Tag Archive | yyc

Spring Migrants and a warm welcome at Carburn Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

Finally we had a warmer day, and while there was a little wind and the light wasn’t perfect, there were certainly a few moments where everything made it all worth while, even the last few weeks of dreary, snowy misery.

Carburn Park

Carburn Park

We started, and finished, with the show-stealers of the day, and it made it difficult to really have anything match the incredible sight.

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls

Protective male Great Horned Owl

Protective male Great Horned Owl

While Dad was protecting the young, the mother and babies were well guarded and seemed to be completely unfazed by the presence of 14 people checking out the area.

In the first pond at Carburn Park, we saw quite a bit of evidence of beaver activity, and we did manage to spot a pair of them swimming about, with this one getting close enough for me to photograph.

Beaver

Beaver

While we headed south in the earliest start of the season so far, we got lucky with a few birds we hadn’t seen before, like the Song Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow, but neither were in any position for me to get photos. Swarmed by low flybys of literally hundreds of Tree Swallows at a time, our eyes were on the sky much of the time, allowing me to spot this distant Rough-legged Hawk circling above the parking lot, most likely rising on thermals to continue his northward migration.

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

As we neared the parking lot again, and scanned along the river to see what we could see, we were gifted with this beautiful flyby of a male American White Pelican. Awesome.

male American White Pelican

male American White Pelican

We headed up along the bank of the river, and while we saw a good number of Franklin’s, Ring-billed, and California Gulls, and even bigger numbers of Tree Swallows, but due to the number of boats on the river, the photo opportunities were slim. That all changed once we turned back onto main pathway and reached the second pond. We got really good looks at Red-necked Grebes and a single Common Loon, and I knew that if they stuck around, I’d be back later on with the Swarovski ATX 85 to take some much closer shots.

Common Loon

Common Loon

Our next good views were on the river, one of which was, I think, one of the most surprising of the day. A lone Yellow-headed Blackbird was flocking with a group of European Starlings. For a bird that is almost always seen in cat-tail wetlands, seeing it foraging on the bank of the river was really odd!

Yellow-headed Blackbird and European Starlings

Yellow-headed Blackbird and European Starlings

Another of the awe-inspiring sights was the Tree Swallows banking, diving, and feeding over the Bow River, and I think we had just as much fun watching them.

Tree Swallows on nest box

Tree Swallows on nest box

Tree Swallow in flight

Tree Swallow in flight

Tree Swallows going for a drink

Tree Swallows going for a drink

We headed back, prepared to call it a day, and had our best views of a pair of Osprey in the distance.

Osprey

Osprey

After the rest of the group left, I returned to the bank of the second pond to see what I could see through the scope, and get some better photos of the Red-necked Grebes, Common Loon, and I ended up getting some nice ones of the Great Horned Owls as well!

Common Loon

Common Loon

Common Loon

Common Loon

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Muskrat

Muskrat

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Aren't they just adorable?

Aren’t they just adorable?

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we’re off to South Glenmore Park, to see what we can see on the Glenmore Reservoir, and maybe luck out with some early arriving warblers and a few more sparrows.

 

Good birding!

Advertisements

Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding – Week 1 – Fish Creek Provincial Park HQ and Sikome Lake

Posted by Dan Arndt

 

The beginning of the Winter birding course was very reminiscent of our last trip there with the autumn course. We started off with a light snowfall at the headquarters building at Bow Valley Ranch, visiting with the Great Horned Owls that have been regulars there for many years. This time though they were a bit easier to see, with the first one sitting high in the trees on the east end of the pathway, and the second just a little further west than its previous roost. Both were cashing in on their natural camouflage in spades, but given their placement in the trees, were slightly more conspicuous than before.

Great Horned Owl #1

Great Horned Owl #1

Great Horned Owl #2

Great Horned Owl #2

As we continued west towards the headquarters building, we were mobbed by the resident Black-capped Chickadees for their toll, paid in the form of sunflower seeds, while a few Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers flitted among the spruce.

Black-capped Chickadee toll collector

Black-capped Chickadee toll collector

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

We spotted a decent sized flock of White-winged Crossbills in the trees at the headquarters before packing up and heading down to Sikome Lake. We stopped along the way to look at quite a number of Bald Eagles in the trees both on the roadside, and sitting over the Bow River. As it turns out, there was a deer carcass that was keeping their interest, which, by the time we were leaving the park, was down to only the cleanly stripped hide.

 

Down at Sikome Lake, the resident pair of Great Horned Owls was hiding out in the same roost as the lone owl was in December.

Great Horned Owls 3 & 4

Great Horned Owls 3 & 4 – There are two owls in this photo, seriously.

At this point, we split off from Gus Yaki’s group and headed off toward the Bow River on our own. We found a good number of waterfowl on the river, from Common Goldeneyes, to extremely comfortable looking Canada Geese.

Common Goldeneyes

Common Goldeneyes

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

On the north end of our walk, this huge flock of mixed Canada Geese, Mallards, Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes came into view. As we watched, they began to flush as not one, not two, but three Bald Eagles made their way closer. Two others stayed in the trees on either side of the river, just out of sight, while two sub-adult eagles flew by, along with one adult.

Geese, Mallards and more

Geese, Mallards and more

4th year Bald Eagle

4th year Bald Eagle

adult Bald Eagle

adult Bald Eagle

The walk back to the parking lot in the trees along the river was a little bit quieter than expected, yielding only a lone Northern Flicker, along with a Hairy Woodpecker, and four of these little White-breasted Nuthatches.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

All in all, it was a good, solid start to a new year of birding, and a new birding course. Good birding, and thanks for reading!

 

 

South Glenmore Park – Grosbeaks and Hybrids

Posted by Dan Arndt

Back in June, the Friends of Fish Creek Birding Course took an excursion into the west end of South Glenmore Park. We’d been nearby just weeks beforehand when Bernie Diebolt’s group spotted a couple of Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Gus that by that time, both the Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks would be back. While I normally have a map, I didn’t track this walk, so just the photos will have to do.

Starting off at the parking lot at the west end of 90th Avenue SW we walked along the top of the south bank before dipping down onto the hillside. The mosquitos were out in force that early in the morning, and while there were plenty of birds calling, many of us were regretting our lack of bug spray. The American Robins, Warbling Vireos, and various thrushes were calling once again up and down the slope, but one of our first birds of the day was this beautiful hybrid Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak, who flew from tree to tree responding to our recorded Rose-breasted Grosbeak calls.

Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak Hybrid

Black-headed X Rose-breasted Grosbeak Hybrid

While this one called to us from nearby, we could hear Rose-breasted Grosbeaks calling from both up and down the slope, and we elected to hunt down the down-slope caller, as it was along the route we were already following. Another lifer for me, though we didn’t get the greatest views…

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

While we were listening for the calls of this male, we could hear a Red-eyed Vireo calling nearby as well, and upon playing some calls for it, it too flew in to investigate.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Along the rise and down to the east end of the beaver ponds at the southernmost point of the Weaselhead, we were greeted by another Eastern Phoebe nesting under one of the bridges in the area.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

A trek back up the hill netted a beautifully serene viewpoint overlooking much of the Weaselhead, sporting a couple of benches, bird feeders, and even quite a few birds (and other visitors) enjoying the treats provided for them. Definitely a place I’ll be back to. We even spotted what we’re pretty sure was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but no one was able to snap a photo in time!

Male Brown-headed Cowbird

Male Brown-headed Cowbird

The male and female Brown-headed Cowbirds seemed to not even care that we had intruded upon their feeding station.

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

While the Pine Siskins hid behind the tube feeders, hoping to guard themselves from prying eyes.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

And of course, no feeder in the mixed spruce and deciduous forest is complete without a woodpecker sighting. This Downy Woodpecker was waiting for us, and stuck around for some photo ops before the crowd became too much for it.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Last but not least are the mammalian visitors to the feeders. We had no less than three of these nervous and scurrying Least Chipmunks at our feet at any given time.

Least Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk

Most memorable though, was this Red Squirrel that continuously gave us the Stare of Death™ any time we disturbed its feeding schedule.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

While this wasn’t yet our last trip with the Friends of Fish Creek, we were heading into the final weekends… which I will finish up later this week!

Good birding!

Bowmont Park – An old favourite made new again

Posted by Dan Arndt

The Friends of Fish Creek Spring Birding Course spent the last two weeks visiting Bowmont Park, and then revisiting the Weaselhead the following week. Bowmont Park was rather quiet, and seemed to be a little less productive than most of our other locations, or so it seemed to me after the weeks prior to that adding so many new birds to my year list. The Weaselhead, which I’ll highlight later this week, seemed rather unproductive as well, but both of these locations provided some really great views of birds that tend to be rather discreet. Enjoy the photos and stories this week.

Bowmont Park

Bowmont Park

As a cyclist in Calgary, I’ve been through Bowmont Park a number of times, up on the hillside, down by the river, and all through many of the winding back trails in between. It’s almost definitive of the sort of environment that Calgary resides in. From the sheer cliff faces cut into the glacial till housing Bank Swallow nests on the north face, to the various small ponds home to Spotted Sandpipers, Blue-winged Teal, Mallards, and various other waterfowl, to the open prairie grasses on the hilltops home to White-crowned, Savannah, and Clay-colored Sparrows, it features everything from the foothills to west, to the plains to the east, and the range of birds that one would and could expect throughout.

It seemed a quiet day overall though, but we did get some good looks at a House Wren early on.

House Wren

House Wren

Northern Rough-winged Swallows, though not incredibly numerous, were just hanging around on some wires…

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

and in the air above the ponds.

 

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

This Osprey was busy flying back and forth from the river, providing for its mate sitting on the nest, and while there weren’t any chicks visible, chances are pretty good that she was at least incubating some eggs.

Osprey

Osprey

One spring bird that was in huge numbers were the Cedar Waxwings, many of which were posing nicely in the sunlight for us, while exhibiting their usual behaviour of resting on the edge of a branch before flying out briefly to snatch a fly, moth, or other flying insect right from the air before returning to the branch and swallowing it down.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

On top of the cliffs were a pair of Gray Catbirds which we could hear from half a kilometer away, calling back and forth among the caragana bushes continuously as we passed by.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

As we returned along the main pathway by the Bow River, we noticed a number of knotholes in the poplar trees lining the river valley, many of which housed Tree Swallows protecting their eggs from predators.

Tree Swallow in nest

Tree Swallow in nest

Also in protective mode were the American Crows, which were spotted harassing three separate Red-tailed Hawks in the distance as we reached the end of the pathway, and the end of our walk.

Crows harassing Red-tailed Hawk

Crows harassing Red-tailed Hawk

 

Good birding!

 

 

 

May Species Count – Day 2 – Weaselhead, North Glenmore Park, and Pearce Estate Park

Posted by Dan Arndt

I thought I was prepared for a second long day in a row of birding, but I was nowhere near as prepared as I thought. An early start at the Weaselhead at 5 AM netted us great looks at a couple of Veery, the haunting and somewhat creepy calls of a Swainson’s Thrush, and two mystery calls which completely stumped us. I just wish we’d had the foresight to record them so we could get some expert advice!

We joined up with a small group for our regular Sunday group, with some out of town, others sick, and still others not quite up for the grueling day ahead. 16 km and 6 hours later (map below), we emerged with a whole lot of really great birds, a couple of awesome sightings, and expressions of nothing less than pure joy at some folks’ first close sightings of both Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds in the wild.

Weaselhead Natural Area

Weaselhead Natural Area

The Weaselhead Nature Area encompasses both the mudflats of the Glenmore Reservoir, the boreal forest of the central woods and meadows, the riparian environment lush with warblers, sparrows, finches and the odd duck or three and even a few large ponds stocked with waterfowl and shorebirds. It’s funny that as a native Calgarian of over 30 years, my first visit to the Weaselhead was late last fall. It’s such a beautiful, scenic, and massive natural area that rivals Fish Creek Provincial Park for diversity, and again, right in the heart of the city. Most people, myself included, have a relatively limited experience with it, as the multi-use pathway that runs down the middle of it links North Glenmore Park to South Glenmore Park, but the unpaved path network is simply massive.

Some of the best sightings in the Weaselhead included the Veery, Eastern Phoebe, Calliope Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, a very brave Yellow Warbler that nearly landed, comedy-style, on the binoculars of another birder, and a Northern Waterthrush that was heard long before it was seen.

Over on the Glenmore Reservoir we were given great directions to a resident Brown Thrasher that has been seen there for a few years now, and had great views through the scope of a Common Loon, Western and Clark’s Grebes, and a slightly lost Surf Scoter.

The day wore on, and the visit to Pearce Estate Park loomed on the horizon, but it was far less painful than it could have been. The recently rebuilt park now has a wonderful boardwalk and blinds over the ponds, which allowed us to get very close looks at the often frustratingly cautious Belted Kingfisher. We heard quite a few Warbling Vireo, and I got my first ever looks at juvenile Common Goldeneye, which are even more adorable than any gosling or Mallard chick that I’ve ever seen before.

Veery

Veery

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Clark's (far left) and Western Grebes

Clark’s (far left) and Western Grebes

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Goldeneye and chicks

Goldeneye and chicks

May Species Count – Hull’s Wood to Lafarge Meadows – Highlights

Posted by Dan Arndt

One of the birding events that I have wanted to take part in since learning of it last year was the May Species Count. This is one of the many events that contribute to real science research on behalf of Bird Studies Canada. I was a little worried when taking on an entire area of my own, since I was certain that I’d miss some calls that a more experienced birder would have picked up and identified in seconds, or that I’d misidentify warblers, sparrows, or other shorebirds. Thankfully, I didn’t hear anything that really threw me for a loop (aside from a Western Meadowlark that sounded like it was a little confused) and didn’t see anything that I couldn’t readily identify with a quick reference to my Sibley Guide or Audubon’s Field Guide to Birds app.

Starting at about 5 AM, we hiked from the parking lot at Bow Valley Ranch, meandering south to 194th Avenue, then back north to the Ranch, which I’ve mapped below.

Hull's Wood to Lafarge Meadows - May Species Count Route

Hull’s Wood to Lafarge Meadows – May Species Count Route

Paul Turbitt came along both for the photo opportunities as well as to help out with spotting birds, but I always find the viewpoint of an experienced hunter and photographer incredibly valuable in the field. That, and having someone else around to see and hear birds that you might otherwise miss is indispensible. We racked up a total of 70 species, which included 3 new year birds for me, and something like 10-12 for Paul. It’s always great to show people new birds that they’ve never seen before, but also to get better views (and photos) of birds that you’ve seen dozens or hundreds of times before. Below are a few of my favourites from Saturday’s portion of the May Species Count.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Alder Flycatcher

Alder Flycatcher

Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee

Great Horned Owls eating breakfast

Great Horned Owls eating breakfast

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

Killdeer

Killdeer

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Red-winged Blackbird and Heron

Red-winged Blackbird and Heron

Great Horned Owl Fledgeling
Great Horned Owl Fledgeling

Sunday’s photos and recount of the May Species Count from the Weaselhead, North Glenmore Park and Reservoir, and Pearce Estate Park to come soon…

Victoria Day Big Day 2012

Posted by Dan Arndt

Long weekends are always a great time to get some extra birding in, and this one was no exception. I had initially intended on just making a morning of it with Gus Yaki’s Monday morning group with the Friends of Fish Creek Birding course at Mallard Point, but those plans went by the wayside when I was invited to join the annual Victoria Day Big Day.

What is a “Big Day”, you ask? The idea behind a Big Day is to get as many species as possible in 24 hours of birding. Some really hardcore birders begin at 12:01 AM and go all the way through until 12:00 AM the following morning, covering a huge area and generally getting a very high number of species. For instance, the current record for an Alberta-wide Big Day is somewhere around 235, and the participants started up around Cold Lake, Alberta and trekked all the way south to the SE corner of Alberta. When I heard that number, I was absolutely stunned. Not only by the magnitude of species seen, but also by the huge distance covered.

Traditionally, the Victoria Day Big Day is restricted to the Calgary city limits, and is organized by locally well known birder Tony Timmons. Instead of a competition style event, like some can be, this one is attended by all participants, with some coming and going throughout the day. This year, we started at 5:30 AM at Votier’s Flats and spent most of our time in the south end of the city, finally finishing up at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary around 6:30 PM. A long day, that’s for certain.

Both Bob Lefebvre and myself participated, and due to a bit of luck and determination, we were able to count the full 116 species reported by the group as a whole, along with 2 bonus species. One seen on the way down to Votier’s Flats, and the second in Confederation Park before Bob dropped me off at home.

I’ve posted the map and rough timeline of our locations below, along with the new species that we added to our total at each location. Oh, and of course I’ve added some photos as well!

Enjoy!

Victoria Day Big Day Locations

Victoria Day Big Day Locations

Crowchild Trail & Memorial Drive – Incidental – 5:15 AM

– Osprey

Votier’s Flats – 5:30 AM

  1. – Canada Goose
  2. – American Wigeon
  3. – Mallard
  4. – Blue-winged Teal
  5. – Bufflehead
  6. – Common Merganser
  7. – Ring-necked Pheasant
  8. – Sharp-shinned Hawk
  9. – Spotted Sandpiper
  10. – Belted Kingfisher
  11. – Downy Woodpecker
  12. – Northern Flicker
  13. – Least Flycatcher
  14. – Black-billed Magpie
  15. – American Crow
  16. – Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  17. – Tree Swallow
  18. – Bank Swallow
  19. – Barn Swallow
  20. – Black-capped Chickadee
  21. – Boreal Chickadee
  22. – Red-breasted Nuthatch
  23. – House Wren
  24. – American Robin
  25. – Gray Catbird
  26. – European Starling
  27. – Cedar Waxwing
  28. – Tennessee Warbler
  29. – Yellow Warbler
  30. – Spotted Towhee
  31. – Chipping Sparrow
  32. – Clay-colored Sparrow
  33. – Song Sparrow
  34. – Lincoln’s Sparrow
  35. – White-throated Sparrow
  36. – Red-winged Blackbird
  37. – Brown-headed Cowbird
  38. – Baltimore Oriole
  39. – House Finch
  40. – White-winged Crossbill
  41. – Pine Siskin
  42. – American Goldfinch
  43. – House Sparrow

Weaselhead – 7:30 AM

  1. Common Goldeneye
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Bald Eagle
  4. Swainson’s Hawk
  5. Red-tailed Hawk
  6. American Kestrel
  7. Merlin
  8. California Gull
  9. Rock-pigeon
  10. Rufous Hummingbird
  11. Calliope Hummingbird
  12. Hairy Woodpecker
  13. Pileated Woodpecker
  14. Eastern Phoebe
  15. Blue Jay
  16. Common Raven
  17. Cliff Swallow
  18. White-breasted Nuthatch
  19. Swainson’s Thrush
  20. Savannah Sparrow
  21. White-crowned Sparrow
Cliff Swallows collecting mud for nests

Cliff Swallows collecting mud for nests

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

North Glenmore Park & Glenmore Reservoir – 9:30 AM

  1. Gadwall
  2. Lesser Scaup
  3. American Coot
  4. Killdeer
  5. Baird’s Sandpiper
  6. Pectoral Sandpiper
  7. Bonaparte’s Gull
  8. Franklin’s Gull
  9. Ring-billed Gull
  10. Red-necked Grebe

53rd St and 22X – 10:45 AM

  1. Snow Goose
  2. Green-winged Teal
  3. Ruddy Duck
  4. Eared Grebe
  5. Sora
  6. Wilson’s Snipe
  7. Vesper Sparrow
Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Sora

Sora

Spruce Meadows Slough – 11:20 AM

  1. Cinnamon Teal
  2. Redhead
  3. Northern Shoveler
  4. Pied-billed Grebe
  5. Black Tern
  6. Marsh Wren
  7. Common Yellowthroat
Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

South Calgary Bluebird Boxes – 11:45 AM

  1. Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

South Calgary Ravine – 12:00 Noon

  1. Cooper’s Hawk
  2. Mourning Dove

Sikome Lake – 12:45 PM

  1. Horned Grebe
  2. Great Horned Owl
  3. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  4. Eastern Kingbird
  5. Warbling Vireo

Shepard Slough #1 – 2:20 PM

  1. Northern Pintail

Shepard Slough #2 – 2:32 PM

  1. American Avocet
  2. Willet
  3. Wilson’s Phalarope

Shepard Slough #3 – 2:37 PM

  1. Western Meadowlark

Shepard Slough #4 – 2:41 PM

  1. Canvasback

Shepard Farmhouse – 2:51 PM

  1. Brewer’s Blackbird
  2. Common Grackle
Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

Ring-necked Pheasant

Ring-necked Pheasant

Shepard Slough #5 – 3:07 pM

  1. Lesser Yellowlegs

Shepard Slough #6 – 3:30 PM

  1. Black-necked Stilt
  2. Least Sandpiper
  3. Semipalmated Sandpiper

White-faced Ibis Flyover – 4:07 PM

  1. White-faced Ibis

Main Shepard Slough – 4:11 PM

  1. Double-crested Cormorant
  2. Stilt Sandpiper

Shepard – 4:31 PM

  1. Eurasian Collared Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary – 5:33 PM

  1. Wood Duck
  2. Harlequin Duck
  3. Hooded Merganser

Confederation Park – 7:45 PM

  1. Alder Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher

Alder Flycatcher