Tag Archive | calgary

Birds and Beers Reminder and Update

Just a reminder to RSVP if you’re planning to attend Birds and Beers this coming Thursday night!

A few clarifications for those of you who will be attending:

1) This event is strictly BYOB. From what I understand, some snacks will be provided by our gracious host, but drinks and any other food you might require will be on you!

2) This is also an all-ages event. Since we’re at a private location, anyone is welcome to come, bring their children, and just have a nice relaxing evening with like minded birders.

 

See you on Thursday!

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Bowmont Park – An old favourite made new again

Posted by Dan Arndt

The Friends of Fish Creek Spring Birding Course spent the last two weeks visiting Bowmont Park, and then revisiting the Weaselhead the following week. Bowmont Park was rather quiet, and seemed to be a little less productive than most of our other locations, or so it seemed to me after the weeks prior to that adding so many new birds to my year list. The Weaselhead, which I’ll highlight later this week, seemed rather unproductive as well, but both of these locations provided some really great views of birds that tend to be rather discreet. Enjoy the photos and stories this week.

Bowmont Park

Bowmont Park

As a cyclist in Calgary, I’ve been through Bowmont Park a number of times, up on the hillside, down by the river, and all through many of the winding back trails in between. It’s almost definitive of the sort of environment that Calgary resides in. From the sheer cliff faces cut into the glacial till housing Bank Swallow nests on the north face, to the various small ponds home to Spotted Sandpipers, Blue-winged Teal, Mallards, and various other waterfowl, to the open prairie grasses on the hilltops home to White-crowned, Savannah, and Clay-colored Sparrows, it features everything from the foothills to west, to the plains to the east, and the range of birds that one would and could expect throughout.

It seemed a quiet day overall though, but we did get some good looks at a House Wren early on.

House Wren

House Wren

Northern Rough-winged Swallows, though not incredibly numerous, were just hanging around on some wires…

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

and in the air above the ponds.

 

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

This Osprey was busy flying back and forth from the river, providing for its mate sitting on the nest, and while there weren’t any chicks visible, chances are pretty good that she was at least incubating some eggs.

Osprey

Osprey

One spring bird that was in huge numbers were the Cedar Waxwings, many of which were posing nicely in the sunlight for us, while exhibiting their usual behaviour of resting on the edge of a branch before flying out briefly to snatch a fly, moth, or other flying insect right from the air before returning to the branch and swallowing it down.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

On top of the cliffs were a pair of Gray Catbirds which we could hear from half a kilometer away, calling back and forth among the caragana bushes continuously as we passed by.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

As we returned along the main pathway by the Bow River, we noticed a number of knotholes in the poplar trees lining the river valley, many of which housed Tree Swallows protecting their eggs from predators.

Tree Swallow in nest

Tree Swallow in nest

Also in protective mode were the American Crows, which were spotted harassing three separate Red-tailed Hawks in the distance as we reached the end of the pathway, and the end of our walk.

Crows harassing Red-tailed Hawk

Crows harassing Red-tailed Hawk

 

Good birding!

 

 

 

May Species Count – Day 2 – Weaselhead, North Glenmore Park, and Pearce Estate Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

I thought I was prepared for a second long day in a row of birding, but I was nowhere near as prepared as I thought. An early start at the Weaselhead at 5 AM netted us great looks at a couple of Veery, the haunting and somewhat creepy calls of a Swainson’s Thrush, and two mystery calls which completely stumped us. I just wish we’d had the foresight to record them so we could get some expert advice!

We joined up with a small group for our regular Sunday group, with some out of town, others sick, and still others not quite up for the grueling day ahead. 16 km and 6 hours later (map below), we emerged with a whole lot of really great birds, a couple of awesome sightings, and expressions of nothing less than pure joy at some folks’ first close sightings of both Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds in the wild.

Weaselhead Natural Area

Weaselhead Natural Area

The Weaselhead Nature Area encompasses both the mudflats of the Glenmore Reservoir, the boreal forest of the central woods and meadows, the riparian environment lush with warblers, sparrows, finches and the odd duck or three and even a few large ponds stocked with waterfowl and shorebirds. It’s funny that as a native Calgarian of over 30 years, my first visit to the Weaselhead was late last fall. It’s such a beautiful, scenic, and massive natural area that rivals Fish Creek Provincial Park for diversity, and again, right in the heart of the city. Most people, myself included, have a relatively limited experience with it, as the multi-use pathway that runs down the middle of it links North Glenmore Park to South Glenmore Park, but the unpaved path network is simply massive.

Some of the best sightings in the Weaselhead included the Veery, Eastern Phoebe, Calliope Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, a very brave Yellow Warbler that nearly landed, comedy-style, on the binoculars of another birder, and a Northern Waterthrush that was heard long before it was seen.

Over on the Glenmore Reservoir we were given great directions to a resident Brown Thrasher that has been seen there for a few years now, and had great views through the scope of a Common Loon, Western and Clark’s Grebes, and a slightly lost Surf Scoter.

The day wore on, and the visit to Pearce Estate Park loomed on the horizon, but it was far less painful than it could have been. The recently rebuilt park now has a wonderful boardwalk and blinds over the ponds, which allowed us to get very close looks at the often frustratingly cautious Belted Kingfisher. We heard quite a few Warbling Vireo, and I got my first ever looks at juvenile Common Goldeneye, which are even more adorable than any gosling or Mallard chick that I’ve ever seen before.

Veery

Veery

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Clark's (far left) and Western Grebes

Clark’s (far left) and Western Grebes

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Goldeneye and chicks

Goldeneye and chicks

May Species Count – Hull’s Wood to Lafarge Meadows – Highlights

Posted by Dan Arndt

One of the birding events that I have wanted to take part in since learning of it last year was the May Species Count. This is one of the many events that contribute to real science research on behalf of Bird Studies Canada. I was a little worried when taking on an entire area of my own, since I was certain that I’d miss some calls that a more experienced birder would have picked up and identified in seconds, or that I’d misidentify warblers, sparrows, or other shorebirds. Thankfully, I didn’t hear anything that really threw me for a loop (aside from a Western Meadowlark that sounded like it was a little confused) and didn’t see anything that I couldn’t readily identify with a quick reference to my Sibley Guide or Audubon’s Field Guide to Birds app.

Starting at about 5 AM, we hiked from the parking lot at Bow Valley Ranch, meandering south to 194th Avenue, then back north to the Ranch, which I’ve mapped below.

Hull's Wood to Lafarge Meadows - May Species Count Route

Hull’s Wood to Lafarge Meadows – May Species Count Route

Paul Turbitt came along both for the photo opportunities as well as to help out with spotting birds, but I always find the viewpoint of an experienced hunter and photographer incredibly valuable in the field. That, and having someone else around to see and hear birds that you might otherwise miss is indispensible. We racked up a total of 70 species, which included 3 new year birds for me, and something like 10-12 for Paul. It’s always great to show people new birds that they’ve never seen before, but also to get better views (and photos) of birds that you’ve seen dozens or hundreds of times before. Below are a few of my favourites from Saturday’s portion of the May Species Count.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Alder Flycatcher

Alder Flycatcher

Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee

Great Horned Owls eating breakfast

Great Horned Owls eating breakfast

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

Killdeer

Killdeer

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Red-winged Blackbird and Heron

Red-winged Blackbird and Heron

Great Horned Owl Fledgeling
Great Horned Owl Fledgeling

Sunday’s photos and recount of the May Species Count from the Weaselhead, North Glenmore Park and Reservoir, and Pearce Estate Park to come soon…

19th Annual Fish Creek Park New Years Day Bird Count

Last week I was asked by Bob Lefebvre if I would be interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count for Fish Creek Provincial Park, and I immediately jumped at the chance. I always look forward to the walks in Fish Creek Provincial Park, and I was very glad to be grouped once again with Gus Yaki, Bob Lefebvre, along with 11 other participants to do the count in the Marshall Springs area of Fish Creek.

If you’re not familiar with the area, Marshall Springs is located between Bebo Grove and Votier’s Flats, on the west side of Fish Creek Park, just south of the Bow River. I started up the GPS on my phone and mapped out our walking route, to explain a bit more graphically the route we took. I’ll be experimenting with this format in future posts, so let me know how you like it!

Walking route taken through Marshall Springs

Starting at the parking lot to Bebo Grove, we trekked south through the woods, then crossed the river into the Marsall Springs area proper. On the whole, I didn’t end up taking as many photos as I would have liked to, mostly due to the relatively quiet morning we had in terms of both species present, and population. One of the first birds seen all morning was this Pine Grosbeak, along with one other, in the trees just north of the base of hill at the southern boundary of the park.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

If there was any bird that I felt best described the walk though, I would have to say it was the Downy Woodpecker, the first of which we spotted shortly after the Pine Grosbeak, tap-tap-tapping away at the trees for some food.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Followed shortly by our first sighting of a Hairy Woodpecker, also searching for food under the bark of the poplars and birch.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

I don’t know whether it was the company, the conversation, or the lack of birds present, but most likely a combination of all three that found my next photos taken near the end of the walk, when this Pine Grosbeak called from a nearby treetop, and across the banks of Fish Creek this White-Tailed Deer grazed on the edge of the slope.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

White-tailed Deer

Mule Deer

We convened later with the larger group near the main office of Fish Creek Provincial Park to collaborate data and share any interesting finds. Our group though had a fairly small number of species and individuals, and aside from a large overflight of Bohemian Waxwings, we had less than 100 individual birds among 12 species in our count area, detailed below:

11 Downy Woodpecker

1 Hairy Woodpecker

45 Black-capped Chickadee

4 Red-breasted Nuthatch

1 White-breasted Nuthatch

2 Common Redpoll

2 White-winged Crossbill

100 Bohemian Waxwing

11 Common Raven

8 Black-billed Magpie

1 Brown Creeper

8 Pine Grosbeak

One bird did stand out from the crowd at the reporting though, which Bob and I  went in search of shortly after. I leave you with a (relatively bad) photo of a rare Winter Red-tailed Hawk, seen on the east end of Fish Creek Park.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Posted by Dan Arndt