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Birding Locations: Alberta Children’s Hospital Pond

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

I thought I’d do a series of posts on some of the smaller ponds and birding locations in Calgary that many birders may not have visited. I’ll start with a fairly new pond that was constructed just south of the new Alberta Children’s Hospital.

This location, which is not far from the Bow River, lies just west of the University Heights neighbourhood in NW Calgary, and alongside West Campus Blvd. There are several paved paths into the area. To access the area by car, park on Utah Drive and take the short path to the pond.

Map - Children's Hospital Pond (2)

The main feature here is the large body of water which is almost bisected by a long thin peninsula. The pond attracts waterfowl, a few shorebirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and others. There is also a large open field north of the pond which attracts hawks. A pair of Swainson’s Hawks has nested just SE of the pond for the last few years. I have seen up to six Swainson’s Hawks over the field at once. A Rough-legged Hawk staked out its territory here last winter.

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Looking across the pond from the northeast corner.

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A closer look from the northeast, with Edworthy Park across the river in the backgound.

Three views from the south side, looking towards the Children’s Hospital:

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A few closer looks which feature some of the birds found here:

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Mallards and Canada Geese nest here.

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Red-winged Blackbirds nest in the cat-tails around the pond.

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A Mallard, Northern Shoveler, two American Wigeons, and four Cinnamon Teal on the peninsula.

This location will only get better as the trees and shrubs around the pond mature. So if you live nearby, or are passing through this area, it is worth a visit.

For more information on where to go birding, see the Nature Calgary Birding Locations Page. It has an excellent and comprehensive guide to many locations in the city and the surrounding region.

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

Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding 2013, Week 3 – Griffith Woods

Posted by Dan Arndt

There’s nothing quite like a quiet Sunday morning bird walk, and the gorgeous scenery of Griffith Woods was no exception. The unfortunate part is that it seemed like the birds decided that it was time for them to take a walk too, making it a little too quiet in the park!

The light wasn’t the greatest, but the company was excellent, and while the birds were scarce, it was otherwise a great morning.

Elbow River through Griffith Woods

Elbow River through Griffith Woods

Starting at the parking lot on the east end of the park, we worked clockwise around the park. While we heard a Common Raven or two on the early part of our walk, we didn’t get looks at any birds whatsoever aside from a Black-capped Chickadee or three for at least half an hour after our start.

Griffith Woods

Griffith Woods

Our first good looks were of a group of Boreal Chickadees, along with a number of Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches, who came down to investigate what all the commotion was. After a few minutes of posing and checking us out, they moved on, but not before allowing us some very close looks and a few photos.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

A few flyovers of some Common Redpolls and White-winged Crossbills were the only birds seen for nearly another half hour. Travelling from the east end to almost the very westernmost edge of the park, we were once again granted good looks at a few more species. A pair of Blue Jays began calling to the south of where we were standing, and as we scanned the horizon to the west, this gorgeous Rough-legged Hawk popped into view.

Blue Jay

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

It seemed that our day was finally making a turn for the better, with the sun making an appearance, the birds seemed to become much more active. The ice on the river though, was just stunning.

Ice Crystals

Ice Crystals

It was, unfortunately, a short-lived reprieve. Heading back along the pathway was even quieter still. You know it’s a slow winter’s day in Calgary when a small flock of Mallards is the most interesting thing you’ve seen in a while.

Mallards

Mallards

It wasn’t completely uneventful on the walk back, but we did get a few nice looks at some more Black-capped Chickadees having a snack on one of the interpretive maps, along with a few Common Redpolls.

Black-capped Chickadee

Common Redpoll

Our last bird of the day was our first actual looks at a bird we’d been hearing all day, this Common Raven.

Common Raven

Common Raven

A few of us decided to explore the park a little more, as the sun came out once again, and we did manage to find a Downy Woodpecker and a few very cooperative Boreal Chickadees in near perfect light.

Downy

Downy Woodpecker

Boreal Chickadee

Curious Boreal Chickadee

Perched Boreal Chickadee

What’s up there?

You can’t see me!

Next week, Carburn Park! I hope there’s a bit more variety there, and there certainly should be greater numbers on the Bow River.

Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding – Week 1 – Fish Creek Provincial Park HQ and Sikome Lake

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.

Great Horned Owl #1

Great Horned Owl #1

Great Horned Owl #2

Great Horned Owl #2

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.

Black-capped Chickadee toll collector

Black-capped Chickadee toll collector

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

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.

Great Horned Owls 3 & 4

Great Horned Owls 3 & 4 – There are two owls in this photo, seriously.

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.

Common Goldeneyes

Common Goldeneyes

Canada Geese

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.

Geese, Mallards and more

Geese, Mallards and more

4th year Bald Eagle

4th year Bald Eagle

adult Bald Eagle

adult Bald Eagle

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.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

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!

 

 

A walk in the Weaselhead

Posted by Matthew Sim

While currently back in Houston, Texas, I spent a very enjoyable 2 weeks in Calgary over Christmas. Despite the cold (!), I got out a couple times, including an afternoon walk in the Weaselhead Natural area, taking photos of the local bird life as I walked.

A couple of Ravens announced their presence with distinctive loud croaks; as well as some more unfamiliar vocalizations.

A couple of Ravens announced their presence with distinctive loud croaks; as well as some more unfamiliar vocalizations.

Redpolls were abundant at the feeders

Redpolls were abundant at the feeders

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

Waxwings ended up stealing the show though through sheer numbers

Waxwings ended up stealing the show though through sheer numbers

A small fraction of the waxwings.

A small fraction of the waxwings.

It was quite a nice walk and good to see so many waxwings.

 

 

Finding Birds with eBird

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Note: You don’t have to be an eBird user or have an eBird account to do this. Anyone with an internet connection can use eBird as a resource, so please read on.

eBird, the online database of bird sightings, has many useful features that birders can use to study patterns of bird movements in time and space. The one I use the most is the Interactive Range and Point Maps. This shows a map of all sightings reported for a particular species for any place and time specified. You can set the time period to be as long or as short as you like, and thus see the distribution of the bird.

By setting a short time period of the most recent month or two, you can find out what is being seen in your birding area right now. I will run through an example of the process to show how you can easily find out exactly where your target bird has been seen.

Step 1: Go to the eBird Website home page. (In the example it is eBird Canada, but you could also use the US site.) Your screen will look something like this:

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Step 2: Click the “Explore Data” tab. There will be three choices: Range and Point Maps, Bar Charts, and Line Graphs.

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Step 3: Select “Range and Point Maps” to bring up the world map.

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Step 4: Specify the date range for your search.  Click the “Date” tab (which is defaulted to “Year-Round, All Years) to select a time period. In the example, I set it to December only of the current year. It was early December when I did this example, so only sightings from the previous few days would be shown. Then click “Set Date Range” in the green box.

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Step 5: Select the target species. A new screen has come up with the date range set to “Dec-Dec, Current Year”. Go to the “Species” box and type in the bird. I used “Snowy Owl” in the example. As you type, various species possibilities that fit what you have typed so far will show in the blue box below. Once the correct species name appears in the blue box, click it to select the species.

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Step 6: Zoom in on the map to see sightings in your area. You could also at this point set the location (to Calgary, for example) in the upper right-hand box, but it is just as easy to zoom in on the Calgary area by double-clicking your mouse or scrolling your mouse wheel until you get close. Any area that is purple on the map will have at least one Snowy Owl sighting.

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Below, I have zoomed in to the Calgary area. Paydirt! Snowy Owls have been reported inside the two purple rectangles. Now I just have to zoom in a little closer on them to see the exact locations.

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Step 7: Get the sighting data from a point location. The two red teardrops show the exact locations reported for Snowy Owls. By clicking on them, you bring up the sighting information. In the example, I clicked the westernmost teardrop and discovered that it was Daniel Arndt who reported one owl on December 1. You could now scroll in some more to see a close-up map of the area with the names of the roads. But you can also get more information from Dan’s checklist.

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Step 8: See the checklist from the reported sighting.  Click “Checklist” next to the name of the observer, to bring up all the particulars of the sighting. If there had been other species seen at that location, they would have been listed there.

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Step 8: See the location on a Google map. On the above screen, click “Map” at the end of the location line to get a Google map with the precise location and GPS coordinates. You can now drive to the exact spot where Dan saw this owl, where, if you’re lucky, it will be still be sitting on the same pole.

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Give this a try to see how easy it is to find out what’s being seen in your area. Of course, the only sightings you’ll find are those submitted by eBird users, so the more people using eBird, the better!

Links:

eBird Canada

eBird US

Calgary Christmas Bird Count – Weaselhead

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

It may seem a bit repetitive, but a week following our last Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding course, my Christmas Bird Count area was also down in the Weaselhead. Our route took a bit longer though, and covered a huge amount of area, and took the better part of the day. We had some really great helpers this time around, as we usually do, and had some awesome birds, a few fewer species than our usual number, and a few different species than we had turn up last year, but all in all, it was a beautifully warm day, and a good time was had by everyone involved. Hope you enjoy these photos I took while we were out!

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin coming in for a landing

Merlin coming in for a landing

This Merlin gave us quite a show, hunting while we watched from the bridge over the Elbow River. I believe that it was hunting one of the many Bohemian Waxwings we saw that day.

American Robin

American Robin

A nice surprise for us was the often spoken-of and quite legendary American Robin. We do have a few that end up trying to spend their winters here in Calgary, and just a week prior, one of Gus Yaki’s groups had a flock of fifty of them. I was happy just to see one!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

This male Pileated Woodpecker gave us a few flybys throughout the day, but in the grove we usually find Boreal Chickadees he flew in for a closer look. We played a few calls which he came to investigate even closer, allowing us a bit better vantage.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

We headed back towards the South Glenmore Park side of the park and stopped for lunch, and it seemed this little Boreal Chickadee wanted some lunch as well.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Another gorgeous little Golden-crowned Kinglet, the first one we saw that day, was spotted just before lunch. After lunch we heard another dozen or so in the dense spruce on the south slope of the Glenmore Reservoir.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

And of course, what day in the Weaselhead would be complete without a few adorable Red Squirrels hamming it up for the camera.