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Calgary's winged spring messengers


Kelsey McEwen, reporter
April 2, 2013 — The mercury is continuing to rise in Alberta, giving way to long-awaited spring activities. Kelsey McEwen reports.


The California gulls are a common sight along the Bow River.
The California gulls are a common sight along the Bow River.

The days are getting longer, and there's now no mistaking it. Spring has sprung in the city of Calgary, and the signs are all around.

"Gophers are up and moving about, good old Richardson's ground squirrels," Sid Andrews of City of Calgary Parks says, happily. "But for me in particular, and I think for most Calgarians who live by the river, it's that shriek and holler that we're hearing behind us that is definitely the first big sign of spring. Those are California gulls."

The white and grey birds perched on drifting chunks of river ice are a common sight along the Bow River this time of year, migrating north into the Prairies looking for places to nest.

"Isn't that perfect?" Andrews says of the gulls. "That's a perfect harbinger of spring, don't you think? Warm weather must be coming if Californian gulls are moving from California to here."

But even with the arrival of the so-called warm weather birds ... avid bird watchers know not to get too excited yet.

Avid Weather Network viewer Bob Storms he says it's crucial to keep an eye on the weather if you're into bird watching, which he says is his number one hobby.

Smaller birds are more common in the later spring, according to bird watchers.
Smaller birds are more common in the later spring, according to bird watchers.

Calgary, he says, really has two springs, with the first in mid-March, marked by the return of the gulls and geese.

"Then mid-May, when most people think of as spring, that's the second spring we have, with a lot of the small birds, the warblers returning and things like that," he says.

Regardless, even this early in the year, there are some surprises that keep those with their eye to the sky on their toes.

"You never know what's going to show up!" Storms says. "A few days ago there was a lesser black back gull here, an adult. And the last couple weeks, we've had an adult Glaucous gull."

"Certainly anytime now, we'll see all those migrants that we've been expecting in numbers like red wing black birds and robins, and other things like that in our back yards," Andrews adds.

The province of Alberta is rich in bird life, which you can glimpse at Calgary's Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and other avian havens, or check out the City of Calgary for outdoor programming.

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