Tag Archive | video

Saw-whet Owl and Pellet

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

By now most birders in Calgary have heard about the Northern Saw-whet Owl that was found in Carburn Park last Thursday.  Phil Smith was there when it was found, and he captured an amazing sequence of pictures that show the owl coughing up a pellet.

Owls and many other birds regularly regurgitate pellets, which consist of the indigestible parts of the food they eat.  Saw-whet owls eat a lot of Deer Mice, and their pellets contain mostly bones and fur.

Although these owls are thought to produce one pellet per day, it is a rare sight to see, and even rarer to photograph.   The pictures have been assembled into a short video.


Below is the complete sequence of photos showing the owl coughing up the pellet.  (Photos by Phil Smith, used by permission.)

To see more of Phil Smith’s photos, see his Flickr Page.

Anne Elliott also captured a photo of the pellet being produced:

To see more of Anne Elliott’s photos, see her Flickr Page.

Wednesday Wings: Varied Thrush

On of my favourite Christmas presents this year was an adult male Varied Thrush that arrived in our front yard on Christmas Day, just as we were opening our gifts.

When it first flew across our front yard, I thought it was a robin, a bird it is closely related to.  I saw a robin in the neighbourhood as recently as December 17.  But the male Varied Thrush has unmistakable orange and black markings.

These beautiful birds are not too common in Calgary, with just a few reports every year on migration, and the occasional one overwintering here.  This one appears to be trying to overwinter in our neighbourhood, as it has now been seen feeding in our yard for three straight days.  This is the first time we’ve had one in our yard, and only the second one I’ve seen in Calgary.  We didn’t have one reported on the recent Christmas Bird Count, so I wonder where this bird was then?

Here is a video of the Varied Thrush feeding on niger and sunflower seed.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Backyard Birds: Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the last native sparrows to migrate through Calgary each fall, and many of them often overwinter here.  I have at least eight that have been coming to my yard regularly for the last three weeks.  They will come to feeders, but like other sparrows, they prefer to feed on the ground or on a flat, open surface like a tray.  They can often be seen scratching in the snow to expose seeds.

Juncos can be identified by their dark hoods, white bellies, and white outer tail feathers that flash when they fly.  There are two common subspecies in Calgary;  “Slate-colored” which are all grey and can look almost black, and “Oregon” which have rusty back and sides.  In the spring, males have a very distinct black hood.

I have a non-native apple tree in my yard that stays green and fully leafed out until the end of November, so I often only become aware of juncos in the yard when I hear their soft “chip” call coming from the tree.  The video below includes a soundtrack with this call, courtesy of the xeno-canto website.

Various Dark-eyed Juncos.  Calls courtesy Xeno-Canto.

Below you can see juncos feeding on niger seed on top of a stepladder…

Juncos feeding on niger seed.

Below is a video of juncos feeding on small sunflower heads…

Juncos feeding on sunflowers.


Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Movie Monday: Goldfinch on Sunflower

I’ve been getting a few American Goldfinches coming through the yard in the last few weeks, and although they will feed on niger seed in the tube feeder, they really seem to like eating sunflower seeds right off the plant.  Here are a couple of pictures, plus a video that shows one ripping the outer leaves off the sunflower to better get at the seeds.  They really have to work to get a meal!

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Movie Monday: Nose Hill Crow Roost

There is a large nighttime roost of hundreds of American Crows on Nose Hill again this year.  Last week I took a short video as they were arriving at about 7:30 pm.  The location is near the Brisebois Drive parking lot.  Sorry for the poor quality of the video, but it gives you an idea of what it is like.  If you want to see this roost yourself, go within the next two weeks before the crows head south.

For an explanation of this behavior, see the previous post, Crows by the Thousands.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Loon Survey, Part One

This year I decided to take part in another Citizen Science project, the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, conducted by Bird Studies Canada.  The basic requirements are quite simple:  visit the lake once in each of June, July, and August to see if there is a breeding pair of Loons present, if they fledge young, and if the young survive.  Each visit should be at least two hours, but of course you can spend more time and may visit the lake more often if you like.  You also keep track of other birds associated with the body of water.  I knew of a small lake southwest of Calgary in the Bragg Creek area that has been occupied by loons for a few years, so I checked with BSC to see if it was being monitored.  It hadn’t, so I registered to monitor the lake.

We arrived at the lake in the afternoon and soon spotted a lone Loon.

There are two islands in the lake, and I knew that the loons had built a nest on the south island in each of the past three years.  We climbed into the local rowboat which is always on the shore, and headed out into the water.

We tried to keep clear of the south island so as not to get too close to a nest if there was one, although I did want to see how many eggs were present if possible.  We went between the two islands, keeping close to the north one, and checking the south one through binoculars for a nest.  There had also been a cow moose who calves on the south island every year, and if she was there, we didn’t want to disturb her either.  To our delight ,we soon saw the Moose and her calf through the dense foliage. I got a quick picture of the cow, but not the calf, and didn’t linger near the island – Moose can swim very well!

We soon noticed that there were in fact two Loons on the lake, a breeding pair.

The Loons were acting strangely, diving and then surfacing very close to the boat, and diving again with a noisy splash, only to come up again on the other side.

We were getting some great close-up views, but then I realized why the Loons were so agitated:  their nest was on the north island, and we were only a few feet away from it.

There were two eggs on the nest!  We quickly retreated, and were relieved to see one of the Loons take its position on the nest.  They are probably quite used to people being around – there were the remains of a campfire on their island – but we certainly hadn’t intended on disturbing them.

When we returned in the evening for another look at the Loons, we came across the cow Moose which was feeding on the path to the lake.  Luckily, since the calf was still on the island, she was not aggressive.

Doing the survey is a great opportunity to contribute to our knowledge of Common Loons, and you get to witness scenes like this:

I will post Part Two of the Loon Survey later, after I return to the lake in late July and see if the chicks have successfully fledged.

If you are interested in taking part in the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, contact Bird Studies Canada. Here is a link to their website .  You can also contact Kathy Jones at volunteer@birdscanada.org or by phone at 1-888-448-2473 ext. 124, or register online. The CLLS is a self-supporting program, so you must hold an active BSC membership to participate. For more information, select this link to view the program brochure, or to view a map of available Canadian lakes and their most recent survey year, select this link.  (Above information taken from the Nature Calgary website )

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Movie Monday: First Bath

A fledgling Black-billed Magpie figures out how to use a birdbath.  June 17, 2011.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre