Wednesday 31 October 2012

So Many Sandpipers!

Oct 30, 2012 Pouring rain.
Who knew there were so many types of Sandpipers, ninety four world-wide. To the casual observer (non birder type of person) there is little to tell one Sandpiper from another but to the skilled observer tell tale markings like leg colour, shape or length of beak or habitat are some of the clues needed to differentiate one from another.
This year, with the help of a number of birders I have learnt to locate, identify and photograph a number of the Sandpiper family. They include the Stilt, Pectoral, Sharp-tailed, Least, Solitary, Spotted and Western Sandpipers, Long-billed curlew, Marbled godwit, Black-turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Willet, Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, Long-billed and Short-billed dowitchers, Wilson's snipe, Wilson's and Red-necked phalarope.
Today I added the Rock sandpiper to the list, thanks to fellow birder Tak who phoned Raymond and I who had retreated to McDonald's to have a  coffee and warm up. The three of us found the birds on the ferry causeway during a typical B.C. downpour.
Rock sandpiper was feeding with a flock Black turnstones

It would have been easier to to say home on this grey and cloudy day but I am glad I didn't. Maybe there will be chance to go back when there is some 'Sweet light' but for the moment I'm just happy to have seen this bird for the first time.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Rough-legged hawks 'Another Lifer'

Two 'Lifers' in one day can't be bad especially, after all the rain we have had. A pair of Rough-legged hawks, one a dark morph were feeding along the trail at 72nd in Delta. Despite the amount of foot traffic, people with dogs running amok and hunters blasting ducks this pair seemed unconcerned. Other birds in the area included an American kestrel and Northern harrier.

Dark morph variety.

Rough-legged hawk hovering.

Tropical kingbird a big draw and "LIFER"

The colourful Tropical kingbird first sighted at Blackie Spit Oct 21st has been a big draw for birders in the Lower Mainland. The Tropical kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) is a rare but regular visitor to the B.C. Coast. For the past week it could have been found easily by looking for a crowd of people with tripods and spotting scopes at the end of 104th St in Delta. It even became a family event with birders bringing their children to see the colourful yellow visitor.
Later in the day I photographed my second "Lifer" of the day a Rough-legged hawk. See following blog.
Could be sharper but.......not a bird on a stick!

The Tropical kingbird has a longer beak than does the Western.

Friday 26 October 2012

A Mixed Bag

Oct 25th 2012 Mixed cloud and sun.
 Iona Regional Park Richmond B.C.
With family commitments put away and the weather forecast predicting a dry and sunny day I set off for Iona Regional Park in Richmond. Driving up to the parking lot five Western meadowlarks could be seen eagerly searching for food. These prairie birds seem to feel quite at home on the sand that has been deposited here over the millennium. Meadowlarks are most noticeable when they perch in the few bushes which have sprouted up along the beach, however they do spend most of their time scurrying around in the long grass, ever wary of the northern harrier and other raptors looking for a meal.
As per usual I met number of really interesting birders and photographers, exchanging niceties about lens length etc (a male obsession), bird lore and the latest sightings.. it beats working!
 My favourite shot of the day was the Goldfinch (below) which was taken half-way through once such discussion, it pays to keep attentive!

American goldfinch  

Northern Harrier hunting.
Keeping an eye out for trouble!

Great horned owl (note the white around the throat)

Anyway, after photographing a flock of American goldfinches that were feeding on seed heads the subject of a Great horned owl came up in  conversation. This news sent me scurrying off to the Terra Nova garden allotments in Richmond. A small murder of crows immediately gave away the owls location. The bird has become quite the celebrity, it barely moved as a procession of schools groups and seniors filed to get a good look. It was perched about fifteen feet from the ground where it nonchalantly  viewed all and sundry.
The bird has become quite the hunter dispatching two barn owls over the last few  days. Apparently the Great horned owl doesn't like competition, it has even attacked a gardener!

Tuesday 9 October 2012

In Search of Rusty

The Spit: Burnaby Lake Regional Park Oct 2, 2012
It wasn't hard to find the Rusty blackbirds, all one had to do was follow the steady stream of photographers and "birders" who had congregated at the lake's boardwalk. It had been several years since a Rusty had been seen in Vancouver so the birds have been drawing a steady stream of visitors all Thanksgiving weekend.
I'm not too sure why, but even passersby using their iPhones were snapping pix, what they'll do with the images is anybody's guess. Perhaps they didn't want to feel left out!
I digress, The two birds were very obliging, feeding on grain and insects at close range. The key was waiting for the little sun to break through the morning fog so as to illuminate their colourful plumage.
The Rusty blackbird (Non breeding female)

 The Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is a medium-sized blackbird, closely related to grackles (Rusty Grackle is an older name for the species).

Note the rusty crown and prominent pale supercilium of the Fall famale.


Their breeding habitat is wet temperate coniferous forests and muskeg across Canada and Alaska. The cup nest is located in a tree or dense shrub, usually over water. Birds often nest at the edge of ponds/wetland complexes and travel large distances to feed at the waters edge. Emerging dragonflies and their larvae are important food items during the summer.
These birds migrate to the eastern and southeastern United States, into parts of the Grain Belt, sometimes straying into Mexico.
Much of the time is spent in the water feeding on aquatic insects and plant matter.

Ever on the lookout for a tasty morsel, the Rusty blackbird poses for the camera at Burnaby Lake.