Tag Archive | calgary parks

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.

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Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding – Week 5 – Elbow River Bird Survey

Posted by Dan Arndt

The epitome of “backyard birding”, can be experienced with the monthly Elbow River Bird Survey that Gus Yaki has been doing on the first of the month for nearly twenty years. Starting at Stanley Park, the walk meanders along the Elbow River through the neighborhoods of Parkhill/Stanley Park, Elbow Park, and Altadore before reaching its terminus at the Glenmore Reservoir at the Glenmore Dam.

 

The day started with a huge number of Black-billed Magpies, American Robins, and American Crows. This crow was taking a bath when we spotted it, and definitely looked like it was enjoying itself!

American Crow

American Crow

A little further down the river we came across some Wood Ducks. This stretch of the Elbow River has historically been good for the Wood Duck population as there have been families along the river that regularly fed them. According to Gus, one winter there were nearly forty of them along a 100-meter stretch.

juvenile Wood Duck

juvenile Wood Duck

male Wood Ducks

male Wood Ducks

Another of the common backyard birds we saw in incredibly high numbers were the Red-breasted Nuthatches, which seemed to be a constant chorus of calls every time we stopped.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

To add to the chorus were the Pine Siskins, seen in the hundreds on Sunday’s walk. They’re a nomadic species that can be found wherever there is a good pine or spruce cone crop, and will likely be a regular addition to our lists as the autumn progresses into winter.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

As we got to Riverdale Park, nearly at the west end of this walks extent, the number of European Starlings seemed to balloon into massive proportions. They were sporting their Sunday best, too, with fresh autumn plumage and beautiful iridescent greens, purples, and yellows shining in the sunlight.

European Starling

European Starling

This Black-billed Magpie was one of a fairly high number as well, also in bright, iridescent colors.

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

As our walk neared its end, we managed to get some very good, close looks at a number of Northern Flickers, and while they’re not the most uncommon bird, they did seem to make themselves very well known by the end of the day. After the one in this photo took off, it flew within 10 feet of my head and was quickly followed by its mate.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Our walk finally came to a close, we were cursed with bad luck over the reservoir, seeing only a very small number of Rock Pigeons and Ring-billed Gulls flying over the dam, and sadly, none of the more charismatic of the waterfowl and/or gulls one might hope to see on such a large body of water.

 

Have a great week, and see you back here next Monday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Griffith Woods – New surprises at every turn

Posted by Dan Arndt

As I wrote in my original post about Griffith Woods with the Winter Birding course,  I haven’t had much opportunity to visit this beautiful park on the edge of the city, and Sunday morning was only my second visit. The route we took this week was almost identical to the one we took in March, but the birds we saw were vastly different.

 

Griffith Woods

Griffith Woods – 5km Walking Route

We started by walking east from the parking lot, where we were inundated by a huge number of birds singing. Not only new birds for the year for many of us, but for myself at least one new life bird, and great views of others that I’d only seen in the distance or through foliage. Both White-crowned and White-throated Sparrow species were present and singing, but we also heard and saw a single male Purple Finch.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

 

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

 

On the river itself, a few Spotted Sandpipers searched for food along the shore, while a pair of Belted Kingfishers patrolled the river in search of small fish.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Further east, on the banks of the large eastern ponds, we had great views of an adult and a juvenile Red-naped Sapsucker, a House Wren at the entrance of a nest hole, and a Gray Catbird who flew in for a closer inspection as we played back a recorded call.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

House Wren

House Wren

 

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

To top off those great views, we also spotted a pair of what we identified as Least Flycatchers along the edge of the ponds before they disappeared into the deeper brush.

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

We left the ponds after searching a bit longer for some other birds that we could hear nearby, but only the briefest glimpses confirmed the songs of the Yellow Warbler, Lincoln’s and Song Sparrows, and the ever present Clay-colored Sparrows buzzed in the background.

Turning back west, we continued past the parking lot and deeper into the spruce forest of Griffith Woods, which meanders through a number of small tributary channels of the Elbow River, very small ponds and wetland areas, but is dominated by the White Spruce that make up a significant portion of the foliage. The birds were heard more than seen, and while we heard a number of Pine Siskins, White-winged Crossbills, Boreal Chickadees, and both Hairy and Downy Woodpecker species, it was hard getting our binoculars on them, let alone the camera lens!

Coming to one of the first bridges, we saw a pair of sandpipers, which initially we thought were also Spotted Sandpipers, as before, but the white breast, greenish legs, and drastically different demeanor identified them as Solitary Sandpipers, which can sometimes nest in trees, as we noticed a few minutes after this shot was taken.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

We meandered for the next half hour with very few birds seen, but heard Chipping Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and what we thought was a flock of Black-capped Chickadees mobbing a predator, but turned out only to be an unusually vocal flock. A moment later, the call of the Audubon’s subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler was heard only a few meters away. Once again, we had great views of it as it was protective of its territory, indicating that it would very likely be breeding in the area if it can find a mate this season.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s subspecies)

Our last really great views were of the male Pileated Woodpecker that we originally saw back in March, once again protecting the nest hole in an abandoned power pole near the condominium complex.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

On our way out, we did get one other new bird on the year in Calgary. High above us soared a juvenile Golden Eagle, with bright white patches under the wings, and that incredible golden brown hue over the rest of its body. While my camera couldn’t quite zoom in far enough to get a decent shot of it, my binoculars gave me good enough views that I’m looking forward to getting back out into the country to see these birds up close again. As for Griffith Woods, I look forward to exploring it once again this summer, and into the fall once the warblers begin heading south once again.