Tag Archive | elbow river

Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding, Week 11 – Elbow River Bird Walk

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

This week we had a great forecast, great weather, and incredible birds. The bird of the day, if one had to pick, would be the Bohemian Waxwing. Thousands of these beautiful birds swarmed the skies overhead, and there was barely five minutes in the entire walk where one wouldn’t have been able to see at least a small flock somewhere nearby. The area we covered this week was right in the heart of Calgary, following the Elbow River, and weaving our way through the surrounding community. It was a day rife with new migrants. Pine Siskins, American Robins, and Dark-eyed Juncos were new year birds for most of us, making us even more certain that spring is finally here, and migration is in full swing.

Elbow River Bird Walk

Elbow River Bird Walk

Our day got started with a pair of Brown Creepers chasing each other around the poplars. This one seemed completely fearless of our group and allowed me my best Brown Creeper photos to date.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

As we headed over to the bank of the Elbow River, we spotted this lone Bald Eagle across the river, and as some of our group closed the distance to our side of the river bank, an adult Northern Goshawk was flushed by our presence and flew upstream. Sadly I didn’t get a shot of that one, but I did manage a few of the Bald Eagle as a consolation.

Adult Bald Eagle

Adult Bald Eagle

Looks like he's noticed us.

Looks like he’s noticed us.

Following the river bank north, we saw flock after flock of Bohemian Waxwings, hundreds and hundreds filled the sky. There were also many Canada Geese flying over and heading to the northeast, but the sheer constant numbers of Bohemian Waxwings stole the show. Here’s just one example of how many there were, and this was with my lens pulled all the way back to 150mm.

Flock of Bohemian Waxwings

Flock of Bohemian Waxwings

A bit further up the river we stopped to observe a pair of White-winged Crossbills on the ground, but this little Red-breasted Nuthatch was working away excavating a nest hole over our heads.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Away from the river now, we managed to see a few American Robins. We had heard them across the river on our walk up to this point, but hadn’t really seen any. Once we found the food supply for the waxwings, we also found the American Robins taking advantage of the mountain-ash berries for their dinner.

American Robin in mountain-ash berry tree

American Robin in mountain-ash berry tree

American Robin

American Robin

And of course, a few closer looks at the ever present Bohemian Waxwings.

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings

Shortly after Gus had explained that they had been treated to views of small flocks of the waxwings being chased down by a Merlin, this little beauty popped up above us.

Merlin

Merlin

With the first quarter of our walk behind us, we continued to be regaled with the flight calls of the waxwings, a number of American Robins, House Finches, and even a few Northern Flickers here and there. We did have a lucky find with a very small group of Bohemian Waxwings down low to the ground, again allowing us better photos and closer views.

Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

Our last new bird of the year, and also of the day, was a trio of Wood Ducks under the edge of this bridge, a smaller number than have been seen here in the past that overwintered along this stretch of the Elbow River, but still a good number of these birds for this time of year.

Wood Ducks and Mallard (far left)

Wood Ducks and Mallard (far left)

Next week will bring our winter walks to a close, but that just means the start of a new spring birding course the week after. I can’t wait to see what we find this time around!

Have a great week, and good birding!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!