In July of 2001, my husband had a business trip to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on the edge of the Canadian Rockies. So I went along, too and spent 2 days birding Calgary, and then we left for a few days in the Banff and Jasper National Parks. Here's an account of the places we went to and the 74 species we saw. We had never birded this far north before, and picked up 23 lifers (*) on the trip.
Prince's Island Park, St. Patrick's Island and Calgary Zoo.
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Fish Creek Provincial Park
Johnston Canyon, Vermilion Lakes Area (outskirts of Banff townsite)
Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A)
Icefields Parkway, Vermilion Pass Burn (Hwy 93)
Lac Beauvert & Jasper Park Lodge (outskirts of Jasper townsite)
Flight from Houston arriving Calgary in the afternoon of Sunday, 8th July, 2001.
Day 1 Monday, 9th July 2001
Prince's Island Park, in the center of Calgary, is bordered by the Bow River on its northern edge. It was within walking distance of the hotel, so I went exploring to see what I could find. Black-billed Magpies* were common and since the split from the Eurasian Magpie, this was my first lifer. Black-capped Chickadees* made the second lifer of the day, and also seen were: American Crows, Mallards, Canada Geese, American Wigeon, Yellow Warbler, Common Goldeneye*, Ring-billed Gulls and a Song Sparrow*.
St. Patrick's Island is situated a short way along the Bow River and yielded Gray Catbird, Northern Flicker and Brown-headed Cowbird. From there I followed the path over to the north side of the river, and spent a couple of hours browsing through Calgary Zoo. Here I found the following wild birds: Red-winged Blackbird, Brewer's Blackbird, Black-capped Chickadees, House Sparrows, European Starlings, Black-billed Magpies and a lovely White-crownedSparrow singing from the top of a small pine tree. In captivity I saw Hooded Mergansers and photographed a pair of Trumpeter Swans and a Swainson's Hawk.
18 species with 4 lifers
Day 2 Tuesday, 10th July 2001
The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is situated about 10 minutes drive east along 9 Ave S.E, from downtown Calgary. It is open for walking early in the morning, before the visitor centre opens. The sanctuary is situated on the inside of a bend in the Bow River and consists of woodland, lake (abandoned river section), marsh, streams and the edge of the fast flowing Bow River itself. It is definitely not to be missed when visiting Calgary.
There are a series of paths covering the sanctuary very well, and I began behind the visitor center where it crossed an area of open ground. Here I saw lots of American Robins and a Black-billed Magpie. Going into the wooded area and approaching the lake I saw a Black-capped Chickadee, and then noticed an Eastern Kingbird fighting with a European Starling on the edge of the lake. Nearby I found a Tree Swallow* nest in a snag, so watched for a few minutes while the parents came in to feed the young (first lifer of the day). On the lake there were several Wood Duck females, Common Mergansers and Mallards, and continuing the walk I found some Cedar Waxwings and a Baltimore Oriole. My second lifer was a House Wren*, when I was alerted by the scold note of a pair nesting in another tree hole. The 3rd lifer - a Western Wood Pewee*, was hawking insects and kept returning to the same branch giving me time to decide on its identity!
When I reached the Bow River, there were lots of Ring-billed Gulls on the shingle banks in the middle of the river, and amongst them I identified some California Gulls*, my 4th lifer of the day. Also here were 6 American White Pelicans, which I had previously been surprised to see flying over the sanctuary. Somehow I'd always thought of them as a southern bird! There were Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes on the river, too.
On my walk back through the wooded island, I noticed a couple of American Kestrels harassing a larger bird of prey, and was very pleased to see a dark morph Swainson's Hawk* (5th lifer) on a nest in the centre of the island (see photo above). I later found out from a docent in the visitor center that this was the 3rd year that the hawks had nested here. Also seen or heard in the sanctuary: Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron and Red-winged Blackbird.
Fish Creek Provincial Park
I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon at this park on the southern outskirts of Calgary. It was an area of coniferous forest and I found a nice track by a creek to explore. The bird count was not very big, but I got nice looks at some Black-capped Chickadees and a Red-breasted Nuthatch and even got a couple of photos (above). Also seen: American Robin, Cedar Waxwings and a Common Raven, calling from the top of a pine tree.
28 species for the day, with 5 lifers.
Clark's Nutcracker seen in Banff National Park
Click on this photo of this Black-capped Chickadee, for a larger version
Click on the photos for larger images
A pair of Common Mergansers on the Bow River
View of the Bow River, with the gulls on the shingle banks