Posted by Dan Arndt
A week after our visit to Griffith Woods and the weather in Calgary has taken a turn for the better. We were greeted this morning by blue skies, above-zero temperatures, and a mild winter’s day with plenty of birds, which was a nice change from last week!
We took our usual route, heading south from the parking lot to the bridge crossing to the Southland Dog Park, continuing a bit further south to get a good look at some of the waterfowl in the clear morning sunlight.
View from the bridge
Our first birds of the morning were a group of White-winged Crossbills hanging out in the trees near the parking lot, quite likely the same ones that Tim Hopwood was able to get some gorgeous photos of recently.
female or juvenile White-winged Crossbill
As we reached the bridge, it seemed that iridescence would be the word of the day. With the low angle of the sun, and the weather giving us a hint of the warmer spring soon to come, it seemed like every bird was showing off its brightest colors, including this normally drab Rock Pigeon.
The real prize of the day were these Buffleheads, showing off their iridescence that we so rarely get to see in our dull grey winters. It certainly was a beautiful sight to see!
Male Buffleheads in the morning sun
We headed south from the bridge after pausing to investigate some birds near the gazebo at the east side of the river. We spotted a Barrow’s Goldeneye at the far south end, and quite a number of Common Goldeneye as well. This female was kind enough to allow some decent flight shots, and the huge number of Canada Geese and Mallards on the river banks was too good to pass up.
female Common Goldeneye
Canada Geese, Mallards, and a few other waterfowl
We headed back north and followed the river around the bend, stopping a few times to watch some distant Bald Eagles on the far side of the river, but were also treated to some rather unusual activity from a group of Northern Flickers foraging around in the gravel at the edge of the river.
Another great bird to find in Calgary in the winter are the American Crows, which have been overwintering in Carburn Park for a number of years now, in ever-increasing numbers. Our group saw no less than 20 individuals during our exploration of the banks of the Bow River today.
With that said, waterfowl watching is not for everyone, but we did manage to spot a few unusual winter ducks in our excursion. This pair of Redheads gave us quite the views, and we were also treated to a pair of either Lesser or Greater Scaup a bit later on, though the ID is still up in the air on those ones.
A little more common around here, but still a welcome sight, are the Common Mergansers. This group of four males appeared to be trying to woo this lone female, who would have nothing of it, by all appearances.
Common Mergansers fighting for a female
It was clear that spring was getting just that much closer as we saw many birds beginning their preparation for the new breeding season. Northern Flickers were drilling out nest holes, Black-billed Magpies were displaying and pursuing each other, and this pair of male Downy Woodpeckers were flitting about, displaying and attacking each other in a fight for territory.
male Downy Woodpeckers
Next week we head back to Votier’s Flats in search of American Dippers, Wilson’s Snipe, and American Three-toed or Black-backed Woodpeckers.