut chips) out of the bird’s nostrils.  It is sometimes said that Downy Woodpeckers are named for these downy feathers at the base of their bill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Woodpecker Tree

While on my latest bike ride into Fish Creek Provincial Park, I came across one very special tree. I have started calling it: The Woodpecker Tree. Standing proud and tall on the banks of the creek, this poplar tree seemed to be a gathering place for woodpecker food. I abruptly stopped on the dirt path I was riding on because I had heard a Hairy Woodpecker calling. I approached the tree for closer inspection and I was surprised to see 2 Downy Woodpeckers and a large female Hairy Woodpecker. Much to my surprise I heard another Downy Woodpecker calling high up in the tree and I looked up to see a male Downy Woodpecker and a White-breasted Nuthatch. I then heard a tapping coming from the opposite side of the tree and found it to be a male Hairy Woodpecker tapping away. Eventually, my final count of woodpeckers came up to 3 Hairy Woodpeckers, 4 Downy Woodpeckers and the lone White-breasted Nuthatch.

This tree obviously fulfilled the nourishment needs for 7 woodpeckers and a nuthatch. As I continued to watch all these birds, I saw them eating insects, tapping at fungal growths on the tree and investigating sap.

After a dozen of  minutes or so, the woodpeckers started to spread out into the surrounding area to hunt down more food. Yet some of the birds, stayed on the woodpecker tree, clearly enjoying the abundance of good food.

Now, I can’t help but wonder if this is a regular occurrence at this tree, or was it a one-time event?

Posted by Matthew Sim

The Lookout

In South Glenmore Park, just where the trail drops down into the Weaselhead, there is a path leading through the bush to a spot with two benches.

Not only does it provide a great view of the pond and Weaselhead, but someone has turned it into a feeding station for the birds.  I have been there a few times, and there is always birdseed on the rails and ground, and oranges in the trees.  If you sit still and are patient, you get great close-up views of the birds.  These pictures were taken on June 17, and we saw 23 species from the lookout that day.  Here are some of them.  You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Downy Woodpecker:

Hairy Woodpecker:

Clay-colored Sparrow:

Black-capped Chickadee:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

Brown-headed Cowbird:

Some small mammals got in on the action as well.  Red Squirrel:

Least Chipmunk:

A Pine Siskin and a Red-breasted Nuthatch squabble over a good feeding spot:

Pine Siskin:

Red-breasted Nuthatch:

White-breasted Nuthatch:

Finally, this little Red Squirrel rested his head on his hands while he patiently waited his turn at the feeder:

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Family Time For The Birds

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

Foraging Flocks

We’ve seen it often enough; you’re out bird watching, looking at the deserted trees and bushes and wondering where all the birds are. Suddenly, they are upon you, lots of them, making it next to impossible to follow them all. It’s a foraging flock. But what is a foraging flock?

These congregations of several different species, often insectivorous, occur where there is an abundance of food. There has to be a ‘nuclear’ species as a basis for the flock’s hierarchy; with this species being central to the flock’s formation and movement.

Attendants come next. Attendant species often don’t join in on the activities until the flock’s activities enter their territory.  Titmice and chickadees often fill the roles of a ‘nuclear’ (‘core’) species in North America and are soon followed by nuthatches, creepers, woodpeckers, kinglets and New World warblers all of which are insect-eating birds. These flocks are seen mostly in the non-breeding season when birds come out of the secrecy of breeding and raising a family.

Downy Woodpeckers use chickadees as sentinels in the foraging flocks

The benefits are great for birds in these flocks, namely; the increased vigilance by more eyes, lowering the risk of predation. There could also be a rise in feeding efficiency; as bugs flee from one bird, they head right into the beak of another. Feeding together heightens the chance that someone will locate a rich feeding patch and birds benefit from the different abilities, such as a woodpecker’s strong beak.

Chickadees often act the part of the ‘nuclear’ species

Nuthatches will often join in on the action of feeding flocks.

But there are costs as well, for example, kleptoparasitism, or parasitism by theft. This is when one more aggressive bird, steals the food caught by another bird. The costs, however, are often outweighed by the more advantageous benefits.

Well, birds of a feather don’t always flock together, but they sure know who to flock with!

Posted by Matthew Sim