Frank Lake Ibis Colony Destroyed?

Guest Post by Greg Wagner

White-faced Ibis by Dan Arndt

White-faced Ibis by Dan Arndt.

Ducks Unlimited developed the Frank Lake project under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan which is a tripartite initiative between Canada, the United States and Mexico aimed at conserving migratory birds across the continent. The Plan’s goal is to return waterfowl populations to 1970s levels through the protection of upland and wetland habitat.

This has certainly been achieved at Frank Lake where upland habitats have been secured and are managed for nesting waterfowl and other birds, and where wetland habitat has been created and protected through the establishment of dams and the addition of tertiary treated effluent from the Town of High River and Cargill. It is also one of the few large wetlands with large cattail and/or bulrush beds in southern Alberta and attracts a number of breeding bird species that are dependent on these habitats including White-faced Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, Franklin’s Gull, Forester’s Tern, Western Grebe and Eared Grebe. Many of these species are listed as sensitive under the General Status of Alberta Wildlife Species, largely because of the scarcity of large wetlands with emergent vegetation.

Because of its conservation importance, Frank Lake has also been identified as an Important Bird Area  and as an Environmentally Significant Area within the Municipal District of Foothills.

Frank Lake is also a popular area for hunting, birding, wildlife photography, dog walking and hunting dog trials. Ducks Unlimited has also established an educational program at the lake, which had initially been offered to students in Calgary schools, but which is now being offered to rural schools in the area. It truly is the goose that laid the golden egg.  If people show some respect for the area and following a few basic rules (eg., dogs on leash during the nesting period from 1 April to 1 July) it should remain as an area that can serve as a significant wildlife conservation area, and at the same time be enjoyed by a number of different user groups.

The best known and most heavily used site on the lake is the observation blind on Basin 1 in the northwest corner of the lake. It is located within an extensive bulrush marsh and provides excellent viewing opportunities of Eared Grebe, Coots, Ruddy Ducks, Blackbirds and Marsh Wrens. Looking out to the east you can count dozens if not hundreds of White-faced Ibis. During the spring, the calls of Franklin’s Gulls are deafening. This reed bed supports the largest breeding population of emergent dependent birds on the lake, and in the province.

In the past photographers have been observed wading through the reed bed near the blind and trying to get close to the reed bed and nesting area of White-faced Ibis on a crudely constructed raft. These individuals cause untold damage to the birds nesting in these areas, in violation of the federal Migratory Bird Convention Act and the Alberta Wildlife Act. I few weeks back I raised my concerns with the local Fish and Wildlife Officer.

Making a hasty retreat.

Making a hasty retreat.

Unfortunately, last weekend I encountered two individuals (a man with graying hair and a women with long blonde hair) marching through the reed beds north of the blind, cameras and long lenses in hand and pulling an inner tube with camouflage material wrapped around it. They were right in the area where the Ibis and Night Herons nest. About 25 Black-crowned Night Herons were flying around the reeds at the time.

I yelled at them to get out of there and that they were destroying nests in violation of the Alberta Wildlife Act. I also phoned Report a Poacher 1-800-642-3800 and ended up speaking with the local Fish and Wildlife Officer I had met with a few weeks back. I indicated what these two people were doing and that they were disturbing nesting birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Convention Act and the Alberta Wildlife Act. He asked me to record their license plate number. I also took some photos of them in the reeds.

After about twenty minutes they came out ashore and had the pleasure of some lively conversation and in your face time with yours truly. They indicated that they were long-time birders and were doing nothing to disturb the birds. I have left the matter in the hands of the Fish and Wildlife Officer. But I wonder, do these two pick up a couple of six packs of mice from their local pet store anytime the go out looking for owls?

Last spring, I watched the Franklin’s Gull return to Frank Lake and begin nesting over most of May. Unfortunately, I was away for most of June. When I got back, I visited another large reed bed marsh supporting a large Franklin’s Gull breeding colony. The place was deafening with adult birds circling overhead, and recently fledged young everywhere.

Their vehicle

Their vehicle

Frank Lake was much different. I only saw a flock of 20 birds heading to the lake from nearby fields. No adult birds circling over the reed beds and no recently fledged young. There was zero nest success. I wondered at the time what had happen, and probably will never know. I thought it was probably something environmental, a quick increase in lake levels following a major rainfall event. But now, I wonder if it may simply have been caused by photographers traipsing through the bulrushes.

Frank Lake has become widely known as being the home to White-faced Ibis. I fear the breeding colony, or at least the major colony of the lake, has been destroyed. So if someone is out at Frank Lake and wants to know why there aren’t so many Franklin’s Gulls around the blind, or where all the Ibis have gone. maybe this post provides an answer.


Posted by Pat Bumstead:

We know Frank Lake is a very popular birding destination for many of our readers. Put the Report A Poacher number 1-800-642-3800 in your cellphone. If you see idiot photographers endangering the birds for the sake of a picture, make note of the following and give them a call:

  • Date, time and location of offense
  • License plate number of vehicle
  • Vehicle description, including any identifying features, dents, stickers, etc.
  • Description of person(s) involved
  • Description of evidence at the scene, or evidence of the crime that the violators took with them
  • Details of the violation

Most of our Canadian bird species are in serious trouble throughout their ranges. Bird watchers are the ones out in the field, and can cover far more territory than Fish & Wildlife officers. If you see someone wading through nest sites, baiting owls, stealing eggs from a nest or anything else that threatens the birds, speak up for them! If we don’t, there might not be any birds to watch.

Alberta Headwaters Petition

(Link to the Petition here.)

In about two months the Alberta government will be releasing its draft of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. This will have a huge impact on the future of the wildlife, plants, and water resources of the headwaters. Naturalist, writer, and former superintendent of Banff National Park Kevin Van Tighem has started an online petition asking the government to “Treat our Alberta Headwaters like the treasures they are.”

Kevin says, “Those responsible for finalizing the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan are under a lot of pressure to protect the status quo for industrial-scale logging in the headwaters, and are being lobbied very aggressively by off-road vehicle users who want no restrictions on their activities.  I believe we have a good Minister; I also believe she’s under a lot of pressure.”

Kevin adds, “Most of us likely remember – I certainly do – when the foothills and Front Ranges were like paradise — before they were brought down to their current state by multiple-abuse.   The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan will have quasi-regulatory status and is meant to be a strategic roadmap to our next fifty years.   It’s really important that those who believe we can do better for our headwaters – the forests, creeks, meadows, trout, grizzlies and wild places that yield all the water that comes down the rivers to where we all live – make themselves heard.”


Here is the text of the petition:

A century of clear cut logging, oil and gas development and out-of-control off-road vehicle abuse has left the headwaters of the South Saskatchewan River fragmented and scarred. Natural river flows are 12% lower than in the mid twentieth century. Climate change will only make things worse.
Alberta is about to release a South Saskatchewan regional land use plan that was prepared with wide citizen consultation. But special interest groups with a stake in business-as-usual want to ensure it contains no limits on off-road abuse, increases clear cut logging, and promotes more development.
Those who care about healthy landscapes, clean rivers and future water security need a chance to inform the government that they support a plan that keeps the mountains and foothills green and healthy by establishing new parks, restricting off-road vehicles to official trails, replacing clear cutting with restoration logging, and repairing landscapes damaged by past industrial and motorized abuse.
Healthy intact headwaters don’t just produce more and better water – they yield better fishing and hunting, more secure and productive habitat for elk, grizzlies and native trout, and the aesthetic and ecological qualities that yield the finest of recreational environments.

If you would like to support this cause and sign this petition, go to the petition website,  and share this with friends and family.

Help Needed For Snow Goose Counts

Nature Calgary has been contacted by a biologist from Washington State tracking migrating snow geese. One of their collared geese has unexpectedly shown up east of Calgary. The biologist is hoping for snow goose sightings and flock counts from birders in the Calgary area. His complete email of April 18 2013 follows:
Hello- I am a biologist with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife in Washington State. We recently implanted snow geese from the Skagit/Fraser valleys with satellite transmitters to document migration. These geese are thought to nest on Wrangel Island, Russia. The migration recently commenced and we have a very interesting migrant that is near Calgary. This route is not expected, as it is thought that the majority of this breeding population travels along the Pacific Coast.

Could you let anyone who might be interested know about this event, and what I am most looking for, is someone who might be interested in having a look at the flocks to get flock counts. In addition, we have roughly 500 neck collars out on snow geese, and it would be an opportunity to get collar sightings.

The most recent location of the snow goose near Calgary is from 04/18/2013 15:36 (UTC): Lat 51.029, Long -112.504. If you know of anyone who might be interested please put them in contact with me and I can provide location updates as they occur. We also have the marked birds on a tracking web site.

Thank You, -Joe

Joe Evenson Waterfowl Survey & Sea Duck Specialist,

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

7801 Phillips Rd. SW Lakewood, WA 98498 360-790-8691


Great Backyard Bird Count Goes Global


For the first time, anyone anywhere in the world with Internet access can participate in the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) February 15-18, 2013. Participants simply watch birds at any location for at least 15 minutes, tally the numbers of each species they see, and report their tallies online. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

This year, anyone visiting the GBBC website will be able to see bird observations pouring in from around the world and contribute their own tallies. Global participation will be made possible thanks to eBird, a real-time online checklist program that the Cornell Lab and Audubon are integrating into the GBBC for the first time this year. The GBBC is open to anyone of any skill level and welcomes bird observations from any location, including backyards, national parks, gardens, wetlands, and urban landscapes. The four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.

“We’re eager to see how many of the world’s 10,240 bird species will be reported during the count this year,” said Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick. “We’re looking forward to this historic snapshot of birds that that will be reported from around the world. We need as many people as possible to help build the wealth of data that scientists need to track the health of bird populations through time.”

Participants will be able to view what others are seeing on interactive maps and contribute their tallies for ongoing bird research and conservation efforts. For the first time, participants will also be able to upload their counts from the field using the eBird BirdLog app for Apple or Android smartphones. To celebrate the new global reach of the count, developers of the eBird BirdLog app are offering regional versions of the app for just 99 cents through February 18. Learn more.

common redpollJust how big is this year’s irruption of northern finches and other species such as the Red-breasted Nuthatch? GBBC reports will help define the answer.

“This count is so much fun because anyone can take part, whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist. “Invite new birders to join and share the experience. Once you get involved, you can continue with eBird year round.”

“The popularity of the Great Backyard Bird Count grows each year,” said Dick Cannings, Senior Projects Officer at Bird Studies Canada, “and with the new features, participation will be even more exciting.”

Participating is easy. To learn more about how to join the count, get bird ID tips, plus downloadable instructions, web buttons, and flyers, visit The count also includes a photo contest and a prize for participants who enter at least one bird checklist online. You can also read a summary of the 2012 GBBC. Portions of the GBBC site are now available in Spanish at

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

Posted by Pat Bumstead

The Calgary Zoo, a birder’s refuge on a cold winter day

Posted by Dan Arndt

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the second week of the Friends of Fish Creek Winter birding course as I was out of town on personal business, but I knew that I’d hate to leave the regular Monday readers high and dry. As such, here is a post I’ve been sitting on for a while, and since the coldest days of winter are still ahead of us, and some folks just can’t handle the cold for long periods of time, here’s a suggestion of somewhere to go to brush up on your exotic bird identification skills!

While birding even in the coldest days can bring out some incredible surprises, there are much warmer places with incredibly gorgeous birds all year round. The Calgary Zoo houses a wide variety of bird species, from native Canadian species such as the Burrowing Owl, Whooping Crane, and Bald Eagle, to exotic birds from all over the world,  the ugly-pretty Vulturine Guineafowl from Central Africa, the ever-popular and charismatic Rockhopper Penguin, and the beautiful and majestic Andean Condor, from South America.

While none of these birds would count on any list (except maybe a “Seen in Captivity” list), they’re great subjects to photograph, and familiarity gained with these birds here at home would aid significantly in identifying them if you ever end up in their native habitat looking for their wild cousins. On top of that, the public education and awareness of wildlife that the Calgary Zoo engenders with their live collections, public outreach, and captive breeding programs go much further to increase the popularity and appreciation of all animals, not just the charismatic megafauna that they have on display.

I hope you enjoy the photos of a variety of birds I’ve taken at the Calgary Zoo in the past few years!

Vulturine Guineafowl - Africa

Vulturine Guineafowl – Africa

Northern Rockhopper Penguin - Southern Atlantic islands and Southern Indian islands

Northern Rockhopper Penguin – Southern Atlantic islands and Southern Indian islands

American or Carribean Flamingo - North and Central America and the Carribean islands

American or Carribean Flamingo – North and Central America and the Carribean islands

Burrowing Owl - North, Central, and South America

Burrowing Owl – North, Central, and South America

Andean Condor - South America

Andean Condor – South America

Bald Eagle - North America

Bald Eagle – North America

Van der Decken's Hornbill - Africa

Van der Decken’s Hornbill – Africa

Whooping Crane - North America

Whooping Crane – North America

Calgary Christmas Bird Count Results

By Phil Cram

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 61st Calgary Christmas Bird Count on December 16, 2012. A record number of 249 birders took part in this year’s count, with 113 feeder-watchers and 136 observers in the field. Birders in the field put in a total of 239 party-hours, 77 percent on foot, covering 239 km on foot and 1156 km by car.

Some count highlights:

65 species were recorded, equalling our average for the past 20 years.

57,149 individual birds were counted, our fifth-highest. Bohemian Waxwings were the most numerous, with almost 17,000 counted, and over 1000 individuals were counted for another nine species.

We had a new species for the count, but unfortunately just for count-week. A Clark’s Nutcracker was seen in Hawkwood on Saturday, perhaps a first-ever sighting in the city. One other rarity was a Yellow-rumped Warbler in Wentworth, first seen and photographed earlier in December and which has survived at least until count-day.

Other unusual species (recorded in two or less years in the prior ten): Trumpeter Swan, 2; Gadwall, 1; and Common Grackle, 1.

Record numbers for: Trumpeter Swan, 2; Redhead, 23; Northern Goshawk, 8; Mourning Dove, 4; American Crow, 152; Common Raven, 537; and Brown Creeper, 31.

High Counts (more than three-times the prior ten-year average) for: Lesser Scaup, 9; Red Crossbill, 237; White-winged Crossbill, 1101; Common Redpoll, 1940 (second-highest count ever); and Hoary Redpoll, 9.

Low counts (less than one-third the prior ten-year average) for: Common Goldeneye, 332 (compared with 3062 last year, the highest in Canada); European Starling, 109; Cedar Waxwing, 2; and Snow Bunting, 1.

Missing species (seen on count-day in seven or more years in the prior ten, but missed this year) were: American Wigeon, Harlequin Duck, Hooded Merganser and Mountain Chickadee.

Species seen by only one route (All feeder-watchers counted as one route):  Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Ruffed Grouse, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Belted Kingfisher, American Dipper, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, Snow Bunting, Rusty Blackbird and Common Grackle.

Species seen by only two routes (All feeder-watchers counted as one route):  Trumpeter Swan, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Cooper’s Hawk, Mourning Dove, Pileated Woodpecker, Townsend’s Solitaire, White-throated Sparrow and Purple Finch.

Unverified Species, not included in species list (Awaiting further details and/or documentation): Double-crested Cormorant, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Song Sparrow.

I will be presenting the results at the Bird Study Group meeting on Wednesday January 9, 2013 at 7:30 PM in Room 211 of the Biosciences Building, University of Calgary, as part of the traditional Calgary region CBC review evening. Please let me know if you notice any omissions or errors in this provisional compilation. Final results will be posted on the Audubon database within two weeks. I will be putting together a route-by-route compilation and will be pleased to email you a copy on request.

List of species recorded on count-day:

Canada Goose, 8399; Trumpeter Swan, 2; Wood Duck, 10; Gadwall, 1; Mallard, 9465; Northern Pintail, 2; Redhead, 23; Greater Scaup, 2; Lesser Scaup, 9; Bufflehead, 148; Common Goldeneye, 332; Barrow’s Goldeneye, 8; Common Merganser, 101; Gray Partridge, 115; Ring-necked Pheasant, 7; Ruffed Grouse, 3; Bald Eagle, 25; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 8; Cooper’s Hawk, 2; Northern Goshawk, 8; Red-tailed Hawk, 1; Rough-legged Hawk, 6; Merlin, 24; Killdeer, 2; Rock Pigeon, 2518; Mourning Dove, 4; Great Horned Owl, 7; Belted Kingfisher, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 139; Hairy Woodpecker, 26; Northern Flicker, 135; Pileated Woodpecker, 2; Northern Shrike, 6; Blue Jay, 97; Black-billed Magpie, 2295; American Crow, 152; Common Raven, 537; Black-capped Chickadee, 1570; Boreal Chickadee, 27; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 632; White-breasted Nuthatch, 59; Brown Creeper, 31; American Dipper, 3; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 54; Townsend’s Solitaire, 2; American Robin, 86; European Starling, 109; Bohemian Waxwing, 16889; Cedar Waxwing, 2; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1; American Tree Sparrow, 4; White-throated Sparrow, 2; Dark-eyed Junco, 99; Snow Bunting, 1; Rusty Blackbird, 1; Common Grackle, 1; Pine Grosbeak, 152; Purple Finch, 2; House Finch, 1350; Red Crossbill, 237; White-winged Crossbill, 1101; Common Redpoll, 1940; Hoary Redpoll, 9; Pine Siskin, 65; and House Sparrow, 7898.

Attn Backyard Birdwatchers!

If you feed birds in your yard each winter, why not turn your hobby into research that supports bird conservation? By joining Project FeederWatch and sharing information about which birds visit your feeders between November and April, you can help scientists at Bird Studies Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology track changes in bird numbers and movements.

Project FeederWatch begins on November 10 and runs until early April. Taking part is easy! Just count the numbers and kinds of birds at your feeders, and enter the information on the FeederWatch website (or on printed forms). Last season, 2565 Canadians participated, and another 13,000 people in the United States.

Results from ‘citizen science’ programs like Project FeederWatch help research and conservation organizations monitor long-term population trends and changes. FeederWatch has shown a northward expansion in the ranges of some species like Northern Cardinals and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, probably the result of changing climate and habitats. FeederWatchers have also documented a range-wide decline in Evening Grosbeaks. This species was a common bird at feeders just 25 years ago.

FeederWatch has also tracked the seasonal movements of irruptive species, and recorded the spread of avian illnesses. In 2011-12, Canada experienced a mild winter, with very little snow cover in much of the country. As a result, birds had access to lots of natural foods, which was a factor in fewer birds being seen at feeders.

After 25 years of Project FeederWatch as a North America-wide program, we know the patterns of fluctuations. Many ‘irruptive’ birds such as winter finches (e.g., Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, and Pine Grosbeaks) tend to move out of their normal ranges at regular intervals. They feed largely on tree seeds. When their food in northern and mountainous areas is in short supply, they move into southern and lowland areas, and descend on feeders.

Join Project FeederWatch

The $35 Project FeederWatch enrollment fee includes a Bird Studies Canada membership and four issues of BirdWatch Canada magazine. You will also receive educational materials, including: a large full-colour poster of common feeder birds; a bird calendar; a comprehensive instruction and data booklet; a useful bird-feeding handbook; the latest FeederWatch results; articles on bird behaviour; answers to your bird questions, and more!

Bird Studies Canada ( is dedicated to advancing the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of wild birds and their habitats. BSC is Canada’s national body for bird research and conservation, and is a non-governmental charitable organization.

There are four ways to register for Project FeederWatch in Canada:

Visit the “Explore Data” section of the FeederWatch website at to find the top 25 birds reported in your region and bird summaries by state or province.

For further information contact Kerrie Wilcox, Bird Studies Canada, (519) 586-3531 ext.

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Status of Landbirds in Alberta’s Boreal Plains

The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) has released its latest report on the state of biodiversity in Alberta. The Status of Landbirds in Alberta’s Boreal Plains Ecozone reports on the status of common bird species that are monitored by the ABMI in Alberta’s Boreal Plains Ecozone (BPE).

The BPE represents 58% of Alberta’s total land area and covers a vast expanse of northern Alberta. Alberta’s BPE is rich in natural resources; it serves as a working landscape for industry, and is considered an integral part of North America’s “bird nursery”. The report highlights the status of individual species and landbird groups such as neo-tropical migrants, forest interior specialists, winter residents and species at risk.

  • the status of 74 landbird species in the Boreal Plains Ecozone were found to be, on average, 80% intact.
  • as of 2010, 21% of Alberta’s BPE has been directly altered by human activities including cultivation, forest harvesting, residential, commercial, energy, and transport infrastructure
  • agricultural cultivation represents the largest human footprint in Alberta’s BPE at 12%
  • protected areas in Alberta include provincial and national parks and National Wildlife Areas account for 11.3% of the BPE
  • the status of 74 common landbirds in Alberta’s oil sands region were found to be, on average, 85% intact. This region currently has a lower human footprint than the entirety of Alberta’s BPE and, therefore, a slightly higher intactness for landbirds.

Read the full report on the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Website

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Travel Tuesday – Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation, Coaldale, AB

Posted by Dan Arndt


One of my favourite trips in the wonderful book “Day Trips from Calgary” by Bill Corbett, is the magical and amazing Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation, located in Coaldale, Alberta. The drive itself is wonderful and offers plenty of opportunities for birding the dozens of lakes, sloughs, and fields in the two and a half hour trip into southern Alberta, but the grounds of the visitor centre would turn any non-birder into a confirmed bird lover.


You don’t even have to go in to the centre to get your bird fix. Surrounding the visitor centre are a series of ponds and marshes that are home not only to shorebirds, but also to passerines, flycatchers, and even large numbers of waterfowl.

A few of these Common Yellowthroat were seen just outside the visitor centre just before it opened.

Three or four Greater Yellowlegs were picking food out of the water just west of the visitor centre.

“But neither of these are birds of prey!” I hear you shouting. You’re right, they’re not. So, without further ado, on with the show!

Last year, the visitor centre housed a juvenile Swainson’s Hawk, which was penned near the front desk.

Juvenile Swainson’s Hawk

This year though, we were greeted by Basil, the Burrowing Owl, who cooed and huffed, but investigated us with as much curiousity as we had about him.

Basil the Burrowing Owl

There is a huge portion of the Birds of Prey Foundation that is devoted to rehabilitation of injured or orphaned birds of prey. Some of the current residents are recovering from their injuries, such as the Broad-winged Hawk and the Rough-legged Hawk in their care. Both of these birds are recovering from wing injuries, and will require rehabilitation for quite some time before they can be released back into the wild.

Broad-winged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

A few others birds on display are of unknown affinity, and I wasn’t able to track any of the volunteers down to ask them for clarification, but they’re beautiful birds nonetheless.

Northern Harrier

Long-eared Owl

Ferruginous Hawk

Great Gray Owl

Others are permanent residents of the centre, and are part of breeding programs that are incredibly successful. Both the Merlins and Burrowing Owls are successful parents, and have regularly fledged offspring for quite a few years.


Burrowing Owl

Arguably just as important as the rehabilitation, breeding, and even the care of these gorgeous raptors are the educational animals that they keep on hand, (and in some cases, in hand!) for public events, or even just for a private moment or two with visitors to the Birds of Prey Foundation visitors centre.

Barn Owl – though not considered “native” to Alberta, they are occasionally reported here.

The Short-eared Owl is quite possibly my favourite owl species.

Spirit, the blind Golden Eagle

Lauren and Alex Jr., one of the Burrowing Owl mascots of the Birds of Prey centre.


Don’t we just look SO happy together?

It’s hard to narrow down from the dozens of pictures that I took here to figure out just which ones are the best and which ones to post. Even looking over the post now, I know I’ve missed a few species and quite a few great photos that would represent them, but really, it’s worth going and visiting for yourself. They’re open this season until September 10, 2012, and will reopen to the public early next May. Why are you still reading this? Get down there and visit them for yourself!

Travel Tuesday – The Many Faces of Frank Lake

Posted by Dan Arndt

Frank Lake has been one of my absolute favourite standby birding areas since I started seriously committing myself to the hobby. It’s been a little over a year now, and I must have visited the lake at least twenty times or so, in all seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn, though I’ll admit, I missed out on some great birds down there last fall as I was finishing up my degree, this year will be a very different story!

While shorebirds and waterfowl are the primary draw, sparrows, wrens, falcons, hawks, and even owls are also regularly seen down there.

Frank Lake is located about an hour south of Calgary, and east of High River on Highway 23. 2012 marks the 60th year of activity at Frank Lake by Ducks Unlimited Canada, and is considered one of almost six hundred of Canada’s Important Bird Areas, and you can find a ton of useful information about Frank Lake (and other Ducks Unlimited projects in Alberta) at the Ducks Unlimited website.

The areas most visited by birders are detailed in the map below, with Basin 1 being by far the most popular location, with a blind, driving loop, and water outflow which provides open water even in the coldest winter months.

Frank Lake Map

Frank Lake Map

Winter –

Horned Lark

Horned Lark – March 2012

Trumpeter Swan

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail – March 2012
In late winter/early spring, these Northern Pintail are some of the first migrants back at Frank Lake.

Spring – It’s hard to gauge when winter ends and spring begins out at Frank Lake, as it sometimes seems that the water will thaw completely overnight… but the arrival of some of these favourites is a good indication.

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis – May 2012
Probably my absolutely favourite bird at Frank Lake.

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe – May 2012
These beautiful little divers can be found at Frank Lake in the hundreds in early spring.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler – May 2012

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk – May 2012
A little more white in this one than usual, another of the predators that patrols the lake.

Summer –

Northern Harrier

One of the more common birds of prey at Frank Lake are the always stunning Red-tailed Hawk.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron – July 2012
Less commonly found at Basin 1, almost every summer trip I’ve taken to Basin 3 has turned up at least Black-crowned Night Heron.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalarope – June 2011
A regularly seen species at Frank Lake, they often nest around the shores of the southern basins.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren – July 2012
My lifer Marsh Wren was found near the blind at Basin 1 of Frank Lake.


Willet – July 2012
Another of the great summer resident shorebirds at the lake.

Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew – July 2012
By midsummer, some of the earliest southern migrants begin to make their appearance around the lake.

Autumn –

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover – September 2011
One of the many southbound shorebirds that stop over at Frank Lake on their fall migration.