Tag Archive | calgary birds

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!

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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.

 

 

Clash of the herons

Posted by Matthew Sim

On a recent bike ride of mine to Votier’s Flats in Fish Creek P.P. I came across a juvenile Great Blue Heron in a storm water pond so I got myself into a good position to photograph it. I sat watching and photographing the heron for some time when suddenly, an adult Great Blue flew in.

Juvenile Great Blue Heron

A rather impressive landing…

The adult heron seemed to “own” the ponds and did not take kindly to the young heron fishing in his waters. The adult proceeded to hunch himself up in a bid to frighten the juvenile.

All hunched up, the adult Great Blue proceeded to hurriedly chase the juvenile around the pond until finally the young heron took a running start and flew off.

Taking off with a running start.

Far from being content however, the adult flew after the young one and the two of them disappeared over the hills. I didn’t move from my position however, because I had a feeling that at least one of the herons would be returning. Sure, enough, several minutes later, the adult returned finally content at having chased the young upstart off of his territory.

Finally able to relax and scratch his head.

Birding the Lafarge Meadows ponds

Posted by Matthew Sim

In the last few weeks, I have made several trips on my own down to the sloughs at Lafarge Meadows. There is always action there; be it coots feeding young ones, Pied-billed Grebes fishing, Ruddy Ducks courting, Red-necked Grebe diving or Yellow-headed Blackbirds chasing every other bird.

One of my favorite parts about the Lafarge Meadows sloughs are the Red-necked Grebes. I have counted as many as 4 pairs at a time on the ponds and have also enjoyed watching them court side by side.

Red-necked Grebe

The Red-necked Grebe is not the only grebe that can be seen at the ponds. The smaller Pied-billed Grebe also calls the sloughs home.

Pied-billed Grebe

So far, I haven’t seen any young Red-necked Grebes but I have seen several families of Pied-billed Grebes.

There are also several other families on the ponds, including Mallards and Common Goldeneyes.

Common Goldeneye family

And while I was enjoying these great sights; I couldn’t forget the birds that truly make a southern Albertan slough like the Ruddy Duck, the American Coot, the Yellow-headed Blackbird- and of course, on the mammal side of things, the Muskrat.

A Ruddy Duck- attempting to fly like an eagle?

Baby American Coot, looking nothing like an adult.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Muskrat

Bird Profile: Tree Swallow

Posted by Matthew Sim

During the summer, Calgary is home to 5 species of swallow; Barn, Cliff, Bank, Northern Rough-winged and Tree Swallows can all be reliably found in the city during the warmer months. The Tree Swallow, perhaps the most common species of swallow here is a favorite bird of mine because of their personality. They always seem to be communicating with one another and I find it humorous to sit back from time to time and watch as a pair on a branch lean back and forth, chattering away to each other.

The Tree Swallow is, of course, a member of the swallow family, (the family is known by the latin name Hirundinidae) small, slender songbirds with small bills and long, pointed wings. A swallow’s sleek form allows it to be an “adept aerialist”, as described in the National Geographic field guides, and they use this form well as they are always darting and swooping about catching flying insects.

The Tree Swallow is separated from other swallows by its blue-green feathers on its upper parts and white plumage below.

Identified by its blue-green upperparts and white underparts,  the tree swallow can be seen flying around meadows and open fields and in wooded habitat near water, such as down along the river in Fish Creek. In fact, just last week as I was exploring some trails in Fish Creek Provincial Park by the river, I came across a Tree Swallow nesting in a cavity right at eye-level in a poplar tree.

Down in that hole, just out of eyesight, is the Tree Swallow’s nest, which is an open cup of grass lined with plenty of feathers- most will likely be from waterfowl on the river. As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says about these guy’s nests; “the Tree Swallow uses many feathers from other birds in its nest. The feathers help keep the nestlings warm so they can grow faster. They help keep levels of ectoparasites, like mites, low too.”

Now, perhaps, you know a little bit more about these beautiful and graceful birds. I know that I learned quite a lot as I did research for this post. And though you probably see plenty of Tree Swallows during the summer here in Calgary, next time you see one, I want you to stop and just observe it for a while; I’m sure you will see that they have lots of character!