Griffiths Woods Park – 27 May

Managed to duck out for 2 hours to visit GW Park for the first time after seeing a good recent report on the AlbertaBird  website. I arrived at 10am and the place seemed very popular with joggers and dog-walkers, so I was a bit dismayed that I might not see much. Normally I try to arrive by 8am or earlier before the ‘general public’ arrive and the birds hide away. However, when I got off the paved path I was soon by myself and was very much cheered up when a Boreal Chickadee (another lifer) appeared out of the pines only a couple of meters away allowing some nice close-ups. The overcast sky was a bonus as it really saturated the colours. In comparison to the much more common Black-capped Chickadee (that frequent my backyard), the Boreal has much more rufous-brown colours that I personally find more appealing.

Near the creek I came across some Yellow Warblers and Clay-coloured Sparrows, as well as some Spotted Sandpipers on the shoreline.

On the way back, just 10 meters from the car park I came across a pair of White-throated Sparrows (another lifer!) foraging in the brush and again, one decided to sit & pose quite close for a little while. So after a subdued start, I was soon able to count this as another successful outing.

 

Brief bit o’ birding in Okotoks – 26 May

Unfortunately, our new trailer we had ordered was not ready in time to go camping this weekend with my brother-in-law & his family, so instead we just went & visited them for the afternoon at the Nature’s Hideaway RV park just near Okotoks. I managed to duck out with my camera for about 40 minutes and was able to get a few shots of some of the local birdlife including some Cedar Waxwings, Pine Siskins and my first Eastern and Western Kingbirds of the season, albeit too far distant for a good shot.

There were hundreds of Tree Swallows darting up & down the river that runs by the park, so it was good to practice my high-speed panning but I will need to put in a bit more yet to get decent results! Highlight of the day for me though was capturing a female Yellow Warbler in a nice pose at close range.

Friday feathers – 25 May

Iridescence in the feathers shows up in the morning light

Given it’s only a 15 minute ride from my work downtown, I decided to head off early and do a quick visit to IBS before heading to work. It was about 7:30am and seemed to be just me in the area and I was able to do a quick circuit and see a few new ‘life birds’ such as the Common Grackle and what I believe was a Swainson’s Thrush.

Note the leg band - I wonder what his story is?

Also of note was a colourful – and raucous – Baltimore Oriole was up high in the trees, and I was able to get some of my closest shots of the handsome male Hooded Merganser, although the sun was unfortunately not in my favour. Then after work I decided to take a quick walk around Chevron Lake which is just 5 minutes from my work. I chalked up another lifer – the Gray Catbird – who was singing away heartily. However, the highlight was very much a good clear view & shot of the male Yellow Warbler – a bird that is skittish & ever on the move. Definitely a nice way to start & finish the end of the working week :).

Cross Conservation Area – 20 May

One of my favourite places to visit is the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area near Spruce Meadows which was a former working farm that was donated by the owners to be turned over to a nature preserve. The area is sprawling and I have only ever done one trail (Aspen Trail), but I’ve never been disappointed with the abundant wildflowers and bug life in summer. However, this was the first time I’d gone with birds as the primary target as a specific species at that – the Long-Eared Owl – which had been reported there in recent weeks. Well, it was too early for bugs, but there a number of birds but mainly heard & not seen, except for a lone Tennessee Warbler which I eventually located hidden in the treetops.

However I was very pleased when at the end of the Aspen Trail a Great Gray Owl flew out of the forest and perched at the edge of the clearing allowing us both to check each other out. My previous encounter with GGOs showed them to be rather unconcerned with human presence and this one was no exception as I was able to get within several meters as ‘he’ went about his business – intently observing the ground for prey and letting out the occasional low ‘hoot’. All up, a nice surprise and satisfying end to the trip.

 

Victoria Day Long Weekend – 18-20 May

I spent about 2.5 hours of Saturday morning scouting out Lawrey Gardens and the Douglas Fir Trail, about 10 minutes cycling time from my house. I saw Yellow Warblers for the first time, but was unable to get a nice close-up after quite some trying. Happily, I got some nice shots of another ‘lifer’, the less-than-flatteringly-named, Least Flycatcher.

With the overcast light being helpful for shooting birds with sharply contrasting colours, I thought I would try my luck and see if one of the local pair of nesting Ospreys was at their usual perch overlooking the Bow River on the opposite (south) side from their nesting platform, and sure enough there ‘ he’ was.

The Sunday was sunny & the whole family went for a walk in Confederation Park. After straggling behind the family most of the way (as I stopped to take shots) I finally caught up & my wife said she saw a “big bird” fly into the tree above. Expecting to see a magpie, upon investigating I was very pleasantly surprised  to find the bird was actually a Cooper’s Hawk next to what looked like its nest.

Later in the afternoon while the kids napped, I headed down to the Weaselhead for a quick wander. There were lots of Clay-Coloured Sparrows, Yellow Warblers (which get no easier to photograph), plus some American Goldfinches and Blue Jays. I was also pleased to see the re-appearance of various insects (flies, butterflies, etc) including my first dragonfly of the year!