Sunday, 29 January 2012
Today was a very mild day for late January: 12 deg this afternoon. On arriving at the parking lot just after noon, we ran into Bob Lefebvre and Dan Arndt and learned that the owl was back on its regular roost. A few minutes later we were observing the bird, whose celebrity status had attracted the attention of several wildlife photographers.
A very nice addition to our list. Unfortunately our camera-toting Fur and Feathers companions are away at present, so we hope the owl will stay around until they return, and a picture can be posted.
Friday, 27 January 2012
We had started our day in Carburn Park in Calgary, in hopes of re-finding a Norrthern Saw-whet Owl seen there yesterday. We spent almost half an hour searching the area where the bird had been reported, but saw no sign of it. Good numbers of Black-capped Chickadees and Common Redpolls in the area might have led us to it, but they displayed no agitation.
As our drive home from Exshaw to Calgary took us close to the Water Valley area, we were unable to resist a detour in hopes of finding an owl there, but again we came up empty. These guys are proving problematic.
Temperature today in the minus 7 to minus 1 range, generally not too windy.
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
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.
Monday, 23 January 2012
|Immature Snowy Owl,|
The owl showed up almost immediately on exactly the same power pole where I encountered it on a solo outing last week! There must be a decent food supply in the area. About an hour later, a Prairie Falcon swooped down right in front of us, providing us with a wonderful view as it raced away to the south, eventually coming to rest on a distant fence post. Both of them new team birds bringing our Fur & Feathers tally to 111.
Also of note in the area was a Rough-legged Hawk and three Pine Grosbeaks.......and several hundred Canada Geese feeding in the surrounding fields. Just eight species in total for this little outing but great to see the owl and the falcon!
Sunday, 22 January 2012
Mike, Ray and Phil set out before dawn in foggy conditions reminiscent of our journey from Halifax to Lunenburg two weeks earlier. The fog dissipated as we left the Bow Valley behind and our hopes were high, especially as Ray had seen some good birds on a solo outing two days earlier. Unfortunately birds were very few and far between. We saw no owls at all, and only 12 bird species in total, nothing new for the year. A lone Coyote seen by Grand Valley road as we returned to Calgary, a new mammal for our year list, prevented us from being completely shut out.
The very cold spell of last week is over, and we’ll look forward to birding in warmer conditions over the next few days.
Saturday, 14 January 2012
advantage of a mild spell in Calgary before the expected first wintry spell of
the year. Brian, Mike and Phil spent the morning NW of the city looking mainly
for owl species more readily found in winter. It was a bright, crisp morning,
and birds were few and far between. However, about 3 km SW of Water Valley Mike
spotted a Northern Hawk Owl atop a broken poplar. Our 100th bird
species! As we watched, the bird flew to a lofty perch on a spruce tree, from
which it made several powerful falcon-like flights into the forest in search of
prey, an awe-inspiring sight.
Other hoped for owls were not in evidence today, and we had
to be satisfied with a flock of Mountain Chickadees and a distant Moose as the
only other additions to our count.
Thursday, 12 January 2012
|Coast near Lunenburg|
|Rennie's River walk|
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
After a very successful few days in Nova Scotia we set off at an indecently early hour on Monday January 9th for St. John’s, Newfoundland and the second half of this first trip of the year to Atlantic Canada. Our early start allowed us to be on site at our first stop (Long Pond) by late morning and we were rewarded almost immediately with fine views of a male Tufted Duck!
|Tufted Duck (m+f)|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull|
|View of St. John's harbour from Signal Hill|
Signal Hill was an important part of St. John’s defenses in days of old when the French and British navies did battle in these parts. Lots of canons on display.
Our early birding success that first day was entirely the result of good advice we received in advance from Anne Hughes, a local birding enthusiast. Even better for us, Anne was able and willing to accompany us throughout our stay here and she seemed to have the magic touch because almost every bird we went looking for showed up at some point! Those readers of this blog who have taken visitors out birding in their home territory will know that this is not always the way things turn out!
One of the highlights of our time here with Anne was an early morning visit to Cape Spear, the eastern most point of North America. This is a great sea-watching spot and our fervent hope was for Dovekies. A fellow we met in Nova Scotia told us he’d eat his socks if we didn’t see Dovekies during our time here in St. John’s. Happily he will not have to do so! We saw a number of them and had a pretty good view of them too, despite the blowing wet snow we had to put up with that morning! Oh yes! The Dovekie was our 100th species on this Fur and Feathers 500 adventure! How fitting is that! We also saw about 70 Purple Sandpipers at Cape Spear, a species we saw only once in Nova Scotia and at a considerable distance too.
|Cape Spear - Canada's eastern-most point|
Cape Spear is a great spot and we could easily have spent more time there but alas, those tens of thousands of gulls were still waiting for us back in St John’s. We had a few white knuckle moments driving back into town and realized we would need to trade in our rental van for one with snow tires! First however we stopped at the famous Quidi Vidi Lake which we soon learned is known simply as “the lake” in birding circles here. Our good luck continued! Within minutes of our arrival, Anne picked out the very rare Yellow-legged Gull! This was a great bird to get, especially so early in our stay here, and had us all beginning to wonder what we were going to do for the next two days.
Later that morning we went looking for a Cape May Warbler and a Sora, neither of which had any business being here in winter. We found both of them.
|Cape May Warbler|
|Who says we are crazy?!|
And for those who’ve been asking...........our team total of mammals plus birds so far stands at 106 species so we’re well on our way!
Sunday, 8 January 2012
|American Black Duck|
|Common Eider (f)|
Friday, 6 January 2012
Jerry then took us to a feeder near Millarville that he had visited on the recent Sheep River CBC. He promised us many birds and we weren’t disappointed. Evening Grosbeaks were the feature birds and were accompanied by Pine Grosbeak, Mourning Dove, Ring-necked Pheasant, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers and many Common Redpolls.
|In case you were wondering - 3 Evening Grosbeaks outweigh 1 Common Redpoll!|
Monday, 2 January 2012
Sunday, 1 January 2012
|Phil, Brian, Ray & Mike|
|Ice fog over the Bow River|
|1st winter Lesser Scaup|
As we walked along the river, a Killdeer took flight, followed by another and a few more – 10 in all! Further along, a Belted Kingfisher (a good winter bird for Calgary) flew up into a tree. Finally we spotted some Bufflehead as well as a Gadwall. Returning back to the boat launch, we saw a Bald Eagle perched in a tree.
|Gadwall in the mist|
|Finally some fur! Muskrat|