Tag Archive | spring migration

Bankside to Mallard Point – The migration has arrived.

Posted by Dan Arndt

It was an incredible morning. The sounds of Savannah Sparrows, Song Sparrows, European Starlings, American Robins filling the air, along with the smells of spring. While it wasn’t the sunniest day, that was a blessing in disguise, as it helped keep it cool and helped to keep the birds calling well into the morning.

Bankside to Mallard Point

Bankside to Mallard Point

Upon our official start at Bankside, the presence of Savannah Sparrows was made readily apparent. Their calls serenaded us all through the day, but down near the riverbank we also heard a few Song Sparrows, both of which posed readily for the camera.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

As we came back from the river to begin our walk in earnest, this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew up from building a nest hole to the edge of a building and began drumming on the siding, making quite the racket, but certainly announcing his territory to every female around.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

We followed the river, and had a few great sightings. A pair of Swainson’s Hawks on a nest, a Wood Duck on a gravel bar, a pair of Common Mergansers sitting up on a log with a perfect reflection in the still water, and many American Robins collecting nesting material and preparing to raise their young. We also were lucky enough to observe this Red-tailed Hawk dodging a pair of American Crows that were harassing it continuously.

Just leave me alone!

Just leave me alone!

Begin evasive maneuvers!

Begin evasive maneuvers!

Don't make me use the claws...

Don’t make me use the claws…

They're dangerous weapons...

They’re dangerous weapons!

A little further up the river we paused for a few minutes to watch some Northern Shovelers, and our first Gadwall and Green-winged Teal of the year. A pair of each found this little section of river just perfect to spend their Sunday morning.

Gadwall Pair

Gadwall Pair

Gadwall

Gadwall

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

Our best birds of the day though, by far, were this pair of American Kestrels. A trio of Black-billed Magpies and a lone, and seemingly out of place Blue Jay, spent a good twenty minutes harassing them, before we moved on to leave them in peace.

male (l) and female (r) American Kestrels

male (l) and female (r) American Kestrels

male American Kestrel

male American Kestrel

male American Kestrel

male American Kestrel

As we neared the end of our walk, we finally came close enough to get a good look at one of the many Ring-necked Pheasants we had heard all morning, crowing away and searching for a mate. This beautiful brave male walked along the opposite shore while we stayed quite still and took in the view.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Ring-necked Pheasant

Another good sighting was a small flock of Common Grackles along the near shore, and even in the poor light they were quite striking to look at in their fresh iridescent plumage.

male Common Grackle

male Common Grackle

As we headed to the vehicles to car-pool back to the Bankside parking lot to finish the day, a pair of Merlins in the back yard of a nearby house began calling, and apparently were being harassed by a few Tree Swallows, House Finches, and Black-capped Chickadees. I guess they didn’t want these two setting up their nest near their well-stocked feeders!

Merlin

Merlin

Along the road on our way back to the vehicles, in one of the stormwater ponds that has recently been set up in Fish Creek Park, we found an amazing Great Blue Heron, but also found another new species for the year, these Blue-winged Teal!

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Next week we’re off to Lafarge Meadows, and I’m hoping that we get a bit better light, but either way, the real push of migration has begun, and we are guaranteed to have a great day, rain or shine!

Good birding, and see you next week!

Spring Birding at Sikome Lake, a variety of surprises!

Posted by Dan Arndt

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to be switching things up a bit for spring and fall, in regards to some of the content. I hope you like the new format, meant to highlight really the new arrivals (or long past due photos of said arrivals), rather than a laundry list of everything from Mallards and Chickadees to the uncommon or rare birds like Brown Thrasher and Sandhill Cranes. It shouldn’t look that different, but I do think it’s time I changed things up a bit. Given the feedback I’ve had in regards to the maps I’ve included for the past year, I’ll definitely be keeping those. It helps others who are going out in search of the birds days later, but also helps our attendees with a reminder of what we saw and where we saw it.

Sikome Lake is always a great place to visit any time of year. In winter, it’s a haven for the Black-capped Chickadee, both species of Nuthatch that are present here, and both the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers. One of the birds that are a welcome sight are the Great Horned Owls, which I wrote about for Bird Canada over here. Today was no exception, providing us with quite a few new birds for the year, more than a few of which were surprises even to us!

Sikome Lake, Hull's Wood, and boat launch area

Sikome Lake, Hull’s Wood, and boat launch area

Our first new bird of the day was heard long before it was seen, and if there was a single bird one could say that was present all morning long, it would have been the Ring-necked Pheasant. Their calls echoed throughout the park from when we arrived at 8 AM, until I finally left at 1:15 PM. While they were heard all over the park, we only ended up spotting a single male sitting across the river from the boat launch when we arrived.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Ring-necked Pheasant

We surveyed a large flock of gulls one one of the gravel bars, picking out a Glaucous Gull amongst the various Ring-billed, California, and Herring Gulls, but the distance and the sleet simply would not allow for a photo.

Once we’d had our fill of gulls, we headed south to the large pond that borders Highway 22x, where we found this lone (and very early arriving) Cinnamon Teal, and were given nice comparison views of a Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye.

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal and Canada Goose

Barrow's Goldeneye (rear) and Common Goldeneye (front)

Barrow’s Goldeneye (rear) and Common Goldeneye (front)

As we were leaving, I stopped for a moment as I heard a familiar, but quiet call of a Savannah Sparrow, though we couldn’t track down where the bird was calling from within the cattails on the bank of the pond.

We stopped for a few minutes to check out some Great Horned Owls on a nest, and both mom and dad were present and visible from our vantage point.

Female Great Horned Owl on nest

Female Great Horned Owl on nest

If you’ve ever birded Sikome Lake, you know that near the parking lot the Black-capped Chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers simply will not allow you to pass without paying the toll of black-oil sunflower seeds, or other assorted nuts as your park tax. Today was the exact opposite. Only a handful of birds were even present, and this lone White-breasted Nuthatch sat quietly while those of us with cameras took photo after photo.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Emerging from the area surrounding the lake, we headed back for the bank of the Bow River to search for more. The male Common Mergansers were in full display, fighting for the right to mate with the few females on the river, who were outnumbered by at least five to one.

male Common Merganser

male Common Merganser

While the river in previous months had been packed with Canada Geese, Mallards, and Common Goldeneye, time time around it was a study in gull identification. Ring-billed, California, and Herring Gulls all circled and wheeled about, a few even taking a break on the near shore as we approached.

Ring-billed Gulls

Ring-billed Gulls

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

One surprise for us was a pair of Killdeer, possibly ones that had overwintered on this stretch of river, or possibly recent arrivals, either way they were nice to see, as they had eluded our group all throughout the winter course.

Killdeer

Killdeer

As we had nearly completed our walk and spent a moment chatting with Gus, his keen eyes and quick identification skills spotted this lone bird, our first bird of the year for any of the groups for this species. Can you tell what it is?

Of course you won't get a hint this way.

Mystery Bird

And with that, our group had a few great new sightings for the year, despite the terrible weather, constant snow and sleet, and uncomfortably cold winds. Of course, me being a sucker for punishment, I decided I needed a better shot of the Cinnamon Teal, so I headed back to the ponds. I didn’t get a better shot of that bird, but I did find this pair of Greater Yellowlegs in the area we saw him before, which was a really nice bonus bird for the day!

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

And with that, I decided to call it a day and leave the park to the afternoon session, who were arriving just as I headed out.

 

Have a great week, and good birding!