Tuesday, 24 January 2012

South-west of Calgary

Our two recent team outings in the foothills NW of Calgary had not been very productive, so today Ray and Phil decided on a change of scenery and we went to the Millarville, Turner Valley and High River area south-west of the city for a full day outing. It was very mild for the middle of winter, the mercury soaring to +5 deg in the afternoon, and only a very light wind during the morning. Good weather conditions do not always translate into good birding, but today was very enjoyable in all respects.

The signature bird was undoubtedly Rough-legged Hawk, which we saw throughout the route, perhaps 20 birds in all. In contrast to last winter there are plenty around this year. While we were unsuccessful with our principal target, Northern Pygmy-Owl (which by contrast are in very short supply this season), we did pick up four new bird species. A pleasant half-hour walk in Brown Lowery Provincial Park, yielded two male American Three-toed Woodpeckers (bird species no. 104), the first of five woodpecker species we saw today. The town of High River turned up three new species: Eurasian Collared-Dove (no. 105), Bohemian Waxwing (no. 106) and House Finch (no. 107). There was no sign of the Red-bellied Woodpecker which had been seen in High River until recently.

Other good birds we saw today, while not new for the list, were Northern Shrike, Northern Hawk Owl, Mourning Dove and Evening Grosbeak. We also heard, but did not track down, a drumming Pileated Woodpecker in Brown-Lowery PP. Our grand total for the day was 30 species of birds and 4 mammals, very respectable for January.

Thousands of Mallards in Ralph Klein park in SE Calgary heralded our return to the city. There has been some speculation that these may be very early returning migrants rather than part of the city's resident winter population. Whatever their status, it was an impressive sight.

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