Sunday, August 23, 2015

August Birding

August 2015 Boundary Bay. Dry and Sunny.
I arrived at Boundary Bay at 5.30 a.m. I had the place to myself. The water was a long way out
The sun was yet to rise, the air was warm and a few flocks of sandpipers were beginning to fly along the shoreline on the incoming tide.
Sunrise Boundary Bay

Great Blue Herons preening. 

On Reflection 
Western Sandpipers

The above series from Boundary Bay were taken with a Nikon 500mm F4 D300s and 1.4x Converter

Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Westham Island. Delta BC.

All the Reifel pictures were taken with the Nikon D300s with a 300mm F4 with 1.4x converter. Due to the heat I didn't feel like lugging around a big lens and tripod.
American Goldfinch feeding on thistles.

Greater Yellowlegs
D300s Nikon 300mm F4 with 1.4 converter.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon
 Aug 18 Boundary Bay Evening light.
All images below handheld Tamron 150mm-600mm and D300s.
Least Sandpiper

Semi-palmated Plover.
Trying to photograph these shorebirds at close range meant getting out where the birds were. I try to take care not to flush them as other birders might be nearby. While birders with scopes are happy to view birds at hundreds of yards the birds above was less than 20 feet from me. It took me ten minutes crouching down in the sticky mud but I was rewarded with these two images moments before sunset.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Boundary Bay "Good to be Home"

 July 26-30 2015 Boundary Bay 

It was good to be back at Boundary Bay after my recent trip across Canada. I arrived back just in time to join many other birders for the Bar-tailed Godwit twitch. The Pacific Golden-Plovers were an added bonus. The Caspian Tern came out of nowhere and was gone as quickly. It was good to meet up with so many birding friends and tread familiar ground.

                           It's amazing how the direction of light can alter the 'feel' of an image.

 Wester Sandpipers flying toward the sun.

Western Sandpipers flying away from the main light source.

July 26/15 104 St 
Bar-tailed Goodwit and Back-bellied Plovers.
The Escapee Ruff.

Originally posted on vanbcbirds: The following email text from Dov Lank:

"Thank you for this photo. The bird is indeed an escapee from my colony. I have had a recent problem with a rat getting into my aviary, and have been using an outside door that is never normally used. Unbeknownst to me, this bird must have escaped yesterday. You are correct in stating that it is a male, but it is not a non-breeding male. It is an in-between sized 'faeder' male - a female mimic. IN nature, these make up about 1% of populations. 

It will be interesting to see whether the bird turns up elsewhere. It should be headed southwest, from Finland to West Africa. There are not a lot of options for it in that direction, from here, unfortunately."

I guess they don't call them sneaker males for nothing,
Nathan Hentze,
Victoria, BC

Caspian Tern

Pacific Golden-Plover

Pacific Golden-Plover


July 30/15 104th
Black-bellied Plovers and Western Sandpipers at Sunrise.
6.25 a.m.
Bald Eagle bathed in 'sweet light'
Sunrise at Boundary Bay and it was 16c. Later temperatures in Langley hit 32c.

6.45 a.m
Western Sandpiper.
7.30 a.m
Franklin's Gull.

Franklin's Gull.
 7.45 a.m
                                                                                8 a.m
Juvenile Peregrine Falcon hunting sandpipers.

Parting Shot

Iona Regional Park.

Moon, Venus and sunset Iona Beach.

This shot made up for not finding any Common Nighthawks and all the pesky mosquitos.

See you around!

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Friday, July 31, 2015

"Little Big Year" Stats and Thanks Part 24

"Little Big Year" Road Trip Stats

Blue-headed Vireo Assinboine Park Winnipeg.

 Prior to my trip which began May 11/15 I had 152 BC species for my 2015 Canada list. I ended the X-Country trip on July 8 with a further 117 

I would like to thank the following birders who contributed their time and expertise and made my trip that much more memorable, more so than had I been left to my own devices.

Calgary's David Lily who drove me to Frank Lake where we found many birds including the first lifer of the trip, a White-faced Ibis. His hospitality and birding knowledge set the tone for the rest of my trip. Thanks David.

Whytewold's Charlie McPherson who took the time out of his busy schedule to show me around  Manitoba's Netley/Lebau IBA MB009 and to Ray Methot who took me on two 16 hours mega birding days to MB 091 Riverton Sandy Bar and other locals. Both these birders, Ray for his unbounded energy and Charlie for the hospitality are what make this pastime so enjoyable.
 I'll never forget watching the dawn sky unfold on the windy shore of Winnipeg Lake as thousands of Orioles, Blackbirds, Warblers and Sandpipers migrated over our heads. Charlie told me it was a once in a lifetime event, those scenes will be indelibly etched in my memory. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I hope to return very soon, maybe for winter owls and raptors.

Winnipeg's Christian Artuso for his invaluable help, tips and suggestions.

Iain Wilkes of Carleton Place, Ottawa who led me to two lifers just outside Ottawa and set aside some of his valuable time to show me, a complete stranger around his local patch. Whereas I bird by sight Iain birded by ear, something I hope to develop as I bird in the future.

in New Brunswick
I want to thank Denys Bourque who took me out with the Edmundson Naturalists Group for a day of birding. Denys found us a number of great birds in the decidious forests including some beautiful Evening Grosbeaks, Northern Waterthrush and Eastern Phoebe.

Author Roger Burrows who showed me around Whitehead Island in the Bay of Fundy. He even gave me a signed copy of Birds of Atlantic Canada (Lone Pine) one of the ten books on birds he has had published.

Finally to all the birders I met online who gave me tips about where to bird in places like Sault Ste.Marie,  PEI another and other places. To the BirdPal network which I used and highly recommend if visiting a new local both here or abroad.

Finally to all the birders on,,, Mark Oliver in Sault Ste.Marie ONTBIRDS and PEIbirds Facebook page.

'Little Big Year' LIFERS


White-Faced Ibis (1**) Frank Lake


McCowan's Longspur (2**) Red Coat Rail/Hwy 3

Eastern Phoebe (3**) Souris Valley SW Manitoba

Assiniboine Park/Winnipeg

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler (4**) Assinboine Park, downtown Winnipeg.

Whytewold, Manitoba

LeConte's Sparrow

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (5**)
LeConte's Sparrow (6**)
Sedge Wren (7**)
Red Knot(8**)
American Woodcock (heard)(9**)
Whip-per-will (heard) (10**)
Upland Sandpiper (11**) 
Northern Flicker Yellow-Shafted*(12)
Blue-headed Vireo(13**)
Red-headed Woodpecker(14**)

All birds in the around the village of Whytewold and IBA 009


Lake Superior Prov Park

Northern Perula (15**)
Ovenbird 245 (16**)
Black-throated Green Warbler (17**)

All around the visitors centre of the park except the Ovenbird which are found a little inland along any walking trail. 

Northern Paula

Carlton Place

Eastern Meadowlark (18**)
   Eastern Towhee (19**)
              Field Sparrow (20**)                                     

Grand Manan Island/Whitehead Island. New Brunswick

Black Guillemot (21**)
Razorbill (22**)
Common Eider (23**)
Greater Black-backed Gull (24**)
American Black Duck (25**) Whitehead Island
White-winged Scoter (26**)
All on the ferry ride from Grand Manan to Whitehead Island except Black Duck.

Lars Marsh NB

Nelson's Sparrow (27**) Bay of Funny

St Mary's Newfoundland 

A small part of the St Mary's Gannet colony.

Northern Gannet

 Black-legged Kittiwake (28**)
Common Murre (29**)

Black-legged Kittiwake

Bird Island 
Nova  Scotia

Atlantic Puffin (30) 

Great Cormorant* (31**) 

 Bird Island Boat Tours

Great Cormorant

June 20/15 PEI

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher  (32**) 

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

Britannia Point/Ottawa

Little Egret (33**) 1st in Ontario
 Distant ID pic.

Sault Ste. Marie

Chimney Swift (34**) Downtown Canada Post office roost

Manitoba Grasslands Birding Trail

Grasshopper Sparrow(35**) Melita, SW Manitoba

So the trip ended with 35 lifers.
117 "Little Big Year" species (BC-Newfoundland)
269 2015 Canadian species to Jan 1/15-July 26/15
 Total Canada Lifetime (367)

* This is the first list year list I have. I guess I'm catching the birding bug!

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Little Big Year" Part 23 The Last Leg

July 2-8 2015 Chaplin Lake Saskatchewan. Smoke no sun due to forest fires.
The skies from Manitoba all the way to just outside Calgary were thick with smoke. Forest fires in the NWT, Alberta and Saskatchewan had been burning for weeks.
After spending Canada Day in Regina Beach I made my way west to Chaplin Lake. Chaplin is situated on the Trans-Canada Highway between Moose Jaw and Swift Current. The lake encompasses nearly 20 square miles (52 km2) and is the second largest saline water body in Canada. The area is noted from the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) for its shorebirds. I had visited it on my outward journey. It is one of my favourite prairie birding locations.

The grand plan was to check on the Piping Plover to see if they had had fledged chicks. First though I came across a number of American Avocet with young in various stages of development.

The Van. I made the 20,000 kilometre trip across Canada with just an oil change. The salt flats can be seen in the background.

The lake is fed by a fresh water spring. Water is then siphoned off to extract the salt content. The area is a working agricultural and industrial area.

More about
Chaplin IBA Canada

Gadwall mother and chick search the flats for food.
I think these are Gadwall as they were the most common dabblers on the lake.

Next up I noticed a disturbance to my left. An American Avocet took offence when a Marbled Godwit got a little too close to its nest.

American Avocet chases away the intruder, a Marbled Godwit.

American Avocet with chick.
I couldn't quite get both birds in focus as the skies were grey and dark even in mid-afternoon due to the thick smoke. Occasionally the sun would peek through though most of the pictures are somewhat muted but no complaints.

An American Avocet makes clear that I was too close to the nest.

Next up and the main purpose of the afternoon was to check on the Piping Plovers chicks. It wasn't long before we found two pairs. One bird had two chicks the other four young. They were so small they could have fit in a teacup.

These pictures were taken deep with the working area of the lake. Several times a day and for a small fee the interpretation centre runs a short guided tour. Due to the lack of rainfall we were able to get far out into lake via a raised dyke road. The lakes moon like appearance makes it a landscape photographers heaven with all the colours and shapes. Had I had several more hours I would have dragged out my wide-angle lens. Sadly the area is closed to the public except for the half hour tours which end at 3 p.m when the light is too harsh and sun too high in the sky.

Adult Piping Plover 

Adult and two chicks and the sun has gone. 

Two of the four chicks. The little guys rarely stood still.

Piping Plover chick in the foreground.
As is required by regulations we stayed in the vehicle and left the birds soon after taking this series of shots. There are 200 pairs breeding in the area and as many as 700 birds have been noted on the lake at peak migration time.
Spring and Fall would be the best time to visit to observe mass migration of shorebirds and ducks. The surrounding area is also very good for Swainson's Hawks, Black-crowned Night Herons, Upland Sandpipers, Sprague's Pipit and numerous other species of grassland birds. However beware of ticks in the springtime and wear light coloured clothing so they can be picked off after the photo session.

Chestnut-collared Longspur.
 I wasn't expecting to see the Longspur at the salt lake and the day before my guide saw a Wolverine so anything is possible.
Wilson's Phalarope captures a brine shrimp. 

Finally but not least I include a post from Trevor Herritt on the mad plan to install wind turbines at Chaplin Lake. When you have read it check out some of his other blogs, they're informative and to the point. A must read for those from the prairies and anyone interested in the welfare of the environment.
Some P900 shots from the Rockies
Common Raven
P900 was used out of the car window to photograph this raven perched on a garbage bin.

Lincoln Sparrow/Bow Valley Alberta
P900 point and shoot camera handheld at 2000mm
It was just a grab shot but as I have blogged before, the camera is perfect for the birder who wants a pic like this while photographers are going to prefer a DSLR for higher quality images. Every scenic in the past two months except one in Quebec was taken with the P900.

Bow Glacier between Banff and Jasper.

I hope you have enjoyed my account of the trip and since my returned many of you have said it was an interesting read and for that I am grateful as my command of the English language can be a bit dodgy at times. It was an eight week dream come true. If I was to try the same X country trip again and there is no reason why I wouldn't I would set aside three months instead of two. I would also leave earlier, perhaps the last week in April when there would be less leaves on the trees. Even then it was too late for much of the migration so perhaps mid-April but then one might run into snow storms or any kind of inclement weather. Two years ago I was forced off the Trans Canada at Chaplin Lake in a fierce was Victoria Day, the May long weekend. My time in Newfoundland was way too short at seven days and rain in Quebec and New Brunswick curtailed a few boat trips but I feel content with what I achieved. On the return leg many birds were hiding away with young and the trees acted as camouflage and the bugs became unbearable.
In my next blog or two I will post some of my favourite sighting lifers and some stats.

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