Posted by Dan Arndt
With the beginning of the second half of our Winter Birding course, the weather once again made for a beautiful day to be out in Calgary’s parks. It certainly felt like spring was in the air, or at least well on its way, with the bird activity high, many of them singing their little hearts out, and others calling out on their territory that they’ll soon begin nesting and breeding on.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the largest flock of Blue Jays we’ve seen in all of our walks so far. A total of six individuals came to investigate us newcomers right as the walk began, giving us what might have been the closest and best views I’ve ever personally had, and the closest photo opportunities as well. It was quite a treat to start off the day.
As we headed down into the river valley, we had flock after flock of Bohemian Waxwings fly overhead. Both into, and out of the valley floor they flew by the hundreds, their high trills being the only warning before a small black cloud of them would dart overhead. At both sets of feeders there were good numbers of Common Redpoll, Black-capped Chickadees, and even a pair of Pine Grosbeaks, but not the American Tree Sparrow or Ruffed Grouse that we often hope for this time of year. At the bottom of the hill, we were able to get some good light and close visits of the Common Redpolls, some of them even posing for us.
Crossing over the Elbow River, we stopped briefly as we had a close flyover of a Blue Jay and what we tentatively identified as a Townsend’s Solitaire, but what really stole the show for the few that got to see it was this Snowshoe Hare. Unfortunately I was lagging behind as the group came upon it, but at least someone did!
We headed into the woods with much excitement, as the light was holding steady, the birds were active and patient, and everyone’s spirits were high. In our usual mixed grove of spruce and poplar where we reliably have good sightings of Boreal Chickadees, we were not disappointed. Three of the beautiful little brown birds came in to accept our offering of black oil sunflower seeds, and shortly after, a small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets also came to investigate the commotion.
Winding our way through the deer paths and game trails back to the path following the river, we heard the distinct and melodious songs of a number of male House Finches. While they’re a species we usually expect up on the top of the ridge, the sheer number of them down in the valley was quite surprising.
Our circuit continued along the usual route, connecting back with the main pathway after a fairly quiet stretch of pathway, interrupted by brief, but clear views of a juvenile Northern Goshawk, and many flyovers both near and far of Common Ravens and Black-billed Magpies. Our final highlight was this lone Pine Grosbeak eating quietly at the feeder, completely at ease with both our close examination, along with the many runners, walkers, and other folks enjoying the park on this beautiful day.
Next week we’re off to Beaverdam Flats! Good birding, and see you here next week!