Tag Archive | House Finch

Birds of Burnsmead, Fish Creek Park

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For the week of April 10-16, the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park birding course groups explored the Burnsmead area of Fish Creek Park, along the river just east of the park headquarters, near the wastewater treatment plant. There are some ponds in this area, as well as a wooded area and the river itself.

Max Ortiz Aguilar went with the group on April 16 and got these photos of some of the birds there.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male), Burnsmead, April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

 Canada Goose, possibly guarding a nest site, April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 320|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Common Mergansers (female in front, male behind), April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 200|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Franklin’s Gull, April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/7.1|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 100|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

This photo and the next shows the pinkish hue these birds have when they arrive here from their wintering grounds off the coast of Venezuela, where they feed on shrimp that contain red pigments. The colour often fades by fall.

Franklin’s Gulls, April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 250|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

House Finch (male), April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 6400|Shutter speed: 1/1000s|

Red-winged Blackbird (male), April 16, 2017. Photo by Max Ortiz Aguilar.

::Aperture: ƒ/6.3|Camera: Canon EOS 6D|Focal length: 600mm|ISO: 100|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

To see more of Max’s photos, visit his website here.

Winter Finches in the Weaselhead

Posted by Dan Arndt

Following our great excursion to Pearce Estate Park, we headed down to the Weaselhead as our first real cold snap started to descend upon Calgary. We did get a bit of a break in the weather by Sunday, and there were a good number of birds out enjoying the sunny day!

Weaselhead - November 22, 2015

Weaselhead – November 22, 2015

The Weaselhead has always been a good location to find the many winter finches that come south from the boreal forest to gorge themselves on the spruce and willow seeds in years when the cone crop up north is in a low cycle, and the crop here is at a peak. In non-finch years, we still will get the usual winter birds, including four species of woodpecker, both Red- and White-breasted Nuthatches, and Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees as great stand-bys.

female Hairy Woodpecker

female Hairy Woodpecker

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

The older trees down in the Weaselhead are great places for the woodpeckers to forage, as they have plenty of nooks and crannies for insects to huddle up for the winter, and plenty of holes and crevices for the birds to spend their cold winter nights out of the elements as well. It’s a great give and take relationship that many of these birds have with their environment.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/500s|

The other side of the coin is that for years, there have been many different individuals who have put up feeders on many of the trees along the main pathway, which have become hotspots for finding the expected winter species, but the occasional overwintering rarity as well, such as American Goldfinches and White-throated Sparrows.

female House Finch

female House Finch

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

While checking out the feeders, this female House Finch flew up and allowed all of us good views of her, which should have been a hint at what we were in for later on in the day! I rarely get good looks at House Finches, either males or females, as they always seem to be actively foraging, flying, or singing high up in the trees with lots of branches in the way.

American Robin

American Robin

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

The warm weather had also allowed for some larger flocks of some of the American Robins that choose to spend the winter here in Calgary. We had fifteen (yes, 15!) of these typical “spring” birds here that day, but that’s not unusual at all. During the Christmas Bird Count each year, we usually record double digits of American Robins throughout the city, usually in some of the warmer microclimates around small creeks, springs, and outflows around the city.

male House Finch

male House Finch

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

female House Finch

female House Finch

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

Down at the bridge that crosses the small channel that feeds into the Elbow River, our day got a lot more exciting. Not only did we get great looks at another female House Finch, but we spotted this male that looks to have quite the Flames themed dye job in his facial markings. These male House Finches that show a little more orange, and sometimes even yellow in their normally red coloration tell us a bit about what they’re eating. The red pigments that House Finches normally show have found their way into the finch by what it’s been eating. Those that are a bit more yellow or orange simply aren’t eating as much of that red pigment in their food, and so look just slightly different to us. The other finches really don’t seem to take notice of the difference either way though.

female or juvenile Pine Grosbeak

female or juvenile Pine Grosbeak and male House Finch

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

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male Pine Grosbeak

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

Along with the House Finches, a fairly large flock of Pine Grosbeaks were in attendance at the bridge, hopping above, below, and all around both sides of the bridge. You can really see just how much bigger the grosbeaks are than their smaller cousins in that first image.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 800|Shutter speed: 1/320s|

Unfortunately, once we headed a little further west from the bridge, everything seemed to quiet down and disappear. It wasn’t really that birdy, but there were at least a few Red Squirrels hanging about to pose for the camera.

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings

 ::Aperture: ƒ/11|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 1600|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

We also found quite a few Bohemian Waxwings on that outing. These birds tend to trickle into the Calgary area as the fall and winter progress, until all of a sudden there are thousands of them all over town!

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immature or female Pine Grosbeaks

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 400|Shutter speed: 1/640s|

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male Pine Grosbeak

::Aperture: ƒ/8|Camera: PENTAX K-5|Focal length: 500mm|ISO: 500|Shutter speed: 1/800s|

On our way back at the bridge and finishing up our day, we found a few more Pine Grosbeaks perched high up in the spruce trees, almost displaying their deep, vibrant colours. I just can never resist taking photos of these guys and gals. They’re one of the best winter birds we get here, and so many birders consider them the iconic “Christmas bird”.

And that was another week out with the Friends of Fish Creek!

Just a couple more weeks of blog updates until the New Year and a whole new Winter Birding Course!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Expecting the unexpected in the Weaselhead

Posted by Dan Arndt

My first visit back to the Weaselhead Nature Area since the Christmas Bird Count in mid-December turned up a much different array of birds. I always seem to find that birding in the Weaselhead, no matter the time of year, comes in fits and starts. In the winter, this is even more pronounced, as there were times where we’d walked for twenty minutes between running into any birds whatsoever, let alone anything less common than a Black-capped Chickadee.

Weaselhead Nature Area February 2, 2014

Weaselhead Nature Area
February 2, 2014

Maybe it’s the abundance of birds at the start and at the end of this walk that sets the tone for the outings here. The first set of feeders were being visited by the usual Black-capped Chickadees, but with them were a trio of Downy Woodpeckers, a male and female Hairy Woodpecker, and half a dozen amorous House Finches, feeding and singing up a storm.

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

House Finch (male)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

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

House Finch (male)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

It was quite a sight to watch the female Hairy Woodpecker pick out a seed from the feeder…

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

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

… and then climb up the tree a short way, place the sunflower seed into the hole, and crack it open with a few rapid taps.

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

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

On our first pass of the feeders at the bottom of the hill, our only real bird of note was this White-breasted Nuthatch, “hank, hank, hank”ing away for no apparent reason, until a second male came into view before the two of them flew off in a scuffle.

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

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

While we headed from there to our usual Boreal Chickadee grove, flock after flock of Bohemian Waxwings flew overhead, and we even had a pair of chance sightings of a Bald Eagle, and then a few minutes later, a Rough-legged Hawk, which bulked up our species count just a bit more for the day.

Upon arriving at the grove, Bob stopped the group abruptly to point out a single Brown Creeper feeding at the base of one of the larger spruce trees and I snapped off a couple of photos of this elusive species. I suppose like most of the other birds we found today, these birds simply don’t care what a groundhog says about the season, they know that it’s time to breed soon, and they need to collect their energy before things get into full swing!

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

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

We did also find a lone Boreal Chickadee after a few minutes of patience, but unfortunately it didn’t stick around long enough to pose for a photo. Shame!

And so began a long, quiet stretch of our walk. While we did have a few flocks of Black-capped Chickadees with the odd White- or Red-breasted Nuthatch thrown in, we observed no Northern Goshawks, no Merlins, no Cooper’s or Sharp-shinned Hawks, and the largest Bohemian Waxwing flock we found deeper into the Weaselhead was a whopping four (yes, 4) birds.

It all paid off though once we began our trip back. While I was bringing up the rear of the group, the lead observers spotted a female Pileated Woodpecker, which we had seen earlier on in the walk, but this time she was much closer. She flew back into some deadfall, out of sight, and while the rest of the group trudged on, I thought I’d try my luck photographing her.

What do you think?

Pileated Woodpecker (female) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Pileated Woodpecker (female)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

And closer still.

Pileated Woodpecker (female) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Pileated Woodpecker (female)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

By the time I reached the feeders again, the group was well ahead of me, and I wouldn’t catch up to them until we reached the end of our walk, but in the time since they had passed the lowermost feeders, a few surprises had moved in, in the form of a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos, a lone American Tree Sparrow, and a surprising first-winter White-throated Sparrow, picking through the seeds on the ground.

WT Sparrow

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

I didn’t tarry too long, but thought I’d pause for a moment at another of the lower feeders, as this male Downy Woodpecker obliged me with a few shots while he finished his brunch.

Downy Woodpecker (male) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Downy Woodpecker (male)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

All in all, another very successful day, and while the light was flat and gray, the birds were accommodating, vocal, and up to no end of entertaining antics! Next week, we head into Bebo Grove in search of the American Three-toed Woodpecker!

Have a great day, and good birding!

 

Digiscoping

Digiscoping is the activity of combining a digital camera with a spotting scope to record images through the scope.  Anyone who has ever looked through a good scope knows how impressive they are at turning distant specks that can’t be identified, even with binoculars, into sharply defined birds.  The combination of big lenses and up to 60X magnification really brings faraway objects into close focus.  Scopes are especially useful for waterfowl far out on lakes, and shorebirds on distant shorelines.

Today’s post features some wonderful photographs taken using digiscoping by local birder and photographer Daniel Arndt.

Eared Grebe and juvenile, by Dan Arndt

Digiscoping can be done with any point-and-shoot or SLR camera (or even a camera phone) coupled with any scope or binocular, but it can very tricky to get to good quality pictures by just holding the two together.  Here is a White-crowned Sparrow I photographed in my yard this week, using my camera phone held up to my 8X42 binoculars:

It’s very hard to tell when you have the shot in focus.  It’s even hard to get on the bird!  You get a better shot with just a good camera:

The same bird, from the same distance, taken with an SLR and 400 mm lens.  Note the leg band.

Here is another shot I took (in the winter) of a House Finch, using a point-and-shoot camera held up to my spotting scope.

However, the birds in these examples were only about twenty feet away.  I could identify them with the naked eye.  If you are dealing with distant waterfowl and shorebirds, the thing to do to get good photographs is to get an adapter that fixes your camera to the scope.  Dan Arndt’s outfit, pictured below, consists of :

Pentax K-5 camera with T-mount adapter
Meade ETX-90EC 90mm Matsukov-Cassegrain Telescope
Meade #844 Advanced Field Tripod
Meade Electronic Focuser
Meade MT-64 Camera Adapter
Pentax 39892 Waterproof Remote Shutter Release

Photo by Dan Arndt

Here are some of the amazing photos Dan took this summer at Frank Lake using his digiscoping rig.

White-faced Ibis with juvenile, and American Golden-Plover, by Dan Arndt

Lesser Yellowlegs by Dan Arndt

American Avocet by Dan Arndt

Black Tern by Dan Arndt

Black-crowned Night-Herons by Dan Arndt

American Golden-Plovers by Dan Arndt

You can see all of Dan’s digiscoping pictures on his Flickr page here, and while you’re there, explore all of his other excellent photographs as well.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Photo Feathers: House Finch

When I first saw this bird I thought it was a Purple Finch.  It has raspberry-red plumage that extends over the top of the head and onto its back like a Purple Finch.  In all other respects it looks like a House Finch, so it is probably just another male House Finch with unusual colouration.

 

Posted by Bob Lefebvre