Posted by Dan Arndt
A gorgeous week of bird watching, above zero temperatures, and clear skies had me itching to get out to Bebo Grove this week. In past years, Northern Pygmy-Owls were fairly regular occurrences here, along with Grey Jays, and even the occasional Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers.
Sadly, this time around we didn’t get any of those unusual sightings, but we did get some really great close looks at some of the “winter finches”, some crazy squirrel antics, and while the species list was fairly short, the quality of the observations and the closeness of our interactions was without equal.
Bebo Grove to Shannon Terrace
Fish Creek Provincial Park
The day started with high winds, freezing rain, and cloudy skies, which did not diminish our spirits at all. In fact, it seemed that once we started walking into the wooded pathway, everything began to clear up. As we began, we were almost immediately made aware of a circling Red-tailed Hawk (Harlan’s subspecies), a pair of deer on the trail ahead of us, and one interesting little Red Squirrel raiding a cache of seeds and excavating the hole a little deeper still.
A near-perfect fit
Nearby, we had our first close looks of the day at a few Red-breasted Nuthatches, who are always entertaining, and they even came in to eat out of the hands of some of our participants.
After we’d had our fill of feeding the Red-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees, we continued on until we were stopped in our tracks as we heard the overhead calls of White-winged Crossbills, who briefly touched down at the top of the spruce trees surrounding us. (These photos were taken a little later in the day, but it’s not often these birds are close enough to get good shots of, so I wanted to show them off!)
male White-winged Crossbill
female or juvenile White-winged Crossbill
These tall spruce stands are typical of the habitat that makes up the majority of the Bebo Grove and Shannon Terrace areas of Fish Creek Provincial Park.
Onward to the west we headed, transitioning from the spruce stands to the currently barren poplar stands, where we were greeted by the drumming and foraging of this gorgeous little male Downy Woodpecker.
Another resident of the poplar stands was this White-breasted Nuthatch, who we heard long before we saw, and who gave us quite the show of grabbing seeds and wedging them deep into the crevices of the poplar bark with determined taps of the bill.
It was a while before we got good looks at many other birds. Sure we had fleeting glances at a few Blue Jays, Common Ravens, and even stopped to feed some extremely skittish Black-capped Chickadees, but the next really good looks we had at anything was this Blue Jay on the far west end. We heard it, along with two others, calling repeatedly from a spruce stand in an agitated manner. It never was clear why they were so agitated, but they were so cooperative and posing so well!
Almost as exciting was a small group of Pine Grosbeaks a little further along, just outside the Environmental Learning Center at Shannon Terrace, which might just be some of my best Pine Grosbeak photos I’ve taken so far.
male Pine Grosbeak
female Pine Grosbeak
And on we continued before stopping on our way back to feed the chickadees again. At least some of these little guys are grateful!
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!