Birding the west, east and south of Canada…and even a little further!

The past month I’ve been hitting the birding pretty hard trying to capture as much of the spring action as I can. A highlight of the month for my first ever trip to the famous spring migrant trap – Ontario’s Point Pelee National Park located on the northern coast of Lake Erie, and also famous for being the most southerly point in Canada! Flying into Windsor in mid-May, I based myself in Leamington which is only a 15 minute drive away. One of the first birds I encountered was the Common Grackle, and there were a lot of them! This particular one pulled a rather dramatic pose as I focused on it and snapped away:TH1D4733d&b-crop2-fb

And in a relatively un-dramatic pose:TH1D4708The mornings I was there were quite foggy and the light was quite dull, especially in the forested areas, however I was able to get some shots of sparrows, grosbeaks and thrushes:

A Lincoln's Sparrow - small flocks of these patrolled the forest floor.

A Lincoln’s Sparrow – small flocks of these patrolled the forest floor.

Veery - a bird of the thrush family.

Veery – a bird of the thrush family.


A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

On an even more colourful note, this shot from Pelee – this time a Yellow Warbler. I was packing my gear into my vehicle after a long afternoon of birding when I noticed this fellow ‘attacking’ the hood of the car next to mine. It seems he thought his reflection was a rival male…he must have been surprised to find someone whose tenacity was matched only by his own!:TH1D4810-fb

But alas my main target – warblers other than the Yellow variety – were not overly abundant (at least that I could locate) and almost all were high in the tree canopy making for less than pleasing photographic opportunities. So, having noticed that another ‘warbler mecca’, Ohio’s Magee Marsh preserve on the south side of Lake Erie, was only about 2 hours’ drive away I decided to pay a visit…boy was I glad I did!  I know this is the Bird Canada site, but it seems sinful not to share some of the warbler riches I photographed there, especially since many of them also breed in Canada…so please indulge me just a little:

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler – a shy bird that did not like coming out in the open. This was the clearest shot I got in over an hour of trying!


One final highlight from Magee…a beautiful male Bay-breasted Warbler.

From a photography perspective, shooting warblers at Magee was much more preferable as there much less tall trees and therefore the birds were often much lower down. That said, the crowds were also quadruple the size of Pelee which made for pretty busy boardwalks and trails at times.

Returning to Calgary, it was time to catch up some of the local action. The lakes, ponds and marshes were still very active with many birds actively courting, displaying, ‘making little birds’ or just showing off their breeding plumage:


A male Canvasback airing out its wings


Marbled Godwit – Weed Lake


The ever-wary Pied-billed Grebe.


Female Northern Shoveller


A Greater (maybe Lesser) Scaup drake


A female Lesser Scaup

A Gadwall in full flight

A Gadwall in full flight

Two of my favourite birds – stilts and avocets – were very active:TH1D7691d&b-fb


Chasing away a Stilt...

Chasing away a Stilt… get some privacy...

…to get some privacy…

...then lovingly rubbing bills. The male looked to have a spring in his step too!

…then lovingly rubbing bills. The male looked to have a spring in his step too!

And lots of action from the Black-necked Stilts too:


Mirror-like conditions on a crisp, still morning.


Chasing away another stilt pair that came too close!



The stilts also share the avocets’ habit of rubbing bills post-mating

I was also happy to get my first decent looks at Red-necked Phalaropes in breeding plumage:TH7D9658-fb TH7D9624-crop-fb TH7D9588-fb

and a Wilson’s Phalarope that was nearby for comparison:TH1D6699

While the omnipresent Red-winged Blackbirds are always characters and fun to shoot to what poses and faces they might pull:


A male Red-winged Blackbird in full display mode!


A female Red-winged Blackbird, just as chirpy as the males!

Finally, a weekend trip to Waterton Lake National Park on Alberta’s southern border yielded yet another personal highlight – the Harlequin Duck:TH1D8006d&b-flickr-fb

I had been looking for bears but after 90 mins I’d seen a whole lot of nothing, so started heading for home. About a minute later I saw 4 folks carrying telephoto lenses coming down the road toward me ‘walking with a purpose’, so I stopped and asked if they’d seen anything. They responded, ‘Oh we’re birdwatchers’ and I replied ‘Same here’, and they then proceeded to tell me they had spied two male Harlequins heading upstream in our direction so they kindly let me join them and about two minutes later we got a wonderful swim/fly-by ! I was also very surprised that the birds were swimming upstream against the fast current, but it also meant they moved fairly slowly giving me time to better get them in focus.TH1D7946d&b-crop-fb1 TH1D7917d&b-fb TH1D8043d&b-crop-fb

Looking ahead to the summer, for me this means a lot of family camping trips to provincial parks in southern Alberta, so I hope to be able to showcase an even greater variety of birds next time!



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2 Responses to Birding the west, east and south of Canada…and even a little further!

  1. Gilda Blackmore says:


  2. Sharon says:

    Stunning photos!! Thanks so much for sharing them.