Tag Archive | Rusty Blackbird

Sunday Showcase – Rusty Blackbird Blitz!

Posted by Dan Arndt

The Rusty Blackbird used to be a common sight in Alberta, ranging from the prairies to the boreal forest, and often a nice splash of color in a mixed flock of migrating blackbirds both in spring and fall. Over the past 50 years, their population has declined between 85 and as much as 99% by some estimates, and is a particularly vulnerable species at risk, not only in Alberta, but all over North America. It is with great pleasure that I note that eBird.org has organized yet another citizen science project in order to better understand the ecology, migration hotspots, and to develop some strategies to better accommodate this highly vulnerable species.

The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz opened March 1, 2014 all over North America, and the usual target dates for spotting them in our area are between April 1 and mid-May. The goal is to get as many birders to go out, as they usually would anyway, and report the observations to eBird under the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz survey type.

Read more about this project here: International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, and enjoy the one and only photo of this species that I have to date, taken at Eagle Lake in the fall of 2012.

female Rusty Blackbird Eagle Lake October 12, 2012

female Rusty Blackbird
Eagle Lake
October 12, 2012

Carburn and Southland Park Christmas Bird Count

This year, I also did the Christmas Bird Count; I was assigned the S1 route, encompassing both Carburn and Southland Park. We started the morning birding from the Eric Harvie bridge in Southland, right beside the dog park, before splitting up, 2 groups going south along the river (one on each side) and 2 groups going north along the river. The day was off to a good start as we observed 2 adult eagles and 2 immature eagles flying low overhead; the rising sun was beautiful, adding to the good beginning and silhouetting the many ducks and geese on the Bow River.

We observed thousands of Mallards, Common Goldeneyes and Canada Geese throughout the day with several hundred Buffleheads as well. There were also several Barrow’s Goldeneyes in these waterfowl flocks.

The Common Goldeneyes weren’t quite as numerous as the Mallards however they were still present in large numbers.

We continued to walk further down the river, spotting Redpolls, plenty of waterfowl, Killdeer, magpies and… RUSTY BLACKBIRD!!! As we were hiking along the river, we flushed up a brownish-black bird about the size of a Robin from the bank. It landed nearby at the top of a poplar where we all got good looks at it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my photographs of this species! This blackbird, is an unusual bird in Calgary, explaining, perhaps, my excitement at the sighting (also, this was only my second time seeing this species).

We headed back to the meeting spot, the Eric Harvie Bridge, where we saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk and discovered that another group had found an American Wigeon. We then headed to our next stop, Tim Hortons! After warming up and getting refreshments at Tim Hortons, we headed out near the Glenmore bridge, where at a pullout, we walked out and did some more birding, turning up a Killdeer and a Hairy Woodpecker.

The next and final stop for our group was Carburn Park. Our goal at Carburn, was to find an American Pipit  that had been reported here a little while earlier. Though we couldn’t agree to the location where this bird had been seen, we did manage to find it. This happens to be the first pipit recorded on the Calgary CBC since its beginning, 59 years ago.

Also in Carburn, we found a pair of Great Horned Owls, that were extremely well camouflaged against the tree branches they were perched on, several more Barrow’s Goldeneyes and another juvenile eagle. I decided to head home early and only found out later that the rest of the group had also found a Northern Pintail and a Wood Duck in Carburn. I birded around my neighborhood, which was inside our count circle, and managed to add both species of crossbills, a robin and a Merlin to our list, among other species.

The pipit and the Rusty Blackbird were definitely the highlights of the day for me, however they were only two of the 33 species and 7924 individuals recorded by 10 counters in this particular area. Here are the complete results:

Canada Goose, 1500; Wood Duck, 1; American Wigeon, 1; Mallard, 3000; Northern Pintail, 1; Bufflehead, 150; Common Goldeneye, 2800; Barrow’s Goldeneye, 20; Common Merganser, 20; Bald Eagle, 5; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Merlin, 1; Killdeer, 5; Rock Pigeon, 25; Great Horned Owl, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Hairy Woodpecker, 2; Northern Flicker, 3; Black-billed Magpie, 125; American Crow, 3; Common Raven, 12; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; American Robin, 1; Dark-eyed Junco, 1; Rusty Blackbird, 1; House Finch, 4; Red Crossbill, 12; White-winged Crossbill, 26; Common Redpoll, 25; House Sparrow, 110; American Pipit, 1.

Posted by Matthew Sim

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.