Tag Archive | ruddy duck

Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding, Week 12 – Return to the Weaselhead

Posted by Dan Arndt

And so another birding course comes to a close, but not without a few nice additions to sound out the closing bell. Our return to the Weaselhead was somewhat out of necessity, as our original plan was to look out over the Glenmore Reservoir, which has typically thawed quite a bit more than this year. Unfortunately, due to the persistent cold in Calgary this winter, and also due to a few weeks of well below freezing temperatures, the reservoir, proper remained frozen, while at least two of the channels of the Elbow River that feed into it were at least somewhat open, allowing for some, but not all, of the expected migrants to return. After a brief foray into the river valley south of the river, and with a few surprises down there as well, we returned to the trails of North Glenmore Park to look out over the reservoir and spot a few other new arrivals.

Glenmore Reservoir and The Weaselhead

Glenmore Reservoir and The Weaselhead

We started our Easter Sunday off with a sermon. Gus began with a speech detailing, in extreme Coles Notes format, how a series of steps brought both us, and Swans, to be here on Earth today, and how our ancestry is shared all the way back to the very first life, some 3.6 billion years ago. It was a great sentiment, and an awesome start to the day. It almost seemed like the speech drew in our main target species for the day, who flew in from the west as we reached the viewpoint, and over to the reservoir.

Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swans

Heading down to the first feeders, we were greeted with yet another sign of spring with a pair of Least Chipmunks foraging under one of the feeders, while Common Redpolls munched away on the seeds above.

Least Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk

With the sounds of American Robins and Northern Flickers calling, we continued on our way, stopping at the feeding stations at the bottom of the hill in search of American Tree Sparrows, which we did manage to find (but were far too quick for me to photograph), but we did spot this immature male Pine Grosbeak singing from the treetops, along with a Hoary Redpoll in a small flock of Common Redpolls!

Immature male Pine Grosbeak

Immature male Pine Grosbeak

Hoary Redpoll

Hoary Redpoll

As we reached the bridge, we were welcomed by the calls of a number of Blue Jays, and in the distance we saw a pair of male Hooded Mergansers on the river.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

On our walk in around the lower paths in the Weaselhead, we found a good number of Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches, but the Bohemian Waxwings were almost entirely absent, with this sole representative flying about here and there, almost in search of his fellows.

Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

As our group pushed on, a few of us held back at a slightly unfamiliar call, which we quickly narrowed down as the call of a Dark-eyed Junco. A few of them were calling from the nearby spruce trees, well below the lone Bohemian Waxwing.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

The rest of our walk was almost entirely absent of photos, both due to the absence of photo opportunities with the birds we saw and heard, but also due to the distances involved. Hopefully this week I’ll receive our loaner Swarovski ATX 85mm Spotting Scope that Swarovski Optik has graciously allowed me to review for them over the next little while. I’ve seen some of the results from this scope when mounted on a Pentax K-5, and I know it will come in handy for those long distance shots. But I digress…

We did happen upon a male Ruffed Grouse drumming near the river bank, and a few of us stayed behind to track it down, spotting it briefly on the log that it was drumming on before it flushed. As we headed back up the hill to look out over the reservoir, we happened upon a larger flock of Dark-eyed Juncos in the trees, a few Boreal Chickadees, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. From the observation points on the ridge, we found a pair of Lesser Scaup, a male and female Hooded Merganser, and even an extremely early male Ruddy Duck in one of the channels.

Next week marks the beginning of our Spring course, and maybe a little bit of a different approach to these blog posts… stay tuned!

Must-see birds: June

June is another great month to go birdwatching, migrants can still be seen during the early parts of the month and the summer residents have started to settle down.  In June, the first fledglings appear, learning to survive and to fly. Our list for the month of June contains a varied list of species, some beautiful and others simply impressive.

1. Ruddy Duck

A small diving duck, the male Ruddy Duck has a black cap, white cheeks, a reddish body and a bright blue bill, rendering it a colourful duck. The female is dark brown above and lighter below with white cheeks and a gray bill. When disturbed, the Ruddy Duck will be more likely to dive then to fly. The Ruddy Duck may be seen at Frank Lake, which is where I see many Ruddy Ducks.

2. Mountain Bluebird

The male Mountain Bluebird is a beautiful sky-blue passerine from the thrush family. The female is brownish grey above and grey below, with some blue on the wings, rump and tail. A truly brilliant bird, the bluebird made it onto the list with ease. Look for Mountain Bluebirds in the Cochrane area or the Water Valley area in June. You can also visit the Ellis Bird Farm near Red Deer which is dedicated to the conservation of many birds, the Mountain Bluebird being one.

3. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a widespread owl throughout much of North America but never fails to impress thanks to its large size and regal composure. It has been described as the fiercest,  most aggressive and most impressive owl of North America. The Great Horned Owl is also the official provincial bird of Alberta. There are many different places to see this large owl, there is currently a nest in the Sikome area of Fish Creek.

4.  Spotted Towhee

A member of the sparrow family, the Spotted Towhee is rather inconspicuous, except in the summer when the male can be found singing his distinctive call; one or two short introductory notes followed by a fast trill. The song may sound like the bird is singing, ‘drink your tea’. The best places to see the Spotted Towhee in Calgary are in the Weaselhead and in Votier’s Flats, in Fish Creek.

File:Pipilo maculatus.jpg

Image courtesy Wikipedia

5. Rufous Hummingbird

Our last bird for the month of June is the Rufous Hummingbird, a bird with fiery colors and a fiery temper. The male has rufous coloring on his back, sides, flanks and tail while his crown is glossy green. The male Rufous Hummingbird is very aggressive and territorial and will use many different displays to protect his territory. Look for this hummingbird in  the Weaselhead or on the Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park, west of the city.

File:Selasphorus rufus on Saltspring Island.jpg

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Which of these birds can you find? Feel free to send us your photos and stories, they may make it up on the blog!

Posted by Matthew Sim