Tag Archive | waterfowl

North Glenmore Park and the Weaselhead

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Since January 2012 Dan Arndt and I have led the Sunday morning group in the Friends of Fish Creek birding course, at 9 am in the Fall and Winter session, and at 7:30 am in the Spring. As the course has gained popularity, more and more groups have been added. There are now over 200 people registered for the Spring session, so there are eighteen different groups that go on the field trips each week. As more groups have been added there is a need for more leaders, so although Dan will continue to lead at 7:30 on Sundays, I have moved to the 9 am group.

Dan will continue to report here about what they see on his outings, with a one-week delay (see last week’s post Spring Begins at Sikome Lake). But on April 13 he was away, so I have arranged to use the photos taken that day by George Best on our group’s outing, and keep you up to date on what’s happening with the birds of Calgary.

We met at the Weaselhead parking lot and carpooled to the westernmost lot in the adjacent North Glenmore Park, to scope out the reservoir for migrants.  For such a late date, there was still a lot of ice on the reservoir, with the only open water being on the Elbow River and the extreme west end of the lake where the river enters it. There were quite a few species of waterfowl present, and this pair of Canada Geese stood out right away due to the contrast in their colours.

Canada Goose - occidentalis

Canada Geese. All photos by George Best

Among the numerous Mallards and Common Goldeneyes we spotted a pair of Redheads.

Redheads

Redheads and Mallards.

As we scanned the water from the high ridge in North Glenmore Park, we were treated to the sight of four Trumpeter Swans which suddenly appeared and flew silently in a line right in front of us at close range. They were so close and it happened so fast that George could not get a photo with his big lens. Instead, here is a shot of Mallards in flight. A more common sight in these parts but still a beautiful bird.

mallard

Mallards.

We had a few other notable birds on the reservoir, including Canvasbacks, Hooded Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, and the first two Greater Yellowlegs of the season.

Next we headed to the east end of the reservoir near the Canoe Club to check out the stormwater ponds there. Several House Finches gave us good looks right by the parking lot.

House Finch

House Finch, male.

On the way to the ponds we spotted this White-tailed Jackrabbit, and George got a great shot as he stood to size us up. Down in the Weaselhead we sometimes see Snowshoe Hares but up in South Glenmore Park it is more common to see these.

Jack Rabbit

White-tailed Jackrabbit.

There wasn’t much on the ponds but the birds are closer so they make good subjects.

Bufflehead

Bufflehead, male.

Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye, male.

Killdeer1

Killdeer.

Finally, we headed down into the Weaselhead proper. At the beginning of the walk we added two more mammals, Richardson’s Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk. For most of the participants it was the first ground squirrel of the year. For George, who is from the U.K., it was a life mammal, so he made sure to get some close-ups

Richardsons Ground Squirrel

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel.

Richardsons Ground Squirrel4.JPG.NEF

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel close-up.

Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk.

The only birds on the Elbow River were these two sleeping Common Mergansers.

Sleeping Mergansers

We saw one Dark-eyed Junco and a few American Tree Sparrows, but these were too flighty to stay for photos. One problem we have with our Sunday walks is that the parks are very busy with bikers, runners, dog-walkers, etc. We stood still to try to get good looks at the Tree Sparrows and Juncos as they fed, but all the traffic on the path kept flushing them. It is a lot quieter on some of the weekday morning walks.

We had heard Blue Jays calling many times and finally caught up with one by the feeders.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay.

Also at a tin-can feeder was this male Hairy Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker, male.

We didn’t have time to go too far into the Weaselhead, but we’ll be back when the Hummingbirds are here to see it again.

Dan will report on the Easter Sunday outing on Monday. Until then, Good Birding!

Watching Waterfowl at Beaverdam Flats

Posted by Dan Arndt

After a nearly complete washout last week, with only a handful of species and no real photo opportunities, this week was only slightly better. The lack of large numbers of waterfowl on the Bow River at Beaverdam Flats, the dropping temperatures, and the constant wind seemed to keep the birds away. The icy conditions of the main pathways also put a damper on things, and even gave me a bit of a start, leaving me with a broken lens hood and a bit of a sore hip early on in the walk. Not to worry though, my camera, lens, and body are all A-OK!

Beaverdam Flats - January 26, 2014

Beaverdam Flats – January 26, 2014

The morning began with some fairly diffuse light and a bitterly cold wind out of the north, but not bitter or cold enough to keep us from scanning a group of waterfowl at the water treatment plant outfall. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t pick out the Redhead, American Wigeon, or even the domestic or leucistic Mallards that had been seen by other groups this week. Maybe they had decided it was a little too cold for them and stayed home! We did get some good looks at a few Canada Geese in flight, some of which were missing some flight feathers, and others were just showing off.

Canada Geese and Mallards Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Canada Geese and Mallards
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Canada Geese Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Canada Geese
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

I had hoped to get some Bald Eagle shots for the blog while we were here, as there were as many as 12 Bald Eagles seen at one time throughout the week, but they too were noticeably absent. We did get more than a few Common Ravens, and I find it interesting how it’s nearly impossible to get the two-toned appearance of the raven’s flight feathers to show up in anything but the most diffuse light. I also found it interesting to note just how worn the feathers of this particular bird are, which I only really took note of after downloading my shots this afternoon.

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

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

As the morning progressed, our luck seemed to improve, and we headed away from the river into the stands of tall poplar and aspens. We did manage to find a pair of Northern Flickers, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a few Downy Woodpeckers, along with an assortment of White-breasted Nuthatches and a few Black-capped Chickadees, but all in all, it was even quieter away from the water.

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

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

male Downy Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

male Downy Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

As we returned to the water’s edge, the light was progressively improving, and allowed some higher speed flight shots of the always gorgeous Common Goldeneye.

Common Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Common Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

While we were able to watch a particularly fun interaction between a 4th-year Bald Eagle and a flock of about seven Common Ravens and a pair of Black-billed Magpies, they were a little too far off and amongst some challenging terrain to get any usable shots. It was quite nice though, to get a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees fluttering about the pathway on our return to the parking lot, posing quite nicely as we snapped away with our cameras.

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Have a great week, keep safe, and good birding!

Refinery Park and Lower Beaverdam Flats – An Eagle’s Paradise

Posted by Dan Arndt

Well… maybe paradise is overselling it a bit, but we did a good show from a few Bald Eagles on our outing this past Sunday! Three days this week the outings had been cancelled due to extreme weather and extreme cold. Unheard of for the hardiest of our leaders, but everyone has their limits! Unfortunately, the weather early this morning kept most of our participants away, so we headed off with three leaders and one hardy participant into the cold and the wind.

Refinery Park and Lower Beaverdam Flats

Refinery Park and Lower Beaverdam Flats

What started off as a cold, blustery and grey day turned into some amazing blue skies, much warmer weather than we’ve seen all week, and some great opportunities to get some action shots. Needless to say though, it took a little bit for everyone to get going, including some of the first groups of birds we saw. This backwater along the Bow River was completely full of mostly Canada Geese and a few Mallards for good measure.

Canada Geese in the backwater Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Canada Geese in the backwater
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Even the Bald Eagles looked completely unimpressed in the cold and the wind. The expressions of utter contempt for both us, and the hundred or so waterfowl just below them in the water, have led me to nickname these two as Hekyll and Jekyll.

Hekyll and Jekyll (immature Bald Eagles) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Hekyll and Jekyll (immature Bald Eagles) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Hekyll and Jekyll (immature Bald Eagles) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Hekyll and Jekyll (immature Bald Eagles) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

As we turned back to follow the river bank southward, things started to pick up. The sun was making a serious attempt to break through the meager cloud cover to the south and east, and some of the birds began to show a few more signs of life. A third immature Bald Eagle was being chased (but not quite harassed) by the Common Raven keeping a keen eye on it from below.

immature Bald Eagle and Common Raven Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

immature Bald Eagle and Common Raven
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

As the wind picked up a little, it caused the birds to begin to fly up-river, allowing some half-decent flight shots. Along with the wind picking up, the sun finally began to break through, and provided some great light for the remainder of our walk. First up, a male and female Common Goldeneye, flying by within a few minutes of each other.

male Common Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

male Common Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

female Common Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

female Common Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

A moment later, a female Barrow’s Goldeneye flew by, and a male of the same species broke away from the Canada Geese at the far shore and made his way into the middle of the river shortly after.

female Barrow's Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

female Barrow’s Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

male Barrow's Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

male Barrow’s Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

This group of Buffleheads touched down in the water about halfway into the river, showing off their bubble-gum pink legs. That’s one lucky male Bufflehead getting the pick of mates this winter!

male and female Buffleheads Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

male and female Buffleheads
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

And last but not least, this male Common Merganser flew by quite close, showing off his bright red bill and a hint of green in the head as the sun began to shine.

male Common Merganser Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

male Common Merganser
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

We continued south along the river without seeing too much else of note, but shortly after we turned back on one of the inner pathways, this subadult Bald Eagle flew by behind us and alighted in a tree, closely tailed by a flock of scavenging Common Ravens, looking for whatever scraps they could manage to steal from the wary bird of prey.

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch (plus a harassing Common Raven) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch (plus a harassing Common Raven)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch (plus a harassing Common Raven) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch (plus a harassing Common Raven)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

A couple of Black-billed Magpies even came in for a piece of the action. Or maybe just a piece of the Mallard.

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch (plus a few scavengers) Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 500

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch (plus a few scavengers)
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@150mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 500

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch  Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

subadult Bald Eagle with Mallard for brunch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

If there’s one thing I love most about winter birding in Calgary, I’d have to say that above the Snowy Owls, above the winter finches, and even above the odd vagrants we’re gifted with every couple of years, I certainly love seeing the influx of Bald Eagles the most. One of the groups this week in Beaverdam Flats recorded no less than ten (yes, 10) Bald Eagles in a single outing. While it’s not quite the same as the incredible numbers seen on both east and west coasts in the height of the season, it’s still an incredible treat to us landlocked city-slickers to have such unrestricted access to these regal and immensely powerful raptors.

That brings us to the end of our Autumn Birding Course for 2013. We’ll be picking back up in January again, but between now and then I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on the Christmas Bird Counts I’m taking part in, as well as the various travels that I happen to find myself on this holiday season!

Thanks again for reading, and good birding!

Beaverdam Flats is a breath of fresh air

Posted by Dan Arndt

Our second-to-last adventure for the Autumn Birding Course brings us back to Beaverdam Flats for the first time since the floods of June 2013. With both bridges washed out and still awaiting repair, we were confined to the upper pathway, and a return stroll lower down turned up most of the expected species, though once again we were entirely bereft of the many winter finches that were all too abundant last year. To top it off, the drop in the number of waterfowl from previous years was also astonishing. In the past, it wouldn’t be unheard of to see over twenty-thousand (yes, 20,000) individual birds along this stretch of river, while this year numbers barely crept up to the two-thousand mark.

On the bright side (pun totally intended), it wasn’t too long into our walk that the clouds broke up and allowed for some bright, beautiful blue skies overhead, and some very nice low angle sunlight to show off the brilliant iridescence of some of our more common waterfowl. The Mallards were courting, the Goldeneyes and Buffleheads were beginning to flock together, and even the geese seemed all-too-excited to put on a show.

Beaverdam Flats - Part 1!

Beaverdam Flats – Part 1!

This week we had a much different type of walk than our usual excursions. Only a handful of passerines were about for the most part, and the first real highlight of our morning was this flock of House Finches hanging out well above the bird feeders near the park.

House Finches Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

House Finches
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

House Finch pair Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

House Finch pair
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

As we walked along the upper ridge, flock after flock of both Mallards and Canada Geese flew in the distance, some coming in from elsewhere on the river, others flying off to the nearby fields to fill their bellies in preparation for another cold night. Our high vantage point didn’t really allow much in the way of close-ups, and it wasn’t until we descended the hill at the south end that we got right up close to the hundreds of birds on the river.

This male Common Merganser seemed to enjoy our company, as a few times along our walk he would fly in, feed for a bit, and drift downstream, only to fly back parallel to us again a few minutes later.

male Common Merganser Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

male Common Merganser
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

male Common Merganser putting on the brakes Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

male Common Merganser putting on the brakes
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

And then the clouds broke and the sun began to shine down on the river, showing off the amazing iridescence of the Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, and even our friendly male Common Merganser a little later on!

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

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

Common Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Common Goldeneye
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

male Common Merganser Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

male Common Merganser
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

But that is not to say that there weren’t charismatic female birds close by as well! This female Common Goldeneye was one of a dozen or so that had us pausing and reviewing our field guides, considering what exactly the differences between a female Common and a Barrow’s Goldeneye were…

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

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

As we turned away from the river and headed back up the hill, we were given a great send off by a few large flocks of Canada Geese as a Bald Eagle flew in the distance, flushing them up off the river.

Canada Geese Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Canada Geese
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Canada Geese in flight Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Canada Geese in flight
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

After we reached the top of the hillside again, we headed north, viewing the park itself, and while there weren’t too many birds to see, we surveyed what the park had suffered from the floods, and saw quite a bit of evidence of both human and animal activity down in the park, which we’ll be investigating in further detail next week. In proper fashion, we had a nice send-off from this Northern Flicker just before we turned to head back to the starting point, and back home for the day.

Northern Flicker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Northern Flicker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Have another great week, keep warm, and good birding!

 

Another Snowy Sunday in Fish Creek Provincial Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

I wish today’s headline was in reference to us finding a Snowy Owl, rather than the dreary weather we seem to be afflicted with on our Sunday walks this year, but sadly, that is not to be. We awoke once again to fresh, fluffy snow, moderate winds, and a dreadfully overcast sky.There are very few advantages to this type of lighting, and at the very least, the direct light along with the reflected light from the snow leads to much more even light hitting the subjects… but I digress, this is a birding blog!

Fish Creek Provincial Park Headquarters - just a taste of Sunday's weather Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 800

Fish Creek Provincial Park Headquarters – just a taste of Sunday’s weather
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 800

The route we took today is one I don’t believe I’ve ever taken with this group. Starting at the Fish Creek Provincial Park Headquarters, we headed west to the Bow River into the Burnsmeade area, and walked all the way over to the now defunct footbridge that connects to the neighborhood of McKenzie Lake.

Sunday's route from the HQ to Burnsmeade

Sunday’s route from the HQ to Burnsmeade

We searched around the headquarters building in each and every spruce tree nearby for the resident Great Horned Owls, but sadly came up empty. With the wind still whipping and snow still falling, it was a challenge just to find the few Downy Woodpeckers and Black-capped Chickadees that we did, but in the end we gave up the effort and headed over to the Bow River.

View from the Ranche Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/13, ISO 125

View from the Ranche
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/13, ISO 125

male Downy Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

male Downy Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

On the walk over to the river it was clear that winter has really hit home. The flocks of waterfowl were constantly overhead, and throughout the day, with final numbers at nearly ten thousand ducks and geese in the course of the day. One of the reasons they seemed a little flighty was because of this beauty.

adult Bald Eagle Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

adult Bald Eagle
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

A couple surprises were found among the nearby ducks on the river in the form of a pair of male Barrow’s Goldeneye, and a small group of Lesser Scaup, always nice to see this early in the winter.

Barrow's Goldeneye Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Barrow’s Goldeneye and Mallard
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Lesser Scaup, Canada Goose and Mallards Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Lesser Scaup, Canada Goose and Mallards
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

A few of the birds seen earlier in the week had moved on as the snow came in hard, such as a Western Grebe and a pair of Wilson’s Snipe near the water treatment outfall, but in our search for them there, we spotted this Common Raven with an unusual object in its mouth. I’m still not quite sure what it is that’s being carried in its bill, perhaps some fish bones?

Common Raven Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

Common Raven
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

On the river a little further down, some movement in a low bush along the bank caught our attention, which ended up being this lone American Tree Sparrow, who hammed it up for the camera while chomping down on grass seeds still abundant on this section of riverbank.

American Tree Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

American Tree Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

American Tree Sparrow Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

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

Interrupting my intimate photo session with this little fellow was an always rare sight within city limits, this Prairie Falcon, who came bombing in not once, but twice high overhead, giving us excellent, albeit brief, views of its diagnostic characteristics in the form of the clean malar (or moustachial) stripe, dark wing/arm pits, and fine barring on the underwing, aside from the overall shape and flight pattern typical of all falcons.

Prairie Falcon Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Prairie Falcon
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

 

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

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

We did have a number of very close fly-bys of many Canada Geese, but none that had quite the impression of this little flock. Doesn’t that bottom right goose look just that much smaller and shorter-necked than the rest of the birds in this flock? Canada Geese, as well as Cackling Geese, have a number of subspecies, and just in this flock it’s possible that there may be three subspecies, though that’s never been my forte. Give me a few years and maybe I’ll pick it up though, once I’ve mastered gulls and warblers!

Canada Geese Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

Canada Geese
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 100

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

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

Speaking of gulls, there was no shortage of Ring-billed Gulls on the river, and while they do tend to stick around well into late November, these may be the last ones we get to see on our walks this year, depending on the weather. While the Ring-billed Gulls were the most common, Herring Gulls gave a good showing as well, and I’m not used to seeing them fly, let alone fly this low to the ground and at just the right angle. I do believe this is my first decent flight shot of a Herring Gull. Odd, for such a common bird in these parts, but that’s why birding is a new adventure every time.

Herring Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

Herring Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 125

This photo was taken at the far end of our walk, just before we turned to head back. Along this final stretch we discussed a little bit about the damage that the flood had done to the area, and just how high the water level had been during the height of it. At times, our tallest participant, at 6’4″, would have still been at least a foot under water, and there were trees and bushes exhibiting layer upon layer of trapped debris in their upper boughs.

 

Bridge over troubled waters Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 100

Bridge over troubled waters
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 100

Damage from the flood - note the strings of debris in the branches of nearly every tree in this frame Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm 1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 125

Damage from the flood – note the strings of debris in the branches of nearly every tree in this frame
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 18-250@18mm
1/80sec., ƒ/16, ISO 125

As our morning neared its end, we did manage another two species to add to our list. First, this female Hairy Woodpecker flew in over our heads to peck away at this damaged tree.

Hairy Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Hairy Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 640

Lastly, this very late season Bonaparte’s Gull was readily gleaning insects and other food particles from the surface of the water. Our first pass took us right by him with barely a glance, and it wasn’t until our second pass that most of us really were able to see it up close and person,

Bonaparte's Gull Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Bonaparte’s Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

And that’s all for this week! Thanks for reading, and good birding!

A fine fall day for birding at the Western Irrigation Canal

Posted by Dan Arndt

One of the highlights of the fall season is the exploration of the Western Irrigation Canal pathway, and this year’s visit was no exception. With warmer temperatures than we’d had the past week, clear skies, and a good variety of birds, it was a hit with the relatively small group we had.

Western Irrigation Canal

Western Irrigation Canal

To my eyes, the most persistent bird through the trip was the Greater Yellowlegs, though as we began the walk, the light didn’t particularly give us good opportunities to get them at their best, so it took a while before the shutter clicks and long, lingering looks at potentially the last shorebirds of the season really began in earnest. While earlier in the week there had been a good variety of waterfowl, our diversity was relatively minimal, with these Green-winged Teal showing off their namesake, and their vibrant colors.

teal

female Green-winged Teal
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Another of the surprisingly attractive birds was this young European Starling, showing off a little iridescence in the early morning light. While they’re also on their way out of the area, they’ve really come into their beautiful, bright, and striking colors. It’s been said that if these birds were rare, people would come from miles around just to get a look at them!

European Starling Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

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

As we entered the wooded area near the south end of the canal pathway, we heard the chip notes of a few sparrows, juncos, and even a Yellow-rumped Warbler or three, and were greeted with one distinct sparrow, and one bird that remained a mystery for a good five minutes while we considered the possibilities. The first was a beautiful American Tree Sparrow, with its distinct red cap, bi-colored bill, and gray face skulked about in the shade, and flew off after only a minute or so.

 

tree sparrow

American Tree Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

The American Tree Sparrow was intermingling with a pair of these slightly smaller, and a little more plain birds, which we eventually came to the conclusion were immature Chipping Sparrows, which hadn’t quite fully entered breeding plumage.

Chipping

Chipping Sparrow
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

It wasn’t too much further up the path that we initially saw this Black-billed Magpie, picking off some thorny buffalo-berries from this tree. It wasn’t until I got home and reviewed my photos that I noticed why it was foraging on the bushes. It appears that this magpie has suffered a fairly severe series of injuries. Its upper mandible has been torn away almost entirely, leaving only a centimeter or so, and there also appears to be some significant loss of feathers around the neck area, though this may be an artifact of the molt pattern typical of corvids. It sat there for a few minutes, nabbing berry after berry, tipping its head back to swallow them, and then continuing up the branch.

Black-billed Magpie with damaged bill Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Black-billed Magpie with damaged bill
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

This photo shows the damaged bill a bit better Black-billed Magpie Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

This photo shows the damaged bill a bit better
Black-billed Magpie
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600

As we reached the end of the pathway, we turned back to return the way we had come, and as the sun edged over the trees a little more, it really brought out the amazing colors on some of the most common of our winter birds. When you see the iridescence of the head, the bright yellow of the bill, and the contrasting deep orange of the feet of the male Mallard it really is quite the sight.

male Mallard Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

male Mallard
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

On our return, all the birds disturbed by our first pass had returned, and seemingly, brought along some of their friends as well. This Greater Yellowlegs flushed up soon after we turned back, I suspect moments after it had just become comfortable again after our initial intrusion.

Greater Yellowlegs Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

Greater Yellowlegs
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 250

It’s also quite nice to see the Common Mergansers return in the fall. They’re quite a common bird here in the fall, winter, and spring, but they can be a challenge to find in the summer at the height of breeding season.

come

female Common Merganser
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

And finally, the ever-present Ring-billed Gulls both young and old were our constant companions on the walk. Soon though, they’ll be heading south for the winter, and strange as it may sound, their presence will be yearned for by February and March, along with hopes of warmer weather to come!

adult RBGU

adult Ring-billed Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 200

juv RBGU

immature Ring-billed Gull
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 160

Thanks again for reading, and good birding!

Travel Tuesday: The Road Less Travelled at Frank Lake – Part 1

As you no doubt have realized by now, not only do I love shorebirds, but I also love Frank Lake. Today’s post is here to highlight not only the photos that I’ve taken at Frank Lake already this year, but also some areas that may be a little bit less familiar to the visitors to the Ducks Unlimited Protected Wetland just 50km SE of Calgary.

 

Frank Lake

Frank Lake

Of course everyone knows what great shots you can get just sitting at the established viewing blind, or on the mudflats around the parking loop at the end of the road at the main basin. For instance, Ruddy Ducks, Eared Grebes, and even Western Grebes can be regularly seen within a few meters of the main blind.

Western Grebe and young Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

Western Grebe and young
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 640

eared grebe

Eared Grebe
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 800

female Ruddy

female Ruddy Duck
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

There are a couple of other places along the main access road that are good for shorebirds, Common Yellowthroat, White-faced Ibis, and even Black-crowned Night Herons. The first, labelled (1) on the map, is just east of the water inflow canal. The nutrients in the water provide a huge volume of nutrients in suspension to feed insects, plants, algae, and even shorebirds who eat small particulate food. Here are a few of the species that can often be found at this location in the summer.

Long-billed Dowitchers Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

Long-billed Dowitchers
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

 

Common Yellowthroat Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

Common Yellowthroat
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 500

American Avocets Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

American Avocets
Frank Lake – September 12, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400

 

Wilson's Snipe Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Wilson’s Snipe
Frank Lake – August 23, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

 

Great Blue Heron Frank Lake - August 23, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Great Blue Heron
Frank Lake – August 23, 2013
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

These are just a few of the areas off the beaten path at Frank Lake. With waterfowl hunting season opening on September 8, and the main gate being locked, there are a few other access points at Frank Lake that might be a bit better for drive-up birding. Check in next week for part 2 of this series on Frank Lake!

Bankside to Mallard Point – The migration has arrived.

Posted by Dan Arndt

It was an incredible morning. The sounds of Savannah Sparrows, Song Sparrows, European Starlings, American Robins filling the air, along with the smells of spring. While it wasn’t the sunniest day, that was a blessing in disguise, as it helped keep it cool and helped to keep the birds calling well into the morning.

Bankside to Mallard Point

Bankside to Mallard Point

Upon our official start at Bankside, the presence of Savannah Sparrows was made readily apparent. Their calls serenaded us all through the day, but down near the riverbank we also heard a few Song Sparrows, both of which posed readily for the camera.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

As we came back from the river to begin our walk in earnest, this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew up from building a nest hole to the edge of a building and began drumming on the siding, making quite the racket, but certainly announcing his territory to every female around.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

We followed the river, and had a few great sightings. A pair of Swainson’s Hawks on a nest, a Wood Duck on a gravel bar, a pair of Common Mergansers sitting up on a log with a perfect reflection in the still water, and many American Robins collecting nesting material and preparing to raise their young. We also were lucky enough to observe this Red-tailed Hawk dodging a pair of American Crows that were harassing it continuously.

Just leave me alone!

Just leave me alone!

Begin evasive maneuvers!

Begin evasive maneuvers!

Don't make me use the claws...

Don’t make me use the claws…

They're dangerous weapons...

They’re dangerous weapons!

A little further up the river we paused for a few minutes to watch some Northern Shovelers, and our first Gadwall and Green-winged Teal of the year. A pair of each found this little section of river just perfect to spend their Sunday morning.

Gadwall Pair

Gadwall Pair

Gadwall

Gadwall

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

Our best birds of the day though, by far, were this pair of American Kestrels. A trio of Black-billed Magpies and a lone, and seemingly out of place Blue Jay, spent a good twenty minutes harassing them, before we moved on to leave them in peace.

male (l) and female (r) American Kestrels

male (l) and female (r) American Kestrels

male American Kestrel

male American Kestrel

male American Kestrel

male American Kestrel

As we neared the end of our walk, we finally came close enough to get a good look at one of the many Ring-necked Pheasants we had heard all morning, crowing away and searching for a mate. This beautiful brave male walked along the opposite shore while we stayed quite still and took in the view.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Ring-necked Pheasant

Another good sighting was a small flock of Common Grackles along the near shore, and even in the poor light they were quite striking to look at in their fresh iridescent plumage.

male Common Grackle

male Common Grackle

As we headed to the vehicles to car-pool back to the Bankside parking lot to finish the day, a pair of Merlins in the back yard of a nearby house began calling, and apparently were being harassed by a few Tree Swallows, House Finches, and Black-capped Chickadees. I guess they didn’t want these two setting up their nest near their well-stocked feeders!

Merlin

Merlin

Along the road on our way back to the vehicles, in one of the stormwater ponds that has recently been set up in Fish Creek Park, we found an amazing Great Blue Heron, but also found another new species for the year, these Blue-winged Teal!

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Next week we’re off to Lafarge Meadows, and I’m hoping that we get a bit better light, but either way, the real push of migration has begun, and we are guaranteed to have a great day, rain or shine!

Good birding, and see you next week!

Good fishing on a beautiful sunny Sunday at South Glenmore Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

It is nice to finally get a little bit of sun on our walks, and along with the sun came a whole lot of spring migrants through our fair city. It was another great day for waterfowl, and despite the size of the Glenmore Reservoir, we were afforded really great views of just about everything we saw today. While I’m breaking my vow to not repeat species and focus on the new ones we see each week, strangely we didn’t get very close to anything new this week. Sure, there were some Eared and Horned Grebes very far out on the reservoir, and sure our binoculars and views through the scope were excellent, but I’ve come to the realization that digiscoping is best done solo, and not while trying to lead an enthusiastic group of birders on to their next sighting. That said, we did get some excellent views of some of the more elusive mammals we’ve seen in previous weeks, so that’s new too. Oh, and a pair of Long-tailed Ducks showed up. No big deal. They’re just a few thousand kilometers out of range for spring migration, and uncommon even in the fall, but we got them too. Clearly there must be some good fishing on the reservoir this spring, as the grebes, the loons, and many of the other species seen today prey almost entirely on fish. Perhaps that’s why there were so many fishermen out on the reservoir as well?

South Glenmore Park

South Glenmore Park

Our walk started and ended with Common Ravens. Sure, it makes perfect sense, especially considering that they’ve decided to put up a nest not fifty meters from the parking lot, but for most of us, it was really interesting to see. Last year there were a few Common Raven nests along this stretch of parkland, but none quite so exposed. We counted five young ones on this nest this morning, but didn’t really get good looks at them until much later on.

Here’s one of the adults in the “golden hour” light, showing off its nictating membrane.

Common Raven

Common Raven

We headed east along the reservoir from the sailing club, hoping that we might spy some new waterfowl, grebes, or maybe even a few sparrows down along the water’s edge. While other groups this week had reported ten, fifteen, even twenty Common Loons, we were still not prepared for the sheer number out there. There were more loons than I had ever seen in one place, maybe even more total loons than I’d seen individually since I started birding! One of the first new birds we had here this morning was a small raft of Horned Grebes, which were being flushed back and forth along the reservoir by kayakers out for a morning row.

Horned Grebes

Horned Grebes

Further out, there were a much smaller group of Eared Grebes, a handful of Western Grebes, and many Red-necked Grebes scattered throughout in ones and twos. While we were scanning the far edges of the reservoir, we nearly missed the birds (and mammals) right at out feet, like this Least Chipmunk, who was quite content to just nibble away on sunflower seeds while we snapped away.

Least Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk

It was just a little further on where we saw what I would say was our highlight of the day, if not for the entire course to date: the Long-tailed Ducks.

Long-tailed Ducks

Long-tailed Ducks

As we watched both them, the close in loons, and the various other birds that caught our eye, the time finally came for us to turn back to our starting point, and along the way back we once again nearly stumbled upon another unwary mammal, a pair of Snowshoe Hare, who had nearly completely lost their winter coat and taken on their typical summer browns.

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare

And while some locals might think that Black-billed Magpies are a nuisance, annoying, or otherwise “trash” birds, there’s no denying that they are quite striking in just the right light.

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

A brief stop at the vehicles to drop a layer of clothing as the morning warmed up significantly allowed us a moment to stop and check in on the Common Raven family. It looks like one of the adults had just brought in some food, as the young were silently begging for a piece.

Common Ravens

Common Ravens

After such a good start, we expected that our fortunes would continue, giving us sparrows, warblers, and maybe even some Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the dense spruce on the west side of our route, but sadly, no such luck. On the bright side, we did get even closer looks at Red-necked Grebes, Common Loons, and a pair of American Wigeon in just the right light to show off all their field marks.

American Wigeon: female (l) and male (r)

American Wigeon: female (l) and male (r)

Common Loons

Common Loons

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Upon our return, and at the end of our great, warm sunny day, it appeared that the young Common Ravens had not quite had their fill, as they were still begging for food as we left the park for another week.

We're so hungry!

We’re so hungry!

Spring Blizzarding in Elliston Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

While last week was chilly, and a bit overcast, it wasn’t really too much to complain about. This week, the Sunday Curse has struck again. As the weekend approached, the forecast for 10-25 cm of snow by Monday night seemed a bit overzealous, maybe even pessimistic. Sadly, this was one time that the weatherman was right. Sunday morning greeted us with about 10cm of already accumulated snow, and a brisk wind out of the north made for risky driving and for terrible visibility at times, though we were lucky and also had some clear patches. A small, hardy group greeted us at 8 AM, and while some of the walk was abbreviated due to the conditions, we still had a good number of new species (or at least newly photographed species) for the year.

Earlier in the week I had finally received the Swarovski ATX 85 that has been graciously loaned to us, so I’ve included a good number of photos that were taken with the Swarovski TLS APO digiscoping adapter, taken with my Pentax K-30. I have to say, I’ve never been quite so happy that that camera is weather sealed as I was today. As I mentioned to the birding students, this is a scope that after an hour of playing with it at home had me wanting to buy it for myself, and after spending some time with it this afternoon and seeing the results I managed to get in the terrible light and low visibility, that decision has been set in stone. You’ll see what I mean below…

 

Elliston Park

Elliston Park

You might notice first of all that it doesn’t look like we saw much on the southern portion of our walk. That is mostly true. By the time we cleared the eastern edge of the tree cover, the clouds had lowered, the wind picked up, and the snowfall really started coming in sideways, pelting us with wet ice crystals, and some of us were simply not prepared for things to get as bad as they did, so we powered on straight to the parking lot to get out of the wind and sleet.

Despite all that doom and gloom, as I mentioned above, we got a whole pile of new bird sightings! Almost as soon as we started, we heard, then saw, a flock of American Tree Sparrows flitting about, barely pausing long enough for any of us to get good looks until they were quite far away.

American Tree Sparrows

American Tree Sparrows

From our vantage point we could see out onto the water quite well at this point, and with the trees covering us from the wind, we took a few minutes to look out over the lake, and managed to spot the first new species for the group, this American Wigeon. There were about half a dozen of these birds on Elliston Lake, standing out in stark contrast to the other waterfowl present. Additionally, this was where we had good views of the second new species of the day, the Lesser Scaup.

American Wigeon (rear) and Mallards (foreground)

American Wigeon (rear) and Mallards (foreground)

Lesser Scaup (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

Lesser Scaup
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

While we have seen Townsend’s Solitaires this year, finding this one in the storm was a stroke of luck and good field identification on the part of some of our students! They are always such a pleasure to see! With the wind and snow picking up a bit at this time, we did check out a pair of Northern Flickers waiting out the storm on the leeward side of a low tree. Where they might have been nesting in or around this park is a mystery, as there really aren’t any trees large enough or old enough to provide them a suitable nest area!

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire

Male (above) and female (below) hybrid Northern Flickers

Male (above) and female (below) hybrid Northern Flickers

We turned our attention back to the water, and found this lone American Coot. These aren’t a bird you expect to see all by its lonesome, nor in this kind of weather! An early arrival, and quite the surprise to see here! There were also a good number of Northern Shovelers in the north-east section of lake, though with the snow and wind picking up, good photos were hard to come by.

American Coot

American Coot

female (left) and male (right) Northern Shovelers

female (left) and male (right) Northern Shovelers

male Northern Shoveler (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

male Northern Shoveler
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

From here on, we powered through to the end, with a few stops to check out some unusual sounds and sights, and a few nice finds in the sloughs east of Elliston Park, including many more Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, and even a lone male Ruddy Duck, the blowing snow played havoc with my auto focus, and I didn’t make it back around after the walk with the digiscoping setup.

 

I did end up heading back to check out the gulls with the digiscope rig, and while I didn’t find anything particularly uncommon, the practice with both stationary birds and birds in flight was absolutely priceless. While I’ve already had some experience with digiscoping, the ease which I was able to pick up the different skills that this scope requires, as well as the particular idiosyncrasies of the setup were very quick to adapt to, and the learning curve was extremely shallow. I have to say, it’ll be a hard sell to go back to the other gear once June comes around!

Herring, California, and Ring-billed Gulls (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

Herring, California, and Ring-billed Gulls
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

California Gull in flight (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

California Gull in flight
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

Herring Gull in flight in the snowstorm (digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

Herring Gull in flight in the snowstorm
(digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85 + Pentax K-30)

See you next week, and good birding!