This is a new dedicated blog about birds!

For those of you who have been reading the StaderArt Blog, you know there is a variety of subject matter from people and places, to wildlife and birds.   We’ve decided to spin off a new blog specifically dedicated to birds called StaderArt Birds – just for the bird lovers!

We hope you enjoy StaderArt Birds as much as we enjoy discovering and photographing them!

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

The Birds of Bow Valley Provincial Park

Psssst!  Wanna hear a little secret?  Bow Valley Provincial Park is a hidden gem in Alberta.

The park is only 33 sq. km but it is packed with a dense variety of habitat, wildlife and birds.   We go there early in the morning from time-to-time (while the masses visit Lake Louise and Banff) and we never seem to be disappointed!

This Lincoln Sparrow stayed hidden most of the time but every once in a while he popped up onto branch and posed for a second or two (with a yummy breakfast in its beak).

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Lincoln Sparrow

Willow Flycatchers are often overlooked and/or confused with other species.  There are several that look the same and it’s difficult to tell them apart from one another, but this little guy gave himself away by repeating his song over and over!  He was very cooperative and posed several times for the camera, often approaching us at close range.

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Willow Flycatcher

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Willow Flycatcher (close-up)

Who doesn’t like a Yellow Warbler?  This boisterous male was hanging out in the same willow thicket as the Willow Flycatcher.  Yellow Warblers are pretty common but they have this knack for dashing in and out of bushes a few seconds before you can click the shutter button on the camera.  Patience won the battle for us today, however.  Gotcha!

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Yellow Warbler

Over 220 species have been recorded in Bow Valley Provincial Park according to ebird.  Check here for a complete list of recent sightings:  ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L430045

 Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

Mountain Birding: Common Loon & White-crowned Sparrow

This morning we headed off to one of our favourite mountain birding spots – Vermilion Lakes.  It was an awesome morning and the lake was fairly calm.  Long before we spotted this Common Loon, we heard it yodeling – the haunting vocalization it is so well known for.

16A_6576-1(Common Loon)

 

Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk along Lake Minnewanka and spotted a bird rummaging around some bushes along the water’s edge.  With patience, eventually the bird revealed itself on a rock and posed perfectly for us.  Thank you Mr/Mrs. White-crowned Sparrow!

16B_1276-Edit-1-2(White-crowned Sparrow)

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

Sometimes misfortune is a Blessing in Disguise – Discovery of Birding

Panama Professional Bird Guide

16C_1032-1-2(Beny Wilson, Panama Bird Guide:  507-6112-2082,  veniciowilson@gmail.com)

When we first met Beny 2 years ago we were not avid birders… Ray had suffered a back injury that required us to change our usual activities to something more “tame.” A friend suggested we might like birding because of our interest in wildlife–we were skeptical but decided to give it a try and Panama seemed like the perfect place.

After our first 8-hour day on the famous Pipeline Road, dripping with sweat and swatting bugs that had no respect for bug spray, we weren’t sure what to think… until we downloaded our memory card and started looking at the pictures we took.  Suddenly those small, twitchy creatures jumped out of the screen in amazing detail, allowing us a small glimpse into the avian world – we were hooked!

Location: Summit Ponds

16A_3227 1-1-2.jpg(Blue-crowned Motmot.  Sometimes birds surprise you and come so close, they are almost out of the focal range of the lens, but the detail you can capture is mind-blowing!)

16A_3837 1-1.jpg(Male Crimson-backed Tanager.  These birds are quite common in Panama, but the colour is so vibrant we never tire of watching them.)

Location: Ammo Pond

IMG_5824-2.jpg(Ammo Pond)

Beny has the eyes of a hawk and a guide of his caliber can make such a difference.  When he starts acting like a kid at Christmas, you know you have been gifted something special, like when he spotted a Yellow-breasted Crake at Ammo Pond.  These birds are extremely rare–the last time Beny saw one was three years ago!

16A_3591 2(Yellow-breasted Crake.  We would normally not include such a “bad” photo in our blog but the rarity of this bird made it an exception.  Due to the dense vegetation of its habitat it is very difficult to see, much less photograph.  Just getting this “head shot” was a challenge.)

Location: La Laguna Sendero

Sometimes you get lucky and lightening strikes twice on the same day.  While hiking the Laguna Trail, Beny spotted a bird he wasn’t sure about (needless to say we were shocked).  It turned out to be a dark-phase juvenile Gray-headed Kite.  The dark phase was a “life bird” for Beny (which undoubtedly means it is also one for us)–score two!

16A_4038 1-1.jpg(Dark phase juvenile Gray-headed Kite)

16A_4130-1.jpg(Black-bellied Whistling Ducks)

As we finished the Laguna Trail we ended up by the Canal and saw several waterfowl wading about in a picturesque setting.  It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Thinking back to the circumstances under which we first met Beny we can’t believe how our misfortune turned into such a blessing.  One that we can appreciate for many years to come!

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

Unexpected Dinner Guest – Black-crowned Night-Heron

Panama has an amazing restaurant scene, everything is made from scratch and there is a broad range of cuisine available to suit every palette.  It is also a great way to people watch –you never know who might drop in!

One evening we were enjoying dinner outside on the Bay of Panama and we noticed a heron sitting on the roof line of the restaurant.  Of course we didn’t have a camera with us but this Black-crowned Night-Heron was incredibly patient and waited 10 minutes for us to grab the camera and come back to the restaurant.  It continued to pose for about half an hour because it was waiting for an opportunity to grab one of the fish swimming below.  We were very lucky he sat in one of the restaurant’s spot lights otherwise we would never have captured this shot because we don’t use flash on wildlife.
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(Black-crowned Night Heron – unexpected dinner guest)

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

Panama Rainforest – A bird’s eye view!

How do you see what’s going on at the top of the rainforest canopy in Panama?  You climb a 130 foot tower with 174 steps, of course!  Many of you know we visit Panama frequently and the rainforest along the Panama Canal is one of our favourite day trips from Panama City.

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(Top of the 130 foot observation tower)

Being the early birds that we are, we were on the road around 5:30am bound for the Panama Rainforest Discovery Centre on the world renowned Pipeline Road.  While driving the 40 minutes to reach the observation tower we were wondering if the day was going to be a bust.  It was dark and raining – one of the first rains in five months  (Panama is starting to transition from the dry season to the wet season), but just as we arrived the rain stopped and it turned out to be a beautiful morning – not too hot…that was until we had to climb the 174 steps lugging heavy camera gear!

The results were worth it!

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(Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan)

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(Purpled-throated Fruitcrow – male)

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(White-necked Jacobin – male)

We have been to the tower several times before, but this was the best bird viewing day we’ve had so far.  We saw between 60-70 different species (thanks in large part to Carlos Bethancourt who was guiding a group from the USA and saved us hours of time trying to ID the birds we photographed.)

Some of the birds we saw included the following:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Gray-headed Kite, Band-rumped Swift, White-necked Puffbird, Pied Puffbird, Keel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, Lineated Woodpecker, Blue-headed Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Mealy Parrot, Dusky Antbird, Paltry Tyrannulet, Southern Bentbill, Great Kiskadee, Eastern Kingbird, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Blue Cotinga, Red-eyed Vireo, Lesser Greenbelt, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Yellow Warbler, White-shouldered Tanager, Palm Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Shining Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Moustached Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Fasciated Antshrike, Scaled Pigeon, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, White-necked Jacobin, Slaty-tailed Trogan, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer.

More to come from Panama…stay tuned!

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

Sharp-tailed Grouse – So you think you can dance?

Move over Calgary Stampede, there’s a rival to your claim of being the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!

When we were offered a rare invitation to witness Sharp-tailed Grouse at a lek in southern Alberta, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  A lek is an open area where male birds carry on courtship behaviour each spring.

As this location is on private land we are not permitted to disclose the location of the lek to protect the species, but we can certainly share the experience!

Males arrive at the lek very early – around dawn.  As spectators, we had to get up at 4:15 am in order to arrive on location before sunrise so as not to disturb the birds once they start the courtship rituals.  We carefully made our way to the site and used a blind to remain hidden from the birds.

There were about 30-40 male Sharp-tailed Grouse at the lek and they were “dancing” all around the site.  Heads down, tails up, wings outstretched and stamping their feet rapidly – about 20 times per second !  We can see where all the native dancers at the Stampede got their moves from!  When you hear, and see, 30-40 grouse doing this simultaneously it is truly an amazing act of nature to witness.  Their feathers rattle, they inflate their purple neck sacks, and they make very interesting cooing and gulping sounds at the same time–much like festive Macarena dance!

16A_6012 3-1(male courtship dance at first light)

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(head down, tail up, and gyrating!)

The males were competing for dominance, as only the dominant male (or two) out of the whole group, will be selected by the females to sire the next generation.  The males faced off in head to head battles (often striking one another) until the matter was settled.

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(males facing off for dominance)

Eventually about 3 females arrived and that’s when the males really ramped up the jigging and shaking!  The females walked around slowly perusing the wares on display, selected the male that had the best moves, made quick work of the business at hand, and carried on.

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(female arrives to evaluate the dancing – note the abnormal “crossbill-like” beak)

Our lek experience lasted about 3 hours and eventually, when it was evident no more females were coming, the males became quiet and still (probably exhausted from the effort).  Just a silently as they arrived, they all flew off.

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(closeup of a male – nice eyebrows!)

It was an awesome outdoor show, one we have never been privileged to witness before!  We never cease to be amazed at the variety of wildlife and birds right here in Alberta.  We think the Sharp-tailed Grouse know how to dance 🙂

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds