Wednesday Wings: Red-necked Grebes

Posted by Dan Arndt

Red-necked Grebes are in my opinion the most photogenic of their family, and in the right conditions of light, cover, and opportunity, I have been able to get quite close to them a few times lately.

These photos were taken this past weekend on the Glenmore Reservoir this past week, and at Frank Lake, Carburn Park, and Bridlewood Wetlands the week before.

Enjoy.

Red-necked Grebe at Bridlewood Wetlands - digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Bridlewood Wetlands – digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake - digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake – digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake - digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake – digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake - 500mm, F6.3, 1/500sec, 800ISO Pentax K-5

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake – 500mm, F6.3, 1/500sec, 800ISO Pentax K-5

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake - digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake – digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake - digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Frank Lake – digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Carburn Park - digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe at Carburn Park – digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85

Red-necked Grebe on Glenmore Reservoir - 1/800, F6.3, ISO640, 500mm, Pentax K-5 + Tamron 1.4x TC

Red-necked Grebe on Glenmore Reservoir – 1/800, F6.3, ISO640, 500mm, Pentax K-5 + Tamron 1.4x TC

Good fishing on a beautiful sunny Sunday at South Glenmore Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

It is nice to finally get a little bit of sun on our walks, and along with the sun came a whole lot of spring migrants through our fair city. It was another great day for waterfowl, and despite the size of the Glenmore Reservoir, we were afforded really great views of just about everything we saw today. While I’m breaking my vow to not repeat species and focus on the new ones we see each week, strangely we didn’t get very close to anything new this week. Sure, there were some Eared and Horned Grebes very far out on the reservoir, and sure our binoculars and views through the scope were excellent, but I’ve come to the realization that digiscoping is best done solo, and not while trying to lead an enthusiastic group of birders on to their next sighting. That said, we did get some excellent views of some of the more elusive mammals we’ve seen in previous weeks, so that’s new too. Oh, and a pair of Long-tailed Ducks showed up. No big deal. They’re just a few thousand kilometers out of range for spring migration, and uncommon even in the fall, but we got them too. Clearly there must be some good fishing on the reservoir this spring, as the grebes, the loons, and many of the other species seen today prey almost entirely on fish. Perhaps that’s why there were so many fishermen out on the reservoir as well?

South Glenmore Park

South Glenmore Park

Our walk started and ended with Common Ravens. Sure, it makes perfect sense, especially considering that they’ve decided to put up a nest not fifty meters from the parking lot, but for most of us, it was really interesting to see. Last year there were a few Common Raven nests along this stretch of parkland, but none quite so exposed. We counted five young ones on this nest this morning, but didn’t really get good looks at them until much later on.

Here’s one of the adults in the “golden hour” light, showing off its nictating membrane.

Common Raven

Common Raven

We headed east along the reservoir from the sailing club, hoping that we might spy some new waterfowl, grebes, or maybe even a few sparrows down along the water’s edge. While other groups this week had reported ten, fifteen, even twenty Common Loons, we were still not prepared for the sheer number out there. There were more loons than I had ever seen in one place, maybe even more total loons than I’d seen individually since I started birding! One of the first new birds we had here this morning was a small raft of Horned Grebes, which were being flushed back and forth along the reservoir by kayakers out for a morning row.

Horned Grebes

Horned Grebes

Further out, there were a much smaller group of Eared Grebes, a handful of Western Grebes, and many Red-necked Grebes scattered throughout in ones and twos. While we were scanning the far edges of the reservoir, we nearly missed the birds (and mammals) right at out feet, like this Least Chipmunk, who was quite content to just nibble away on sunflower seeds while we snapped away.

Least Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk

It was just a little further on where we saw what I would say was our highlight of the day, if not for the entire course to date: the Long-tailed Ducks.

Long-tailed Ducks

Long-tailed Ducks

As we watched both them, the close in loons, and the various other birds that caught our eye, the time finally came for us to turn back to our starting point, and along the way back we once again nearly stumbled upon another unwary mammal, a pair of Snowshoe Hare, who had nearly completely lost their winter coat and taken on their typical summer browns.

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare

And while some locals might think that Black-billed Magpies are a nuisance, annoying, or otherwise “trash” birds, there’s no denying that they are quite striking in just the right light.

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

A brief stop at the vehicles to drop a layer of clothing as the morning warmed up significantly allowed us a moment to stop and check in on the Common Raven family. It looks like one of the adults had just brought in some food, as the young were silently begging for a piece.

Common Ravens

Common Ravens

After such a good start, we expected that our fortunes would continue, giving us sparrows, warblers, and maybe even some Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the dense spruce on the west side of our route, but sadly, no such luck. On the bright side, we did get even closer looks at Red-necked Grebes, Common Loons, and a pair of American Wigeon in just the right light to show off all their field marks.

American Wigeon: female (l) and male (r)

American Wigeon: female (l) and male (r)

Common Loons

Common Loons

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Upon our return, and at the end of our great, warm sunny day, it appeared that the young Common Ravens had not quite had their fill, as they were still begging for food as we left the park for another week.

We're so hungry!

We’re so hungry!

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.