Tag Archive | woodpeckers

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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The Woodpecker Tree

While on my latest bike ride into Fish Creek Provincial Park, I came across one very special tree. I have started calling it: The Woodpecker Tree. Standing proud and tall on the banks of the creek, this poplar tree seemed to be a gathering place for woodpecker food. I abruptly stopped on the dirt path I was riding on because I had heard a Hairy Woodpecker calling. I approached the tree for closer inspection and I was surprised to see 2 Downy Woodpeckers and a large female Hairy Woodpecker. Much to my surprise I heard another Downy Woodpecker calling high up in the tree and I looked up to see a male Downy Woodpecker and a White-breasted Nuthatch. I then heard a tapping coming from the opposite side of the tree and found it to be a male Hairy Woodpecker tapping away. Eventually, my final count of woodpeckers came up to 3 Hairy Woodpeckers, 4 Downy Woodpeckers and the lone White-breasted Nuthatch.

This tree obviously fulfilled the nourishment needs for 7 woodpeckers and a nuthatch. As I continued to watch all these birds, I saw them eating insects, tapping at fungal growths on the tree and investigating sap.

After a dozen of  minutes or so, the woodpeckers started to spread out into the surrounding area to hunt down more food. Yet some of the birds, stayed on the woodpecker tree, clearly enjoying the abundance of good food.

Now, I can’t help but wonder if this is a regular occurrence at this tree, or was it a one-time event?

Posted by Matthew Sim