Friday, February 5, 2016

Between Rain Showers

Jan 28-Feb 4 2016 Boundary Bay. Clouds and occasional sunny breaks 8c

Getting out of my car, bundling up against of the wind and rain I made my way up to the dyke. I had only walked few feet when a small flock of Western Meadowlarks flew overhead,
Western Meadowlark
Mud Bay.

I had been away in the UK when Northern Pygmy Owl was reported on vanbcbirds. I was hoping it would hang around until I got home. I was curious having never visited the site before, besides it would be another year bird to add to the list. 
Northern Pygmy Owl.

There were many birders and photographers waiting for the owl to fly down and hunt. I was there thirty minutes, during that time I was lucky enough to get this shot before darkness fell.

Ring-necked Duck
Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Why this bird isn't called a Ringed-billed Duck I'll never know. This shot does however show the ring on the neck, hence the name.

Iona Jetty Feb 1 2015
If anyone ever needed a walk it was me. I had spent the weekend watching footy I had recorded on the PVR. The only exercise I had over the weekend was dunking digestive biscuits into my tea as I binged on one game after another. It was heaven but as the season progresses so my waistline expands. It was time to walk Iona Jetty all 4km (2.5miles ) of it.

 I had heard there were a flock of Snow Buntings at the very tip of the jetty. On the way out I saw plenty of sea ducks foraging for shellfish, even a River Otter swimming along with a dead gull in its mouth. Does anyone know if otters catch birds live or just scavenge?
Barrow's Goldeneye.
One small raft of Black Scoter contained about thirty birds, further out a much larger number of Surf Scoters dove for shellfish. Buffleheads, Red-necked Grebes and Double-Crested Cormorants made up the rest of the flotilla.

Black Scoter
(left to right) Female, male,and a juvenile in the background.

Finally at the end of the jetty I found a flock of eighteen Snow Buntings, they never stayed put very long so I went a few hundred feet ahead of them and waited until they reached me. They were feeding on algae covered rocks.
Snow Buntings feeding on algae.
The Nikon 200mm-500mm lens allowed me to frame these birds handheld. I was able to clamber over the slippery rocks without damaging an expensive tripod.

The final shot before leaving the birds to feed. 

 Surf Scoters.
As I walked back to the car a raft Surf Scoters came within about a hundred metres. Normally it is best to shoot at a lower level but this angle does show the formation showing male, female and juvenile birds 

Thursday Feb 4/16
 Blackie Spit weekly bird count with Gareth Pugh 41 species noted

With the light being so dull I decided not to take a DSLR instead I packed the Nikon P900 point and shoot.
The P900 is perfect for bird identification and sometimes even when zoomed out 2000 mm and handheld it can produce interesting results. While our group watched four Northern Flickers courting I fired off this image. The second bird the left had yellow/orange tail feathers, an intergrade.
Northern Flickers
Note second bird from left has orange tail feathers.

Distance ID shot of the same bird.
More Info

"It's never too late to start  birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Vancouver Birders Go Gull Crazy

Jan 28th 2015 Trout Lake Clouds and Sun 9c

UK and Asia readers might wonder why this blog features the very common Black-headed Gull. Simple, it's only the second record in British Columbia since 2001. That's enough of a reason for many birders to make the trek to a small Vancouver pond. A red beak and legs make is easy enough to spot amongst the similar sized Ring-billed and larger Glaucous-winged Gulls.
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Trout Lake.
It took a while to find the bird as it was on the water when I arrived. Finally it flew over to a grassy area with a few ring-billed and just as I was going to snap a picture a dog flushed the flock and off they flew. 

Later a savvy photographer from Washington State came armed with a loaf of bread (why didn't I think of that) and soon the gulls were temped to fly close enough for some flight shots.

The red legs were a giveaway compared to the pale yellow/green of the Ring-billed Gulls.

I panned the camera with the bird to create the soft pastel background.
Using the Nikon 200mm-500mm zoom allowed me to crop in the camera when the bird came really close.

****               ****               ****
 Comparison shots from the Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire UK 2014 showing breeding plumage.
Courtship display Gibraltar Point UK.

Black-headed Gulls in full breeding plumage are colony nesters and make simple nests in the mud. 

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

BC Canada

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Siberian Accentor Makes the News.

Jan 27 2016

When the local newspaper phoned and asked me to give some background on the Siberian Accentor twitch I had no idea the story was going to be front page!

This what came about after being interviewed over the phone.

More on the Siberian Accentor

"It's never too late start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Finally..If At First You Don't Succeed!

Jan 20 2015 160th and Colebrook Rd Surrey British Columbia Canada
 8c Clouds and Sun

During the past two weeks I have been among many birders flocking to the Singh Blueberry farm in Surrey. The goal was to hopefully catch a glimpse or even better photograph a vagrant Siberian Accentor that had landed on our shores. Despite the location being only ten minutes from my Cloverdale home the bird proved quite a challenge.
How long it has been around no one knows. There is link at the end of the blog for those interested in historical data. Anyway, the accentor has and continues to show in and around a blueberry farm and bushes surrounding an abandoned farm building.
Originally it was found during the White Rock Christmas Bird Count by BC birder George Clulow and his crew. It's not the first rarity found during an annual count and I'm sure not the last.
I haven't been on that many twitches but talking to the many birders present the accentor was proving difficult to tick. The chances of ever seeing one again are probably non-existent so this was a chance of a lifetime not to be passed up. I expect quite a few have already left disappointed while others scored on their very first visit.
Today all that finally changed for myself and about thirty lucky birders when the accentor was spotted by 'Big' Mike Tabak who kindly alerted us all to the bird's presence in a bush next to the house. Only moments before Mike and I had been chatting about how much co-operation there is between birders. He's right of course, one of the best things about birding is the camaraderie and of course the odd rarity thrown in for good measure!

Siberian Accentor (Prunella montanella)

Leucistic Dark-eyed Junco. 

The Back Story
The waiting game for me began Jan11th with a fruitless 8 hour wait. When the sun set I photographed this pretty looking junco so that the whole day wasn't a complete loss. Cute face Eh!
The next two days it poured and only the hardy and those who had flown in from far away stuck it out.
Jan14th I spent another seven fruitless hours peering through my bins and snapping shots of sparrows but to tell you the truth my heart wasn't really into it, there was a lifer out there and that was the only thing that was going to satisfy my bird addled brain! Jan15th I put in a mere five hours, again with no success. The word was getting around, don't stand next to John Gordon but there were plenty of others who had made numerous visits and were yet to see the bird. It was so cold I could hear my kneecaps rattling. Then just as I thought my luck would break the bird appeared in front of us and to be honest I couldn't see it for the life of me, so deep it was in the thickets. I couldn't count it. Things were looking up, I would have to return. I spent the next three days knocked out by the flu, unable to bird and even too sick watch the FA Cup games...
Eventually enough energy returned to spend the morning of Jan20th birding and besides I needed some fresh air. Some of the familiar faces were there, some who had seen the bird, others who had already had glimpses but were hoping for a better view and those like myself who were just hoping for anything. 
Two hours into the wait I was packing away my gear with the idea of returning in the afternoon when the bird landed on a bush beside the house. I ran with my camera and tripod, heart beating from the short sprint from the farm gate to the bush. As I looked through the viewfinder there it was.
Siberia Accentor (Prunella montanella)
The wait was finally over! 

After perhaps 30 seconds the bird flew from the bush into a conifer where it sat on top and sang for a brief moment. Many had great shots, there was smiles all around, a few high fives, a huge sigh of relief and for some a mad dash back to the ferry or airport.

Overheard at the Siberian Accentor twitch.

1. I saw the bird for 5 secs about four hundred metres away!
2. I saw the bird's leg and rump in a bush, I think!
3. The bird was in right in front of me but I couldn't see it! 
4. The bird turned up 5 minutes after I left.
5. The bird turned up 5 minutes before I arrived.
6. The bird turned up in my dreams.
7. I was there when the bird made a brief appearance but I couldn't get on it.
8. My wife who isn't a birder but came to see what was the fuss was about saw it but I didn't!
9. Gord's son saw it but dad didn't, Ouch!
10. Have you seen the bird yet?

                   Obviously I have way too much time on my hands so until the next time. Here are some links

                  George Clulow supplied me with this historical reference which makes for great read.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada
Siberian Accentor Capital of Canada

Friday, January 15, 2016

Brookside Inn Abbotsford BC/Lesser Goldfinch

Jan 8th 2015 Brookside Inn Abbotsford BC. Mixed clouds and sun 12c.

I had just arrived in Vancouver after a nine hour flight from the UK. The jet lag saw me wide awake 4 a.m. next morning, fortunately I had taped a couple of FA Cup games to tide me over until dawn. As much as I like travelling it is always great to be back home in Canada.
While I was away I had noticed a forum posting for a Lesser Goldfinch, a bird I had yet to photograph and best of all it was only a few miles from my home. Brookside Inn in Abbotsford has a number of feeders making photography a snap and it was the during a Christmas bird count that the Lesser Greenfinch was found. The gracious owners Chris and Sandy, both avid birders have opened their garden to all and sundry.
Anna's Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
I would like to thank Brookside Inn owner Chris and Sandy for allowing myself and numerous others access to their garden to photograph the Lesser Goldfinch.
Brookside Inn and their charming hosts would be a great place for out of town birders to stay with easy access to numerous birding sites in the Fraser Valley. The Inn is spacious and the rooms are fitted out to various movie themes for the film buffs amongst you. For birders arriving in Canada (Abbotsford airport is only 15 minutes away) he or she could be birding moments after checking in. I intend to return for a better shot of the goldfinch but until I get a sighting of the Siberian Accentor the goldfinch will have to wait.

Here is link to Brookside Inn.

"It's never to late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cannop Ponds

   Dec 28 2015 Cannop Ponds Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire UK 12c

Due to the lousy weather and family commitments twenty days have passed since my last birding outing. When the sun finally did come out I decided to make my way to nearby Cannop Ponds. On the way I decided to stop off at Parkend where with the help of another birder I spotted four Hawfinch high up in a Beech Tree. The big finches come down occasionally to feed on the Yew tree nuts. A difficult bird to photograph, they never did come down close enough. I also photographed a Sparrowhawk streaking across the sky. A nearby flock of thirty Chaffinch might have been the intended prey.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Also known as 'Dabchick' Little Grebes favour weedy lakes where it dives for food.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
The most common member of the crake or rail family. As with the Little Grebe UK winter numbers are supplemented by  immigrants from Europe.
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
The commonest of the UK tits, the Blue Tit is a familiar visitor to bird feeders and will readily use nest boxes put out for them in the garden.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
A lifer for me, the Coal Tit made my day. There is a feeder at Canop where visitors bring food.

Great Tit (Parus Major)
The largest of the UK tits, Great Tits often flocks with other tits and is a regular visitor to the bird feeder.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
I didn't know this but the cormorant's plumage isn't waterproof and the bird can often be seen in the 'heraldic' pose drying off its wings.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
The Mandarin duck was introduced into the UK in the early 20th century and now number around 3500 pairs. It was added to the British bird list in 1971.

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
The only bird the Tufted Duck can be confused with is the Scaup (Aythya marina)
With time running out for my family visit I can only hope that the sun will peek out from behind the ever present clouds giving me an opportunity for one more day of birding. Meanwhile I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2016.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Year End Round-Up

 Dec 16 2015 A Birding Year

2015 has been a year of great adventures. Among many other endeavours I have been to the UK twice (Feb and this Dec) and I also fulfilled a life long dream to drive across Canada (May-July)
 I always promised myself I wouldn't get caught up in a numbers game but there's something about ticking birds that makes it fun and educational. Below are a few random images in chronological order from the past twelve months and and a list of my 2015 Canada birds (291species)
I hope you enjoy them!

Pine Grosbeak
 Burnaby Mountain BC.

Gray Wagtail
 Cannop Ponds Forest of Dean UK.
Long-tailed Tit Brockweir UK

Reed Bunting Newport Wetlands Gwent Wales UK

Anna's Hummingbird
 Queen Elizabeth Park Vancouver BC.

Loggerhead Shrike
 Hope Airport BC.

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
 Grasslands National Park Saskatchewan.

Red Knot, Black-bellied Plover and Dunlin.
Riverton/Sandy Bar Lake Winnipeg Manitoba

Magnolia Warbler
Ontario on the outward journey.
Northern Parula
Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Nelson's Sparrow Shepody Marsh
 Bay of Fundy Nova Scotia
I think this rock formation looks a little like ET!
Hopwell Rocks
 Bay of Fundy New Brunswick.

Male Eider Duck flotilla. Bay of Fundy
 New Brunswick.

Black-throated Gray Warbler
 Grand Manan Archipelago New Brunswick.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
 Prince Edward Island

Lake Superior Provincial Park Ontario.

Red Fox
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park Ontario.

Northern Gannet
St Mary's Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland.

Upland Sandpiper courtship behaviour.
Manitoba Birding Trail. 
Grasshopper Sparrow
 Melita Manitoba.

Immature Franklin's Gull
104 Boundary Bay.
Tropical Kingbird
Steveston BC.
White-throated Sparrow.
Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
 Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary BC.

Great Blue Herons toward Mud Bay
 Wye Valley  UK.

Brockweir Wye Valley UK

Finally I would like to wish everyone season's greetings and very, very birdy 2016.

Here is

2015 Year List

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
Langley /Cloverdale
BC Canada