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Friday, January 20, 2017

Birding Cerros de Guayabitos

Jan 14 2017 Cerros de Guayabitos Jalisco Mexico
Behind and above Guayabitos and Los Ayala is an unpaved road to a small enclave of villas. On ebird it's named Cerros de Guaybitos. The road climbs uphill through dense forest until reaching a vantage point high above the town. It's part of a network of birdy trails close enough to town to reach by walking.
A six a.m. start will see you to the top just in time for the birds most active time.

The first chance of a photograph was this citreoline trogan I spotted high up in the trees, a lifer and a great way to start the day.

Citreoline trogon (Pacific slope yellow-eyed form)

There is a window of a few hours when certain trees, those ripe with flowers, fruits and nuts attract birds like magnets. Some trees can contain as many as ten species of birds. Perfect for the birders but more of a challenge trying photograph especially with branches and leaves obscuring their activities. The best ploy is to watch and wait and hopefully opportunities to get clear shots materialize.

Cinnamon hummingbird.


Mystery bird. Robin sized. Any thoughts? I'm leaning toward Red-breasted chat.

One of the issues that photographers face in hot and sunny conditions is the shade, dappled and contrasty light or when birds just won't co-operate. This when I go into what I call ID mode which basically is, get a shot regardless of its aesthetic qualities so as to identify later back at the hotel. This shot above is a prime example of a shot taken into the sun with light streaming into the camera. I felt the bird wouldn't hang around and I was right I only had time for one frame.



A commotion in the trees above me revealed a flock of west Mexican chachalaca. Shaded by a thick canopy of trees the birds were hard to photograph. Low shutter speed and high ISO were needed. Below shot at ISO 2000 1/50 sec at F 6.7. Why not F5.6 and a higher shutter speed, simply I was so exited by having found a new species and adding another tick to my list that I forge to check the camera settings.
West Mexican chachalaca (northern form)
Photographs are illusions. At no time did the flock stop hopping from one obscured view to another but somehow I managed to get a clear shot while frantically trying to get a decent background and exposure. 

Many birds like this western tanager are familiar to Canadians birders.
Western Tanager
Western Tanagers, Mac Gillivrays and Nashville warbler were present in large numbers.


 To list or not to list that is the question?
I admit I have become a lister. I was warned about a few years ago but just brushed it off as something that would never happen to me. Even my wife is resigned to it now. One evening I even caught her watching 'The Big Year' presumably so she could get a better understanding what she was getting herself into. Even my very own kids think I'm nuts. My son, aware of my growing obsession even bought me a return ticket to Churchill Manitoba for my 60th birthday, how cool is that! Christmas presents are usually Chapter's gift cards so I can buy outrageously expensive bird books. My wife took away my sagging bookshelf before it collapsed under the weight and replaced it with a sturdier version, which has since been filled with new birding tomes. Strange how it has snuck up on me, listing that is. As a kid I collected stamps which is a very similar, orderly type of pastime. 
Listing is also a very British and North American obsession. I read recently that birders list because as Brits our forefathers colonized new lands and had to list everything new and strange. Lewis and Clark did the same as they forged their way across the continent, listing new species of all types. Recently I have just given into the pull of seeing new birds especially in exotic locales such as there one I find myself in presently. Thanks to ebird and Cornell University  I can now follow my birding journey wherever it takes me and what may you ask could be better than that, Nirvana maybe!


Blue-Gray gnatcatcher.



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


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rincon de Guayabitos Mexico


Jan 2-9 2017 Rincon de Guaybitos, Riviera Nayarit
 Mexico

 First thoughts

It's obviously going to take me a few days to find the best birding spots. Before I left home I checked ebird for suggestions on where to bird around Rincon de Guayabitos and sister town La Penita. There were a number of hotspots to choose from. I printed out a checklist something I suggest everyone do for all the different locations that might be visited. At least it narrows down the species that could be encountered. I also brought an extra camera body and plenty of batteries just in case of a malfunction.

That said the beach at Guayabitos has its fair share of brown pelicans, magnificent frigate birds, Heerman's gull, willet, whimbrel and great-tailed grackles. All year birds of course but not exactly the exotics I am hoping see on during my stay. I shot a few frames (see below) from my deckchair with my P900 point and shoot.

Heerman's gull,
Nikon P900
Below is an overview of the area from above Guayabitos looking toward a small headland and estuary which separates La Penita from Rincon de Guaybitos in the foreground. By far the best birding was in that area where a small creek enters the bay.

Rincon de Guayabitos.

On my second day I asked around about birding locations and the consensus was I would have to go into Gringoland, a norteamericano stronghold with its gated mansions and walled gardens.
I walked from Rincon de Guayabitos past the church and into Gringoland. I passed people going to work. The first rays of sunlight were yet to peak over the mountains.
It seems Mexican birds are late risers, even a sleepy green heron could only manage to open one eye as I passed over a small bridge. Even though it was too dark to photograph I could hear the Nashville Warblers everywhere, the blue-gray gnatcatchers too, then the tropical kingbirds joined morning chorus. From lofty perches the turkey vultures were beginning to spend their wings. The sun was up before I began photographing.
Social flyctcher
Right the middle of the enclave is a small ecological zone or park. It has been left to go wild and unfortunately as can be the norm here, the only trail through the park was strewn with bottles and waste. Despite the less than pristine conditions most of the birds I encountered were migratory warblers including a black and white, black-throated gray, numerous Nashville and yellow. The only endemics were the golden-cheeked woodpecker and the rufous-backed robin.
Black-throated gray warbler.

Originally the park was set aside with the idea of having a few park benches and a few trails. Sadly the signs are weathered and the original jungle that was there before development is now so over grown it's to the point of being impenetrable. It does however provides shelter to a number of species of birds, butterflies and furry critters plus I am told the odd homo sapien.

NAB (Not a bird)
Golden-cheeked woodpecker.
The golden-cheeked is the most common woodpecker and an endemic. Here it drilling a hole in a telephone pole.


Nashville warbler



Tomorrow i'll venture down to the local estuary where I am told I might be lucky enough to see egrets, herons and ibis.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
Langley/Cloverdsle 
BC Canada



Monday, January 16, 2017

Happy New Year

                           Dec 31-Jan 1 2016 Zacualpan The Riviera Nayarit Mexico
After a long flight, the peace and tranquility of La Colorado B&B was a welcome respite. Despite Mexico being only a five hour flight from Abbotsford it took us twelve hours to finally arrive at our destination. Our host Rosabella made us feel right at home. It was dark so no birding and as is the custom on a Mexican New Year's Eve, a party was about to break loose. Music was blaring, fireworks were a popping and the dogs were a barking. Families were out in the street, many cooking outdoors, the unfamiliar aromas were intoxicating. Eventually the festivities and fun died down around 4.30 am. It was at that very precise moment every cockerel in town began serenading the new day and of course a new year.  As morning turned to a glorious sunny day I sat in the beautiful garden waiting for any signs of bird life. The hummers were first, a violet-crowned hummingbird, then a broad-billed and other hummer species I hope ID at a later date. The more I look at hummers in the bird guide the more I get confused and believe me, it doesn't take much to confuse me! Anyway I am happy to report both hummers were lifers.

Violet-crowned hummingbird. Nikon D500 200-500 F5.6 Zoom

Broad-billed Hummingbird. Nikon D500
I am of course open to correcting any species mis-identified in the blog especially hummer, vireos and flycatchers. 

Next up were a pair of ruddy ground-doves which came to the veranda where they seemed to have a nest right above me. I glad I took the precaution of wearing a hat! With the sun illuminating the valley and mountain a dozen turkey vultures used the thermals to glide effortlessly overhead, one landing close-by on a telephone post.
Plain-breasted dove. D500 200-500 F5.6 Zoom
Turkey vulture
Nikon P900
By now breakfast was being served outside on the veranda. Fresh cut papaya, delicious yogurt, local baked bread, freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee. Just as I began to eat a northern mockingbird landed on the red brick wall that encircled the house. Then a tropical kingbird hawked an insect and was gone as quickly as it arrived. During breakfast half a dozen species blessed us with their presence. A yellow-winged cacique, a hooded oriole, a white-winged dove, a flock of European house sparrows (I think they are on every continent except Antartica) and a yellow warbler. After breakfast I took my camera with me and took a stroll around the garden and found a so far unidentified vireo, a pair of Eurasian-collared doves and a blue-gray gnatcatcher.
Two children play ball next to a tethered horse.
Nikon P900 
****
It was time to walk around the town. Zacaulpan is not a tourist destination per se but we were to find out that Zacaulpan held a few secrets that might entice a visit and stop off if you ever happen to being travelling between Puerto Vallarta and birding mecca San Blas.
Zacaulpan is the 'real' Mexico. Horse and cart, town square dominated by a splendid catholic church, friendly people, inexpensive groceries drinks and meals and a smile on every child's face. You have to wonder how we Canadians can grumble so often about so much when in towns like this so many have so little. The workers who travel to work at the nearby resorts or housemaid for norteamericanos are paid as little as a $1 an hour.  Meanwhile here I am photographing birds for FUN and try not to be too ostentatious in my actions.

As I mentioned the people were super friendly and as we walked past a well appointed house a voice beckoned us over and asked us where we were from. A few minutes of conversation with Hector led to us being invited that evening to help release several thousand Ridley turtles at nearby Boca de Chila.

Under the protection of darkness thousands of Ridley's Turtle make their way to the ocean
Nikon P7100 compact .

Later that evening Hector, his wife and son drove us along the bumpiest road this side of Mexico City to the most pristine beach I have ever set my eyes on. This is where throughout the year two volunteers (they need more) patrol the beaches. Seven species of turtle breed here. All are endangered due to fishing, pollution and poaching. Hector tells me "The Mob" have allocated themselves a stretch of the beach and protect it with gangs. However recently both federal and local politicians and with generous donations from some Canadians have turned the tide against the egg and meat trade. It will take a while to persuade locals that more money can be made from eco-tourism, the local council are introducing an education program. Even in the schools children are being taught about the turtles so hopefully a new generation will be able get involved.
At Boca de Chila the turtles lay as many a 1-5 times per season depending on which species. The Ridleys' is the largest and can weigh 600 kilos or about the same size as the dune buggy the wardens use to patrol the beaches. There are as many as 500 breeding pairs and each turtle can lay between 2000 eggs. Although the egg laying season is between July-November the staff say the turtles are laying throughout the year. The eggs are then dug up and protected and transferred to a portion of the beach that can be monitored.
It was wonderful to see the faces of both children and adults as they released the turtles. Each one making its way to the lapping waves. Soon the sun had set and we returned past a creek with its great and snowy egrets. Tropical kingbirds lined the fence posts bursting out to hawk a last insect before nightfall. All that is left of the day is a small orange strip of sunset on the horizon.
Our first full day in Mexico was full of surprises, tomorrow we head for Rincon de Guayabitos, an hour's drive north of Puerto Vallarta. It had been a full first day in Mexico.


Note: Bird guides range from $60 for four hours to $100 for a full day. Some run as much a $3000 for five days. If you can't afford those prices just check e-bird where locations are posted and are often the very same spots guides take customers. Obviously local knowledge is what you are paying for as well transportation and lodgings but birding takes many forms so if you are not serious lister then much can be done along beaches and trails near to seaside towns.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
Langley/Cloverdale
BC Canada

Friday, January 6, 2017

Ladner Christmas Bird Count Link/Vancouver sun

Here is the story written by Larry Pynn with a few pix of birds seen that day at Brunswick Point.



"It's never to late to start counting birds"
John Gordon
Langley/Cloverdale
BC Canada

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Langley White Rock Christmas Bird Count

Dec 29 2016 
Come out and join members of the Langley Field Naturalists Jan 2 2017 for the annual Christmas bird account. Rather than repeat what has already been published in the newspapers click on the links below: Here are a few common birds from Brydon Lagoon shot during the recent cold snap.

American robin.

Golden-crowned sparrow.
Shot with the Nikon P900 point and shoot.

The Cloverdale Reporter


The Langley Times.





"It's never too late to start counting bird"
John Gordon
Langley/cloverdale
BC Canada

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year



Dec 21-27 2016 Brunswick Point to Boundary Bay

Thousand of Dunlin and possibly a few western sandpipers flock around the Delta coal terminal where if the bird brains of commerce have their way a second coal port is planned. Also off Brunswick Point were a good trumpeter swans, thousands of dabbling and diving ducks. Just the thought of the disturbing the area more than it already has boggles the mind. 

Sandpipers feed on the nutritious bio-film. Scientists (what do they know) fear any more development off Brunswick Point will effect the flow in the delta, one of the most important stop offs for migrating sandpipers.
-sandpiper-secret-revealed-its-the-biofilm/

Some thoughts about composition
I shot from a high angle to incorporate the black log and burnt background. This composition makes the bird pop out against the background. I shot this on manual setting at 1/320sec at F5.6 ISO 800. Had I used aperture priority or another program mode the dark background would have overexposed the wren. Although I occasionally use aperture priority, manual setting usually provide better results.

 A low angled close-up portrait where I chose a background of a distant marsh. I also incorporated the tried and trusted two-thirds rule of composition. Note how the bird has room to look into the frame. Often we photographers crop too closely and the subject seems to be 'crammed' into the frame with nowhere for the subject or imagination to go.
With this shot I moved few feet and included more of the background allowing the shape of the log to lead the eye from the left upwards toward the bird.
I spent maybe ten minutes watching the bird from a distance, noting it movements before approaching and shooting handheld.
******



Merlin (Prairie race)
My next stop was to see if I could photograph the golden eagle on 72 but when I arrived I met Ray and Mike they suggested I go for the prairie merlin on 96. As we birders sometime do, I drove like the wind albeit at the speed limit. I arrived just in time to find the bird sitting in a tree.





 My camera was extracted from the car just in time to rattle off a few shots before it took off to hunt. I missed a perfect flight shot by millimetres and had to settle for this shot below.
This merlin is a lighter colour overall than the merlins normally seen on the coast,
while the setting sun also adds a warm tinge.




******

Dec 27th:
 Finally but not least I wanted to see if I could snatch a few frames of the golden eagle on 72 in Delta.  I had just spent the whole day n the Ladner bird count and had just a few minutes to catch the bird before sunset. I lucked out and within fifteen minutes the eagle had left its favourite perch to go hunting. Moments later it returned before a cloud blocked the 'sweet light' and it was time to head for home and watch the Liverpool game.

Golden eagle.

All shots handheld with the Nikon D500 and Nikon 200mm-500mm.


Finally but not least I would like to thank all those who have visited the blog over the past twelve months, those who have left comments and to those who through the blog I have met in the field. I have really enjoyed our chats. I learnt alot along the way.


Wishing you all healthy, happy and prosperous 2017

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
Langley/Cloverdale
BC Canada

Friday, December 23, 2016

Aloquette Christmas Bird Count

Dec 17 2016 Alouette Christmas Bird Count
(South of the Fraser River Portion)
Tynehead Regional Park/ Barnston Island /Big Bend Regional Park and surrounding area.

A  hungry coyote hunts in the snow at Tynehead Park. Nikon P900 at 2000mm


At the feeder a dark-eyed Junco. P900 at 2000mm
The P900 with its 24mm-2000mm zom was of great use on the bird count. A long distant shot of a Cooper's hawk allowed us to ID a bird at leisure and to take shots like the one above at makeshift feeders around the park.


Fox Sparrow P900,
I overexposed this shot in the snow so as to bring out the details. Note the intricate chevrons on the bird's breast.
Purple finch P900 at 2000mm

Wim and Carlo look for signs of life at Tynehead Park.


More about Barnston Island

Below is a count of the birds south of the Fraser River that included Surrey's Tynehead Park, Big Bend Regional Park, Barnston Island and surrounding area. It does not include the count on the Maple Ridge side of the river.


ALOUETTE CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
Date: December 17th, 2016




Area 5

Sub-areas


Species
1/2/3/13
7
6
10a
10b
5/11
Total
SPECIES




Hwy
S. Bend


Geese, Swans, Ducks








Greater White-fronted Goose







0
Snow Goose







0
Brant







0
Cackling Goose
1
3





3
Canada Goose
1
589





589
Tundra Swan







0
Trumpeter Swan







0
Swan Species







0
Wood Duck
1

7




7
Gadwall







0
Eurasian Wigeon







0
American Wigeon
1

1




1
Mallard
1
26
7
4

5

42
Cinnamon Teal







0
Northern Shoveller







0
Northern Pintail







0
Green-winged Teal
1
161



7

168
Canvasback







0
Redhead







0
Ring-necked Duck
1

3




3
Greater Scaup
1
1





1
Lesser Scaup







0
Scaup Species
1




1

1
Harlequin Duck







0
Surf Scoter







0
White-winged Scoter







0
Black Scoter







0
Long-tailed Duck







0
Bufflehead







0
Common Goldeneye







0
Barrow's Goldeneye







0
Hooded Merganser







0
Common Merganser
1
29



4

33
Red-breasted Merganser
1




1

1
Merganser Species







0
Ruddy Duck







0
Duck Species







0
Ring-necked Pheasant
1
3





3
Ruffed Grouse







0
Loons and Grebes








Red-throated Loon







0
Pacific Loon







0
Common Loon







0
Yellow-billed Loon







0
Loon Species







0
Pied-bill Grebe
1
2





2
Horned Grebe







0
Red-necked Grebe







0
Eared Grebe







0
Western Grebe







0
Cormorants








Brandt's Cormorant







0
Double-crested Cormorant







0
Pelagic Cormorant







0
Cormorant Species







0
Herons








American Bittern







0
Great Blue Heron
1
4





4
Green Heron







0
Eagles and Hawks








Bald Eagle
1
9
1
5

2

17
Northern Harrier
1
2





2
Sharp-shinned Hawk







0
Cooper's Hawk
1


1



1
Northern Goshawk







0
Accipiter Species







0
Red-tailed Hawk
1
8
4
1

2

15
Rough-legged Hawk







0
Rails, Coot and Crane








Virginia Rail







0
American Coot







0
Sandhill Crane







0
Shorebirds








Black-bellied Plover







0
Killdeer







0
Greater Yellowlegs







0
Whimbrel







0
Long-billed Curlew







0
Marbled Godwit







0
Black Turnstone







0
Sanderling







0
Western Sandpiper







0
Dunlin







0
Long-billed Dowitcher







0
Wilson's Snipe







0
Shorebird Species







0
Gulls








Bonaparte's Gull







0
Mew Gull
1
34





34
Ring-billed Gull







0
Western Gull







0
California Gull







0
Herring Gull







0
Thayer's Gull







0
Glaucous-winged Gull
1
89

3



92
Glaucous Gull







0
Gull Species







0
Alcids








Common Murre







0
Pigeon Guillemot







0
Marbled Murrelet







0
Alcid Species







0
Pigeons and Doves








Rock Pigeon
1
23
1




24
Band-tailed Pigeon







0
Eurasian Collared-dove
1
1





1
Mourning Dove







0
Owls








Common Barn Owl







0
Western Screech-owl 







0
Great Horned Owl







0
Snowy Owl







0
Barred Owl







0
Long-eared Owl







0
Short-eared Owl







0
Northern Saw-whet Owl







0
Hummingbird/Kingfisher








Anna's Hummingbird
1

1




1
Belted Kingfisher







0
Woodpeckers








Red-breasted Sapsucker
1
2
1
1

1

5
Downy Woodpecker
1
4

5

6

15
Hairy Woodpecker
1


1

1

2
Northern Flicker
1
5

8

2

15
Pileated Woodpecker
1


1



1
Falcons








American Kestrel
1
1





1
Merlin
1

1




1
Gyrfalcon







0
Peregrine Falcon







0
Falcon Species







0
Shrikes and Vireos








Northern Shrike







0
Hutton's Vireo







0
Jays and Crows








Steller's Jay
1

2
1



3
Northwestern Crow
1
42
13
5

6

66
Common Raven
1
6

1

2

9
Chickadees and Allies








Black-capped Chickadee
1
27
15
23

12

77
Mountain Chickadee







0
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
1

5
5



10
Bushtit







0









Nuthatch/Creeper/Wrens








Red-breasted Nuthatch







0
Brown Creeper
1
2

3

3

8
Pacific Wren
1
2

9

4

15
Marsh Wren







0
Bewick's Wren
1
2

2

1

5
Kinglets and Thrushes








Golden-crowned Kinglet
1
4

15

10

29
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1


1



1
Townsend's Solitaire







0
Hermit Thrush







0
American Robin
1

31
35

7

73
Varied Thrush
1
1

12

14

27
Starling, Pipit, Waxwings








European Starling
1
62
8
2

6

78
American Pipit







0
Bohemian Waxwing







0
Cedar Waxwing







0
Buntings








Snow Bunting







0
Warblers








Orange Crowned Warbler
1

1




1
Yellow-rumped Warbler







0
Sparrows








Spotted Towhee
1
58
7
17

5

87
American Tree Sparrow







0
Savannah Sparrow







0
Fox Sparrow
1
12
3
9

1

25
Song Sparrow
1
75
15
22

8

120
Lincoln's Sparrow







0
Swamp Sparrow







0
White-crowned Sparrow
1
10





10
Golden-crowned Sparrow
1
52

11



63
Dark eyed Junco
1
70
85
25

5

185
Blackbirds








Red-winged Blackbird







0
Western Meadowlark







0
Brewer's Blackbird
1
22





22
Brown Headed Cowbird







0
Finches and Passerines








Purple Finch
1


12

5

17
House Finch
1
7

5



12
Red Crossbill







0
White-winged Crossbill







0
Common Redpoll







0
Pine Siskin
1


1



1
American Goldfinch







0
Evening Grosbeak







0
House Sparrow
1
10





10
Rare Birds








White-throated Sparrow
1
1





1








0








0
SPECIES COUNT
56
39
21
31
0
26
0
56
BIRD COUNT

1461
212
246
0
121
0
2040









TEAM MEMBERS

















Gareth Pugh








Leona Breckenridge








Tom Wildeboer








Michael Klotz








John Gordon








Wim Vesseur








Jesse Garbe








Tia Deyette








Carlo Giovanella








Al Schulze