Tag Archive | Long-tailed Weasel

Celebrity Swans and Weasels at Sikome Lake

Posted by Dan Arndt

This week we headed down to Sikome Lake in search of the beginnings of the massive waterfowl flocks that we find along the Bow River each winter. We were not at all disappointed as there seemed to be no end of Mallards and Canada Geese flying overhead, but on top of that, we had a few pleasant surprises throughout this area of Fish Creek Provincial Park.

Sikome Lake - November 23, 2014

Sikome Lake – November 23, 2014

Underneath the paired bridges over the Bow River, we found this immature Tundra Swan, which seemed to have made friends with a few Mallards. While it was a little out of place among the many smaller waterfowl, it didn’t seem too disoriented, and not visibly injured, so we took some photos, had a bit of a chat about why this particular juvenile was a Tundra Swan and not a Trumpeter Swan, and then headed on our way. Hopefully this young bird will head south before the weather turns again!

Long-tailed Weasel Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

immature Tundra Swan
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

immature Tundra Swan Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

immature Tundra Swan
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

We headed over to the area where, for many years, a family of Great Horned Owls has nested, and while we were in the area, we stumbled across another local celebrity. A Long-tailed Weasel in winter plumage was actively hunting and caching food away for the winter, relentlessly picking off every Meadow Vole it can find, as evidenced by the fact that even with our minimal encounter with it, it hunted one down and headed back to its cache again. The entire encounter lasted about five minutes, and left all of us happy and quite satisfied with our looks at this beautiful, and often quite shy creature.

Long-tailed Weasel Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Long-tailed Weasel
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Long-tailed Weasel Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Long-tailed Weasel
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Long-tailed Weasel Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Long-tailed Weasel
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Nearby, we found the adult Great Horned Owl pair in their usual haunt, followed quickly by a pair of Merlins fighting over a meal of relatively unknown identity, which gave us a little bit of concern for the safety of the Long-tailed Weasel, since it would make a fine meal for either of these predatory birds, but with all of the small birds and many voles around, it’s likely much safer than we gave it credit for.

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

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

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

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

We actually watched the Merlins chase each other over, around, and through a patch of poplar trees for a few solid minutes, and when it was all over, each of them had a smaller piece of the original prey item that had been caught by the individual above. The aerobatics and speed of the two birds was absolutely stunning to experience.

We headed back north to follow the river’s edge back down to the parking lot at the Boat Launch, and as we were scanning the large flock of waterfowl on the opposite shore, something startled a nearby Killdeer, one of the few that’s still sticking around despite the cold. Moments later, it was gone, flying upstream with its distinctive flight call and drawing our attention to the skies.

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

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

As its flight call moved into the distance, our attention was drawn to not one, but two Bald Eagles in a nearby tree, watching over the waterfowl on the river, trying to identify any of them that might be injured or otherwise unable to escape the talons of these large, powerful raptors.

female Bald Eagle Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

female Bald Eagle
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 320

female (left) and male (right) Bald Eagles Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@340mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

female (left) and male (right) Bald Eagles
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@340mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Soon enough, the two Bald Eagles flew off in search of their next meal, flushing up hundreds of ducks in all directions, and making a perfect end to another eventful and exciting morning in Fish Creek Provincial Park!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Furry Friday: More Weasels

You have to be amazingly lucky and very quick with a camera to get a photograph of a wild weasel. Glenn Alexon has managed to snap not one but two excellent portraits of local weasel species.

Here is a Long-tailed Weasel seen by the administration building at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary on one of our Friends of Fish Creek birding walks, September 9, 2011.

Long-tailed Weasel

The most widespread weasel in the western hemisphere, Long-tailed Weasels are sleek, long bodied hunters 20-26 cm long, with a tail measuring half to two thirds of their body length. Summer coats vary from rich chocolate to rusty brown, with creamy white to yellowish underparts. Northern populations moult to pure white in winter, but their tail always has a black tip, regardless of coat colour. Southern populations do not change colour in winter.

Living from southern Canada to northwestern Brazil, these animals have the greatest habitat tolerance of any American weasels. They can be found in virtually all habitats, from Arctic-alpine to tropical, and are absent only from true desert and agricultural areas. They are most abundant in open woodland, brushland, and grasses and meadows near water.

Glenn has also managed to photograph a Short-tailed Weasel on the back of Sulphur Mountain in Banff.

short-tailed-weasel

Called Ermine or Stoat in Europe, Short-tailed Weasels measure 17-34 cm.  Their coats are rusty to chocolate brown with white undersides, and the tail has a black tip. Northern populations moult to white in the winter, but retain the black tail tip. In North America, they are smaller than the Long-tailed Weasel with a proportionately shorter tail, and the two species occupy the same geographic areas.

Found throughout the northern hemisphere in North America, Eurasia and Greenland, Short-tailed Weasels occur in a wide range of habitats from Arctic tundra to semi-desert, and sea level to 3,000 m. Unlike the Long-tailed Weasel, the Short-tailed can also be found on farmland and pasture, preying on the abundant rodent population.

To see more wonderful wildlife photos from Glenn, have a look at his Wildlife of Alberta Flickr page, and be sure and see the kissing marmot photo while you’re there!

Did you miss Weasel Wednesday?  See our most popular post ever here!

More On Weasels

On Saturday the Friends of Fish Creek birders were walking on the path just outside the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary when we noticed another weasel – this time a Long-tailed Weasel – already in its white winter coat with a black tip on the tail.  These weasels are about eighteen inches long (45 cm), and about half of that length is the tail.  They are considerably bigger than their relatives, the Least Weasels, which are only about six inches (15 cm) long (see my recent post about Least Weasels here).

Long-tailed Weasel checking us out. Photo by Dan Arndt.

The weasel was aware of us, and it would duck behind bushes or into long grass to try to keep out of sight, while keeping an eye on us.

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Occasionally he would run, then stop…

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

…and have another look at us…

Photo by Wayne Walker

There were many Richardson’s Ground Squirrel holes there, and it looked like he was checking the holes for a meal…

Photo by Wayne Walker

One last run and stop…

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

…then he disappeared through the fence and we didn’t see him again.

See more of Dan Arndt’s photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ubermoogle/ 

Posted by Bob Lefebvre