Tag Archive | ducks

Pine Creek Water Treatment Facility to Lafarge Meadows – The road less travelled.

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

I attempted a trip earlier this year to the Pine Creek Water Treatment Plant on the south end of Calgary, and very nearly reached the facility just as my time was running short and I was forced to head back. At the time, a pair of Northern Saw-whet Owls was reported down on the river on the island adjacent to the plant, but I dipped on finding them. This time, the trip to the facility was successful, but sadly, no Northern Saw-Whet Owls were found. Even so, the number of species we saw and heard was astounding, and we even managed to observe not one, but two mating rituals in the few hours it took us to walk from the south end of our route, back to our vehicles at the entrance to the Inland Concrete Site at the east end of 194th Avenue SE, on what would turn out to be one of the warmest and nicest days of the year so far.

Pine Creek Walk

Pine Creek Water Treatment Plant to 194th Avenue SE

 

The rogues gallery of usual suspects was generally present on the route, with the usual Mallards, Canada Geese, Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Flickers and even Red-breasted Nuthatches. What I was not prepared for was the sheer number of new species on and around the river! The highlight of the day I think would have been the three Spotted Sandpipers that we saw throughout the day. I’m sure I have better shots than this from previous outings, but this was the closest I was able to get to any of these three.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

 

Two other old faithful birds that I have somehow missed so far this year are the Green-winged Teal and Gadwall, both of which were viewed down along one of the back-channels of the Bow River, in the shallow, slow waters in the gravel laden meanders behind the main series of islands. The Gadwall were one of the species we were able to observe “The Beast With Two Backs”… or in other words, the mating of the ducks. It really is quite an unceremonious event for birds in general. I think the whole encounter lasted less than a minute.

 

Green-winged Teal (m)

Green-winged Teal (m)

Male (top) and female (bottom) Gadwall

Male (top) and female (bottom) Gadwall

I’m always happy when an outing includes good views of Killdeer. One of our first sightings was across the back-channel, in the shade, with the Killdeer disappearing among the rocks, but near the end of our walk, we also caught this species in the act of attempting to procreate. I wish these future parents good luck! At least the male didn’t attempt to drown the female during the copulation!

 

Killdeer

Killdeer

Male (top) and female (bottom) Killdeer

Male (top) and female (bottom) Killdeer mating

One of the biggest surprises that I should have been prepared for, but always takes me aback every year, is the sheer number of Savannah and Clay-colored Sparrows that invade the grasslands and brush-lands on the outskirts of Calgary. By far these two were the most numerous species of the day, and their calls provided the constant background theme music for our outing along the river, interrupted by the odd Song Sparrow, Lincoln Sparrow, and even a distant Vesper Sparrow that we heard, but did not get close enough to see.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

And while I’m on the topic of surprises, these two were great additions to the outing; a small raft of Red-necked Grebes at the pond at the far south end of Lafarge Meadows, and a Great Blue Heron that flew by on at least three separate locations.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

When we had first arrived, we noted a swallow up on one of the nearby powerlines, and while we thought it may be a Northern Rough-winged Swallow, we couldn’t be sure due to the bad light. We got lucky though, as the little swallow decided to stick around and wait for us to come back, confirming our original ID. The browns and greys of the Rough-winged Swallow provides stunning contrast to the iridescent blue and bright white Tree Swallows we saw further down the path guarding a nest hole.

Rough-winged Swallow

Rough-winged Swallow

 

Another great week of birding down, and at least 6 more to go before the Spring Birding course wraps up for the year.

 

See you next week!

Lafarge Meadows – Finally!

Posted byDan Arndt

The final Sunday Morning excursion by the Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding Course took us to Lafarge Meadows. After going there for the first time with the Fall course, I was looking forward to getting back there as the spring migrants began to filter through, and what a visit it was!

One of the birds that most non-birders consider a sure sign of spring, is the charismatic and well known American Robin, many of which were present and singing their spring song.

Another of the early migrants we were treated to at the beginning of the walk was the ever beautiful song of the aptly named Song Sparrow.

While the field marks weren’t easy to see from that distance, the song was so distinctive that there was no way you could mistake this bird for any other. Over at the boat launch we had some decent views of Common Mergansers (pictured below) and a pair of Lesser Scaup.

We then turned southward to head into LaFarge Meadows proper, checking a few of the ponds near the bridge where we found a few close-ups of some Lesser Scaup and American Wigeon.

As we edged further south along the river, we took note of the huge numbers of gulls both along the river, and in the ponds along the west side that were still frozen, and were greeted by some nicely posing Herring Gulls on a gravel bar in the Bow River, as well as a small number of another new bird for the year, the Franklin’s Gull.

Finally, as we headed back north toward the beginning of our route, I spotted a small bird atop a nearby tree, thinking it may be another sparrow, or maybe even an early swallow species, but was immediately alerted to its identity by the single sharp note of its call, identifying itself as a Northern Shrike!

As we reached the vehicles, all of us were forlorn at the prospect that this was our last walk of the season with that particular group, but all attendees were looking forward to the next round of courses, starting up immediately the following week! Travel will keep me away for the first two weeks of the course, from which I will post some photos on my regular schedule, and but until then, good birding!

Photo Feathers: Common Goldeneye

Recently, I visited Southland Park in Southeast Calgary where I found this male Common Goldeneye drinking water on the Bow River, providing for some neat shots. The Common Goldeneye is a diving duck with a mostly white body, topped with a head that can be a visible green sheen when seen in the right light.

The white oval in between the male Common Goldeneye’s beak and his eye distinguishes him from the similar Barrow’s Goldeneye; which has a white crescent.

The first step is to lower his head into the water.

And lower…

He then tosses his head back so that the water runs down his throat.

He then swallows, repeating this method until he has quenched his thirst. This is how most birds drink.

 

Posted by Matthew Sim