Tag Archive | fish creek provincial park

Warm weather and signs of spring at Hull’s Wood and Burnsmead

Posted by Dan Arndt

While this winter here in Calgary has been relatively mild, the week leading up to our last outing on February 15 was particularly warm. It seemed that signs of spring were abundant, from the mating displays of not one but two species of woodpecker, the crowing of male Ring-necked Pheasants to announce their territories, to the sudden appearance of European Starlings, it truly seemed that the prediction by Balzac Billy of an early spring on Groundhog Day was holding true.

Hull's Wood and Burnsmead - February 15, 2015

Hull’s Wood and Burnsmead – February 15, 2015

Most of the activity was along the Bow River, and so we headed over to scan the waterfowl on the gravel bars, where a few unusual ducks had been found earlier in the week, including a Redhead, Northern Pintail, and possibly the same Ring-necked Duck that had been seen earlier in the winter. While none of those much rarer ducks were around, we did manage to find a pair of male Lesser Scaup who were in the process of transitioning into their breeding plumage.

male Lesser Scaup Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/125sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

male Lesser Scaup
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/125sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

After spending some time looking for those other odd ducks, we headed east into the aspen stands along the banks of the Bow River at the south end of Burnsmead, and were delighted to watch as a trio of Downy Woodpeckers chased each other around the back of the stand. We watched the shenanigans for a little while before moving on, but stopped rather abruptly after hearing the call of a Killdeer, followed by a Red-tailed Hawk, then a Western Meadowlark, and sure enough above our heads was a small flock of European Starlings doing their full repertoire of imitation songs while investigating a number of potential nest holes. The light was absolutely perfect to show off the bright, iridescent colors of their breeding plumage, and the males were even starting to show a little bit of blue at the base of their bills

European Starling Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

European Starling
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

To add to the din of activity, this group of five Northern Flickers (four males and one female) were calling, flying and displaying for each other, showing off their bright salmon colored feather shafts.

Displaying Northern Flickers Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@400mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

Displaying Northern Flickers
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@400mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

We walked over to the recently repaired bridge, and as we approached, we saw a beautiful male Ring-necked Pheasant sitting pretty for us, and as we continued on, we heard a second male crowing to the east. While these two announced their territories on each side of the bridge, a third called from across the river just to make his presence known as well!

male Ring-necked Pheasant Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

male Ring-necked Pheasant
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

male Ring-necked Pheasant Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

male Ring-necked Pheasant
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

I’m always blown away by the variety of colors on these beautiful birds. Every color of the rainbow and more reflecting off of those head and breast feathers!

While there wasn’t too much on the river near the bridge, we headed back through the cacophony of starlings, woodpeckers and pheasants to find this young Bald Eagle sitting high in a tree right along the route we had just walked, only to be disturbed as a dog walker caught his attention and flushed him from his perch.

immature Bald Eagle Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

immature Bald Eagle
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

immature Bald Eagle Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

immature Bald Eagle
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

We headed from here to the Fish Creek Provincial Park Headquarters building, and even further west in search of a Purple Finch that had been seen at some feeding stations in a poplar stand, but sadly came up empty. This area of the park though between the headquarters and Glennfield is always good for White-tailed Deer and today was no exception!

White-tailed Deer Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

White-tailed Deer
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

Just as we were wrapping up our walk, and preparing to head to our vehicles, this little Brown Creeper popped into view, called a few times, and disappeared into a dense spruce tree to finish off our day.

Brown Creeper Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Brown Creeper
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

And that’s a wrap for another week! Have a great week, and good birding!

 

 

 

Birds of the Boreal in Shannon Terrace

Posted by Dan Arndt

Shannon Terrace always brings back memories of some of my first days being involved with the Friends of Fish Creek, monitoring the Wandering and Red-sided Garter Snakes at the protected hibernaculum beside the Environmental Learning Center. In the winter, there are often some really great birds in this area, but in most cases not in great numbers, or with significant diversity. This can be a great place to find American Dippers, near Bridge 1, Northern Pygmy and Northern Saw-whet Owls near Bridge 2, as well as Gray Jays and Mountain Chickadees between these two bridges.

Shannon Terrace - February 8, 2015

Shannon Terrace – February 8, 2015

We headed west from the parking lot, and looped around through a few pathways, but just before reaching Bridge 1 we heard a very surprising call, especially given the sub-zero temperatures that day! Belted Kingfishers do often over-winter in Calgary, but always in small numbers, and at this spot we heard a lone male of this species! At the time, we only heard it’s distinctive rattle call a few times before it moved away, but there was no mistaking it! I did head back over to this area at the end of the walk to try to find it, and thankfully was able to get a few photos of it.

male Belted Kingfisher Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

male Belted Kingfisher
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Also in the area was a group of five “wild” dogs that trotted across the pathway in front of us while we looked up and down stream for the kingfisher, but they paid us no mind. Initially we thought it was a group of off-leash dogs, and we waited for the owner to come down the hill… but the dogs continued on and continued west, likely heading underneath 37th St. and onto the Siksika Reserve on the other side.

There was a tree nearby with a few holes from Pileated Woodpeckers, but didn’t appear to be active, so we headed back east along Fish Creek, and spotted a Northern Goshawk on the south side of the creek. It seems that both raptors and falcons really, really hate having their picture taken when I’m around, because I think this is the third species this winter that’s made sure to put itself directly between my angle of observation, and the morning sun. Raptors can be jerks sometimes.

Northern Goshawk pair of Pileated Woodpeckers Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

Northern Goshawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

Heading from here over to Bridge 2, we did find our first active Pileated Woodpecker of the day, spotting this one on the side of a tree working away, while a second called from just north of where we were standing. One of our attendees was particularly hoping to see a Pileated Woodpecker, as she’d never seen one before, and so this male was a welcome sight.

Pileated Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Pileated Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

We did a loop south of Bridge 2, but saw next to nothing and heard even less, but we did get a stretch of beautiful warm sunlight which we basked in for a few minutes before heading on our last loop of the day, which was in search of a recent Pacific Wren sighting on the east end of Shannon Terrace/west end of Bebo Grove. Along the way we found a small flock of three Pine Grosbeaks, who led us on a very tough chase trying to get a good look at them in a densely packed spruce stand. Thankfully, we got a good look at a male and female pair high up against a bright blue sky.

Pine Grosbeaks Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Pine Grosbeaks
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

As I mentioned before, I did head back to Bridge 1 to look for the Belted Kingfisher, and I found a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers working over the holes we’d seen earlier! Whether these are the same pair we saw and heard further east, or a second pair of Pileated Woodpeckers in this area, it’s hard to say, but it was really nice to see them again in better light and seemingly undisturbed by my presence there as the male was hard at work excavating a nest hole.

Pileated Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

Pileated Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1250

pair of Pileated Woodpeckers Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@340mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

pair of Pileated Woodpeckers
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@340mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Have a great week, and good birding!

A relatively quiet morning at Bebo Grove

Posted by Dan Arndt

Our visit to Bebo Grove last Sunday was rather quiet for much of the morning, with a flurry activity for the last hour or so. Early on, we heard the odd Black-capped Chickadee here and there, a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches, and an occasional Downy Woodpecker. The light was good, and the weather was relatively clear, which made for an enjoyable trip through the park, but it would have been nice if we’d had better luck with any of the birds we were there to see!

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

We walked through the picnic area a couple of times, at one point flushing what we were certain was a Great Grey Owl, crossed the river to search through the dense spruce in the south side of Fish Creek, and came up entirely empty except for the same bird species we’d heard earlier. We crossed back over the river and that’s when things really started to take off. We found a small mixed flock of birds spread out throughout the picnic area, including a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches, a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches (including a partially leucistic male), a perfectly camouflaged Brown Creeper, and a handful of Boreal Chickadees mixed with the Black-capped Chickadees.

White-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

White-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Brown Creeper Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Brown Creeper
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

leucistic male Red-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

leucistic male Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

As we searched through the east end of the picnic area, we found a very friendly little female Red-breasted Nuthatch chowing down on some seeds we’d left out for it.

female Red-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

female Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Of course as we rounded out the day, I decided to stop by the local celebrity owl to snap a few photos for the blog. On any given day, this bird is relatively easy to spot since there’s usually a dozen or more people surrounding it trying to get the perfect photo. While I’m no expert on stress indicators in owls, I can’t help but think that the constant attention is having some negative impacts on it, so I decided to just snap a couple of photos from a couple of angles and move on, and boy am I glad I did!

Northern Pygmy-owl Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Northern Pygmy-owl
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Walking back towards Bridge 3 with Paul Turbitt and atop a small spruce on the other side of the river I spotted this little tuft of feathers. Sure enough, it was a second Northern Pygmy-Owl!

Northern Pygmy-owl #2 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Northern Pygmy-owl #2
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

This was one of those 1 in a thousand situations when you raise your binoculars to check out that a spot on top of a tree which turns out to be a little branch, or clump of spruce cones, or cluster of leaves. It pays to keep looking up!

This little owl flew in close to us as we spotted it and set up in a tree right above us.

Northern Pygmy-owl #2 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Northern Pygmy-owl #2
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

We sat and observed it for a few minutes before some Black-capped Chickadees took note of it and decided to try to chase it off. Within moments, this cute little ball of feathers went from this:

Northern Pygmy-owl #2 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Northern Pygmy-owl #2
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

To this:

Northern Pygmy-owl in "Tall Thin" pose Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Pygmy-owl in “Tall Thin” pose
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Pygmy-owl in "tall thin" pose Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Northern Pygmy-owl in “tall thin” pose
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Moments later, it flew off deeper into the woods as the chickadees gave chase. It was really quite an incredible encounter, and it’s one of the reasons to get out and explore the great parks in this city!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Update – Fall Birds in Carburn and Fish Creek Parks

We don’t often re-post material but we don’t often make two identification mistakes in the same post (I hope). Reid Barclay has pointed out that the bird I labelled “Swainson’s Thrush” is actually an Ovenbird, and Ron Kube says that the “Swainson’s Hawk” is a Broad-winged Hawk. I think they are both correct. In each case, I didn’t consider these less-common migrants here, and tried to fit the photos to my expectations. Sorry for the errors. We always welcome comments from our readers. – Bob Lefebvre

Tony LePrieur has another set of beautiful bird and mammal photos, taken on September 14, 2014. He says it is getting harder to find the birds, but there is still a good variety of species around.

From Carburn Park:

image

Orange-crowned Warbler.

image_1

Orange-crowned Warbler, actually showing the seldom-seen orange crown.

image_2

Red-eyed Vireo.

image_3

American Goldfinch.

image_4

Cedar Waxwing (juvenile).

image_5

Ovenbird.

image_6

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

image_7

Tennessee Warbler.

From Fish Creek Park:

image_9

Broad-winged Hawk (juvenile).

image_10

Belted Kingfisher (female).

image_8

American Mink.

Waxwings, From Egg to Fledgling

This summer Tony LePrieur found a Cedar Waxwing nest in Fish Creek Park, and he managed to capture this amazing sequence of photos showing the young birds from hatching to fledging, over a period of sixteen days.

The nest was about three feet off the ground, in the Votier’s Flats area of Fish Creek Provincial Park. Tony was careful not to be intrusive, making four very short visits over a period of just over three weeks. Initially there were four eggs in the nest. Photos were taken with a Canon 60d and a 18-135 mm lens.

image

image_1

image_2

image_3

As a bonus, I will post a photo of a slightly older juvenile Cedar Waxwing. It was spotted by Cicely Schoen hunkering down under a lawn chair in the Woodlands neighbourhood in SW Calgary during last week’s snowstorm. She calls it “The Original Angry Bird”.

The Original Angry Bird

“The Original Angry Bird” – Juvenile Cedar Waxwing.   Photo by  Cicely Schoen

Nikon 5100 with Nikkor lens 55-200mm.

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!

Bebo Grove is a winter wonderland

Posted by Dan Arndt

Week number nine of the Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding Course took us to Bebo Grove. With our typical Sunday flair, the snow was flying and the wind was blowing hard, but in the heavy boreal forest habitat of Bebo Grove the wind was a little less biting and the birds were as active as can be, as they were all in search of their next meal and just enough calories to get them through to the next day.

Our species counts have dropped significantly since the dog days of late summer, and with the Winter Finch Forecast for this coming winter, it’s going to be some sparse times for us birders out there this winter!

Bebo Grove - November 3, 2013

Bebo Grove – November 3, 2013

Bebo Grove - View from the parking lot Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/125sec., ƒ/13, ISO 640

Bebo Grove – View from the parking lot
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/125sec., ƒ/13, ISO 640

Our first bird of the day, and the first seen this week by our group, was this lone Dark-eyed Junco, that greeted us at the parking lot. Hopefully they’ll be a little more common this winter in our birding areas with the absence of other finches and sparrows.

Dark-eyed Junco Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/125sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Dark-eyed Junco
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/125sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

We entered the dense forest below and were immediately paused at the sound of Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, Boreal and Black-capped Chickadees, and even a Golden-crowned Kinglet or two. Of course we stopped for a few minutes to feed them and chatted a bit about their habits in the winter, and their amazing ability to memorize the locations of hundreds of seed caches throughout their territories.

Bebo Grove - Into the Boreal Forest Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/125sec., ƒ/13, ISO 1600

Bebo Grove – Into the Boreal Forest
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/125sec., ƒ/13, ISO 1600

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

This male Red-breasted Nuthatch was noteworthy due to the significant and unusual white patches in the head and facial feathers. Whether this is an older male, or is expressing a very minor form of leucism, we may never know. At the very least though, we’ll be able to pick him out again next time we see him in a crowd!

Red-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@440mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@440mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

We headed over to the riverbank, and along the way kept our eyes peeled for the American Three-toed Woodpecker or maybe even a Black-backed Woodpecker, but neither showed up for us.

Overlooking the Fish Creek

Overlooking the Fish Creek

We did happen to see this Rough-legged Hawk soaring high overhead though. Excuse the poor quality of the shot, there was plenty of blowing snow high above us… but even still, you can make out the very dark black wrist patches that are good identifiers for this species.

Rough-legged Hawk Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

Rough-legged Hawk
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

The real highlight of the day though was a small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets who responded very strongly, and almost immediately to calls. This one male in particular came right down to eye-level and gave us quite an impressive territorial display!

Golden-crowned Kinglet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Golden-crowned Kinglet Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Down the path just a little way were one of the more common feeding stations along this route, so we stopped and looked again, and I was thankfully able to find a nice female Downy Woodpecker and a Boreal Chickadee for my troubles!

Boreal Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Boreal Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

female Downy Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

female Downy Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

After a little exploration a bit further to the west, we decided it best to call it a day. Thankfully we stopped at the end to chat a little, and were granted three more species just for luck, with a possible fourth! Our first large flock of Bohemian Waxwings flew into the trees a little to the west of us, while a small group of Ring-billed Gulls flew overhead. This last bird, a mystery raptor, gave a screeching call reminiscent of a Red-tailed Hawk, though we were undecided whether it was a Red-tailed or a Rough-legged Hawk. My one photo doesn’t really show too much detail, so I’m still undecided, but thought I’d post it here and review the comments!

Mystery Raptor Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Mystery Raptor
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Thanks again for reading, and good birding!

No snowbirds singing in the rain and snow this week at Votier’s Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

It seems my curse has struck the Sunday birding group once again. While it had been predicted since Tuesday, at around 3 AM on Sunday morning the heavens opened up and it began to rain. As I left my house at about 8:15, the rain had turned to sleet, and on the drive down to Votier’s Flats, that sleet had turned to a heavy, wet snow, driven by a fairly constant wind.

 

I didn’t get too many photos this week, and only a handful of hardy walkers came along with us this morning as well, making today’s post of the few photos that did manage to turn out just a place-holder until a long-awaited Travel Tuesday post goes up tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience, and good birding!

Gus Yaki points out some distant deer to our two attendees who braved the weather Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/50sec., ƒ/10, ISO 1250

Gus Yaki points out some distant deer to our two attendees who braved the weather
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/50sec., ƒ/10, ISO 1250

A trio of Mule Deer in the distance Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

A trio of Mule Deer in the distance
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

A pair of Gadwall in the heavy snow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

A pair of Gadwall in the heavy snow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

A brave Black-capped Chickadee takes a handout Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

A brave Black-capped Chickadee takes a handout
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

 

 

A return to normalcy at Lafarge Meadows

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

After last week’s almost complete washout for both bird life and weather conditions, it was nice to have relatively minimal wind, warm weather, and a clear transition to our normal autumn faunal assemblage that we’ve grown to expect here in Calgary.

This week we returned to part of my May Species Count territory, Lafarge Meadows. This was my second time back following the flood, and my first time back where there had been any bird life to speak of. I was also quite surprised that much of the cut bank of the river remained intact, rather than being completely eroded away. It seemed for the most part that the water level simply rose too fast to cut away much of the river bank before completely overwhelming it. Parts of our walk showed evidence of being under two meters of water or more, during the peak of the flooding.

That is not to say that the river bank was completely unscathed. A few areas of fresh outcrop were clearly visible, and a number of places where either old deadfall had been stripped away, pathways had been washed out, or the basins of both small and large ponds completely restructured were also quite numerous.

Lafarge Meadows (Note: This Google Earth image is from May 4, 2013, and doesn't reflect the change in the riverbed we saw on Sunday.)

Lafarge Meadows
(Note: This Google Earth image is from May 4, 2013, and doesn’t reflect the change in the riverbed we saw on Sunday.)

As we began our walk, it was clear that it was going to be a bit of a noisy day, as the European Starlings serenaded us any time we were near tree cover. The first two ponds gave us decent views of some waterfowl, including Gadwall, American Coots, Northern Shovelers and even a couple of Bufflehead, but the first really nice close looks we had at any new birds this season was this immature Bald Eagle that we first saw in the distance, then a little closer, until a few boaters flushed it off a high perch to give us this fly-by.

BAEA

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

Shortly after this fly-by, we scanned a distant gravel bar for some shorebirds, and managed to find a few Killdeer, a Greater Yellowlegs, and this Wilson’s Snipe… can you spot it?

Spot the Snipe! Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Spot the Snipe!
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

One of the birds that seems to almost completely disappear in summer that is starting to re-appear in larger numbers are the American Wigeon, which we saw no small number of on our trek. The female American Wigeon has a very distinct rusty color on the breast and flanks, but the underbelly, which is usually only seen in flight, is a pale white.

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

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

A little further down the pathway, but also giving us nice close looks, was this female Blue-winged Teal. Teals in general show a much smaller profile in the water, and are much smaller than Mallards, Northern Shovelers, and nearly every other duck you might see, and the females are very hard to tell apart from each other. The Blue-winged Teal though, has a white patch near the base of the bill, which is absent in the Green-winged and Cinnamon Teal.

female Blue-winged Teal Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

female Blue-winged Teal
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Another bird that didn’t seem to mind us coming in close to it was this Greater Yellowlegs. Note the slightly upturned bill, and that the bill length is about 1.5 times as long as the head is deep.

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

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

Shortly after Gus’ and a few of our other walkers had turned around, we were able to nab another species that they unfortunately had to miss. This little Merlin flew over the large pond, and then passed right in front of us, showing off its unique flight style in perfect form.

Merlin Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Merlin
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Our trip back seemed much faster than the walk down, even though we saw almost as many birds on our trip back, it’s always important to not double-count the birds. The other vital thing was that this time around, the birds seemed further away and didn’t allow for any photo opportunities whatsoever. That all changed as we came upon a lone young White-crowned Sparrow that was more than willing to pose for the camera.

immature White-crowned Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

immature White-crowned Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

And if that weren’t enough, just before we decided to pack it in for the day, we had a very generous Herring Gull fly in nice and low, showing off its pink legs and yellow bill with the small red mark on the lower mandible. How nice of it!

 

Herring Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Herring Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Thanks again for reading, and good birding. Until next week!

Fish Creek Big Day

Posted by Matthew Sim

So how many species of birds can you find in a single day in Fish Creek P.P.? Last year, I set out to find the answer. I turned up 93 species, 7 short of my goal of 100. This year, I was back out again, trying my luck once more.  Once again though, I fell short, managing to find a total of 89 species for the day.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon were common throughout the park.

I won’t write up too much here or I could have several pages of notes but I will point out some of the highlights, and of course, low points. Surprising this year was the lack of quite a few species that should have been easy to find. Notably, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Ruddy Duck, Tennessee Warbler, Forster’s Tern, Black Tern and Pied-billed Grebe were missing. Some of these were absent due to the (until quite recently), low water levels at the Lafarge Meadows sloughs. I had wondered why there were few birds at the sloughs and Dan helped me out by pointing out the fact that the sloughs had been quite low for the last few weeks, perhaps turning away some species.

Brewer's Blackbird

While I did have some surprising misses, I also found some good species, including the Brewer’s Blackbird above.

Clay-colored Sparrow

Although some of the common species such as Osprey were absent, most, including the Clay-colored Sparrow above and the American Goldfinch below were relatively easy to find.

Goldfinch

Then there were some species that I missed last year but were easy to find this year. I could not find any LeConte’s Sparrows last year but this year I managed to find nearly a dozen. This little guy posed nicely for a few minutes near the Ranch.

LeConte's Sparrow

Perhaps I forgot to mention too that it was an early start? I was at the park just before 5, when the songsters were just getting started.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

One of the many birds to be singing early on was the Red-eyed Vireo. These little birds sing nice and loud but can be very tricky to spot. Luckily for me, this one Red-eyed Vireo below sang right from the top of a poplar. So although he was easy to see, he was still a long way up!

Red-eyed Vireo

It was a good day and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year. I guess then it will have become the 3rd Annual Fish Creek Big Day…

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper