Visiting family and friends in Australia for the first time in 3 years is my excuse for not delivering my monthly post in November, but I’ll do my best to make up for that this month!
So to catch up…
Late September and October in southern Alberta is a great time to try and catch some of the elk and moose rut, so I made a number of trips out west into the Rockies and surrounding foothills to see if I capture some of the action with my camera. While I did ok on the elk front, I was pretty much skunked on the moose everywhere I looked. As disappointing as that may have been, I was very quickly cheered up when a ‘moose-friendly’-looking pond I checked out turned up a very handsome Hooded Merganser drake:
Add odd as that may seem, based on some internet research I did later, these two species have been known to inter-breed.
Another bird I came across in my travels in the foothills forest was this male Spruce Grouse, who was busy pecking away at the gravelled road surface with seemingly little regard for the multiple cars passing him at close range.
The following weekend, again in search of elk and moose, I ventured into the Rockies’ world-famous Banff National Park. Having spent a good deal of time with a large herd of elk, I turned my attention to my feathered friends and was pleased to find an American Dipper dipping away in a spring-fed lake.
Pretty much all the half-dozen or so dippers I’ve encountered since I started birding have been reasonably approachable if you take your time and let them acclimatize to your presence, and thankfully this one was no exception.
Although this was the end of October, there still had not been any snowfall which led to some pleasing fall colours and reflections.
For my last local outing before heading to Australia on vacation, I stuck close to home and – believe it or not – went birding in a local cemetery! Why? Firstly, winter finch reports had been coming in fairly regularly and a number of them (crossbills, grosbeaks) enjoy eating the seeds of spruce cones and spruce trees are abundant in this cemetery. And secondly, a fellow bird photog (Tony) had gotten some great crossbill images there the day before. The other great thing about cemetery birding is it is generally very quiet with very few people around, well living ones anyway! (sorry, couldn’t help myself :)).
Most of my crossbill encounters comprise fleeting glimpses of chirping specks way up high in conifers, well out of range of even my big lens. Tony kindly gave me a tip that he’d seen the crossbills come down to drink at a small stream, and after waiting patiently they again came down to drink and we were able to get some decent shots of crossbills at eye level and lower:
Following 2 largely sun-soaked weeks in Australia, I paid a few visits to one of my favourtite local parks – the Weaselhead in south west Calgary – where I was pleased to be able to photograph another of my favourite winter finches, the Pine Grosbeak:
On one morning, movement out of the corner of my eye alerted me to the fact that I was not alone in showing a keen interest in the grosbeaks which had come to feed on the sunflower seed left out by some kind hearted park-goers…
The Northern Shrike above appeared at the top of a spruce and is pictured staring intently at the blissfully ignorant Pine Grosbeaks feeding below at ground-level. The shrike shot after a grosbeak a few seconds later and when it disappeared from my view it was closing rapidly on the unlucky bird. As the saying goes, such is the circle of life.
And what would a Calgary winter be without the sights and sounds of thousand-strong flocks of Bohemian Waxwings? In this particular instance I enjoyed being surrounded by hundreds of waxwings feeding on snow, the tricky being trying to single out individuals in the crowd to focus on:
If you’d like to see some of my other bird and wildlife images (including some from Australia trip), you can now follow me on my dedicated facebook page here.