Tag Archive | western tanager

A “fallout” of thrushes from Bankside to Mallard Point

Posted by Dan Arndt

Last Sunday was a great day for birding along the Bow River. The weather had been a little iffy for a couple days before, and overnight had cleared up enough to allow a whole lot of birds to begin moving through, and boy did we see and hear a lot of migrants!

Bankside to Mallard Point - May 17, 2015

Bankside to Mallard Point – May 17, 2015

We walked around at Mallard Point for a bit early on, and found a whole lot of Swainson’s Thrushes in the underbrush (say that five times fast) and hearing a number of Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers singing in the bushes. From there, we drove down to the ponds at Burnsmead to look for the Wood Ducks we had there earlier in the year, but dipped on those. We did hear a couple of Western Tanagers in the saplings on the north side of the road, one of which posed nicely for us.

Western Tanager Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

Western Tanager
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 320

From there we headed over to Bankside, in search of sapsuckers and maybe a few other warblers, but aside from hearing a couple here and there, none of them popped up into view. We headed north along the river and one of our keen-eyed participants noticed this Say’s Phoebe across the river, which was quickly harassed and scared off by a newly arrived Eastern Kingbird, but eventually the two of them worked out their differences.

Say's Phoebe Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Say’s Phoebe
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Moments after we spotted this fellow, a pair of American White Pelicans gave us a very close flyover, enough to tell this male by the large crest present on the bill.

American White Pelican Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

American White Pelican
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

The morning continued with us finding Song Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, and Swainson’s Thrushes absolutely everywhere, but none of them really allowed us to get too close, and despite our efforts, we couldn’t quite pick out a Hermit Thrush or a Veery from the pack. We did hear a few of these beautiful male Baltimore Orioles singing in the poplar trees across the river!

Baltimore Oriole Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Baltimore Oriole
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1600

Upstream in a section of the bank that had been carved out in the 2013 flood we found a colony of Bank Swallows setting up shop. It’s always fun to watch them dip and weave over the river and in and out of their tiny homes.

Bank Swallows Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 2000

Bank Swallows
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/2000sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 2000

We continued upstream to find a grove where we’ve found nesting American Kestrels in one of the large hollowed out trees, but unfortunately came up empty in the trees. On the river though, we found a lifer for most of our group, great looks at a usually hard to spot warbler, and yet another great look at one of the Swainson’s Thrushes along our path.

Northern Waterthrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

Northern Waterthrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 3200

We noticed this Northern Waterthrush darting along the bottom of the logs and accumulated debris, but popped out a couple of times for us to take photos. We also had some of our best looks at a couple of Swainson’s Thrushes bobbing up and down along the brush pile.

Swainson's Thrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Swainson’s Thrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Our best bird of the day, and arguably of the entire course so far, was this Gray-cheeked Thrush. They’re a rare migrant in southern Alberta, and it seems that a few of them might have been included in the overnight thrush fallout, as they also banded 5 of them at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary bird banding station that morning.

Gray-cheeked Thrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Gray-cheeked Thrush Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

We spent some time with the thrushes before heading back upstream, to find our first goslings of the season, and remarked at just how big they were already!

Canada Goose goslings Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

Canada Goose goslings
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1600sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 400

As we wrapped up for the day at Mallard Point, we heard the Least Flycatchers calling from the bushes again and I decided I had to at least try to get a picture. All I was able to snap was this record shot before it flew off. I’m sure I’ll get better ones later on this year!

Least Flycatcher Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

Least Flycatcher
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1250sec., ƒ/8.0, ISO 1000

 

 

Bird Profile: Western Tanager

Posted by Matthew Sim

Each year, spring migration brings something different. The year I first bought my camera, migration brought to me several brilliant male Western Tangers. This was the first time that I was really enthusiastic about birding and, with birds like this in my backyard, it is not difficult to see why.

The Western Tanager has to be, in my honest opinion, one of the top 5 most beautiful species that we can see in Calgary. Its red, yellow and black plumage make it stand out during migration, when the trees are still bare of leaves, but be warned, once the leaves come out, this brilliant songster all but disappears into the forests, becoming rather inconspicuous despite its bright colors.

A bright-red head combined with black wings, back and tail and canary-yellow underparts and neck are what make the male so beautiful. The female, considerably duller, is green olive above and yellow below. Arriving in southern Alberta in early to mid-May (they arrive later in the month in the mountains), the Western Tanager heads to boreal and montane forests to breed. Though the species prefers coniferous and mixed forests for nesting, during migration, it frequents a wider range of forests.

The Western Tanager can be seen in the city in areas such as Bebo Grove in Fish Creek or Edworthy Park during the summer. Outside of the city, they can be seen in the mountains and in the Water Valley area, among other locations. During the month of May,you might even spot one in your own yard- they are most often seen among the higher branches of trees so remember to look up!

Did you know…

The red on the Western Tanager’s face is formed by the pigment rhodoxanthin, a pigment not usually found in birds. The other tanagers (such as the Scarlet Tanager) make the pigments that give them their bright colors however, rhodoxanthin is not manufactured by the Western Tanager  meaning that they must obtain it from the food that they eat (probably insects who in turn gain this pigment from the plants they eat).

Yellow Birds in Calgary

We’ve been getting a lot of queries about yellow birds in our fair city, so we thought we would introduce you to some of them.

There are many species of small birds with some yellow on them, but these three are the brightest, and the yellowist!

Male American Goldfinch

Male American Goldfinch

Goldfinches (5 inches) are generally found at backyard niger seed feeders in the city. Females are a duller yellow and do not have the black cap.

Yellow warbler

Male Yellow Warbler

Yellow warblers (5 inches) can be found in shrubby areas with lots of cover. Females do not have the dark streaking on the breast.

Male Western Tanager

Male Western Tanager

Western Tanagers (7 inches) prefer coniferous habitats. The bright red head of the males fades to yellow outside the breeding season.