Saturday, October 15, 2016

Brief visit to Alberta

I enjoyed a recent visit to Alberta to attend the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and specifically to look at what these roundtables can do for the plight of declining grassland birds.  I also enjoyed a little birding on the weekend following the meetings from the foothills west of Calgary. In addition to my previous two posts on the Northern Pygmy-Owl and the Clark's Nutcracker, here are a few images from this area.

I start with two scenery shots of the foothill country, coated in a light dusting of snow and hoarfrost in early October to give you a sense of the landscape.

There were some thoroughly enjoyable mammal sightings in this beautiful landscape including  several elk. This magnificent male was rubbing his heard on a tree, seemingly with great relish:


There were lots of opportunities to observe Mule Deer, including this stotting pair. The stott of the Mule Deer (a jump with all four legs leaving the ground and landing at once), and some other deer and gazelles, is considered by many to be a form of "honest signalling", i.e. telling a predator "I am so fit you will never be able to catch me".

And this Red Fox posed for just long enough to allow a few photos:

There were some thoroughly enjoyable raptor sightings as well, not least of which were five Golden Eagles seen migrating along the foothills east of the Rocky Mountains within a few hours. This is a first year bird with more white in the underwing than adults. These huge and magnificent Aquila eagles are always a great pleasure to watch!  

There were many Rough-legged Hawks on the move and this female on a frosty perch was too striking not to take a habitat photo.

One of the highlights was  watching two Common Ravens mobbing an adult Northern Goshawk. Ravens are of course a large and audacious species but the Northern Goshawk is an apex predator that is not to be trifled with.  Unintimidated by those powerful talons, the ravens escorted the Accipiter "off the premises".
The handsome male American Kestrel also warranted a quick stop! The only other falcon seen was a flyby Peregrine Falcon.

I did not spend a lot of time looking for waterfowl but did record an impressive number of Hooded Mergansers. This male (not in breeding plumage) chasing a female Common Merganser was rather comical. The size difference was immediately apparent.

One of the first passerines I saw on this trip was the Mountain Chickadee. This species is endemic to the mountainous regions of western North America and I seldom get to see them so I especially enjoyed photographing this one with a caterpillar.

Although I am used to seeing the other two chickadee species that were present in the flocks here (Black-capped and Boreal), I couldn't resists a few photos of Boreal Chickadees of perches laden with snow and hoarfrost:

A first-year Northern Shrike also provided a thoroughly enjoyable photo opportunity, albeit distant.

And I photographed a few other familiar faces such as this American Tree Sparrow

 And this Rusty Blackbird on yet another frosty perch: 

A thoroughly enjoyable short trip with special thanks to Doug Collister and family!

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