Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Joy of Winter

My wife Barb with me at the Fairview Lookout
overlooking Lake Lousie
Anyone living in Alberta had better get some joy from winter because we get a whole bunch of winter!  There are lots of winter activities and this month I’ve gone downhill skiing and snowshoeing in addition to some birding.

I intended to do at least a couple of posts on winter birding but it has taken me quite a while to get some “postable” photos to accompany the text.  I was finally ready a few days ago but had other priorities – mainly putting together a photo book of the 2012 Big Year I did with three friends.  You can view the book at:
My first outing of the year was to Fish Creek Provincial Park in south Calgary with Bob Storms.  We walked 8 kilometres that day and there was a good selection of the common birds but the lighting wasn’t good for photography. A few days later, the lighting was good for photography but the temperature wasn’t too good for the photographer!  Nevertheless, I went to Queen’s Park Cemetery found some photogenic birds.
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Brown Creeper
White-winged Crossbill (transitioning from juvenile plumage)
Calgary birders usually make at least one winter trip to Exshaw to view Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches.  Phil Cram and I made this trip on Jan. 12 arriving in Exshaw at sunrise.  In the mountains, it takes some time for the sun to rise above the mountains and so we were there too early for any decent photos.
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
En route to Banff National Park, we stopped briefly to view some Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep west of Exshaw.  These animals are almost always present along the road side and seem oblivious to humans.
Bighorn Sheep
In the park, the birds were pretty quiet but the scenery was fantastic.  Eventually, we found a couple of good birds – Belted Kingfisher and American Dipper – near some open water on Vermillion Lakes.
Vermillion Lakes and Mount Rundle - note dipper on ice and photographer (not me) in foreground
American Dipper
Last Friday, Mike Mulligan and I journeyed to the southwest of Calgary.  Our main destination was Brown Lowery Provincial Park which is the best place near Calgary to find both Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers.  Mike and I walked the park trails for an hour but didn’t see any woodpeckers.  The squawking of Gray Jays and the calls of a few chickadees were the only sounds in an otherwise quiet forest. 
Gray Jay
We then went to a feeder near Millarville and finally had some success – Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks, and Mourning Doves were all in the area.  It was nice to get good looks at both female and male grosbeaks.
Pine Grosbeaks - female on left, male on right
Evening Grosbeaks - male on left, female on right
Next posting, “A January Big Day” – we’ve done the big day but I’ve some chores to do before I have time do the write-up.

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