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Sunday Showcase: Great Grays of Grand Valley Road

Grand Valley Road northwest of Cochrane has been a really good place to find Great Gray Owls. Logan Gibson photographed this one while it was snowing on February 25:

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On March 2, Brett Mahura found three different Great Grays on Grand Valley Road:

Brett Mahura GGOW 1

Brett Mahura GGOW 3

Brett Mahura GGOW 2

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Chasing Rarities – Northern Mockingbird in Vulcan, AB

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Well, today is a statutory holiday here in Calgary, and as such, my regular post of our Friends of Fish Creek birding courses will be delayed until tomorrow, as I’m spending most of Sunday and Monday with family. Instead, here’s a post about a rare bird sighted within a 90 minute drive from our city that I managed to track down and photograph last weekend, with the help of local birder and excellent nature and wildlife photographer, Jeff Bingham, who first spotted the bird on February 3.

 

As I was composing my blog post for February 4, on the quiet and peaceful outing we had to Griffith Woods, I was sent a small thumbnail photo of a bird that I knew entirely by reputation and similarity than by having ever seen one before in my life. The photo was of a Northern Mockingbird, which had apparently been taken that day by a local photographer and birder, Jeff Bingham. After confirming the ID, and ensuring that yes, that bird had been seen on that day about an hour and a half outside the city, I was already planning my trip. Thankfully, Jeff agreed to take me down to that same spot the following Saturday in hopes of a repeat performance by the rather unusually occuring bird.

You see, Northern Mockingbirds, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” page on this species, don’t occur in Alberta, except for the very southerly edge of the province. There have been a handful reported here and there throughout the province in the past, most recently one in Nanton, AB, in the winter of 2006, and another in North Glenmore Park here in Calgary in the summer of 2011.

Northern Mockingbird Range Map, by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Northern Mockingbird Range Map, by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

So, as Saturday February 9th rolled in, we were up and on the road by 8 A.M. and hoping for some great light and good opportunities to find this rare bird.

On the way down, we were treated to a nice close look of a Bald Eagle sitting low on a fencepost. It wasn’t until after it was flushed that we realized it was guarding the carcass of a coyote that was thawing out of a snow drift.

Bald Eagle flushed from a carcass

Bald Eagle flushed from a carcass

As we headed east on Highway 23, we came across not one, but two rather tolerant Snowy Owls.

Snowy Owl on a grain silo

Snowy Owl on a grain silo

This particular Snowy Owl let us drive right up beside him and shoot this out the window.

One very brave Snowy Owl who isn't the slightest bit disturbed by cars.

One very brave Snowy Owl who isn’t the slightest bit disturbed by cars.

As we continued on to Vulcan, we had high hopes of the Northern Mockingbird showing up right where it was before. Unfortunately, it made us wait. And wait. And wait. We even decided to drive around town looking for other birds in our frustration.

It wasn’t until we had just about given up and went to get a cup of coffee that it decided to give us a show, and boy did it ever not disappoint! We followed it on its circuit around the area for a good hour and a half, allowing us some pretty close views and photo opportunities. It always makes for a great day when you find not only the bird you’re looking for, but more than a few good shots of the ones that you didn’t even plan for!

This Northern Mockingbird looks very smug

This Northern Mockingbird looks very smug

The typical Northern Mockingbird side profile. Note the heavy white wing bars and tail feathers.

The typical Northern Mockingbird side profile. Note the heavy white wing bars and tail feathers.

This bird was so smug, in fact, he did not hesitate to look down on us.

This bird was so smug, in fact, he did not hesitate to look down on us.

Thanks again for the tip, Jeff, and I look forward to our next outing!

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wings: Golden Eagle & Snowy Owls

Mitchell Kranz spotted this juvenile Golden Eagle on January 20 near Lake McGregor, northeast of Vulcan.

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The same day, he also saw no less than 15 Snowy Owls between there and Blackie.

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You can see more of Mitchell’s photos here.

Bird Studies Group Meeting Tonight

Just a reminder that the Bird Studies Group of Nature Calgary will be meeting tonight, Wednesday January 9 (instead of the first Wednesday of the month). The presentation will consist of the results of various Christmas Bird Counts held in the Calgary region.  Phil Cram will present the results of the Calgary Count.

The meeting is at 7:30 pm in Room 211 of the Biological Sciences Building at the U of C. Doors open at 7:00.  See this page for a map and more information.