Most people that I talk to in Calgary know about the Pelicans that live on the Bow River, but many of them have no idea that there are some other common residents on the river too. For example there are always Cormorants swimming in the churned up water below the weir alongside the Pelicans. These beautiful birds are incredible swimmers and they often disappear below the surface for minutes at a time. You’ll never know when or where they might come back to the surface.
Weird fact: Cormorants don’t have water repellent plumage as most other ducks and water birds do, so they must dry their wings after going for a swim or a bath… They can often be spotted perched on the wall at the East end of the Bow River Weir with their wings spread wide to dry in the breeze.
Many species of ducks can also be commonly spotted in the churn below the weir. Mergansers are very common, however they are normally quite elusive. It was very fun to see this juvenile bird completely oblivious to the people nearby as it splashed and hunted for minnows in the shallow waters near the shore.
I drove by the weir on the Bow River in Calgary several times over the past week and each time there have been hundreds of Pelicans floating below the weir. There were many more than I’ve ever seen there at one time before so I was pretty excited to get out to see them. I finally had a chance to go after dinner tonight, and it was quite a sight. There were only about 60 there tonight (compared to easily 200 earlier in the week), but even that is a whole lot of birds!
The best thing about going down to the weirs in the Calgary area (there are 2; one at Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park and the other at Pearce Estate Park in SE Calgary) is that you can get right down on the rocks at the rivers edge. The Pelicans are so focused on fishing that they generally ignore the people nearby. Unfortunately that has all changed at the Bow River Weir in Calgary due to the ongoing deconstruction of the weir (part of the Harvie Passage project). It is now quite difficult to get close to the water because of the equipment and materials that have been abandoned there for the summer. The good news is that there are so many birds hanging out that it is still pretty easy to make some good images!
Here are a few shots of the Pelicans from tonight.
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.