Friday, July 14, 2017

Jackman Wetland Aldergrove

June 23 2017 
Jackman Wetlands
 Aldergrove BC.

I can't believe I worked in Langley for well over twenty years and never birded Jackman Wetlands. I've birded Point Pelee, took a train to bird Churchill Manitoba and drove and ferried to St Mary's Ecological Reserve Newfoundland but never Langley's Jackman Wetlands.
Back in the day when I was actively employed by the Langley Times I covered a story about methane gas extraction from the old garbage dump that now makes up part of the Jackman site. On this visit the same machinery lay toppled over and rusting in the bushes. There was little evidence of the thousands of tonnes of garbage that was once dumped there. Presumably the methane and assorted garbage is still percolating underground. Meanwhile my erstwhile birding companion Carlo G pointed out the singing House Wren way up in a tree, I would have probably missed the bird had I birded on my own. Thanks Carlo.

House Wren

The path to Jackman Wetlands was quite birdy but the best action was at the gravel pit ponds where a May and Damsel Fly hatch was in full swing, an important event for the many fledging barn swallows and cedar waxwings eagerly awaiting to be fed.

Barn Swallows

Family Gathering

Jackman Wetlands, Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, CA
Jun 23, 2017 10:42 AM - 11:13 AM
Protocol: Stationary
21 species

Canada Goose  9
Mallard  1
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Sora  1
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Willow Flycatcher  2
Northwestern Crow  5
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  6
Tree Swallow  10
Violet-green Swallow  3
Barn Swallow  10
Swainson's Thrush  2
American Robin  2
Cedar Waxwing  30
Common Yellowthroat  4
Yellow Warbler  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Black-headed Grosbeak  2
Red-winged Blackbird  6
House Finch  1

Cedar Waxwing drops a dragonfly.

O Ave  272 St

Afterwards we popped down to nearby 0 Ave and 274, the most southern edge of Aldergrove Regional Park where we found a good selection of birds including Willow Flycatchers, American Goldfinch, Common Yellowthroats, Eurasian-Collared Doves and a marauding Cooper's Hawk.
Cooper's Hawk

Willow Flycatcher

                     By noon it was just too hot to bird and time for an afternoon siesta, who knows what the evening might bring

"It never too late to stop birding"
John Gordon
Langley Cloverdale
BC Canada

Monday, July 10, 2017

Backroads: Quesnel to Clinton

June 13-15 2017 

Quesnel to Soda Creek Williams Lake-Alkali Lake and Dog Creek.

On my drive back from Dawson Creek and Prince George I stopped off at a quiet rest area just north of Quesnel. I headed down to a small creek where I heard a Northern Waterthrush. I was finally birding on my own so approaching birds was much easier. This bird was singing and easy to locate.
Northern Waterthrush.

 West Fraser Timber Park

 West Fraser Timber Park was a busy place with a softball game in full swing and a packed tennis court. Despite an impromptu soccer game there was still plenty of birdlife everywhere. Western Tanagers, American Redstarts, Red-eyed Vireos, Calliope Hummingbirds and other canopy dwellers.

Western Tanager.

On the pond were two pairs of Barrow's Goldeneye with their broods.

Barrow's Goldeneye

Old Soda Creek Rd.

After a night in Quesnel I decided to take the Old Soda Creek Road to Williams Lake. The drive would take me through some stunning scenery and better still, some great birding. I was happy to be off the main road and had the place to myself.

One of the many stunning views from the Old Soda Creek Township Road.

 I was on the Soda Creek Road for only a few minutes when I heard a Western Tanager. I had only taken a few shots when a rancher stopped his truck to have a chat. Maybe he thought I had broken down. He told me about some of the birds he had seen over the years on his farm and then we parted ways, he to the hay field, me to Williams Lake and the tanager long gone into the forest.

Western Tanager.

Although the area south of Quesnel and toward Williams Lake is very arid, every now and then I would find patches of green where thickets and bushes flourished. These areas were good habitat for Lincoln Sparrows.

Lincoln Sparrow.

I am not too sure about this crop which looked like a type of dandelion but smaller, the field was being watered so maybe it is a bona-fide crop. I took all the scenics with my Nikon P900 camera during the heat of the day, a real landscape photographer would have a ball here if they had the time.
Soda Creek Macalister farmland.

The Fraser River.

After spending the previous week with some very good birders I had begun to hear bird song in quite another way. These Lazuli Buntings, which I heard before seeing them were sitting on wild rose. I shot them from the window of my VW Westfalia.

I hear a lot about bird pictures being cropped too close and the lack of background/habitat being included to give context but there is more than one way to look at cropping or framing a picture.
The picture below would fit nicely onto a cover of a magazine while the second picture gives more info about location and habitat would not make a cover. 
I my humble opinion there is a place for both especially if the subject is co-operative.
Lazuli Bunting

This time I decided to include more of the background.

Williams Lake to Alkali Lake and Clinton

After arriving in Williams Lake I took the Dog Creek Road to Alkali Lake. I have too say it was one of the most interesting drives with ever changing scenery and birding opportunities.
Brown-headed Cowbirds.

Scenic Arid Benchlands 

Alkali Lake

Eventually I arrived at Alkali Lake where I spotted six American White Pelicans, the first of my trip.
Also present were Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, Mallard, Green and Blue-winged Teal. The marshes had good populations of Song Sparrows, Eastern Kingbirds, Mountain Bluebirds, Willow Flycatchers, Common Yellowthroats and Vesper Sparrows.

Gadwall and American White Pelican.

 Wherever I went there were Brown-headed Cowbirds and to a lesser extent Brewer's Blackbirds. I hardly saw any raptors except for the occasional Red-tailed Hawk. Probably if I had two or three days I might have had more luck but that's just the best excuse to return and do some serious birding.

Dry grasslands of the Fraser Valley.
I continued my drive through the arid landscape, nesting boxes had been occupied by Tree Swallows and Mountain Bluebirds. In the skies Ravens dived bombed each other perhaps in jest or maybe some type of intricate courtship ritual.

Vesper Sparrow.

Had I known I would be stealing furtively glances at my fuel gauge I would have stopped for gas at the Dog Creek Reserve. I didn't realize they sold gas and how far it was to both Williams Lake and Clinton. When I came to a fork in the road I waved down a farmer for directions and advice. He explained that both towns were a two hour drives away and to follow him. He was kind enough to guide me through twenty kms of forest logging roads to Beaver Lake which is just north of Clinton. As it turned out I had plenty of gas to make it to Clinton. 

Mountain Bluebird (Male)
When I retrace my steps next year I will take the turn off for Dog Creek about ten kms north of Clinton and head for Beaver Lake where there is a BC Recreation site with lakeside camping.

Mountain Bluebird (Female)

An alternate route is well documented if you want to start at Williams Lake and head north to Soda Creek and beyond check out Russell and Dick Canning's book, Birdfinding in British  Columbia.

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Birding Peace River Part 2

June 13 2017 Dawson Creek Area 
BC Canada

The breeze coming off McQueen's Slough was a welcome change after a long day in the heat. McQueen's Slough is surrounded by rolling farmland and provided some of the best birding of the trip. There were birds everywhere. Black Terns over the marshes and Marsh Wrens scolding us as we walked along the boardwalks. 

Tree Swallow with a tasty meal.

  There were plenty of tree swallow boxes with parent birds bringing in what looked like damsel flies.         

McQueen's Slough

Marsh Wren.

Ruddy Duck.
McQueen's Slough, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 13, 2017 12:53 PM - 3:11 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.1 kilometer(s)
40 species

Canada Goose  9
Trumpeter Swan  4
Gadwall  6
American Wigeon  2
Mallard  12
Blue-winged Teal  6
Northern Shoveler  3
Northern Pintail  3
Green-winged Teal  3
Canvasback  3
Redhead  4
Ring-necked Duck  2
Lesser Scaup  30
Bufflehead  12
Ruddy Duck  12
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Eared Grebe  8
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Sora  15
American Coot  8
Wilson's Snipe  2
Franklin's Gull  20
Black Tern  8
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Alder Flycatcher  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
American Crow  2
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Marsh Wren  12
Common Yellowthroat  7
Yellow Warbler  15
Clay-colored Sparrow  4
Savannah Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  28
Yellow-headed Blackbird  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  3

The Clay-coloured Sparrow is a favourite of mine when birding outside the Lower Mainland.

Clay-coloured Sparrow.


Swan Lake, Tupper--Road 201 south, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 13, 2017 6:39 AM - 9:12 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.4 kilometer(s)
18 species

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Least Flycatcher  6
Philadelphia Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  7
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Swainson's Thrush  3
American Robin  2
Tennessee Warbler  1
Mourning Warbler  3
American Redstart  8
Yellow Warbler  7
Blackpoll Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  3
Fox Sparrow  5
White-throated Sparrow  5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2

Parting Shot

The Mourning Warbler was another long distance shot but what matters is that it was a lifer for many in the group including myself. The bird gave us a merry chase but eventually gave us great looks.

Mourning Warbler.

The three days of birding was finally coming to an end yet our guide Brian Paterson had one last trick up his sleeve. The weather was worsening as we drove slowly along a rural gravel road listening for any signs of a Connecticut Warbler. Brian was determined to find the bird for us and soon we were on foot and headed into the forest.
We were getting warbler neck, looking up and up and listening hoping for the bird to give away its location. There was no point wearing my glasses and forget about pointing a camera lens skyward, there was just too much rain. Finally after about twenty minutes the diminutive warbler sat out in the open long enough for us all to get really great views. What a way to end the BCFO extension trip.
On the way back to the truck I started to shiver and only then did I realize I was soaking wet. 
Time to buy a new waterproof jacket.


"Its never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
 BC Canada

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Birding Peace River

June 11-13 Dawson Creek and 
Fort St John Area. 
British Columbia

The Peace River region is somewhere I had always wanted to visit. Situated in the northern part of British Columbia, the Peace is a three thousand kilometre round trip journey from Vancouver.
Three days of hard core birding were slated for June 11-13 following the BCFO convention in Tumbler Ridge.

Twenty birders were split into 2 groups. Mark Phinney and Brian Paterson were group leaders.
Based in Dawson Creek and led by Brian our group visited numerous birding hotspots including Swan Lake, Road 201 and McQueens's Slough. Day 2 saw us visit Fort St John where we birded Beaton Park and Boundary Lake, Watson Slough as well as spots in-between.

Here are some of the results:

White-breasted Nuthatch
Like the Blue Jay below this bird came to the bird feeder at Mark Phinney's home where the group were treated to freshly baked cookies. How's that for service! 
A very wet Blue Jay at Mark Phinney's feeder. 
Rose-breasted grosbeak.
Many of these birds were singing from distant tree tops.

 Below is an interesting view of a Western Tanager as seen through what would be the equivalent of 12x bins. Later in the trip I was able to get tanager close-ups when photographing on my own.

Western Tanager

Common Grackle.
CA-BC-4909-4927 Old Hart Hwy (55.7388,-120.5445), Peace River, British Columbia, CA

Jun 11, 2017 3:51 PM - 4:06 PM

Protocol: Stationary

11 species

Hairy Woodpecker  1

Blue Jay  1

Black-capped Chickadee  1

White-breasted Nuthatch  1

Dark-eyed Junco  2

Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Common Grackle  5
Purple Finch  3
Pine Siskin  1
Evening Grosbeak  2

Eastern Kingbird

CA-BC-Peace River D (55.7084,-120.4761), Peace River, British Columbia, CA

Jun 11, 2017 5:48 PM - 5:53 PM

Protocol: Stationary

4 species

Olive-sided Flycatcher  1

Eastern Kingbird  1

Le Conte's Sparrow  1

Savannah Sparrow  1
Le Conte's Sparrow
The Le Conte's Sparrow was a target bird for many in the group and thanks to our group leaders everyone had great views. These birds prefer undisturbed wet fields. On reflection I would have preferred to have photographed the bird from more of a side angle but I didn't want to risk flushing it before everyone had had a good view. Thanks to Brian Paterson for getting us on the bird.

Solitary Sandpiper.
The numerous beaver ponds throughout the area attract waterfowl and birds like the Solitary Sandpiper which uses abandoned songbird nests in which to lay their eggs and raise their young.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Some of the best information I came away with from the group leaders was how to "read" the forest floor. While some birds might require the forest covered in wildflowers (vireos and warbles) other birds like the Ovenbird prefer open forest floor with little foliage. Knowledge like this helps the birder zone in on target species.
Swainson's Thrush

Eastern Phoebe
This bird was nesting as many phoebe's do inside a farm building. It has just caught a skipper type butterfly.

Some birds we saw:
Thanks to George Clulow for keeping the count.

Beatton Provincial Park, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 12, 2017 6:48 AM - 8:58 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.66 kilometer(s)
27 species

Osprey  1
Bald Eagle  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  4
Olive-sided Flycatcher  2
Least Flycatcher  15
Philadelphia Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  3
Red-eyed Vireo  2
American Crow  1
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Winter Wren  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Swainson's Thrush  7
American Robin  3
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  3
Black-and-white Warbler  2
American Redstart  6
Yellow Warbler  5
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Canada Warbler  3
White-throated Sparrow  4
Western Tanager  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  4
To be cont.. 

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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Birding Tumbler Ridge

June 10 2017 Tumbler Ridge Brassey Creek BC.

Birding with birders can be a most interesting experience. Normally I photograph on my own or car-pool with another photographer. We might spend a morning or sometimes all day stalking one species. Sometimes we come up blank, other days we capture something that makes the outing really worthwhile.

The advantages of joining a birding group are many. The first is you'll see a lot more species, sometimes over a hundred species in a single day. A group led by an experienced leader with local knowledge is the key to finding difficult species. Our group leader in Tumbler Ridge was renowned birder Mark Phinney. His specialized knowledge led us to a number eastern species not normally found in BC. A second group was led by Brian Paterson, another excellent birder. Brian would eventually lead the post extension trip I was to join but that's another story.

We had two mornings of birding before the business part of British Columbia Federation of Ornithologists (BCFO) annual conference. There were a number of trips arranged and I chose the Brassey Creek option. Brassey creek is a forty minute drive north off Tumbler Ridge. When we arrived it looked just like any other areas we had just driven by. Obviously Mark had scouted out the location and was able to pinpoint a number of species before many of us could even see them. Our first stop was a gravel pit where we soon found several Wilson's Snipe, Lincoln's Sparrows and a Townsend's Solitaire.

Townsend's Solitaire.

It was at Brassey Creek Rd that many of us got our first lifer of the trip. Mark took us into the forest of aspen and fir, the understory he explained would be ideal for vireos and warblers.
Soon enough Mark has us on a Philadelphia Vireo, a lifer for me and many in the party.

Philadelphia Vireo.

The more time we spent in the forest the more birds we found. Don't even mention the mosquitos which were soon forgotten when a Black and White Warbler gave us fleeting views before disappearing off into the canopy. 

Black and White Warbler.

Another bird we saw from a distance was the blue-heard Vireo, not a lifer for me but a BC bird all the same. If I was to return to the area I think a week or two earlier when there would be less foliage.

Blue-Headed Vireo.

Thanks to Mark our group was now getting some really good birds. As you can imagine a group of ten can make quite a lot of noise. It always amazes me how when arriving on location birders are great slammers of car doors. I also wonder why some birders don white shirts and hats and bright red anoraks. Don't me wrong I know how ridiculous some photographers can look dressed up in camo but white!


A long distance shot the Ovenbird, another of those eastern species found in Peace River region and nowhere else in BC. Possibly because of the size of the group we were never able to get very close to any of the birds which was fine with me and everyone seemed to be more than happy as long as they had a good views. 

Tennessee Warbler.
Once I have photographed a species a few times I start looking for opportunities that display different  behavoir patterns like this Tennessee Warbler gleaning a caterpillar. 

This bird is obviously distracted by a dozen sets of eyes, it remained long enough for a few frames.

White-throated Sparrow.
The blue skies and warmth of Saturday were replaced by torrential rain Sunday. Despite that we still went out but the inclement meant the birding wasn't as good but that's how it goes sometimes.
Overall the convention was a great success, great company, and new contacts made, two lifers in the bag and the added excitement of leaving for Dawson Creek for four more days of hardcore birding.
A birder's dream!

Below are a some of the Tumbler Ridge sightings.

Fish Creek Community Forest, Peace River, British Columbia, CA

Jun 12, 2017 9:46 AM - 10:51 AM

Protocol: Traveling
1.88 kilometer(s)
19 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  1

Hairy Woodpecker  1
Olive-sided Flycatcher  3
Western Wood-Pewee  2
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
Brown Creeper  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Swainson's Thrush  5
American Robin  4
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  2
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Western Tanager  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1


Swan Lake, Tupper--Road 201 south, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 13, 2017 6:39 AM - 9:12 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.4 kilometer(s)
18 species

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Least Flycatcher  6
Philadelphia Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  7
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Swainson's Thrush  3
American Robin  2
Tennessee Warbler  1
Mourning Warbler  3
American Redstart  8
Yellow Warbler  7
Blackpoll Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  3
Fox Sparrow  5
White-throated Sparrow  5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada