Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ignoring the Weather Forecast Pays Off!

Oct 20 2014 Boundary Bay/Blackie Spit. Overcast with sunny breaks
It was supposed to be pouring rain all day!
Sanderling (Calidris alba)
I arrived at the base of Delta's 112 St flood tide. Out in the bay thousands of Northern Pintail, Mallard and American Wigeon were feeding. Keeping them company were hundreds of Black-bellied Plovers, a single American Golden Plover, numerous Western Sandpipers, Sanderlings and perhaps two thousand Dunlin.
As the tide rushed in something spooked the flock, most of the sandpipers and plovers flew off. I knew it was time to leave when a beachcomber and dog arrived on the scene. I decided to visit nearby Crescent Beach and Blackie Spit which is a only a ten minute drive away. I had heard there was a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper among the peeps.

A flock of Dunlin and a few Black-bellied Plover are spooked by a Bald Eagle but soon come back to rest.

As the tide rose a dozen Greater Yellowlegs and about 30 Least Sandpipers began to feed quite close to the pathway that leads out to the end of the spit. American and Eurasian Wigeon (possibly hybrids) joined the sandpipers to feed on the submerged grasses.

Dunlin and Least Sandpipers flock together.
Note some of the birds have yellow legs, they are the Least Sandpiper our smallest sandpiper. There is one at the top of the frame as well as a few others.

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)
From a distance I thought I had found the Sharp-tailed but as it immersed into the open the speckled breast gave it away as being a pec. Better luck next time.

Marbled Godwit in flight. I'm not too sure what the other bird is, perhaps a Dunlin?

Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
All in all it was a great day outdoors and had I listened to the weatherman I would have stayed home and missed out on a glorious afternoon. It was just one of those quiet days out in nature, hardly a thought to bother me, oblivious of everything except the birds. Life can be sweet at times!

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tropical Kingbird at Brunswick Point

Oct 19 2014 Brunswick Point Cloudy with sunny outbreaks.

I had intended to spend the morning watching the Man City game on the telly. Outside the grey morning was turning into a beautiful sunny Fall afternoon so I decided to make my way to Brunswick Point. My birding buddy Raymond had texted me to say the flycatcher was still around. When I arrived there were already a number of birders and interested bystanders watching in fascination. The brilliantly coloured Tropical Kingbird was very active catching one insect after another. The clouds were clearing and patches of blue sky were appearing.
I decided to give it an hour of two to see if I could get some flight shots as well some perched shots with a decent backgrounds.

For the first hour the bird made a few forays to feed but always landed deep into foliage making photography difficult. It looked like that was going to be all until a Merlin flew by and scared it off. The colourful bird then flew along the dyke trail. Handholding my Tamron 150mm-600mm I was able to pick off a few shots as the bird bopped around the shrubs and bushes.

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Finally the bird began to feed again, hawking insects in the brisk wind. I have included a few shots of the bird feeding although they are technically flawed they do show something that is difficult to observe in the field.
 Even with a high shutter speed freezing the action is difficult. These cropped pictures shot in manual mode to make sure I had decent exposure for cropping.

Anyway, I did get to see my game and also have a fantastic few hours outdoors before returning to the 'Man Cave' for the Arsenal v Hull game. By then it had become cloudy again and a contented feeling that the day had been very, very well spent.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

White Rock Sandpipers

Oct 15 2014 White Rock BC Overcast and Showers
Rain or shine Wednesday was the only day I could go to White Rock to see whether I could find the Marbled Godwit that had been reported the day before.
Sure enough it had joined the resident Willet and Kildeer that commonly feed alongside the White Rock foreshore. The birds are easy to find, just make your way to the large Rock just south of the pier.
The challenge was to capture both birds in one frame. Here are the results before backing off and leaving the birds to feed.
Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) in the foreground and Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)

The two sandpipers feed among Canada Geese and Mallards.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon


Monday, October 13, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Forest and Mountain Birds

Oct 8 2014 Cypress Mountain, Vancouver BC Foggy with occasional clearing.

Bird wise, the climb up to the Bowen Island lookout was uneventful, mostly because of the thick fog that blanketed the mountainside. The hope for blue skies never materialized and the Northern Pygmy Owl was a no show, at least for me. It did turn up just after I left. Murphy's Law, Eh!
However the day wasn't completely futile especially when fellow birder and 'eagle eye' Mike Tabak spotted a Sooty Grouse skulking around in the undergrowth. The bird finally came out in the open and at times was too close for some of us with long lens. A point and shoot would have worked just fine. That was a special bonus for all of us..Thanks Mike.
Blue Grouse (Dendragapus obscures)
Pacific (Sooty) Subspecies )
The grouse was an unexpected surprise and after birding Boundary Bay the rarified air of Cypress Mountain was a welcome change of scenery.
Next up was a pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks whose acrobatic displays were magical to watch. Several times they came flying by like two fighter planes commanding the sky, dive bombing each other.
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipter striatus)

These two very long distance shots of the sharp-shinned hawk turned out way better than I had imagined.

On my way back to the car I walked through the forest near Yew Lake when I heard a rustle in the bushes. I 'phissed' a few times and a Swainson's Thrush popped out to give me a great view. Two shots and it was gone, thank goodness for autofocus.
Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

Before I could go home to catch up on some sleep I attended a book signing at the Walnut Grove Library with three other Langley authors. My second book, The Langleys is almost sold out with just seventy copies of the original three thousand remaining. The event celebrated the library's and the Walnut Grove Recreation Centre's 20th anniversary. It was a long day and now fourteen hours later it's time to go home. Thanks and good birding.

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

Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society Volunteer Reception

I am an honoured to provide this picture to help publicize the below event. It should be a lot of fun rain or shine. See you there.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mountain Birding

Oct 6 2014 Cypress Mountain Vancouver BC
The alarm went off at 5 a.m and again fifteen minute later. I'm a breakfast person so after a bowl of Weetabix, marmalade on toast and a piping hot cup of tea (the morning papers would have to wait) I was ready to battle the early morning Vancouver rush hour. The drive from Cloverdale to Vancouver can be brutal even at 6 a.m in the morning!
On our arrival, Cypress Mountain was cloud hidden. The climb was gentle if not a little heart pounding. A Merlin was the first highlight. On the very first switchback we spotted the bird we had hoped to see, the Northern Pygmy Owl #1. What a beautiful bird, so small, it weighs just 2.5 ounces and stands 6.75 inches high. The owl looked at us, its head bobbing around and moving from side to side and then, in a split second, it was gone. A diurnal owl or a daytime hunter, its prey, chickadees or juncos scattering into the thickets as it flew past us.

Northern Pygmy Owl #1. Some of us think this owl is a different bird than the we photographed later.

After catching our breath from the exertion and the excitement of seeing such a rare bird it was onward and upward to see if the forest would reveal more wonders for our party. The owl was a 'Lifer for me as well for quite a few of our group. We continued our climb up Cypress Mountain in anticipation.

Northern Pygmy Owl #2 (Glaucidium gnome)
Sharp-shinned Hawk  (Accipiter striatus)

At the first lookout we rested. It wasn't long before a Steller's and several Gray Jays put in an appearance.  Their antics kept us amused for quite a while, that is until what we believe to be another owl (slightly different markings) landed on a tree several hundred metres away. A Sharp-shinned Hawk also put in an appearance.
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelli)

 Slowly the owl flew from branch to branch approaching closer all the time until finally it was within 30 metres. We all got our 'trophy shots' when suddenly the tiny owl flew between us, unsuccessfully we think chasing one of several Yellow-pine Chipmunks which had been fed seeds by hikers.

Yellow-pine Chipmunk (Tamias amoenus)
This is the same bird as the second picture.

More intent on hunting, the owl landed on a grey branch with grey clouds behind, not a pleasing composition. By moving a few feet I was able to juxtapose the bird with a weathered tree trunk giving the background a little more character. It was a treat to see the bird flying around, I just wish the photographers would have backed off and let it hunt, it has to eat too! I hope photographers will realize that wildlife viewing should never be taken for granted and that the animals ALWAYS come first.

Gray Jay(Perisoreus canadensis) with peanut.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon