Tuesday 26 March 2013

Springtime in Vancouver

March 25th 2013 Simon Fraser University/Queen Elizabeth Park/Stanley Park. Sunny and Warm.
I was looking for a pair of Rosy finch but they were not to be found. Meanwhile, the morning dew was still clinging to spiders webs as a pair of Yellow-rumped warblers picked off insects from a cedar tree.
Yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon's) Dendroica coronata

Spiders were plentiful on this cedar tree.

While photographing the warblers the unmistakable sound of Anna's hummingbirds could be heard nearby. A male perched on a magnolia bud, it was just a question of finding the best background for the shot.
Male Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna)
I then made my way to Queen Elizabeth Park to search for vagrants, a real lack of bird life was broken by the arrival of a pair of Golden-crowned kinglets. Quite a crowd of walkers and curious tourists stopped to watch the birds as they bobbed around feeding on small insects.

Male Golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula)

The day ended at Stanley Park's Third Beach where a raft of Barrow's goldeneye and Surf scoters bobbed in the waves and rode out the swells of passing boats. It was so warm people were sunbathing and playing frisbee. Gotta love birding in Vancouver!

Good birding!

Sunday 17 March 2013

Bitter Cold But Worth The Wait....Almost!

Sunday March 17th 2013. Burnaby Mountain. Clear skies, windy and by Lower Mainland B.C. standards very cold!
It was still dark when I dragged myself out of bed Sunday morning. I was to meet up with fellow birder Raymond on Burnaby Mountain. A small flock of five female Pine Grosbeaks did arrive about 8.30 a.m and over the following fours hours gave us numerous opportunities to photograph them. They mostly perched on the pencil thin cherry tree branches, gorging themselves on the succulent and obviously nutritious buds, descending to pick up pieces that had fallen into the moss laden boughs below. Occasionally the flock would fly off and re-appear 30 minutes later. Pine Grosbeaks seem to ignore most human activity which makes them very approachable. A Peregrine falcon flew over a few times, a Red-tailed hawk used a thermal to glide high above us and a pair of Ravens looked like they were had courtship on their minds. The male never did show which I suppose makes a perfect excuse to try again.

Most shots were taken with available light except for those in the shade. I used a Better Beamer on my Nikon SB800, a D300 at ISO 640 and tripod mounted 500 F.4
The flash gives a nice catchlight and brightens up the underside of the birds.

A type of small finch, the Pine Grosbeak (Carduelis pinus) visit parks and gardens during the winter

Female Pine Grosbeak: Fill flash set at -1 SB 800 TTL 640 ISO
This created added depth of field, a nice catchlight and pleasing exposure.

Friday 15 March 2013

Birding "Unexpected Discovery"

I would like to thank Roxanne Hooper from the Langley Advance for taking the interest and time to sit down with me and talk about the Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) Cultural Month activities slated for the month of March.
Naturally the interview veered onto the topic of avian photography, which may be of no surprise to some of you, my close friends think all I do is sit around watching "Footy" all day. Hmmm!
So far the turn out for the birding presentations "Birding in the Lower Mainland" has been very encouraging showing that birding and getting out in nature is an ever popular activity.

Langley Advance

Vancouver Sun March 16 2013 article
The Red-flanked Bluetail is still at Queen's Park in New Westminster. 

I had heard the bird had changed into breeding plumage so I went down on Friday to have a first hand look.
 After checking my files from Jan I couldn't see too much difference.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Delta Photo Inspirations 2013 Bird Talk

I am honored to have been invited to speak at the upcoming Delta Photo Inspirations seminar April 26/27 2013.
For the last two years and after 27 years as a community newspaper  photographer I decided to change direction and devote much of my time to learning the art of bird photography. Until two years ago I had photographed just 30 species but since 2011 I have added another 200, mostly from British Columbia and the vast majority in the Lower Mainland.
Not only does one have to master camera technique but an understanding of bird behavior is equally important in capturing that elusive image.
This diminutive House Wren was photographed in a very low light situation. I used a Nikon SU 800 wireless transmitter and a SB 800 flash of camera on TTL -1 stop to illuminate the bird, this technique picked up just enough ambient light to make the image pleasing to the eye. Without flash his image would not have been possible.

                                    Please join me for a "Total Birding" experience 

Seminar Link

 My seminar link

Monday 11 March 2013

Owls and Sparrows

Boundary Bay, Delta, British Columbia.  March 12, 2012. Sunny breaks and warm.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
I hadn't even thought about going birding but the sun kept poking through the clouds so I quickly loaded the car and off I went to Boundary Bay. It began to rain as I drove through Surrey but when I arrived at the coast it was sunny and warm. I had no plans to target a particular species but I did need some exercise before the next big storm rolls in and soaks everything. The weather lady calls for three days of rain and wind.
Am I glad I got off my backside, I had only been on the dyke a few minutes when I spotted what I thought was a Short-eared owl but as the distant speck approached it became clear it was a Barn owl. They are not often seen during the day, the Bald eagles tend give them a hard time and they are normally nocturnal hunters. I managed about 7 shots with six in focus and 2 with good expressions before the bird was out of range.

The underside is adorned with small black spots

On my way back to the car I met a birding "duo" from Prince George who pointed out a Lincoln's sparrow to me. I had seen them in the Caribou but this was my first for the Lower Mainland.
I'm glad I didn't say home, the Newcastle v Stoke game which I had on the PVR can wait for a rainy day.
Lincoln sparrow (melospiza lincolnii)
The bird skulked around the undergrowth, occasionally coming out to bathe in a ditch.

Saturday 9 March 2013

A Mixed Bag and a 'Lifer' to Boot!

9.00 Leave home after leisurely breakfast

Mar 8th, 2013 Burnaby Mountain. Blue skies and sunny.

9.30 A.M.
A few feet above me a flock of Pine Grosbeaks are gorging themselves. I can't believe I've found them on my first try. It wasn't a question of finding the quarry myself as much as locating another photographer who had already found the birds! I suppose that's just another facet of the 'Total Birding' experience. anyway I digress....I best shut up and just take pictures!

Female Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)
The Pine Grosbeak is a beautiful bird, even though the more brilliant male was missing from the flock  the females with their yellow-olive heads were stunning. I spent an hour with them.

Pine Grosbeak feeding on cherry buds.

The flock spent a good hour eating the tender cherry buds, disregarding some very loud groups of tourists passing directly underneath them. The flock kept on feasting, eventually retreating into some higher branches andout of range, most probably to take a rest from eating.. or to take a break from us humans!

11.30 A.M.  Deas Island Regional Park Sunny

Deas Island would seem to be the perfect resting place to go bird watching. The Fraser River skirts one side of the park, another sheltered body of water inside the park is used by the local rowing club offers shelter to ducks, herons and kingfishers. High above gulls and bald eagles circle in the air. A very vocal Winter wren makes checks me out, coming within inches of my shoulder, high above a flock of Yellow-rumped warblers search for insects and scores of Black-capped chickadees and Ruby-crowned kinglets flit from tree to tree.
The rattle of a kingfisher draws my attention away. There are so many branches obscuring the bird but eventually I find a small opening to shoot through. The aperture is set at F4, later I am surprised by the clarity of the files despite all the branches in the way.

Belted-kingfisher (Mecaceryle torquata

2.00 P.M. Ladner Trunk Rd.72nd Ave
Having found nothing of note at the base of 72nd Ave I decided to make my way home. As I reached Ladner Trunk Rd I spot a Red-tailed hawk perched up on a snag. I managed one static shot before it took off and I 'lucked out' with this flight shot.
Red-tailed  hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
4.00 Arrive Back Home after yet another wonderful days birding in the Lower Mainland.