Dark Morph Rough-legged Hawk

Dark Morph Rough-legged Hawk

According to Sibley, dark morphs make up less than 10% of the population of Rough-legged Hawks found in the west. I don’t recall ever having seen one before, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking at when I found this one. I was very happy that it posed for me for so long before launching.

This is the first roughie I’ve seen this fall. They pass through the Calgary area every fall and spring during the migration, and in milder years they are even known to overwinter here. Last year was such a nasty, cold winter that we hardly saw any at all. The spring was also very late this year, so when they did finally arrive they they didn’t stick around for long. We’ve been having a very nice (and late) fall so far and I’m very hopeful that we’ll have them here all winter this year!

The Shorebird Migration Begins!

The spring migration started weeks ago on the prairies for the ducks, geese, and swans, but the shorebirds have been taking their time getting here. I did catch a glimpse of a solitary Kildeer on the shore of a slough last week, but that’s been the only one so far.

Well, everything changed this week and the shorebird migration is now in full swing. The early arrivals are definitely here and I saw dozens of Kildeer today and quite a few American Avocets as well. I haven’t seen any Black-necked Stilts or Yellowlegs yet, but I’ve seen several reports that they have also arrived. The next couple of weeks will be very exciting to watch as the next waves of birds arrive!

I saw this Avocet standing in a slough but unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the pond to get the best light. There was a parking area at the North end of the water and I was able to slowly walk around to the west side of the slough to get the late afternoon light shining on the face of the bird. I wasn’t careful or quiet enough while walking around and I managed to flush most of the ducks on the pond, but the Avocet (which was already flying before I even started walking) came in across the water and landed close in front of me. The pond was almost completely still and the glassy water was stirred up only by the movement of the Avocet as it walked around and I was able to make some really nice reflection images.

American Avocet walking in a slough

While I was laying on the edge of the slough watching the Avocet a flock of about 6 Kildeer also flew in and landed close to me. Most of them immediately launched again, but this one didn’t notice that I was there and stayed close while I made several images.

Kildeer standing on the shore of a slough

I also saw my first Red-winged Blackbird of the season this week and I had a good chance to make a few portraits this afternoon.

Red-winged Blackbird perched on a Cattail

Here are a couple more images of the Avocet from above. I’m looking forward to lots more shorebird action over the coming weeks!

American Avocet standing in still water

American Avocet standing in the water

Northern Pintails in a Slough

Painterly image of a Northern Pintail in Flight

These beautiful birds pass through the prairies during their spring migration to their breeding grounds in the far north. They are one of my favorite birds to look at, but unfortunately they don’t seem to like me very much. This image shows the typical reaction that I get whenever I come across them. Actually I don’t think it’s just me; they really seem to be very skittish and they tend to spook very easily. And I also happen to really like this painterly image of a Pintail in flight. The golden evening light on the slough grasses in the background really make it pop!

Here are a couple of images of Pintails swimming in a slough. This was one of the very few occasions that I’ve been able to make nice images Pintails when they weren’t flying away from me!

Northern Pintails swimming in a Slough

Northern Pintail swimming in a Slough

Bohemian Waxwing at Carburn Park

Bohemian Waxwing at Carburn Park

While technically year-round residents of the Calgary area, Bohemian Waxwings aren’t very common in the city and are typically only seen during the spring migration. This is the first one I’ve ever seen here, and it posed nicely for me until a surly Robin landed nearby and flushed it away.