It seems a little cruel that only a week after I first began blogging, the Fall Birding Course is nearly wrapped up for the season. According to our fearless leader, the group has spotted 123 species of birds over the past 4 months, though not every individual saw the entirety of the list. That seems like a lot, though the full list of Calgary birds counts over 300 species, I think that’s an incredible variety, considering they were all seen within city limits, and in relatively easy to access locations.
This week was another first for me. Though I’ve cycled through Beaverdam Flats, I’ve never birded it, and really never quite knew how to get there by vehicle, leading me to begin a few minutes later than the rest of the group. Upon arriving, I walked down the hill to see if I could find the group, and spotted my first Townsend’s Solitaire of the season, while hearing a number of Downy Woodpeckers among the birch trees on either side of the path.
Walking south along the river, I spotted the group and quickly caught up, but not before realizing what exactly they were looking at. Literally hundreds of Mallards, Canada Geese, and various other waterfowl gathered along the banks of the Bow River. It was truly one of the more memorable sights of an otherwise very quiet morning.
As we walked back north along the riverbank, we spotted a Bald Eagle flying south, and two more high up in a tree, patiently waiting and posing for us, as if they didn’t have a care in the world.
All along the riverbank, amongst the Mallards, we spotted Common Goldeneye, Buffleheads, Redheads, and a few Common Mergansers. A few Northern Pintails were hidden amongst the Mallards as well, but they were elusive that morning, and I don’t think anyone got a very good look at them aside from a glance here or there.
As we left the riverbank, the entire group was awestruck with our heads raised to watch the hundreds of waterfowl we had seen just an hour beforehand flying low overhead. It seemed something had flushed them, but there was no sign of a hungry Bald Eagle, Goshawk, or any aerial predator for that matter.
We headed north again, and under a bridge to search for Great Horned Owl, which seemed incredibly skittish, keeping its distance and flying away at the first suggestion that we may get closer.
As I mentioned before, it was eerily quiet, and the only other birds we saw along the river valley was another Downy Woodpecker and a Northern Flicker in the distance. As we loaded up into the cars, one of the sturdy American Robins who overwinter in Calgary made its presence known, displaying in one of the birch trees at the top of the valley wall.
Following the official walk, another of the photographers in our group and I headed back to look for that elusive Great Horned Owl. We managed to spot it twice, but each time it flew away before we could establish a clear line of sight and a clean angle to photograph it, but our search was not in vain. We did manage to get a bit closer to one of the Northern Flickers, but the prize of the day was this Townsend’s Solitaire that kindly posed for us while the light was still good.
Posted by Daniel Arndt