Tag Archive | Glenmore Reservoir

Weaselhead and North Glenmore Park in Early April

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For the first week of the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park (FFCPP) Society’s spring birding course, the groups birded the Weaselhead from the north parking lot down to the other side of the bridge over the Elbow River, and North Glenmore Park, including the stormwater ponds opposite the canoe club. The goal was to look for some spring migrants such as American Tree Sparrows in the Weaselhead and for Swans on Glenmore reservoir, and possibly Snowy Owls on the remaining ice.

Trumpeter Swans, Glenmore Reservoir, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Max Ortiz Aguilar went with the Sunday morning group on April 9th and took photos of some of the birds and mammals they saw, including the Trumpeter Swans shown above. Glenmore Reservoir is a good place to find migrating swans in spring once the ice begins to go out. (All photos taken with a Canon 6D and a Tamron SP 150-600mm.)

In the Weaselhead, the group spotted American Tree Sparrows.

American Tree Sparrow, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 5000|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

American Tree Sparrow, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 6400|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Tree Sparrows are arctic nesters and an early migrant in the spring. Sometimes a few will overwinter here. Note the reddish streak behind the eye, the two-toned bill (black above, yellow below) and the dark central breast spot. These features distinguish it from the similarly rusty-capped Chipping Sparrow, a species which is common here in the summer but which doesn’t arrive back until early May.

The Weaselhead is a great place to find mammals too. Snowshoe Hares are common, and are now mostly in their brown summer coats.

Snowshoe Hare, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 6400|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Red Squirrels and Least Chipmunks often are seen at the bird feeders by the path through the Weaselhead.

Red Squirrel, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 552mm|ISO: 2500|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

Coyote, Weaselhead, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Finally, here is Max’s black-and-white shot of a Mallard on a rock in the reflecting waters of the Glenmore Reservoir.

Mallard, Glenmore Reservoir, April 9, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

To see more of Max Ortiz Aguilar’s photos, see his website, Photos by MOA.

Fall Migration on the Glenmore Reservoir

Posted by Dan Arndt

Before the 2013 flood, the Glenmore Reservoir was always a great place to see hundreds of migrating autumn waterfowl and waders. In 2013 and 2014 though, the birds did not return in large numbers. One of the primary contributing factors to this was that with the sheer volume of water pulsing through the reservoir in late June of 2013, the bottom of the reservoir would have been either completely scoured of vegetation, or covered with silty and sandy sediment, killing the vegetation and invertebrate life that would otherwise thrive there. By the fall of 2015 though, the birds began to return in fairly decent numbers, and this fall was once again extremely productive. In the wake of any natural disaster, eventually things return to some level of stability and normalcy, and it was great to be back birding in South Glenmore Park and along the edges of the reservoir.

As per usual, we headed over to the ridge overlooking the reservoir to see what we could find out there. While we did see a few hundred American Coots at the far west edge of the reservoir, and a few Eared, Horned, and Western Grebes in close, there wasn’t anything close enough to really get good looks at without a scope. Thankfully we heard the tell-tale chipping of some American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos feeding below the spruce trees nearby.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

We had a pretty good-sized turnout that morning, and so we split up, with my group taking the top pathway up away from the reservoir first. Given the slight chill in the air, we were all thankful to be off the water’s edge until it warmed up later in the day!

Roosting near its usual nesting spot, and after having a decent discussion about the ways to best distinguish between a Common Raven and American Crow, we found this fellow sitting atop a favored perch. It gave a few calls of different types as we watched it, and then finally flew off to join another Common Raven as it flew into the nearby neighborhood.

Common Raven

Common Raven

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/400s|

As we explored the park, we heard the wheezy, raspy call of a Boreal Chickadee, which seemed quite out of place this far from the Weaselhead and the dense spruce cover of the slopes of the reservoir. Upon our investigation though, we found it stashing plenty of seeds in a small cavity near one of the homes with bird feeders set out.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

We also stumbled across a pair of young Mule Deer bucks, foraging in the low willows that were numerous throughout the upper slope of the park. Both looked to be only a year or two old, with only brow antler tines. They didn’t seem particularly disturbed by us walking nearby, which allowed us to notice one particular… anomaly.

young Mule Deer buck

young Mule Deer buck

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 200mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

young Mule Deer buck with growth

young Mule Deer buck with growth

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 290mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/250s|

He didn’t appear to be in any discomfort or distress, but this fairly well “endowed” deer did seem quite unusual. I welcome any suggestions or explanations on what might have caused this particular anomaly to this young deer. My suspicions are that it’s some type of tumor or cyst that’s caused the swelling.

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

Just as we were meeting up with our compatriots, we managed another good few minutes of looking at a couple of American Tree Sparrows feeding right alongside the pathway. These guys tend to be a lot more shy, so it was a bit surprising seeing them hold still with walkers, joggers and going by fairly regularly.

fish jaw and clavicle

fish jaw and clavicle

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 150mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

Another mystery that we have yet to solve was this jaw and clavicle that we found on the edge of the reservoir. Again, I have my suspicions of its provenance, but would appreciate any comments and suggestions about what species was predated here on the edge of the Glenmore Reservoir. For scale, the clavicle was about 6-7 cm across, and the jaws were about 5-6 cm from back to front.

One of the birds that I had the hardest time identifying for the first few years of fall birding were the fall plumage Eared and Horned Grebes. I can’t tell you the number of times I would misidentify one or the other, and it wasn’t until the last year or so that I finally became comfortable telling them apart.

I’m going to leave these photos unlabelled for now, and I invite comments on what the putative IDs are on each of the birds below.

Fall Plumage Grebe 1

Fall Plumage Grebe 1

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1000|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Fall Plumage Grebe 2

Fall Plumage Grebe 2

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 640|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

Fall Plumage Grebe 1 and 2 together

Fall Plumage Grebe 1 and 2 together

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-3 II|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1000|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

When I look at a fall plumage grebe now, I look for four main features. First, I look at the head shape. Eared Grebes have a head that has a high crest at the front of the head, and slopes downward towards the back. Horned Grebes have a head that is more peaked at the back, and slopes up to that peak from the base of the bill. The second feature to look for is the shape of the bill. Eared Grebes have a pointed, dagger-shaped bill, that is ever so slightly curved upwards. Horned Grebes, on the other hand, have a thicker, more bullet-shaped bill, tipped with a very tiny white point.

Next I look at the plumage on the neck, back, and sides. An Eared Grebe has a much darker neck and face, with less distinct transition between white and black, and a more graduated blending between the back and the sides. The Horned Grebe, once again, is very sharply divided white and black on the face, neck, and usually on the back and sides. Lastly, the Eared Grebe has a light orange iris, and the Horned Grebe has a blood-red iris.

South Glenmore Park and the last gasp of winter

Posted by Dan Arndt

While I was away for Sunday morning’s walk, I spent some time on the following Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening visiting the reservoir and seeing what I could see. While I didn’t get any trees full of Tree Swallows, or violet-greens full of Violet-green Swallows, I did manage to get up close and personal with a number of beautiful species around the reservoir on both the north side and south side, and also managed to spot a new lifer, and an incredibly rare bird for Alberta! Unfortunately, I don’t have as much of a story to tell, as I was out by myself and spent quite a bit of time just sitting and waiting for the birds to either come to me, or allow me to get just a little closer.

Glenmore Reservoir

Glenmore Reservoir

In anticipation of knowing I wasn’t going to be around for the weekend walk, I did spend a little time at both North and South Glenmore Park, trying to capture some of the birds that I was certain we would see. On May 2, I headed to the ponds at North Glenmore Park for a little bit, where I found a few more Say’s Phoebes who allowed me much better opportunities for photographs, and a pair of Killdeer who were courting.

Killdeer North Glenmore Park May 2, 2014

Killdeer
North Glenmore Park
May 2, 2014

Say's Phoebe North Glenmore Park May 2, 2014

Say’s Phoebe
North Glenmore Park
May 2, 2014

I thought I’d share a photo of how I spent my Saturday night and Sunday morning, just so you know I wasn’t shirking my duties… it was definitely a challenge to stay warm under these conditions!

Shelter made from two tarps with my sleeping bag inside. Brr.

Shelter made from two tarps with my sleeping bag inside. Brr.

So once my Sunday trials were over and done with, I decided that the sudden squall of snow would make for some great birds at South Glenmore Park, where others had posted photos of hundreds of swallows in a single tree online, while others were reporting huge numbers of Western Tanagers at their feeders and at various parks around Calgary. I did get up close and personal with some swallows, but I also found a few obliging grebes, and a nice flyby of a young Herring Gull to boot!

immature Herring Gull South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

immature Herring Gull
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Western Grebe South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Western Grebe
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Horned Grebe South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Horned Grebe
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

And watching these swallows feeding on the surface of the water was mesmerizing. They would fly back about 100-200 meters, and slowly, against the slight wind, work their way back to the point I was sitting on before peeling back and repeating the process over and over and over again. It was really quite the sight!

Tree Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Tree Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow South Glenmore Park May 6, 2014

Violet-green Swallow
South Glenmore Park
May 6, 2014

The next night I got a call from another friend down at the reservoir who had found Alberta’s 5th (or 6th?) record of a Slaty-backed Gull on one of the sand bars. These guys are rarely seen in Calgary, and usually breed up in the high Arctic, so to get one here is really quite an accomplishment!

Slaty-backed Gull amongst Herring and Franklin's Gulls Glenmore Reservoir May 7, 2014

Slaty-backed Gull (larger, dark mantled gull beside Franklin’s Gull left of centre) amongst Herring and Franklin’s Gulls
Glenmore Reservoir
May 7, 2014

 

And with that, that wraps another week of birding in Calgary’s amazing, and surprising, spring migration!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Sunday Showcase: Snowstorm Fallout 2

There was also lots of action this weekend at South Glenmore Park.

Tamas Szabo took these photos while out with a Friends of Fish Creek birding course group on Saturday morning, May 3, 2014.

IMG_9148

Tree Swallows.

IMG_9194

Tree Swallow.

IMG_9175

Violet-green Swallow, showing white over the eye.

IMG_9151

Cliff Swallow.

IMG_9223

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

IMG_9339

Say’s Phoebe. Several were seen around the reservoir this weekend.

IMG_9314

American Pipit.

IMG_9307

Savannah Sparrow. There were hundreds at the water’s edge.

IMG_9305

Bonaparte’s Gull.

Birding at South Glenmore Park never fails to impress

Posted by Dan Arndt

Before I start this post, I want to mention that this week’s entry is going to include some photos from a visit I took to the park a week ago as well, partly because there was a significant paucity of expected birds here this week, but also to highlight a local rarity that passed through late last week as well. The usual map will also indicate the location of the older photos.

This week’s location was South Glenmore Park, with the goal in mind to see some migrating waterfowl and other associated water birds, and to highlight that with some of the boreal and parkland birds along the north-facing slope of the Glenmore Reservoir. While we did have some incredibly memorable experiences with the latter, the uncannily quiet morning in general led to my decision to include some photos from last week as well.

South Glenmore Park and Glenmore Reservoir

South Glenmore Park and Glenmore Reservoir

Our morning started off on a high note, with one species I don’t know if I’ve ever actually posted a photo of to this blog. While House Sparrows are invasive, and by far my most numerous feeder bird at home, they’re more often heard than seen out on our walks, and even then, not one we get more than four or five times a season, since our walks are in more natural areas. I do think they’re quite an attractive bird overall, and one of the few sparrows where one can easily tell the males and females apart.

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

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

As we scanned the Glenmore Reservoir a few minutes later, it was clear just how quiet the day was going to be. The only bird on the water was a single Common Loon off in the distance. I mentioned in a previous post that the floods this summer flushed all the vegetation, and as such, all of the aquatic life out of the reservoir, meaning that any birds that touch down on the reservoir overnight typically are gone either before or shortly after dawn, as there’s next to nothing around for them to eat. One exception was a Sabine’s Gull that stuck around for three days last week. A hatch-year bird, by all indications, and as such, was incredibly unwary of people. When I took this photo, a group of workers at the Sailing Club to the left of the frame was moving around a few boats, and at the shop a hundred meters or so away, repairs were well underway with the constant din of saws, hammers, and lathes hard at work.

Sabine's Gull - October 10, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Sabine’s Gull – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Early in our walk, the Common Loon was quite far off, but after we scanned the reservoir and began our walk down the slope to the lower pathway, it took off and flew into one of the bays a bit further west, sitting only a few dozen meters off shore.

Common Loon in flight Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Common Loon in flight
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Along the lower pathway, we heard the brief calls of an American Tree Sparrow, and a few Dark-eyed Juncos, but didn’t get very good looks at them. It also seemed that their numbers were far fewer than they had been the week prior, for one reason or another.

 

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

American Tree Sparrow – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Dark-eyed Junco - October 10, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Dark-eyed Junco – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

American Tree Sparrow - October 10, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

American Tree Sparrow – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

The distant Common Loon flight was quite reminiscent of the Sabine’s Gull of the week prior, flying along an almost identical path. In this photo of the Sabine’s Gull, you can see two very distinct field marks for identifying the species: both the jet black primary flight feathers, and the bold, pure white triangle formed by the secondaries and tertials are great identifying marks for the Sabine’s Gull.

Sabine's Gull in flight - October 10, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Sabine’s Gull in flight – October 10, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Our first looks at the Common Loon up close were fairly satisfying, but if you look closely in the photo of it in flight above, it appears to have suffered some damage to its flight feathers, which was pronounced when we were able to view it closer as it spread its wings twice to dry them off. Whether the damage is from an injury, or a late molt, one way or another this little bird is in for a rough few weeks.

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

Common Loon
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

And then came the quiet. For the next twenty or so minutes we walked along, feeding some Black-capped Chickadees, hearing a Golden-crowned Kinglet or two, but seeing almost nothing close on the reservoir. The most excitement we had was watching a Bald Eagle harass an unseen water bird (likely an American Coot) for a good ten minutes before tiring of the chase and perching nearby, just before we headed up and away from the reservoir.

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

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

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

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

Walking along the upper pathway was just as eerily quiet. We passed through at least three small flocks of Black-capped Chickadees on the upper trail before hearing the distinct call of a Pileated Woodpecker, a nice surprise on any walk. It appeared that a Cooper’s Hawk was harassing a small family of Pileated Woodpeckers. No less than three of them were flying back and forth along the upper ridge, until a flock of about ten Black-billed Magpies came in and flushed the hawk away. Unfortunately, the Pileated Woodpeckers stayed well away from the trail we were on, allowing very few photo opportunities.

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

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

And to add insult to injury, that was our last good sighting of anything for the day. We did have a really nice view of the Calgary skyline from the pathway as we approached the parking lot, and a surprise visit by a Common Raven that flew in close to us as we prepared to leave.

Calgary skyline Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/320sec., ƒ/13, ISO 640

Calgary skyline
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/320sec., ƒ/13, ISO 640

Common Raven Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

Common Raven
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

It’s not often you get close looks at Common Loons on the reservoir, so after the group left, I made an attempt to get close to the loon we’d seen earlier, and I was not disappointed. It seemed to not be particularly wary of my approach, and I spent a good 10 minutes with the bird before it swam out away from shore.

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

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

 

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

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

Thanks again for reading! Have a good week, and good birding!

Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding – Week 14 – Weaselhead Natural Area

Posted by Dan Arndt

The Weaselhead Natural Area is located west of the Glenmore Reservoir, in the Elbow River Valley between North and South Glenmore Parks. It seems like only yesterday we started out this Autumn Birding Course at times, but at others, it seems like it’s been almost a lifetime since we were exploring the late summer environs of Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Mallard Point. With Christmas Bird Counts quickly approaching and the lure of longer days ahead as we move into January, it’s the days like today that are a harsh reminder of the realities of winter.

Weaselhead

Weaselhead

As we headed out from the parking lot into the cold, wintry morning, the sky was partially clear, but the beauty of the sunrise was deceptive. At -19 degrees Celsius, with the added wind, it felt like it was -27 degrees Celsius, reminding all of us of the reality of the season, and that we had been incredibly lucky so far!

From the top of the hill we stopped to look for coyotes, white-tailed or mule deer, as well as a Pileated Woodpecker that had been seen at the top of the hill earlier this week, but sadly came up short. At least it was a great view!

Glenmore Reservoir

Glenmore Reservoir

Into The Weaselhead

Into The Weaselhead

Unlike last year, the Pine Grosbeaks have been a little bit less active so far this winter, and the Common and Hoary Redpolls haven’t shown up in as large numbers as we saw last year either, but at least we saw a few of them at the feeders mid-way down the hill. No Pine Grosbeaks or Hoary Redpolls in this batch today though!

Common Redpolls

Common Redpolls

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

Just a little further down the hill, this male Downy Woodpecker seemed completely fearless of our group, flying off only when a group of joggers ran by. The red on his head was so vibrant and bright, it looked orange in the early morning light.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

As we headed down the hill and past the nearly empty feeders at the bottom of the hill, the distinctive upward trilling flight call of Bohemian Waxwings. While this flock was impressive in size, it was nowhere near the size of others we’ve seen here in the past!

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings

Crossing the meadow that is home to nesting Calliope Hummingbirds in the summer, we stopped to take a look at a Northern Goshawk off to the north of us. While I stopped to snap a photo of it, a group of birders behind us in the lead drew my attention to the “first” Northern Goshawk that all three of us “experienced” birders walked right by!

second Northern Goshawk

second Northern Goshawk

Turning back to take a look at the first one our group actually spotted, it took quite an interest in us, and in the sounds of my camera clicking away.

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk giving me the evil eye

Northern Goshawk giving me the evil eye

Northern Goshawk preparing to fly

Northern Goshawk preparing to fly

We took a brief detour into a small grove of spruce trees where we found Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, and even a Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper stopped by just as we were preparing to leave. Unfortunately, the Boreal Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper were a bit too elusive for me, staying high up in the dark overhanging spruce trees.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

After coming out from the grove, we headed straight west, then north along the far western pathway. The trails were incredibly quiet, with only a pair of Common Ravens and a handful of Black-billed Magpies flying overhead, and the usual swarms of Black-capped Chickadees following us for an easy handout. It wasn’t until we came nearer to the river again where we found that flock of Bohemian Waxwings again, but this time from a better angle.

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings

We did end up finally adding two more species to the list as we headed back to the vehicles, but only one that I got a photo of. It was surprisingly similar to the last bird we added to our list last week, both in composition and in timing, this Hairy Woodpecker popped up near the feeders on the way back up the hill!

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

While this was the last course for our Autumn Birders, I suspect many of them have already signed on again for the Winter birding courses, and I’ll make sure to post some updates in the following weeks about the Christmas Bird Counts I’m taking part in this Holiday Season, and of course I’ll post some photos of the birds I manage to add to my life list while I’m down in Mexico while the rest of you freeze up here in the frigid north… err, I mean, while you’re all enjoying time with your families and friends back here in Canada.

Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding Week 7 – South Glenmore Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

The last 48 hours in Calgary have seen a massive shift in temperature and weather. On Friday the temperature took a dive from 15 degrees Celsius down to -5 C, followed by Saturday being interspersed with heavy snow, high winds, and a steady decline in temperature. On Saturday night the temperature took another drop, and upon waking up on Sunday morning, there was a good 2 centimeters of snow accumulation. I knew right away that the birding was going to be great on the Glenmore Reservoir, and I was not disappointed. Nearly 4000 birds were seen out on the water, many of which came in for good, close views, but the majority of them were too far to get usable photos. Luckily for us, some of the less common ones were close enough to see quite well!

By far the majority of the birds were on the west side of the reservoir, but the Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Common Loons and lone Double-crested Cormorant were in the better-protected eastern bay, closer to the Bayview neighborhood.

South Glenmore Park

South Glenmore Park

By far the most numerous birds were the American Coots, which had flocked together overnight to number over 1500 individuals in flocks between 20 and 300. We were greeted at the starting point by this Canada Goose who decided that, for once, it would be appropriate to use the boat launch ramp.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

We also had a perfect vantage point to watch this Bald Eagle and its mate harass one of the larger flocks of American Coots in hopes of picking off a straggler.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Shortly followed by this Common Raven and its mate flying into the spruce above the Glenmore Canoe Club to harass the Bald Eagles who had set down moments before.

Common Raven

Common Raven

As we scanned the flocks of American Coots, we saw interspersed in their numbers a few Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Northern Shovelers, and American Wigeons. The main highlight though were the occasional Horned and Eared Grebes that flocked together and seemed to spent as much, if not more time under water diving for vegetation to fuel their migration south.

Eared Grebe

lone Eared Grebe in non-breeding plumage

At the east side of the Canoe Club, we found this lone Pied-billed Grebe taking refuge near the docks, resting up and staying hidden from predators.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

As we neared the end of the point, we came up right against the largest raft of American Coots, and we even managed to pick out a few juveniles just coming into their adult plumage. In the photo below are at least two American Coots whose heads are light grey as opposed to the fully matured individuals with the black head plumage.

American Coots

American Coots

Moments later a few Trumpeter Swans that we saw on the very far end of the reservoir took off and flew directly toward us. They slowly veered south, but not before getting close enough to allow us to get a few flight shots.

Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swans

Working our way on to the east, these three Eared Grebes thought it would be a good learning experience to show us what their breeding plumage looks like, as opposed to their usual non-breeding plumage we’d seen so far for the day.

Eared Grebes

Eared Grebes

The true highlight of the day though was a group of Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters in the east bay. While I’ve seen White-winged Scoters a bit closer this year on the Reservoir, and Surf Scoters much earlier during the May Species Count here in Calgary, and even closer on the Iona Jetty in Vancouver, it was a real treat to be able to show these uncommon migrants to our group attendees. This is the very best part of leading these groups and why I love birding. These teachable moments and exposure to new birds like this are more than worth the slight discomfort of the cold.

White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoters

Surf Scoters

Surf Scoters

Last Saturday I spent some time down on the Glenmore Reservoir and was able to get much closer to a pair of White-winged Scoters, and managed to snag this shot of an adult male in much better light conditions.

White-winged Scoter - October 13

White-winged Scoter – October 13

And these Surf Scoters are from Iona Jetty in Vancouver, B.C. in early September of this year.

Surf Scoters - Vancouver

Surf Scoters – Vancouver

Have a great week, and good birding!

South Glenmore Park – Birding the Glenmore Reservoir

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

One of the places that I enjoyed watching birds doing what birds do has always been the Glenmore Reservoir. Even before I made the transition from photographer, to nature photographer, to serious birder, it was always somewhere that I could find something interesting and inspiring to shoot. This week was certainly no different.

 

Starting at the parking lot, we headed east along the bank of the reservior to the point, then headed west along the banks before heading up the hill into the woods and returning via a trail that runs parallel to the bank about half way up the hillside, then up to the multi-use pathway before returning to the parking lot and dispersing for the day.

South Glenmore Park - April 29 Route

South Glenmore Park - April 29 Route

A huge number of species had been reported all week, and I was itching to get out there and get some new birds for the year, and get some new species photographed for the blog. While I didn’t see all the ones I had hoped for, we did get some fairly close looks at quite a few great birds.

 

The stretch between the parking lot and the point turned out to be one of the most productive of the morning, giving us looks at at least one Red-necked Grebe, our only Ruddy Duck of the day, and four Common Loons, along with the usual Mallards, American Wigeon, and Lesser Scaup which have been regular sightings for the spring course so far. Out beyond the range of my camera lens were dozens of Franklin’s Gulls, Bufflehead, and even more Lesser Scaup, in impressive numbers, with a few Common Goldeneye mixed in. After reaching the point, we took a look around and spotted a few American Coots near shore, which was another new bird for our group this year.

If you're a black-capped diving duck with a rusty colored neck, you might be a Red-neck...ed Grebe.

Red-necked Grebe

Ruddy Duck (far left) with Mallards

Ruddy Duck (far left) with Mallards

Common Loon

Common Loon

After we passed the the canoe club, we were greeted by a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers, another new year-bird for me!

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Further along the path we decided to pause and take stock of the birds across the shore from our position before we turned and headed into the forested area. Along with a dozen or so Trumpeter Swans, we spotted a half dozen Northern Shoveler, a pair of Greater Yellowlegs, and a huge number of Franklin’s Gulls, as well as getting is fairly close to a contingent of Horned Grebes which posed very nicely for the paparazzi.

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

A few moments later, this Cooper’s Hawk flew overhead carrying something in its claws while being pursued by a trio of American Crows.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

From there, we headed into the woods, where we got a few familiar species onto our list, the Red-breasted Nuthatch and Black-capped Chickadee, but the trail was extremely quiet. We elected to head up to the main multi-use pathway, and we were glad we did! A Savannah Sparrow, Tree Swallows, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow were added to the day list thanks to some of our more keen-eyed and eared attendees! Another heard a lone Boreal Chorus Frog in a nearby water hole, but we couldn’t get very close to it, and it wasn’t until we were once again near the parking lot before we heard them again and decided to investigate. These little frogs are incredibly loud for their size, and here are a few scenes I managed to capture.

Boreal Chorus Frog

Boreal Chorus Frog

And here’s what they sound like:

 

 

 

Spring Birding in South Glenmore Park and the Weaselhead

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

April marks the beginning of the spring session of the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses.  For this three-month session, Dan Arndt and I decided to lead a group at 7:30 a.m. on Sundays.  This might seem a little early to be going out in April, but by May and June the sun will be high before we get under way, and we hope to see and hear more birds than we would later in the day.

Dan is away for the first two weeks, so I will be reporting on what we saw, with photos provided by two of the course participants, Glenn Alexon and Paul Turbitt.

The first outing, on Easter Sunday, was in North Glenmore Park and the Weaselhead.  We spent about an hour checking the west end of Glenmore Reservoir first.  It is still almost completely frozen, with only a few small areas open in the west end, but there were some waterfowl there, notably some impressive Trumpeter Swans.

 Trumpeter Swans landing on the water.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

Common Mergansers:  female (left) and male (right).  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

Canada Goose taking off.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

Then we headed down in to the Weaselhead.  A highlight there was a Townsend’s Solitaire singing from the top of a very tall spruce.

Townsend’s Solitaire.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

Male Downy Woodpecker.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

Female Downy Woodpecker.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

Black-capped Chickadee.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

These chickadees expect to be fed.  Photo by Paul Turbitt.

Northern Flicker.  Photo by Paul Turbitt.

Northern Flicker.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

There were quite a few Red Squirrels around, and a couple of Least Chipmunks were also seen.

Red Squirrel.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

We saw three Red-tailed Hawks overhead, including this dark Harlan’s Hawk.

Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk.  Photo by Paul Turbitt.

We had hoped to see Pine Grosbeaks and American Tree Sparrows at the feeders.  There were none around when we first went through, but on our last stop on the way back we found a pair of each.

Pine Grosbeak.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

Pine Grosbeak.  Photo by Paul Turbitt.

Pine Grosbeak.  Photo by Paul Turbitt.

American Tree Sparrow feeding on the ground.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

Back up by the parking lot, an early Richardson’s Ground Squirrel was the last species of the day.

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel.  Photo by Glenn Alexon.

In all, we saw 28 bird species and four mammals.  The eight groups who went to this area during the first week of the course collectively saw 48 bird species and six mammal species.  The Weaselhead is a great place for spring birding!

To see more of Glenn Alexon’s photos, go to his Flickr page.

To read about one of the Saturday morning course outings, go to David Pugh’s blog.