Posted by Dan Arndt
The beginning of the Winter birding course was very reminiscent of our last trip there with the autumn course. We started off with a light snowfall at the headquarters building at Bow Valley Ranch, visiting with the Great Horned Owls that have been regulars there for many years. This time though they were a bit easier to see, with the first one sitting high in the trees on the east end of the pathway, and the second just a little further west than its previous roost. Both were cashing in on their natural camouflage in spades, but given their placement in the trees, were slightly more conspicuous than before.
As we continued west towards the headquarters building, we were mobbed by the resident Black-capped Chickadees for their toll, paid in the form of sunflower seeds, while a few Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers flitted among the spruce.
We spotted a decent sized flock of White-winged Crossbills in the trees at the headquarters before packing up and heading down to Sikome Lake. We stopped along the way to look at quite a number of Bald Eagles in the trees both on the roadside, and sitting over the Bow River. As it turns out, there was a deer carcass that was keeping their interest, which, by the time we were leaving the park, was down to only the cleanly stripped hide.
Down at Sikome Lake, the resident pair of Great Horned Owls was hiding out in the same roost as the lone owl was in December.
At this point, we split off from Gus Yaki’s group and headed off toward the Bow River on our own. We found a good number of waterfowl on the river, from Common Goldeneyes, to extremely comfortable looking Canada Geese.
On the north end of our walk, this huge flock of mixed Canada Geese, Mallards, Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes came into view. As we watched, they began to flush as not one, not two, but three Bald Eagles made their way closer. Two others stayed in the trees on either side of the river, just out of sight, while two sub-adult eagles flew by, along with one adult.
The walk back to the parking lot in the trees along the river was a little bit quieter than expected, yielding only a lone Northern Flicker, along with a Hairy Woodpecker, and four of these little White-breasted Nuthatches.
All in all, it was a good, solid start to a new year of birding, and a new birding course. Good birding, and thanks for reading!