Posted by Dan Arndt
This week the Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding course was at Carburn Park. After some initial reports of large flocks of Mallards, Canada Geese, along with Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye and Buffleheads, it seemed a great locale with the warmer winter weather. The Thursday group discovered a Northern Saw-whet Owl that has been found in its current location two other times in the last 12 years. Once in 2000, and again in 2005, which makes this bird, if it is the same individual, at least 13 years old. The route through the park was fairly circuitous, though we managed to identify twenty-three species in the three and a half hour tour of the park.
We started at the parking lot and headed north along the river, spotting a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, and a small flock of House Sparrows as we headed to the north end of the park. At the river we were greeted by a large flock of Mallards and Canada Geese, and a few even flew directly overhead.
Along the opposite bank were a flock of ten to fifteen Common Ravens, squawking and cawing at each other between the trees. From the river, we headed south along the path, stopping briefly to feed some Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches, while a pair of Downy Woodpeckers moved up and down the nearby birch trees searching for a meal.
Before I knew it, we were at the location of the local celebrity that had drawn its own crowd. Along with the group of fifteen birders with the FCPP birding course were no less than ten other local bird photographers, which led to some concern about the stress that type of crowd would put upon the small Northern Saw-whet Owl.
After our brief visit with this beautiful little animal, we headed along the riverbank and stumbled across both a trio of White-tailed Deer, and a very unfortunate Coyote suffering from the worst case of mange I have ever seen.
Just beyond the coyote’s path, we stumbled across a fairly large flock of American Crows. We suspected they may be early migrants, as this flock numbered into the seventies, and they were harassing a trio of juvenile Bald Eagles on the far side of the river.
As we continued down towards the southern end of Carburn Park, towards the bridge leading across to Southland Park, we scanned the flocks of Common Goldeneye for a few elusive Barrow’s Goldeneye. Our hard work paid off when one member of our group spotted a male and female pair very close to the near shore.
After a slight loop south to look for a reported Song Sparrow and Ring-necked Pheasants, which we did not find, we headed back north to the vehicles. A few Common Redpolls were in the birch trees nearby, and many House Sparrows along the feeders behind the row of houses, but no Song Sparrow or Pheasants were to be found. After a brief stint at the bridge, we did manage to find one parting mystery, this Harlan’s Hawk, which we initially had passed over as one of the juvenile Bald Eagles!
Looks like next week is a trip down to Votier’s Flats in Fish Creek Provincial Park. Thanks for reading, and good birding!