Tag Archive | calgary birds

Quite the act

Posted by Matthew Sim
Recently down here in Texas, the local Killdeer have started nesting and their nests can be found in many open spots, such as open lots and around athletic fields. Down at my high school, there were at least 2 nests around the track, which was quite surprising considering the amount of disturbance this location gets daily. While out for a walk last weekend, I found another nest near a local pond. I chanced upon this nest when the female Killdeer incubating her eggs scurried off her nest and proceeded to preform the Killdeer’s broken wing act to try and lure me away from her nest.

Killdeer

On the alert!

When Killdeer see a potential predator approaching their nests, they try to distract the predators from the nest by dragging one of their wings on the ground as though it were broken. They scamper away, stopping from time to time to make sure the predator is still following and then, when they feel a safe distance away from their nests, they fly off, returning to their eggs to continue incubating. It really is quite the trick!

Quite the convincing act!

Quite the convincing act!

act

I let myself be led away by this act but before I left I did make a brief attempt to find the Killdeer’s eggs, which I did, snapping a photo from a good distance away so as to ensure I didn’t disturb the Killdeer again before I left.

Killdeer eggs

Leucistic Rough-legged Hawk

Posted by Matthew Sim

We’ve done posts here on this blog about leucism before, which is when a bird has reduced pigmentation, meaning it has more white in it’s feathers than normal for the species. We’ve had some examples before, including a leucistic House Finch, American Robin, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and others. For the past few months, Calgary has had a very neat leucistic bird in the area. This Rough-legged Hawk frequents the area around Highway 40, just west of Calgary.

Leucistic Rough-legged Hawk

flying

Now compare this with a more normal Rough-legged Hawk.

Rough-legged Hawk

On January 1rst, I found this leucistic hawk on Highway 40 near its intersection with Range Road 40.

Impressionism

 Posted by Matthew Sim

It was a bright, sunny winter afternoon in Calgary, nearly two years ago to the day. I had just retreated from a chilly walk around my neighborhood and was warming up when I happened to glance out the upstairs window. Upon doing so, I noticed a strange shape down on the snow. It took me a minute to figure it out, but once I realized what I was looking at, the story began to come together piece by piece. See what you come up with.

When you looked at this shot, you might have said that you see a bird’s impression in the snow. You would have been right. Now, you might have been a little more specific and described seeing a raptor’s impression. If you got this far, you did great. It’s not very easy to deduce much else. However, some may have gone even further, observing the shape of the raptor, comparing with descriptions in field guides and creating a list of possible suspects based on the fact that this was taken in Calgary, during the winter. If you came up with a few possible suspects, great work. But did you go any further?

If you did, you might have come up with a Sharp-shinned Hawk. You would be right. The wings are too rounded for Merlin or any other falcon, shape too small and body shape not to the right proportions of a buteo such as a Rough-legged or Red-tailed Hawk and the shape is once again far too small for either an eagle or a goshawk. Therefore it must be a Sharp-shinned Hawk. My neighborhood in Calgary has a healthy population of 4-6 Sharp-shinned Hawks so this make sense. From here, we can piece together a story,

Imagine a Sharp-shinned Hawk flying maybe 30-40 feet high, perhaps a little lower, circling at times. From its vantage, the raptor notices a small movement in the fresh snow below. Diving down, it attempts to nab a vole caught out in the open, plunging deep into the unmarked snow. Then what? Tough to say, and it will be a great mystery; we can only speculate at the final result but here is a breakdown of the photo.

I still wonder about the impression in the top right; what happened? Did the vole escape the hawk’s clutches the first time only to succumb to the second attempt? Did the hawk attempt to lift off without getting enough momentum the first go? Or was the impression in the corner caused  by snow falling off a tree limb?

It was quite interesting to see all the same, regardless of what the result was.

Sunday Showcase: More Starlings

Posted by Matthew Sim

This summer while I was up in Calgary, I noticed a lot of starlings as well, especially in Fish Creek P.P. On one of my excursions to the park, I positioned myself beneath a Starling’s nest hole and managed to capture a few shots as the bird descended to feed it’s young.

Preparing for landing…

Landing; note food in beak

At nest hole; seems to be startled by the ferocity of its two young!

 

 

Calgary Herald Bird Photography competition

Posted by Matthew Sim

Interested in entering a local bird photography competition? For those of you who haven’t yet seen the article, the Calgary Herald is having a contest for bird photos seen in and around Calgary with the chance to win a copy of the National Geographic Bird Watcher’s Bible: A Complete Treasury.  There are 4 simple ways to enter:

1. Tweet your photo on Twitter with the hashtag #yycphotovote in the tweet.

2. Submit your photo via Instagram with hashtag #yycphotovote in the caption.

3. Post it to the Calgary Herald’s Facebook page.

4. Email the photo as an attachment to readercontributions@calgaryherald.com.

Swainson’s Hawk

If you haven’t submitted any photos, go ahead and give it a try! The winners will be announced next Sunday on the Calgary Herald’s Facebook page. You can find out more about the competition here.

Good luck!

 

Migration at Hull’s Wood

Posted by Matthew Sim

Last week I rode my bike down to Hull’s Wood in Fish Creek P.P. twice to see how migration was coming along; I was not disappointed! As I rode through the woods both times, the chips of warblers and sparrows emanated from the trees and shrubs along the river. The woods were full of Yellow Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, House Wrens, Least Flycatchers and Warbling Vireos (not all of these were migrants) while several American Redstarts, Tennessee Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes and Baltimore Orioles were also present. There was also a single male Wilson’s Warbler, a single Yellow-rumped Warbler and a single Connecticut Warbler.

Least Flycatcher

Connecticut Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

This was all quite exciting but by 10:30 a.m. both days things quieted down for warblers so I went to Lafarge Meadows to check out shorebirds. Both days I found 6 species of shorebirds in Lafarge Meadows along the Bow River; Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer and Wilson’s Snipe.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Migration is coming along well, so if you have the opportunity, get out there! There are lots of great spots in and around Calgary for migrating birds whether it be Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Confederation Park, Weed Lake, Fish Creek P.P. or your own yard, find your favorite spot for migration and sit back and enjoy the show!

Beyond the reflection: the dangers of windows

Posted by Matthew Sim

As the fall migration starts to heat up and southbound warblers, vireos, flycatchers, sparrows and more pass through Calgary, birding can become quite exciting. While for us, this is a great time to be out and about, for the birds, it is dangerous; very dangerous. Migrating passerines (perching birds), for example, have to travel long distances all while on the lookout for predators such as hawks and cats, try to get food themselves and hope they don’t get caught in an early cold-snap which could potentially kill them. And this is just the beginning, there are even more dangers; one of them which is the most lethal of them all.

According to Sibley Guides Bird Mortalities, window strikes (when a bird hits a window) kill between 97 and 976 million birds each year, more than any other cause of bird deaths. (http://www.sibleyguides.com/conservation/causes-of-bird-mortality/).  I was in my neighbor’s yard when I noticed one of these fatalities on his patio. While I had been there, a migrating Ovenbird had struck his window and had died. Though birds can crash into  windows at any time of the year, window strikes tend to happen more frequently during migration as an influx of migrants come through unfamiliar territory, passing from tree to tree. As you can see in the photo below, it is quite easy for a bird to see its habitat reflected in a window and believe that it is simply another tree they are heading to; I’m sure most don’t know what hit them.

If I were a bird, I would probably fly towards these trees too.

Many bird populations are declining already due to a number of reasons and we don’t need to help them along with  reflective windows when we could easily prevent window strikes occurring.

This Ovenbird had struck my neighbor’s window while I was in his yard.

A closer look at the detail on the Ovenbird’s feathers

Probably the worst part of all this is that window strikes are senseless; it’s not like natural selection where it was meant to happen, window strikes are part of our devastating side effects on nature; however, they can also be easily prevented.

There are many ways to prevent birds from striking windows. If you are having birds fly from your feeders or bird baths into windows, you can either move these bird attracting features further away (25-30 feet) from the window or closer (1-3 feet) to the window so that if the birds do hit the window at just 1-3 feet they will not be going fast enough to do any harm to themselves.

Apparently, there is also a material called CollidEscape which can reduce reflectivity and transparency on the outside but still leave the windows transparent from the inside. You can check it out here.

Here are a few more options:

  • plant shade trees outside windows to break down reflections
  • install snap-on window dividers
  • put a hanging plant outside of the window

These are just a few of the ways you can avoid window strikes and help reduce the number of avian mortalities each year. Often, preventing window strikes can be as simple as closing the curtains or blinds when not using the windows. You can see even more solutions here.

If you have birds hitting your windows, there are many ways to stop it; help out bird populations!

Sunday Showcase: Spotless Spotted Sandpiper

Posted by Matthew Sim

Okay, try saying that 10 times fast. Spotted Sandpipers, while spotted in their breeding plumage, do not have spots in winter or when they are juveniles.  Juveniles can be separated from winter plumaged birds by the scaling and barring on their upperparts, which nonbreeding adults do not have. Right around now, we start to see juveniles so look out for them; I recently found this juvenile in Votier’s Flats in Fish Creek Provincial Park.