Monday, 27 May 2013

A Cross-Province Conundrum

Where's one of the easiest spots to find this subspecies in Canada?
Find out in my monthly Bird Canada post - click on the picture to link through.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Counting in the Rain

Let's start with a typical spring bird count scene - identify these four duck species, click to enlarge if needed....
Answers at the bottom of this post!
Having missed last year's spring bird count I was excited to get out again this year.  I spent about six hours exploring my fairly nondescript section of prairie north of the town of Strathmore.  It's marked as  area 32 on the image below...

The wet and windy weather made finding songbirds somewhat challenging, although a surprise Rose-breasted Grosbeak showed up in a little clump of woodland.  The wetland birds were easy to find though, with the highlight being a slough with eight Double-crested Cormorants and seven Hooded Mergansers on the water along with an amazing eight Great Blue Herons and three Black-crowned Night-herons all lined up in less than a hundred yards of shoreline - I guess someone is keeping the fish stocked up!

Here are a few more photos from the day's count:
Black Tern, Chlidonias niger, not actually all that black but agrees that the weather is pretty crappy ;)
Wilson's Snipe, Gallinago delicata, more proof that Mother Nature has a sense of humour
Three Bank Swallows, Riparia riparia, arguing over personal space
Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, something of a spy shot of one of the day's rarer finds
I didn't see any Black-necked Stilts, Himantopus mexicanus, in the count area but this beauty was feeding by the road on the way home.
 Duck Quiz Answers (left to right): Gadwall, Canvasback, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Where in the World is Calgary Birder? - Clue #2

I'm heading off on an exciting trip this summer: a family vacation with lots of opportunities to see many new birds, as well as other cool wildlife.  Rather than just telling you where I'm headed, I figured it might be fun to post a few clues in the form of photos of birds that could/should turn up on this trip.

Our second bird is likely a real identification challenge but will pinpoint one of our stops with great accuracy as it is endemic to a mere 500 square kilometres of the planet!  Feel free to post your ID's and destination guesses in the comments.

All of the images used in this series of posts are from the Internet Bird Collection, links will be posted to the original image and species pages when the big reveal is made.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mega-Rarity Purple Sandpiper at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

On Thursday, May 9th, local birder and photographer Eddy Matuod found and photographed an unusual sandpiper at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary here in Calgary.  Uncertain if it was a Rock or Purple Sandpiper, or possibly a weird looking Least Sandpiper, he posted his find to Albertabird.  After some discussion online, opinion seemed to crystallize around this being a Purple Sandpiper, Calidris maritima.  The bird was present on Friday morning and observed by many birders, who all seemed to agree on the Purple identification.  If accepted, this would be a first Alberta record for this species.

After work on Friday, I popped over to Inglewood to have a look for myself and snapped these photos as well as some video.  The video is not great (tricky to shoot video handholding at 400mm!) but may be useful for identification.  The starlings in the second half of the clip were behaving very aggressively towards the little peep, as was a magpie.  This may have contributed to the birds apparent departure, as of Saturday morning.

For best results with this video, go to full screen and select 1080p HD for the quality...

Monday, 6 May 2013

Amazing In-Flight Video

While there are a variety of views on falconry in the birding community, there is no denying that this is stunning footage.  This video captures a female peregrine hunting, then taking a freaking duck out of mid-air in a triple digit km/h stoop dive (starting at around 2:45).....  (note: "freaking duck" is neither a new species nor a poorly pronounced Chinese menu item, but simply a reflection of how cool this video is)

....and for an even faster version, minus the carnage, check out this video for the full >300km/h potential.  (note: >300km/h is not a typo, if you were flat out in a Porsche 911, this bird would overtake you)

This video was found on, a recommended repository of random cool things.