Tag Archive | Hooded Merganser

Exploring the Irrigation Canal with the Friends of Fish Creek

Posted By Bob Lefebvre

The fall session of the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park birding course began in early September. In the first week of October, the groups birded along the irrigation canal in SE Calgary, from Gosling Way to 50 Avenue. The canal is drained each year at the end of September, and the first couple of weeks of October are excellent for waterfowl and other birds feeding there.

On October 8, 2017, Max Ortiz Aguilar went with his Sunday morning group and took some excellent photographs. (All photos taken by Max Ortiz Aguilar, Irrigation Canal, Calgary, October 8, 2017.)

One of the star birds here in the fall is the Hooded Merganser. There are usually quite a few in the canal, and you can get good close looks.

Hooded Merganser (male).

Two male and four female-type (female or immature) Hooded Mergansers. The right-hand bird looks like a young male.

The most common shorebird in the fall is the Greater Yellowlegs. Lessers are also seen, but in low numbers. Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are usually around, and sometimes you find Dowitchers and even American Golden-Plovers.

Greater Yellowlegs.

Greater Yellowlegs group.

The most common waterfowl here, as on the Bow River, are Canada Geese and Mallards. You can usually see a few hundred on this stretch of the canal. You can also find Northern Shovelers, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and Double-crested Cormorants feeding in the canal. There are also huge numbers of Ring-billed Gulls, plus Franklin’s Gulls and sometimes uncommon migrant gull species.

Canada Geese and Mallards.

Canada Goose in flight.

American Wigeons are often seen. By this time the adult males are transitioning to breeding plumage, or have already done so.

American Wigeons (females).

You can find quite a few songbird species in the treed areas (especially along the golf course). The chickadees are rather tame.

Black-capped Chickadee.

Owls aren’t usually seen right along the canal but the group got lucky this day.

Great Horned Owl.

Mule Deer can be seen occasionally anywhere along this stretch of the river. You may also see Eastern Gray Squirrels, Coyotes, Red Foxes, Beavers, Muskrats, and American Mink.

Mule Deer.

Finally, the canal is a good place to find the scarce Rusty Blackbird in the fall. You can see them turning over leaves at the water’s edge.

Rusty Blackbird.

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

If you are interested in joining the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses, see this page. The Winter session begins on January 8, 2018, and they are now taking registrations.

 

Waterfowl of the Foothills

Here are some photos of waterfowl taken by Michael Kim in the Canmore area this spring.

Hooded Merganser, Exshaw, May 1, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Hooded Mergansers, Exshaw, May 2, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Great Blue Heron, Lac des Arcs, May 6, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Great Blue Heron, Lac des Arcs, May 6, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Ruddy Duck, Exshaw, May 1, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Red-necked Grebe, Exshaw, May 1, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

 Bufflehead, Exshaw, May 3, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Northern Shoveler, Lac des Arcs, May 22, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

 Horned Grebe, Exshaw, April 1, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Canmore, April 2, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Canmore, April 4, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Calendar – June 2017

Events & Lectures of interest to Calgary birders.

Hooded Mergansers, Exshaw, May 2, 2017. Photo by Michael Kim.

Nature Calgary Field Trips: Various dates and times. See this page. Some trips require registering in advance.

Thursday June 8, 7 pm. Alberta Wilderness Association. Living With Wildlife Town Hall.

Saturday June 24, 6 am to 11:30 pm. Canada 150 BioBlitz in the Weaselhead. Volunteers needed for birding walks at 6 am and 8:30 am. Events continue through the day.

Autumn Birds of Bebo Grove

Posted by Dan Arndt

It feels great to be back leading the Friends of Fish Creek walks on my days off here in Calgary! Our trip the last week of September took us to Bebo Grove in Fish Creek Provincial Park. This visit is a little earlier in the season than usual, but we were in search of a Long-eared Owl that had recently been seen there. While the owl didn’t make an appearance for any of us, we did see a whole lot of other great birds to make up for it!

Our route was a little bit different than our normal trips here, taking us along a small stream channel we’ve visited often for American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers later in the season, and have had some luck with other owls many times in the past. We did find both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers working away on trees, pecking away to their hearts content.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

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Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

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We stopped in for a visit to Bob, the leucistic Red-breasted Nuthatch that has been resident in this patch for a number of years now. During our brief visit we also heard the calls of a good number of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a couple of Brown Creepers, and even the odd Boreal Chickadee in the mixed flock before heading over across the creek.

A quick stop to look and listen for some birds produced this handsome Cooper’s Hawk, which immediately caused a commotion among the songbirds nearby as it dove down into the brush and out of sight within moments.

backlit Cooper's Hawk

backlit Cooper’s Hawk

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From here, we headed deeper into the park and ultimately emerged near the Marshall Springs runoff ponds. The tell-tale chip notes of Savannah, Lincoln’s, Song, and a Clay-colored Sparrow were heard readily, but we spent over half an hour just trying for the briefest of looks at these skulky, cautious fall migrants. Thankfully these Ring-necked Ducks were not anywhere near as shy, and posed for us out in the warm, bright sunlight.

Ring-necked Ducks

Ring-necked Ducks

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These ponds turned out to be some of our best spots to see any of the birds we were to see, as we had another good view of a Cooper’s Hawk flying towards the east, quite possibly the same individual we saw earlier.

Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

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Cooper's Hawk in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

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In addition to the hawk, we had brief flybys of a late season Belted Kingfisher, and got distant looks at a pair of Hooded Mergansers on the easternmost pond. These beautiful waterfowl are always such a treat to see!

male Hooded Merganser

male Hooded Merganser

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With the excitement of the ponds behind us, we headed back down towards the starting point and had a fairly quiet trip back. We did get a few more looks at another Boreal Chickadee foraging up in the spruce trees lining the pathway.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

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All in all, it was a beautiful autumn day. The birds were as cooperative as one could expect this late in the year, and I’m looking forward to the next outing already!

Good birding!

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.