2017 has flown by for me thus far. While I have been managing to get out and go birding, most of it has been outside of Canada – exploring some of the other wonderful avian species to be found in birding meccas such as south-east Arizona, Ohio and more far-flung locales such as Mexico and Costa Rica. As such, this post represents something of a round-up of my Canadian birding for the start of this year.
First off, a Northern Hawk Owl decided spend part of the winter on the outskirts of Calgary where it hunted voles in Aspen-fringed, snow-laden fields. The only access was from the side of a fairly busy road with very limited parking and it was not the most ideal photography location so I only spent about 30 mins there. As an aside, I noted that passing motorists, seeing big super-telephoto lenses on tripods (not me, I hardly ever use a tripod), seemed to think these were speed cameras and would often slow to a crawl as they came past!
Another owl that got the Calgarian birding population excited was a Barred Owl that spent a good part of Jan and Feb residing in one of Calgary’s main parks in the centre of town. Barred Owl are not particularly common in Calgary, and this bird would be a ‘lifer’ for me, so I made a number of trip in an attempt to see it. Despite being taunted and teased by many, many images of this bird being posted by others, this owl eluded me for quite some time. Finally, on one trip when I was just about to return to my car with an empty memory card once again, a little piece of out-of-place brown caught my eye and as I took a closer look the ‘brown’ turned out to be the wing feathers of the superbly-camouflaged Barred Owl! After 5 minutes alone with this beautiful bird I left it as I found it, and headed home a very happy camper. Finding a bird is always satisfying, and finding it on your own after trying for some time is even better!
On a trip out west through the Rockies to see what was stirring at the end of winter…I found the answer was: not much! However, a flock of Clark’s Nutcrackers saved the trip and it was nice to one on a natural perch, and not on a car in the Lake Louise parking lot :)…
With the approach of spring, the thawing of ponds and other water formations also heralded the return of waterfowl. A few brief trips to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary yielded some of the ‘regulars’ such as Common Mergansers…
Out on the prairies, April is the main month of lekking for the Sharp-tailed Grouse and I was once again able to visit a lek site and enjoy 40 males and 5 females doing their famous drumming, dancing, fighting and mating:
Interestingly, the grouse did not scatter as I though, but just stood and watched…presumably because they felt could escape if needed, but didn’t want to give up their hard-won patch of lekking territory.
I took a lot less images this year, but filled the gap with video footage which is something I have just begun trying my hand at. While one can get some stunning photos at these leks, I feel that video is really the only medium that truly can capture the frenetic sounds and actions that you witness at these leks. And this has been borne out by the much greater interest (relative to my pics) that my young kids showed in a few brief clips I shared with them!
Finally, what would spring be without the northern passage of colourful warblers & other songbirds up through Alberta.
With the current debate to re-separate the sub-species of Audubon’s and Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warblers, I thought a montage of the above would make for an interesting comparison as these 4 birds (same flock) show both Audubon’s, Myrtle and possibly hybrid markings…
I look forward to seeing what else spring brings in the coming weeks!
You can see more of my wildlife images at: