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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
Thanks again for reading, and good birding!