Wednesday 27 February 2013

Rose-breasted Grosbeak/Wayward Wanderer

A vagrant Rose-breasted Grosbeak has been reported in Langley British Columbia.
Noted birder Wayne Weber writes:

" It is unquestionably a female ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. This is a very rare bird in the Vancouver area--  fewer than 10 previous records, and only one of those was in the winter.

Female ROSE-BREASTED and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS are quite similar and hard to tell apart. However, the Rose-breasted is more heavily streaked on the underparts, and this bird is quite clearly a Rose-breasted.

Black-headed Grosbeaks are common around here in the summer, and I’m sure you’ve seen them around your place in the summertime, but they have never been recorded here in the winter. Both Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are strongly migratory species which normally winter in Mexico and farther south.

Thank you so much for using eBird and for reporting this bird. The photos have sorted out the mystery of which species it was.

Thursday 21 February 2013

World Culture Month Poster

All talks are free of charge. I hope to see you there. I will also have a select few canvas Giclee prints of the Red-flanked Bluetail, the Golden Eagle and some of the owls as well as photo cards for sale after the show.
The birding show is a 1 hour plus 30 minutes of video, the others are around an hour.. There will be a brief intermission during the bird presentation for those who have to leave or are just plain 'birded out'


Tuesday 19 February 2013

Golden Eagle/Ring Necked Ducks

Sumas Prairie/Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve. Tuesday February 19, 2013
It doesn't matter how many times one looks at a field guide it isn't until you see a particular species in the field that all the pieces come together. This for me is/was the case with the Golden eagle and the immature Bald eagle, both of which can look similar, especially at a distance. After thinking we had seen one Golden eagle after Golden eagle only to discover on close inspection they were actually immature 'Baldies' we began to wonder if our outing was to be in vain. After a few hours searching and as we drove along Boundary and No.5 on Sumas Prairie we had suddenly located our quarry.
Next problem, we couldn't get a shot unless we stood in the middle of a very busy No5 road. From our position we could only see the bird's rear end. How could get a better shot, could we get permission to enter a nearby field? I knocked on the farmer's door but no one was home. Not wanting to trespass and following good birding etiquette we thought we would have to settle for partially obstructed rear end views.. not the best!
Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

As karma would have it (it's funny how these things work when you don't fret about things) a farmer came out from an adjacent house to collect his mail and asked us what we were doing. Explaining our problem with the direction of light and composition he took us into the field explaining that the barking dogs wouldn't attack us. Five minutes later with no branches obscuring our views we both had our shots, the image above is my favourite from a series of seven. The composition works for me, the undulation of the wings gives the sense of motion needed in a flight shot and it sure beats the first shots we attempted shooting through branches and blinding sun.

With time on our hands we moved on the nearby Great Blue Heron Reserve where the lanky birds are arriving and will be on the nest within weeks. A quick walk around the lake turned up a few Pied grebes and some Ring-necked ducks which have a ring on the bill, so I'm not too sure where the name came from, i'll have to do some research.
All in all a wonderful day out in the sunny albeit bitterly cold Sumas Prairie.
Female Ring-necked duck (aythya collaris)

Male Ring-necked duck



Monday 18 February 2013

Another Red-flanked Bluetail article published

The Red-flanked bluetail is still present at Queen's Park in New Westminster. Below is article written by my good friend Christopher Stephens. An excellent birder and writer, he also runs birding tours on Vancouver Island. See below for details.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Campbell Valley Park Pacific Wrens/Rant

Campbell Valley Regional Park. Ravine Trail. Feb 15th 2013
I needed some solitude, I needed to hear the wind in the trees, the trickle of a woodland stream, the frogs and the birds. I needed peace to commune with nature. The picturesque Ravine loop trail (enter off the 8th Ave entrance) in Campbell Valley Regional Park is the perfect place for this endeavour, it is also a perfect place to watch the Pacific wren.
I wasn't long on the trail before I heard the first call coming from the forest glade. I decided to take the time to sit on a moss covered nurse log and enjoy the afternoon sun. Soon after an inquisitive Wren came to check me out, it scurried around my feet and hopping from fern to moss covered stump. For me this is the beauty of birding. Don't get me wrong I enjoy going on bird walks with others, learning what to look for and discovering new locations but to be honest I think most of us enjoy the solitude of the forest, beach or mountaintop.

Pacific wren (Troglodytes pacificus)

I made a few seconds of sound recordings, quietly took a few photographs and moved on to leave my new found friend alone. On my way back to the car I came across seven other Wrens, a couple of which had mates in tow. Soon it will be spring migration, fledglings will abound and the forest will again be full of song.

The Rant....
This year I have spent many wonderful hours at 72nd Ave on Boundary Bay photographing harriers, owls, sparrows and others species but the behaviour of a few photographers has left wondering if I want to be part of what is quickly becoming a circus!
At the end of 72nd Ave is a fallow field that is perfect breeding ground for Townsend's voles, primary prey for a number of species including Short-eared, Barn, Long-eared owls and Northern harrier. Some of these species hunt at night, others during the daytime, so it is incredulous why a few photographers in their manic desperation to get the 'perfect shot' are walking out into the fields to get closer to the birds. There are even No Trespassing signs which are being blatantly ignored. Many of these people espouse a love of nature but through their irresponsible actions they are disrupting feeding patterns while pushing the owls and hawks away from those of us who are trying to view the birds from the dyke. Worse still, the birds will be forced move on to perhaps less productive feeding areas and possibly face a bleak future. To compound matters, what little farm land is left is quickly being swallowed up by developers and government for roads, shopping centres and monoculture.

*In previous blogs I have images of all the above, all were taken from the dyke pathway including the Snowy owl.

John Gordon

Monday 11 February 2013

More Speaking Dates Added

Regina Beach sunset


Saline lakes outside Regina

A few more dates have been added to my speaking tour of the Lower Mainland March 2-27

These talks are also available Province/Canada wide. E-mail me for details

Also available in the UK 

World Cultures Month - March 2013. sponsored by the Fraser  Valley  Regional Library.
 Free of charge

     Presenter: John Gordon

  1. City of Langley - Saturday, March 2 from 2-3pm (The Magic of Morocco)
  2. White Rock - Monday, March  4    7-8pm  (Photographing Birds) 
  3. Pitt Meadows - Tuesday, March 5th    2:30-3:30 pm (Saskatchewan: Reclaiming the Prairie Landscape presentation)
  4. Brookswood - Wednesday, March 6, 7:00 - 8:00 pm (Off the Beaten Track - The United Kingdom)
  5. Yarrow  -   Thursday, March 7 from 7 to 8 pm  (Photographing Birds)
  6. Terry Fox - Tuesday, March 12    7 - 8:00  pm (Grizzly  Bears)
  7. Clearbrook Library  -   Tuesday, March 12 from 2 to 3 pm  (Photographing Birds)
  8. Fort Langley - Wednesday, March 13, 2:00 - 3:00 pm      (Travel to India)
  9. Chilliwack Library - Wednesday, March 13, 7:00 - 8:00 pm (Off the Beaten Track - The United Kingdom)
  10. Agassiz - Thursday, March 14, 7 to 8 pm  (Grizzly  Bears)
  11. Maple Ridge - Thursday, March 14, 2:00 - 3:00 pm (Off the Beaten Track - The United Kingdom)
  12. Mission Library - Tuesday, March 19   7-8 pm.   (Off the Beaten Track - The United Kingdom)
  13. Muriel Arnason Library - Wednesday, March 20   7-8pm (Photographing Birds) 
  14. MSA Abbotsford - Thursday, March 21   7-8pm (Travel to India)
  15. Walnut Grove Library - Tuesday, March 26 from 7 to 8 pm  (Grizzly  Bears)
  16. Hope Library  March 27 from 7 to 8 pm (Off the Beaten track The United Kingdom)

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Red-flanked Bluetail Helps Out ESL Students

Since my photograph of the Red-flanked Bluetail appeared on the front page of the Vancouver Sun in January a number of interesting developments have followed.
Soon after I was approached to donate a picture of the now famous and very lost Red-flanked Bluetail to an online publication which helps ESL, new arrivals to Canada and other readers come to grips with the English language. 
Below is a link to a live PDF via The Westcoast Reader Website

The Westcoast Reader link

The story about the little Red-flanked Bluetail can be seen at
 below is a copy and paste version.

A young Red-flanked Bluetail 
A tiny bird comes to Vancouver. 
Photo by John Gordon 

A tiny bird is big news 
Adapted from The Vancouver Sun / / Wikipedia 
A tiny bird is big news in B.C. these days. 
A young Red-flanked Bluetail has come to Queen’s Park in New Westminster. 
It is far from home. 
Not a Canadian bird 
Our tiny visitor is not from Canada. 
It has come from Siberia. 
It should be in Japan or India for the winter. 
This is a rare event. 
The Red-flanked Bluetail has never been to Canada before. 
Visitors flock to see it 
Birders are travelling from far and near. 
They want to see our small visitor. 
News of the bird is attracting people from other parts of Canada. 
They are coming from the United States, too. 
The people take pictures. 
For birders, seeing this bird is a dream come true. 

Very healthy and active 
The little bird has everything it needs in B.C. 
Queen’s Park has a lot of fat worms, grubs and seeds to eat. 
The bird loves to playfully flick its tail and dash around from branch to branch and tree to tree. It is quick. It can catch insects in mid air. 
Likes it here 
The tiny bird is not in a big hurry to leave. 
Birders hope that it will stay here for a while. 
This will give more people a chance to see it. 
This is a memory of a lifetime for many people. 
Submitted by: Patti-Lea Ryan 
(Vocabulary and links are on the next page.) 

©2012 The Official Westcoast Reader / 

Flock (verb): to travel together 

Birds and sheep flock together

Birders (noun): people who watch birds 

The birders are excited about the Red-flanked Bluetail. 

Flick (verb): a quick movement 

The bird flicked its tail. 

Dash (verb): to suddenly move 

The cat dashed up the tree when it saw a big dog. 
John Gordon Links: 
Stock photography: 
Commercial and Portrait: 

©2012 The Official Westcoast Reader / 

Saturday 2 February 2013

In the right place at the right time

Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it. 

The fog had cleared by the time I reached
 Black-capped chickadees, Golden-crowned kinglets, Spotted towhees, Song sparrows and Dark eyed junco's flit from branch to branchFurther along the trail, three northern saw-whet owls sleep the morning away after what I am sure was a successful nights hunting. Remarkably two of the birds were within five feet of the ground. Having observed them for a few minutes it was clear that all three were sound asleep and were not going to oblige for a 'eyes open' photo. On a previous visit I had been lucky enough to find one of the birds wide awake and in the process of disgorging a pellet. Images from that visit can be seen in a previous blog.
The morning walk around the sanctuary was somewhat uneventful so after making some sound recordings I decided to visit 72nd and Boundary Bay.
There I hoped to find the American tree sparrow which I had photographed a few weeks earlier but under very low light and foggy conditions. Those images have a wonderful 'feel' to them but now the sun had come out from behind the clouds which I knew would give an added dimension to any photographs I could manage.
American tree sparrow (Spizella arborea)
 After an hour of searching I noticed a solitary bird dive down into the ditch, it was the same behaviour that had given away the sparrows whereabouts on my first visit. Sure enough I was able to slowly approach the colourful sparrow before it flew up to a post and later into a tree. 
Look for the bicolored bill and dark spot on the breast for positive identification.
Cooper's hawk juvenile (Accipter cooperii)

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a flock of White-crowned sparrows scatter and hide themselves in a thicket of brambles, the culprit, a juvenile Cooper's hawk had landed about a hundred feet away. Above is a far, far away shot, cropped and then cropped some more. This is where a D800 would come in handy! All my cameras are 12 megapixels.
Anyway, it was time make my way back to the car only to find the parking lot crammed with birders and photographers, all of whom were pointing their lens at a long-eared owl. Being in the right place at the right time was one of the thoughts going through my mind as I looked through the viewfinder. 
At first the bird was too far away to get a detailed images so I put my 1.4 extender on my lens, at that precise moment the bird flew right in front of a group of us, I am now so close I have to back off.
Below are the images which may not have ever happened had it not been for the sparrows, a little bit of serendipity perhaps, I'll just call it Karma!
Long-eared owl (Asio otus)