Tag Archive | White-winged Crossbill

Bebo Grove and Shannon Terrace – Fish Creek Park’s quieter, calmer west side

Posted by Dan Arndt

This week the Friends of Fish Creek course was touring through Bebo Grove, over to Shannon Terrace, then back again. It’s approximately a 5 km route, return, and throughout the week, some great new birds were seen, such as the American Three-toed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadees, and a fairly good number of White-winged Crossbills.

Bebo Grove to Shannon Terrace Route

I was most excited for the American Three-toed Woodpecker, since that would be a new bird for me for the year, and probably a more satisfying sighting than my original sighting of it, which ended up being back at my computer scanning through my photos and later realizing that yes, that little black and yellow lump on the trunk of the tree was, in fact, the American Three-toed Woodpecker I’d been looking for.

Here’s that photo, for reference, taken back in August 2010 at Brown-Lowery Provincial Park.

American Three-toed Woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpecker

Unfortunately, both Saturday and Sunday groups missed out on good sightings of the woodpecker, but at least on Sunday we got to hear it calling amongst the trees, and a brief flyover allowed at least one confident ID, but certainly no photo opportunities. Flyovers of uncommon birds seemed the rule of the day, as we also had a Grey Jay towards Shannon Terrace, which, to my understanding, hadn’t been seen in the park for a number of years.

The good side is that we did get great views of Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, the amazingly adorable Boreal Chickadee, and a few Townsend’s Solitaires.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend's Solitaire

I was particularly happy with this shot of the Common Raven, which are always hard to shoot against a light sky, which tends to wash out their features. Thankfully, this bird decided to perch in the foliage, allowing much better views of its somewhat iridescent plumage.

Common Raven

Common Raven

Add to that the many great angles we were given of the White-winged Crossbills, such as this one, detailing the presence of the crossed-bill for which it gets its name.

White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbill

The gender of the Red-breasted Nuthatch can be identified by the color of the crown. The male, seen below, has a jet black crown.

Red-breasted Nuthatch - male

Red-breasted Nuthatch - male

The female, on the other hand, has a grey crown. Even without the two of them together, just a quick comparison of the color of the eye line and the crown can show that telltale difference.

Red-breasted Nuthatch - female

Red-breasted Nuthatch - female

Both the male Downy and Hairy Woodpecker can also be identified by the bright red patch on the back of their heads, while the female lacks the red patch.

Hairy Woodpecker - male

Hairy Woodpecker - male

Downy Woodpecker - male

Downy Woodpecker - male

Downy Woodpecker - male

Downy Woodpecker - male

I was quite impressed at this little Townsend’s Solitaire on Saturday. While preening, it stretched out its wings again and again, showing off the thick yellow bar in the primary flight feathers of the wing. Unless it’s displaying like this, that yellow bar is almost invisible, and in some individuals, nearly absent.

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend's Solitaire

Thanks for reading, and have a great week! Hope you enjoyed the photos!

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It’s good to be back…

I flew in to Calgary from Houston last Friday night and was greeted by snow on the ground! Something that I haven’t seen since April. Never thought that I would be so excited to see snow. My first day back, Saturday, I took a walk around my neighborhood and was fortunate enough to see most of the locals; no not the neighbors, the birds.

First thing in the morning, I woke to see several Black-billed Magpies jumping and hollering about in the willow. Several Common Ravens flew overhead and 2 pairs of Chickadees visited the feeders. I was very happy to see the Black-capped Chickadees, nothing can compare with this species’ friendliness!

I have been following the reports from Albertabird still and I have seen all the reports of winter finches; I knew what a good year it was for these birds. I just didn’t know how good! In my hour or so walk, I saw more Crossbills then I did all last winter. I must have seen more than 100 crossbills!

Most of the crossbills were White-winged however there were a few Red Crossbills in the mix ( see photo above). I also observed many Pine Siskins that were flocking with the crossbills and feeding on the abundant cones.

My neighborhood, for some reason, never seems to be popular with Common Redpolls, however this year, within my first 24 hours of being back in Calgary, I had already seen 2 in my community. Also, we hosted a Pine Grosbeak, which is unusual for us. At one point, I was privileged to see several crossbills, a redpoll and many siskins on the ground just feet in front of me, licking up some sort of salt or rock from the ground.

Then, later on in the day, I discovered why my feeders were so empty. Three Sharp-shinned Hawks were all together in a tree. When 3 raptors start calling your neighborhood home, there are definitely going to be some songbird declines.

All in all, it’s good to be back!

Posted by Matthew Sim