Tag Archive | Great Blue Heron

Clash of the herons

Posted by Matthew Sim

On a recent bike ride of mine to Votier’s Flats in Fish Creek P.P. I came across a juvenile Great Blue Heron in a storm water pond so I got myself into a good position to photograph it. I sat watching and photographing the heron for some time when suddenly, an adult Great Blue flew in.

Juvenile Great Blue Heron

A rather impressive landing…

The adult heron seemed to “own” the ponds and did not take kindly to the young heron fishing in his waters. The adult proceeded to hunch himself up in a bid to frighten the juvenile.

All hunched up, the adult Great Blue proceeded to hurriedly chase the juvenile around the pond until finally the young heron took a running start and flew off.

Taking off with a running start.

Far from being content however, the adult flew after the young one and the two of them disappeared over the hills. I didn’t move from my position however, because I had a feeling that at least one of the herons would be returning. Sure, enough, several minutes later, the adult returned finally content at having chased the young upstart off of his territory.

Finally able to relax and scratch his head.

Update from Texas

Not really about Calgary birding, I thought I might try to squeeze in an occasional post about my experiences down south. Let me tell you, if you haven’t yet experienced Texas birding, you are most definitely missing out.

My family and I moved down to Texas back in August and were greeted by sweltering heat; temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Since then, the temperatures have decreased considerably to a much more comfortable (and bearable) temperature of about 15 degrees Celsius, give or take a few degrees. This mild winter draws many species of avian visitors from up north and we have seen quite a few winter residents.

In my neighborhood, we regularly see Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Loggerhead Shrikes, White-winged Doves, Red-shouldered Hawks, Northern Cardinals, Field Sparrows and both Turkey and Black Vultures.

The neighborhood heron has allowed me to crawl close to get some photos

Since we have been down here, we have made several trips out to local hotspots. Our first trip, in September, was out to Galveston, where we saw some typical species of the Gulf Coast including Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, Snowy Egret, Boat-tailed Grackle, Neotropic Cormorant, Royal Tern, Caspian Tern and Tricolored Heron. We also observed Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone and Magnificent Frigatebird.

A Royal Tern in winter plumage soaring over the Texas Gulf coast

Several other trips out to local parks since then have given us more year-round and winter birds including the likes of Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, White Ibis, Cave Swallow, many species of sparrow and both species of Kinglet.

A trip to Brazos Bend State Park gave us the amazing sight of thousands of blackbirds, Crested Caracaras, Vermilion Flycatcher, both species of Whistling Duck and Roseate Spoonbill.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Our latest trip, to Anahuac NWR, yielded incredible flocks of  Snow Goose, Ross’ Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose all passing by low overhead; we counted thousands of geese! The refuge also had  Anhinga and Harris’ Hawk calling it home.

We have greatly enjoyed Texas birding so far and are looking forward to an exciting spring migration!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Birding the Irrigation Canal

Inspired by Pat’s recent post about birding the irrigation canal in Calgary, I headed down last week to check it out.  I started at the bridge on Gosling Way by the Inglewood Golf Course in southeast Calgary and headed south.  I often bird this area in the summer, but I’ve never been there in the fall after the water flow is stopped in September.  Trout Unlimited did their annual Fish rescue near the Max Bell arena on September 30.  They remove a lot of the larger fish, which would die in the winter, but there are many small fish left  in the canal.  There is still quite a bit of standing water, and some mudflats and exposed mats of vegetation.

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The Canal near the Inglewood Golf Course

On the canal I saw several Mallards and Ring-billed Gulls, one Blue-winged Teal, one Common Goldeneye, and six Greater Yellowlegs.  The yellowlegs would occasionally catch small fish.  Also hunting in the water was a  juvenile Great Blue Heron.  A man who walks there every day told me that the heron had been there daily for about three weeks.  He also saw a lone swan there about two weeks previously – the only one he has ever seen in the canal.  I’m not sure if there was enough water now for a swan to be able to take off.
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Juvenile Great Blue Heron

There was one Merlin in the trees on the west side of the canal, which took a run at a squirrel and then chased off a harassing magpie.  Bald Eagles nest on the golf course and have overwintered here for the past few years, but I didn’t see them that day.  As I walked south (still only about 100 metres from the bridge), I came across a group of eight Common Mergansers and two groups of Hooded Mergansers, twelve in all, including five adult males.

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Hooded Mergansers, conveniently demonstrating 3 different positions of their crests.

On the way back, some new birds had arrived.  There were three Long-billed Dowitchers feeding in the canal (very late migrants), and then a group of six Rusty Blackbirds on the mudflats.  These birds are not very common, and these were the first ones I’ve ever seen.

I returned to the canal on the weekend to get some photos and see what was new.  Most of the same bird species were there, plus one male Redhead.

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Redhead (right) with female Hooded Merganser.

I also walked north from the bridge to the source of the canal north of the Max Bell arena.  There were Mallards, Ring-billed Gulls, Canada Geese, and a muskrat building a lodge in the middle of the canal.  I’m not sure how he’ll make out when it gets colder – he’ll probably have to move to the open water on the river.

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Muskrat at lodge.

The canal is a great place for fall birds, and seems to get some late migrants.  Lately it has been freezing over at night, and there are birds there only on warm afternoons.

The canal stretches east for many miles, so there is a lot to explore.  It is also a good location to do Non-Motorized Transport birding, since there is a paved pathway running alongside it.  In the summer I have ridden my bike all the way to Lake Chestermere (25 kms) and back, birding all the way.