Winter Birding in Calgary and the Foothills in Pictures – Part 1

I know it’s another month until winter ‘officially’ begins here in Calgary, but the snow and sub-zero temps have already arrived and the winter birding in Calgary has begun in earnest.

I like the coming of winter, not so much for the temperature, but because it means I can chill out a little: I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to see birds as it isn’t even properly light out until 9am, plus we get some birds that only visit in the winter.

But before all that begins, there are still a few last gasps of fall weather. Seeking to take advantage of the last remaining patches of open ponds, I headed down to Carburn Park to see if I could relocate a Western Grebe that had been reported. A quick scan of the main pond revealed I was in luck!:

However, I had to wait a good 30 minutes for the Grebe to come even remotely close to the shoreline where I was sitting:

and then I had only a minute or two before the bird retreated to the centre of the pond when some dog walkers came by.

I also managed to get some colourful Buffleheads swim by at long distance…these guys always look particularly photogenic on yellow fall reflections:

And never one to waste a ‘golden’ opportunity, I spent some time shooting a big gaggle of American Wigeons:

A pleasing fall image of a Downy Woodpecker was a nice finale to my visit:

A week after this visit the temperatures nose-dived and when I returned a fortnight later the ponds had all completely frozen over.

Deep in K-Country…

A trip out west a week later to Kananaskis did not yield an awful lot of wildlife, but I did manage to see some characteristic birds of this area including some Spruce Grouse hens on a shady roadside corner:

And the always-attractive Pine Grosbeaks which seemed to be scattered throughout K-Country in good numbers this day:

The following weekend I paid a visit to some local inner city parks to see if I could find some Crossbills, but alas my luck was not in and I had to be content with a constantly-on-the-move Brown Creeper:

My enthusiasm still high, following regular reports of a Northern Pygmy Owl in Fish Creek Park, I decided to pay a visit there and see what I could find.

Fish Creek Park – Winter 2017

A nice surprise, in the form of a Townsend’s Solitaire, was found in amongst a large flock of late-staying American Robins:

As I walked along the frozen creek, I heard the rattling call of a Kingfisher and with a bit of looking I managed to locate the bird, albeit at some distance:Kingfisher Tim Hopwood

I’ve yet to meet a Kingfisher that tolerates people well and this one was no exception, so this was the best I could manage on this occasion:

But my birding luck was not yet done…as I was wandering along a path deep in the park, a Pygmy Owl kindly flew across directly in front of me and perched close by!:

As I maneuvered to get the sun behind me, I managed a quick shot before the owl flew to another perch:

…before being chased off by chickadees to yet another perch where it stayed for a minute and appeared all set to hunt when a Hairy Woodpecker spied the owl and proceeded to land very close and raise a heck of a racket…that in turn attracted what seemed like half the park’s small bird population – chickadees, nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, magpies, Blue Jays…even the kingfisher did a fly-by! Well that was enough for the little owl and I last saw it flying off deep into the forest. A great end to an enjoyable weekend of birding!

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3 Responses to Winter Birding in Calgary and the Foothills in Pictures – Part 1

  1. Wanda Todoroff says:

    Beautiful work! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rosie LaLonde says:

    What beautiful pictures!

  3. Becky says:

    Beautiful photography; thanks for sharing!

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