Tag Archive | great-horned owl

Family Time For The Birds

I had a day off this last Tuesday so I took the opportunity to go biking and birding in Fish Creek Provincial Park. It was a beautiful morning; the sun was out, the sky was blue, the birds were singing and the weather was warm; finally! I got to Fish Creek at around 8:30 a.m. entering the park just off the intersection of Canyon Meadows drive and Acadia . I was preparing to go down the steep hill into the park only to find that the trail was flooded! Instead I followed the trail around the ridge until I entered the park beside the ranch.I did some random wandering on small paths through Fish Creek, finding a pheasant, a kingfisher, several catbirds and 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, among other birds. I then carried on to bridge number 11, leading to Hull’s Wood. Rounding a bend in the path I was surprised to see a male Pileated Woodpecker, just  meters from the path. Before I could get my camera out of my bag, he had flown further away; apparently he was surprised to see me!

I reached Sikome Lake and rode my bike up the hill, in hopes of finding some Great Horned Owls and their owlets; I was not disappointed! There in their regular tree, was the Great Horned Owl family, two young ones and one adult.

As I continued my circuit, I found some more interesting birds, including some Green-winged Teal.

And the Pelicans! The water is so high in the river that pelicans are everywhere; I was able to count up to 27 pelicans at one time, half in the water, half circling in the sky, their bright white feathers contrasting magnificently with the clear blue sky. Another post on the pelicans will follow this one. However, this day, was truly the day of families. At one secluded spot near the river, I found 4 different nests all within a couple of feet of each other. The first belonged to a Downy Woodpecker, the second to a House Wren and the last two to Tree Swallows.

At the Downy Woodpecker nest, the male would visit the hole every couple of minutes and would be instantly greeted with the call of the hungry young in the inside. He continued his work incessantly, feeding his ever hungry offspring.

The House Wrens hardly ever came in and out of their nest but the male was always nearby, singing very loudly and stopping only for the occasional break.

The Tree Swallows would vigorously defend their nests from potential threats, such as the kestrel that flew over several times. The Kestrel in turn would chase away a Swainson’s Hawk that could have been a potential threat to the Kestrel’s family.

As I was leaving the park in late morning I came across a coyote sitting on a hill, looking very content as well as many Savannah Sparrows singing.

Family time for the birds is a busy time of year; I saw 52 species of birds that morning and I had luck as I got to see  some of them raising their families.

Posted by Matthew Sim

Must-see birds: June

June is another great month to go birdwatching, migrants can still be seen during the early parts of the month and the summer residents have started to settle down.  In June, the first fledglings appear, learning to survive and to fly. Our list for the month of June contains a varied list of species, some beautiful and others simply impressive.

1. Ruddy Duck

A small diving duck, the male Ruddy Duck has a black cap, white cheeks, a reddish body and a bright blue bill, rendering it a colourful duck. The female is dark brown above and lighter below with white cheeks and a gray bill. When disturbed, the Ruddy Duck will be more likely to dive then to fly. The Ruddy Duck may be seen at Frank Lake, which is where I see many Ruddy Ducks.

2. Mountain Bluebird

The male Mountain Bluebird is a beautiful sky-blue passerine from the thrush family. The female is brownish grey above and grey below, with some blue on the wings, rump and tail. A truly brilliant bird, the bluebird made it onto the list with ease. Look for Mountain Bluebirds in the Cochrane area or the Water Valley area in June. You can also visit the Ellis Bird Farm near Red Deer which is dedicated to the conservation of many birds, the Mountain Bluebird being one.

3. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a widespread owl throughout much of North America but never fails to impress thanks to its large size and regal composure. It has been described as the fiercest,  most aggressive and most impressive owl of North America. The Great Horned Owl is also the official provincial bird of Alberta. There are many different places to see this large owl, there is currently a nest in the Sikome area of Fish Creek.

4.  Spotted Towhee

A member of the sparrow family, the Spotted Towhee is rather inconspicuous, except in the summer when the male can be found singing his distinctive call; one or two short introductory notes followed by a fast trill. The song may sound like the bird is singing, ‘drink your tea’. The best places to see the Spotted Towhee in Calgary are in the Weaselhead and in Votier’s Flats, in Fish Creek.

File:Pipilo maculatus.jpg

Image courtesy Wikipedia

5. Rufous Hummingbird

Our last bird for the month of June is the Rufous Hummingbird, a bird with fiery colors and a fiery temper. The male has rufous coloring on his back, sides, flanks and tail while his crown is glossy green. The male Rufous Hummingbird is very aggressive and territorial and will use many different displays to protect his territory. Look for this hummingbird in  the Weaselhead or on the Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park, west of the city.

File:Selasphorus rufus on Saltspring Island.jpg

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Which of these birds can you find? Feel free to send us your photos and stories, they may make it up on the blog!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Great-horned Owl Nest Cam

The Ellis Bird Farm has set up a live stream video of a great-horned owl nest on their property. Once you sit through the annoying commercial at the beginning, you can follow the life of this bird, and be there when the eggs hatch. A warning though – these owl nest cams are completely addictive. As it gets closer to hatching time, you might as well give up trying to do anything but park yourself in front of your computer.

The stream is color during daylight hours, and has gray-scale pallet of near infrared artificial illumination during the night.

Great-horned owls are early nesters, and this poor girl appears to be sitting on eggs while covered with snow today. Yet another reason to need some real spring weather in this province!


Good Birding!

Pat Bumstead