Tag Archive | fall migration

Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding Week 7 – South Glenmore Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

The last 48 hours in Calgary have seen a massive shift in temperature and weather. On Friday the temperature took a dive from 15 degrees Celsius down to -5 C, followed by Saturday being interspersed with heavy snow, high winds, and a steady decline in temperature. On Saturday night the temperature took another drop, and upon waking up on Sunday morning, there was a good 2 centimeters of snow accumulation. I knew right away that the birding was going to be great on the Glenmore Reservoir, and I was not disappointed. Nearly 4000 birds were seen out on the water, many of which came in for good, close views, but the majority of them were too far to get usable photos. Luckily for us, some of the less common ones were close enough to see quite well!

By far the majority of the birds were on the west side of the reservoir, but the Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Common Loons and lone Double-crested Cormorant were in the better-protected eastern bay, closer to the Bayview neighborhood.

South Glenmore Park

South Glenmore Park

By far the most numerous birds were the American Coots, which had flocked together overnight to number over 1500 individuals in flocks between 20 and 300. We were greeted at the starting point by this Canada Goose who decided that, for once, it would be appropriate to use the boat launch ramp.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

We also had a perfect vantage point to watch this Bald Eagle and its mate harass one of the larger flocks of American Coots in hopes of picking off a straggler.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Shortly followed by this Common Raven and its mate flying into the spruce above the Glenmore Canoe Club to harass the Bald Eagles who had set down moments before.

Common Raven

Common Raven

As we scanned the flocks of American Coots, we saw interspersed in their numbers a few Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Northern Shovelers, and American Wigeons. The main highlight though were the occasional Horned and Eared Grebes that flocked together and seemed to spent as much, if not more time under water diving for vegetation to fuel their migration south.

Eared Grebe

lone Eared Grebe in non-breeding plumage

At the east side of the Canoe Club, we found this lone Pied-billed Grebe taking refuge near the docks, resting up and staying hidden from predators.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

As we neared the end of the point, we came up right against the largest raft of American Coots, and we even managed to pick out a few juveniles just coming into their adult plumage. In the photo below are at least two American Coots whose heads are light grey as opposed to the fully matured individuals with the black head plumage.

American Coots

American Coots

Moments later a few Trumpeter Swans that we saw on the very far end of the reservoir took off and flew directly toward us. They slowly veered south, but not before getting close enough to allow us to get a few flight shots.

Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swans

Working our way on to the east, these three Eared Grebes thought it would be a good learning experience to show us what their breeding plumage looks like, as opposed to their usual non-breeding plumage we’d seen so far for the day.

Eared Grebes

Eared Grebes

The true highlight of the day though was a group of Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters in the east bay. While I’ve seen White-winged Scoters a bit closer this year on the Reservoir, and Surf Scoters much earlier during the May Species Count here in Calgary, and even closer on the Iona Jetty in Vancouver, it was a real treat to be able to show these uncommon migrants to our group attendees. This is the very best part of leading these groups and why I love birding. These teachable moments and exposure to new birds like this are more than worth the slight discomfort of the cold.

White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoters

Surf Scoters

Surf Scoters

Last Saturday I spent some time down on the Glenmore Reservoir and was able to get much closer to a pair of White-winged Scoters, and managed to snag this shot of an adult male in much better light conditions.

White-winged Scoter - October 13

White-winged Scoter – October 13

And these Surf Scoters are from Iona Jetty in Vancouver, B.C. in early September of this year.

Surf Scoters - Vancouver

Surf Scoters – Vancouver

Have a great week, and good birding!

Friends of Fish Creek – Autumn Birding Course – Week 3, Mallard Point

Posted by Dan Arndt

This week, the Friends of Fish Creek course set out for Mallard Point. Located at the far east end of Fish Creek Provincial Park, it abuts the largest island on the Bow River in Calgary, Poplar Island, which is off-limits to the public, but is viewable from the pathways on both sides of the Bow River. We started at the Mallard Point parking lot, walked north along the river, crossed over the bridge, and to the south-east, parallel to Poplar Island. In total, we discovered 36 species in our three hours along the river, all of which gave us incredible looks at them and were amazing to see, as always, and remember, if you want to see a bigger version of the photos in the blog, just click for a full-sized version!

Mallard Point Map

Mallard Point

As we all collected at the parking lot, the consistent racket of a group of 12 Greater Yellowlegs just over the ridge in the flood channel of the Bow River that separates Poplar Island from the rest of Fish Creek Park, and these four decided to ham it up for the photographers of the group, posing close in and making sure everyone got a satisfying look at them.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

We headed up to the river to see what birds we could see on the Bow, or flying over it, but the star of the show was this small Northern Pike, who seemed just as interested in staring at us as we were in staring at it.

She Ain't Pretty (she just looks that way)

Northern Pike

After crossing the bridge and exploring a bit of the east side of the river, we set our eyes on the small pond that originates from a storm water outflow from the Douglasdale community, and found a fairly large group of American Wigeon joined by a solo female Northern Shoveler.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

While I’m not an expert on gulls, I enjoyed the plethora of plumages visible on the gravel bar just south of the second storm-water outflow into the Bow. We saw adult versions of the three most common species of white-headed gulls out there, those being Ring-billed Gulls, California Gulls, and Herring Gulls. I believe we saw juvenile versions of all three of those gulls as well, though I could always be mistaken!

juvenile Ring-billed Gull

juvenile Ring-billed Gull

juvenile Herring Gull

juvenile Herring Gull

juvenile California Gull

juvenile California Gull

We continued on south-east, and saw one of the harbingers of the change of seasons; a breeding plumaged male Downy Woodpecker. It seems all spring and summer that these guys simply went into hiding, but the last few weeks they’ve reappeared like magic!

male Downy Woodpecker

male Downy Woodpecker

One of the highlights of my day at least was seeing this beautiful Orange-crowned Warbler, who, along with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Gray Catbird, and about ten Yellow-rumped Warblers were found near the southern-most extent of our walk in the brush, chipping and whistling away while we strained our eyes to find just who was calling in the bushes.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Onward we trekked, and as we neared the furthest point of our walk, we were greeted by another gorgeous sight of a group of Mallard ducks, one of which being a male just coming back into his breeding plumage and showing off the broad violet speculum on his wing while stretching his legs, and in amongst the Mallards was another female Northern Shoveler.

male Mallard duck

male Mallard duck

male Mallard (bottom left) and female Northern Shoveler (top right)

male Mallard (bottom left) and female Northern Shoveler (top right)

It seemed a fitting end to the walk as we began to head back that many of our other friends from the summer would see us off. There were no small number of Meadowhawk dragonfly species flitting about as the sun warmed them up, and a handful of damselflies as well, but most noticeable was that their numbers were significantly less than last week, and far less than earlier in the summer. I do hope they hold on a while longer, as I always enjoy seeing and hearing them flit about, but it’s just a matter of time before the temperatures drop and the last of them dies out for another year.

Black Meadowhawk dragonfly

Black Meadowhawk dragonfly

As we neared the bridge, and our walk was nearly at an end, we were gifted with just one more species as this Osprey flew overhead. I sure hope he didn’t see our Northern Pike from earlier in the day!

Osprey

Osprey

That’s all for now. Next week, Carburn Park!