This bird is a new find for me! I had heard several reports of Horned Larks having been seen in the area recently, which many take to be a good sign of spring approaching. So I was very excited when I actually saw this one perched on a post. It was singing away and at first I mistook it for a Western Meadowlark. Although the two species are very similar at first glance, the tufts on the head of the Horned Lark are a sure giveaway and make them very easy to tell apart.
Although Nuthatches are very common in Calgary I really haven’t encountered very many of them. They are very interesting birds that are known for their unique ability to face head-down while climbing. Most other birds use their tails to assist with balance while climbing, but nuthatches use only their legs and claws. They can often be seen walking straight down the trunk of a tree. This behavior seems very odd when you first recognize what they are doing, and only becomes more odd as you realize that very few birds do it.
We went for a walk at Carburn Park to look for Chickadees. There are lots of these inquisitive little birds in the park and they are always happy to stop in to say hello when we go for a visit. They are also very used to people bringing bird seed for them, and they will quickly hop onto your hand if you hold it up for them to perch on. Of course they will also disappear just as quickly if they discover that you didn’t bring any treats for them!
We see many different Hawks in the Calgary area at various times of the year. Rough-legged Hawks in the winter and early part of the spring, go up north for the summer, and then return in the fall. Swainsons Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks migrate from the South later in the spring, and stay until the late fall. In fact many Red-tails stay all year. There are lots of other species of Hawks and raptors as well, but these are the most common. And they usually show up in their most common color patterns.
But every once in awhile we’re lucky enough to see something different. I’ve seen very few Dark or Intermediate Morph birds, and the ones that I have seen have typically flown shortly after I arrived. Of course that’s true for most raptors, but the Light Morphs are far more common and therefore it’s more likely to find one that’s willing to cooperate…
So I was very happy to find this Dark Morph Swainsons Hawk, and even more so when I realized that it was going to help me out. All Hawks are beautiful to me, but there’s something a little extra special about Dark Morphs that makes me want to spend more time with them. Some birders may actually argue that this bird is really an Intermediate Morph, but that’s a pretty subjective decision and there aren’t very many experts out there that will actually take a stand one way or the other unless they actually saw the bird in person. Either way this bird is beautiful to me!
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!