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Birding Carburn Park, Calgary

With a great mix of habitats and about a hundred and fifty species to discover, Carburn Park is one of the best birding parks in Calgary. You may encounter the resident Bald Eagles and Great Horned Owls, or spend hours noting the dozens of species that blanket the river in Spring, Summer, and Fall.


In Calgary, birding is mostly a three-season hobby; December, January, and February can be quiet and cold. That said, a thorough search of Carburn at the end of November 2021 yielded 25 species, making it one of the birdiest spots in town going into winter. Like every other hotspot in Cowtown, May through July are the ideal time to visit.


Located on the east side the Bow River immediately south of Glenmore Trail, the park is accessed from the neighbourhood of Riverbend and is open from 5AM to 11PM each day. The area is part of the Bow River Pathway system that leads from downtown to south Calgary. As a birding location, I consider Carburn to extend as far north as the Glenmore bridge and as far south as the pedestrian bridge, about 1.4 km as the crow flies; overall it covers about 135 hectares and includes two large ponds.


Popular with local residents, cyclists, and leashed dogs, Carburn is clean, well-maintained, and locals declare it safe. The main pathways are paved, but there are secondary footpaths to explore, and visitors are free to wander through meadows and along the riverbanks at will. Go ahead and watch the ducks from the water's edge, or go off trail to find the best angle for a photo.


There is ample parking, and washrooms in the nearby city facilities building. The park is simple enough that you can easily find your way around; I often start by walking south along the river as far as the pedestrian bridge. I'll check around the houses at the southern end of the park; the backyard feeders might have some interesting sparrows, and the trees in that area there can be home to Merlin or Sharp-shinned Hawk. Walk north along the river, past your starting point at the parking lot, and check out the two ponds; the larger pond may have Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, and Goldeneye; more rarely a Common Loon. The trees around the ponds are home to have plentiful Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, and White-and Red-breasted Nuthatches. A pair of Great Horned Owls are usually nesting somewhere nearby, so keep your eyes open, or ask the locals.


The river itself is where most of the action is; the highlights in the summer include Double-breasted Cormorant, American White Pelican, Common Merganser, and dozens of common waterfowl species. This is one of the easiest places in Calgary to spot Bald Eagles, as they nest on the islands in the middle of the river. The shore and gravel bars can sometimes yield Killdeer and Yellowlegs. As usual, check Ebird for the latest checklists.

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