Sunday 30 December 2012

2012 Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Dec 30th 2012 Langley B.C. Foggy with sun in the afternoon.
Images from the Langley, Surrey and White Rock Audubon Christmas bird count. These are mainly record shots, however I do really like the Golden-crowned kinglet. A big thanks to group leader Anne Gosse for sharing her expertise that made these images possible.
So what to say as the year comes to a close. The blog has been a great help to keep me organized in both my record keeping (it is so easy to forget details) as well an outlet for my birding exploits.
For those of you who have been kind enough to make comments, I thank you. Although there are too many people to thank here, a special thanks should go to all the members of the Langley Field Naturalists, to Al and Jude Grass and to Russell Cannings (for pointing out the location of a Yellow-breasted chat) for all their helpful advice. And last but not least all the dedicated birders and photographers who have helped me along the way.


Male Golden-crowned kinglet displaying

Surrey, White Rock, Langley Christmas Bird Count Results

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count has taken place each year since 1900 to provide information about ongoing changes in bird populations. Today, over 60,000 birders in 2,000 count circles across North America take part.
Beginning early on the cold damp foggy morning of Sunday, December 30th, 2012, Langley Field Naturalists thoroughly scrutinized our part of the large circle that encompasses the Surrey, White Rock, and Langley Christmas Bird Count area.  We had 5 teams covering our Langley area. Members ranged in age from two enthusiastic teenagers to experienced seniors.  By noon, sunshine emerged and so did the birds!  The spirit of competition is high and each team works hard from first light to dusk trying to identify and count as many birds as possible.
The Langley teams enjoyed a fabulous day of counting all over our area - with teams reporting lots of Dark-eyed Juncos as well as soaring noisy waves of Pine Siskin's and Canada Geese flocking overhead every so often. One team found three owls; another recorded an Anna's Hummingbird (which are moving into our area) plus many raptors gliding over our farmer's fields.
 At our post count gathering to tabulate results, excited chatter of Langley Field Naturalists and friends exchanging notes on sightings completed a wonderful day. Our Langley total was 68 species (last year 62) consisting of 6,557 birds.  In the evening, at the post count dinner, our results were combined with the whole of the Surrey, White-Rock Langley circle for a total of 128 species.  
As well as being an exciting, fun event at year’s end, the Christmas Bird Count provides important information for bird conservation in all of North America.  Langley Field Naturalists are pleased to be part of this and look forward to next year’s count!
Submitted by
Kathy Masse
Anne Gosse
Langley Field Naturalists

Check out link for more info

Great blue herons
Barred owl

Great-horned owl

All pictures taken Dec 30th 2012.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Christmas Bird Count Publicity

See previous blog for more owl pictures.

Rough-legged hawk, Barnston Island, Surrey
Pitt Meadows Bird Count Dec 15th 2012
© John Gordon Photography

Check the link below for more information

Friday 21 December 2012

25 years later (The Northern saw-whet owl)

Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Friday December 21, 2012

It was not the most promising kinds of days, typical west coast, just miles and miles of billowing grey and white clouds looming over the landscape and the promise of rain in the air. Looking toward Crescent Beach, a thin yellow band of pale yellow sunlight was the only colour in the sky. Maybe there would be a spectacular sunset at the the end of the day.

Meanwhile it was so windy on Boundary Bay that our avian friends had all hunkered out of sight or as they say "flew the coop" Nada! Nought! Nothing! The birds will be sheltering so plan B went into motion.

The original plan (now Plan B) was to see if I could find the elusive but very photogenic Northern saw-whet owl. One had been seen at Reifel so as the rain began to fall I made my way along the North Dyke.
I had tried to photograph a Saw-whet twenty five years earlier in Campbell River. I was in an orchard at Hudson's Farm when the Saw-whet landed within feet of me. I was just too close, I just couldn't move without spooking the bird. The resulting shots (2) were OK and were shot Kodachrome 64 on a 135mm Pentak Takumar portrait lens, but really it was really a missed opportunity. Twenty five years later I had my second chance. These shots below were shot in dense shade and were taken at a ridiculous 2000 ISO. How times have changed!
I'm glad I made the effort as this self-assignment proves. I hope you agree.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous and Peaceful 2012

The Northern saw-whet owl  (Aegolius acadicus)
 The owl is about 8 inches tall but when resting often looks a lot smaller
The saw-whet prepares to spit up a pellet. 
In the above picture the bird had just coughed out a pellet, so quickly that the motor drive on the camera failed to pick it up.
The owl was in an awkward place but only four or five feet from the ground. The get these pictures I had to lay on the ground and shot through a convenient hole in the undergrowth.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Boundary Bay (All Kinds of Birds)

                                  Friday Dec 14th 2012 Boundary Bay-Sunny and Cold.

Birding on Boundary Bay is never dull, even in the depths of winter rare and unusual avian visitors make it one of the best birding hotspots in North America. 
In the previous blog I featured some so so images of the Sage thrasher (a lifer) which I had taken under less than ideal conditions. I just had to return with the tripod and all the gear and try for some better compositions. Three long days had passed before some suitable light conditions returned and other commitments were behind me, I was just raring to go!
As usual the weather forecast was vague to useless, despite the promise of sun it spotted with rain all my way to 64th. I thought the day would be lost to the rain but when I arrived the wind suddenly died down, the skies cleared and the sea mist quickly evaporated. Perfect!

I began my search for the Thrasher but I couldn't see it anywhere, so I headed for a white dot on the horizon, a snowy owl was perched in a tree a few hundred feet from the pathway.

Snowy photographed from the Dyke.

A few shots (12) were taken without spooking or approaching the young owl too closely when I noticed a Northern flicker (below) land on a bush about 50 feet away. It took me a few minutes to gain the trust of the woodpecker, the resulting photograph is one of my all-time favourites, the colour of the tail feathers are amazing.
Northern flicker (Red-cross/Yellow shafted intergrade)

Orange-crowned warbler.

Behind me on the ocean side I heard a flock of Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped warblers. They were feeding on yarrow seeds. There were also a flock of White-crowned sparrows, purple finches and in the distance a Northern Shrike perched on a bush.

White-crowned sparrow
Purple Finch 

A Northern shrike looks for rodents or small birds.

Sage thrasher.

Sage thrasher searches for food.

Sage thrasher.
I prefer the clean background long lenses provide but it is as important to show habitat.

Thanks everyone for looking in at the blog. Your comments are really important to gauge how this avian journey is progressing.

Happy Holidays

Monday 10 December 2012

The Sage Thrasher

An unusual visitor for British Columbia, a Sage thrasher has spent the past week at 64th Ave in Delta. On my way home from seeing my grandson and on a whim I thought I might just pass by the area where the bird had been sighted. As mentioned in the copy below the bird feeds on insects and berries and should be able make it through the West Coast winter. 

Technical details for tech heads.
Nikon D3s 300m F4 handheld 1600 ISO.

The Sage thrasher is a visitor to the Pacific coast.
For more information

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Snowy Owls (On Their Terms)

Dec 3 2012  Boundary Bay. Mostly cloudy, cold with a sunny breaks.
The weatherman, the newspapers, the radio all spoke of rain but as usual they were wrong. Tuesday was supposed to be the day for decorating the Christmas tree but I suppose there is always tomorrow.
As the first rays of sun came through the living room window I knew it was time to head out birding. I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to go, at first I thought I'd check out 112th for raptors but then decided to go to 64th but it turned out to be too windy and cold so I doubled back to 72nd. What had promised to be a warm sunny day quickly turned overcast and I was deliberating whether to return home. A quick visual scan turned up three snowy owls way out on the foreshore.

Two snowy owls jostle for position.

Recently there had been a number articles in the local press about not approaching the birds too closely as they are thought to be starving and have recently come down from the arctic due to a lack of food. The logic is that the owls are hungry and need to rest and being chased by photographers disturbs them.
On this particular day the photographers were on their best behaviour due to the high tide which kept everyone on the dyke and out of the marsh area. We needn't have worried, after an hour of waiting two owls flew within one hundred feet of about twenty or so onlookers including us photographers.
Not only did the owls graciously perform a fly-past but they also jousted for position on the only stump available to them, not once but twice before flying off to a distant perch to repeat the ritual (top pic).
Everyone had a good look at the birds, the photographers including myself were happy, birders didn't need bins and point and shooters were all smiles, all in all, a win for everyone including the owls.

Two snowy owls fight over a perch. I had my 1.4 converter  on which
proved a hindrance, cutting off the second owl and ruining a potentially great shot. 

                             This owl was shot on a full frame camera and was close enough to show quite a bit of detail.

A snowy poses for photographers.