Tag Archive | migration

Postcards from Texas: Smith Oaks

Posted by Matthew Sim

As soon as we arrived at Smith Oaks I knew the birding was going to be good; before we had even entered the gates a Red-eyed Vireo jumped into the bushes in front of us. Then, in the first tree we passed, there was a male Golden-winged Warbler, a male Black-and-White Warbler and a male Blackburnian Warbler.

Black-and-White warbler

Black-and-White warbler

Just like that migrants were in every tree and bush. Blue-headed Vireo and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Magnolia Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. How about another Yellow-throated Vireo? More Black-and-white Warblers over here! Had enough Scarlet Tanagers yet? With each bird the woods seemed to become a immeasurable buffet with numerous gorgeous migrants on which to feast the eye.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

I looked up and spotted an Anhinga, a sign that we were approaching the famous rookery and its rowdy inhabitants.

Anhinga

As we walked further and further the birding only got better and better. There were literally migrants in every bush and tree. Bay-breasted, Yellow, Blue-winged, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Black-and White and Tennessee Warblers were adorning every branch as were Northern Parulas, Common Yellowthroats, Philadelphia Vireos, Eastern Wood-Pewees, American Redstarts and Scarlet Tanagers. Even a beautiful Cerulean Warbler made a very brief appearance!

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Birding didn’t get any slower at the rookery as egrets, spoonbills and herons went about raising their families.

Rookery

Rookery

Young Spoonbill

The excitement didn’t even stop there as we got distant looks at a pair of beautiful Purple Gallinule. And one final highlight came as we were heading back to our car; a pair of Armadillo! It certainly was a great trip!

Nine-banded Armadillo

Nine-banded Armadillo

 

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Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding – Week 8 – South Glenmore Park Redux, Exploring the West End

Posted by Dan Arndt

Another week, another trip into the wilds of Calgary’s Parks. It was a familiar sight when we assembled at the parking lot at South Glenmore Park, but the difference of a week of sub-zero temperatures turned the open water of the Glenmore Reservoir into a nearly birdless and iced over expanse.

Unfortunately for me, my 150-500mm Sigma lens is once again out for repair, and I didn’t get too many shots of the other birds we had in close proximity to us, so I’ve decided to throw in some photos that I’ve taken elsewhere this year to substitute for the birds we saw on this walk.

We walked from the Boating Club west along the edge of the reservoir, then up into the woods representative of the Boreal Forest biome, then continued west into a finger of Aspen Parkland before returning to the main pathway and returning to our rides.

South Glenmore Park - West End

South Glenmore Park – West End

One of our first sightings from the top of the hill was a Northern Shrike, which appeared to be a juvenile, and quite possibly the same one we saw perched in the exact same spot the week before.

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike

Along the edge of the reservoir we looked out and saw a pair of Bald Eagles attempting to hunt, time and time again. As we neared their roost, we stopped amongst a group of Black-capped Chickadees and happened to spot a Brown Creeper flocking in with them!

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

The constant din of honking Canada Geese heavily into their migration and low flyovers allowed us some nice close shots, but even better were the groups of Tundra and Trumpeter Swans that also flew back and forth from the west end of the Reservoir, which still had a good amount of open water.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Trumpeter Swans

We ascended the hill, and stopped for a few minutes to feed the Black-Capped Chickadees, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, and enjoyed their calls and antics while they ate their fill.

Feeding the Chickadees
Feeding the Chickadees

We walked through the Boreal Forest biome and as we crossed into the edge of the Aspen Parkland we paused as we heard not only Golden-crowned Kinglets, but also Boreal Chickadees and Brown Creepers. Quite the sight!

Boreal Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet

Our final addition of the day, as we neared the western-most extent of our walk, was a flock of more than sixty Bohemian Waxwings decorating a completely defoliated aspen like so many leaves. It was quite the sight and a definite cap to our great day of winter birding!

Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

Migration at Hull’s Wood

Posted by Matthew Sim

Last week I rode my bike down to Hull’s Wood in Fish Creek P.P. twice to see how migration was coming along; I was not disappointed! As I rode through the woods both times, the chips of warblers and sparrows emanated from the trees and shrubs along the river. The woods were full of Yellow Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, House Wrens, Least Flycatchers and Warbling Vireos (not all of these were migrants) while several American Redstarts, Tennessee Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes and Baltimore Orioles were also present. There was also a single male Wilson’s Warbler, a single Yellow-rumped Warbler and a single Connecticut Warbler.

Least Flycatcher

Connecticut Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

This was all quite exciting but by 10:30 a.m. both days things quieted down for warblers so I went to Lafarge Meadows to check out shorebirds. Both days I found 6 species of shorebirds in Lafarge Meadows along the Bow River; Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer and Wilson’s Snipe.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Migration is coming along well, so if you have the opportunity, get out there! There are lots of great spots in and around Calgary for migrating birds whether it be Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Confederation Park, Weed Lake, Fish Creek P.P. or your own yard, find your favorite spot for migration and sit back and enjoy the show!

Spring has Sprung at Sikome Lake

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

It was quite evident by the bird activity last week at Carburn Park that spring would be arriving soon, and it became even more clear by the presence of two pairs of nesting Great Horned Owls at the East end of Fish Creek Provincial Park. One of our longest walks to date, at over 7km, we covered a huge amount of ground and saw some amazing sights.

Bow Valley Ranch to Lafarge Meadows and back

Bow Valley Ranch to Lafarge Meadows and back

Meeting at Bow Valley Ranch, we headed along the hillside on the north edge of the lot to attempt to find a Ring-necked Pheasant which had been seen and heard just before my arrival, but to no avail. Heading southward towards the creek, we found the first male Great Horned Owl guarding a nest, and female, that remained undiscovered by our group. A success in the eyes of any parenting owl, but it would be a great find in a month or two once the eggs hatch and babies begin to fledge, and even moreso if someone were there to get some photos! On the other hand, a well hidden nest keeps away those who wouldn’t treat it with the proper respect.

Great Horned Owl - Male 1

Great Horned Owl - Male 1

Great Horned Owl - Male 1

Great Horned Owl - slightly irritated

As we headed across the road through the park, and further south, we were constantly serenaded by the drumming and calling of the incredibly numerous Northern Flickers and Downy Woodpeckers in the area, both of which numbered at least twenty individuals through the course of our walk.

Downy Woodpecker - male

Downy Woodpecker - male

Downy Woodpecker - female

Downy Woodpecker - female

Downy Woodpecker - male

Male Downy Woodpecker digging for a morsel

Northern Flicker - male

One of the many male Northern Flickers seen yesterday.

One of the most common questions of the day was, quite honestly, not surprising. With the incredible numbers of European Starlings coming in, many of those on our walk simply had no idea just how wide the range of Starling vocalizations truly was, and almost every variation of their call drew at least one question of “What bird made that call?”  To which my answer usually was: “This one.”

European Starling

The scourge of those who bird by ear.

We headed toward the south end of the park, and stopped briefly by the river to see if there were any unusual birds on the ice, on the shores, or in the water, but surprisingly, there were very few waterfowl at all on the Bow River. Directly on the river were a few Mallards, and on one pond just to the west, a few more Mallards and a pair of Common Goldeneye.

Mallards

Mallard ducks. (Female on left, male on right)

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye (male left, female right)

Turning back towards Sikome Lake, we came across the second pair of Great Horned Owls. The male appeared slightly agitated, and as we approached, actually flew closer to the nest to better guard it. It also appeared that this pair was much better known, as there were quite a few others viewing the pair as well. The female, though well hidden, was barely visible sitting atop the clutch of eggs.

Great Horned Owl - male 2

A slightly more agitated and alert male Great Horned Owl, guarding his mate.

 

Great Horned Owl - male 2

Male Great Horned Owl

 

Female Great Horned Owl

Female Great Horned Owl on nest. Nope, I can't see it either.

Not too far away from this pair was another alert parent guarding his potential offspring. I wonder how many of his offspring will help feed the developing owlets in the coming months.

Canada Goose on nest

Canada Goose on nest

After stopping to watch this Canada Goose for a bit, we headed back north towards the vehicles, but first stopped to see just a few more woodpeckers in action. Both the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers in this part of the part are incredibly tolerant to people walking only a few meters away.

Male Hairy Woodpecker

Male Hairy Woodpecker

Feeding female Downy Woodpecker

Feeding female Downy Woodpecker

And with that, we headed back to the vehicles, and home. It’s quite an exciting time here during spring migration, and one of the things every birder looks forward to with great anticipation. What will the coming week bring?  I suppose I’ll just have to wait until next Sunday to find out!

 

 

Bird-brained

Who ever said birds were stupid? They were quite wrong. Many birds are quite intelligent and we get a fine chance to observe this intelligence in the migration of geese.

Everybody can associate geese flying in a ‘V’ formation with fall; the geese head south for the winter and are most often seen flying this way. Down here in Texas, we can often see Cattle Egrets flying this way, demonstrating their often overlooked wisdom. There is actually an intelligent method behind this flight, showing us that birds are smarter than we think.

Birds fly in a ‘V’ to save energy; by traveling this way, they render themselves as a group, more aerodynamic. If these birds were to fly in an unorganized group, flying would be a lot harder. Picture it this way; which car is more aerodynamic, a sports car or a dump truck? The sports car is by far the more aerodynamic of the two, its sleek form enabling it to reduce drag, therefore allowing it to go faster. When the geese and the egrets fly this way, they render themselves more aerodynamic, reducing the wind they have going against themselves and therefore applying less energy into flying. The bird flying at the point of the V though, has all the wind going against him, however this is not permanent. Studies have shown that after flying at the point for some time, upon becoming tired, the lead bird will drop to the back where flying is the easiest, and take a well-deserved break. This just goes to show that birds are a lot smarter than we think.

Posted by Matthew Sim

Starling Invasion

 The non-native, much-maligned, and beautiful European Starling.

There are usually a few European Starlings roosting overnight in the spruce trees near my house during the winter.  Then, starting in late January, there is a big influx of starlings as the first returning migrants arrive.  For the last ten weeks, there have been hundreds around the neighbourhood every evening.

The starlings start appearing at about sunset.  Most of them settle first in bare deciduous trees, and they move around in small groups from tree to tree, with very little noise.  (It’s when they disperse in the morning that they show off their incredible vocal skills.)  Within an hour or so, as it is getting dark, they have all moved deep into spruce trees to roost  quietly for the night.  You’d never know they were there.

There are already dozens of European Starlings hidden in this spruce tree.  (The singing bird is a House Finch.)

 

Starlings arriving in their nighttime roost during Saturday’s snowstorm. 

I wondered if the masses of birds that appear at dusk each day were all local birds that disperse to feed during the day and return at night, or if they were new migrants arriving.  When they arrive, they don’t seem to come from any particular direction, and often seem to appear in the trees out of nowhere.  I’ve seen them drop down from such a great height that they first appear as tiny dots.  It seems that it is a new batch of migrating birds each night.  There is nothing special about the trees near my yard, and there are starlings landing in every tree I can see for blocks around.  I can’t even guess at how many there might be in the whole city.  But starlings are one of our most numerous birds, and recently there was a flock of tens of thousands seen in High River. 

It will be interesting to hear if other people are seeing such big flocks of starlings in the city.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre