I love Carburn Park and I’m always amazed by the things you can see there. Grebes are actually quite common there at certain times of year, but it’s surprisingly difficult to get one to pose for a picture while the light is good enough to make something decent out of it. I went back several times after I found this one as it was quite obliging!
I was out for a walk at Carburn Park and was very surprised to see a pair of Hooded Mergansers. I stopped to watch and found several more amongst the mass of birds swimming in the lake. These birds are very rare for Calgary and they really only stop here during the spring and fall migration, so it was pretty cool to see them today!
This is the first Muskrat I’ve come across this spring. It had a mouthful of some building material that it carried right past me and took into latest construction project. These animals are plentiful in the Calgary area and in summer they can often be found sitting on the edge of a slough eating. They are quick to spook though so you need to approach slowly if you want to get close.
Muskrats and Beavers are often confused for each other by the casual observer. Although they are related, and very similar in appearance, there are two major differences that can be used to distinguish between them.
The first difference is the overall size; muskrats are very small and typically only reach the 2 to 4 pound range (1 to 2 kg) while Beavers are much larger and are more typically in the 30 to 90 pound range (14 to 40 kg).
While this massive size difference should be enough to tell the animals apart, the second difference is equally distinctive. While Beavers are well known for having a flattened tail, Muskrats also have flat tails, only theirs are flattened vertically instead of horizontally. To the common observer the Muskrat appears to have a typical round tail as you can normally only see a small part of the tail sticking out of the water while the rat swims.
Carseland Weir is home to dozens of these beautiful birds every spring and summer. The weir is designed to divert water from the Bow River into a canal system that provides irrigation water for agriculture. Pelicans congregate below the weir because fish cannot pass the structure and become trapped below it. For birds it’s an all you can eat buffet. A similar weir near downtown Calgary has also been a regular attraction for the Pelicans in recent years; however, it is currently being redeveloped in an attempt to allow fish to pass and to make the river safer for boaters. As a result it is expected that the Pelicans will no longer congregate on the river in the city.
This was my third visit to the Carseland Weir this season, but it was the first time I found Pelicans. There were nearly two dozen of them gathered together below the weir looking for a meal, and several dozen more sitting on a small island in the river above the weir.
They were initially wary of me as I approached the edge of the river, but I sat down on the rocks and waited. Eventually they relaxed and floated close enough for me to make some great images.