Monday 9 December 2013

Birds and Cold Weather

Dec 9 2013 Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Delta B.C. Canada Overcast -3 Light Snow.

The Lower Mainland and Vancouver has been in the icy grips of a cold arctic outflow. The air which originated in the prairies has been spilling down the mountains passes for a week. This rare occurrence has meant sub zero temperatures, bringing challenges for the birds and those of us birders out in the field.
Most ponds are frozen solid, the ground is hard and a bitter wind makes a hand warmer and several layers of clothing a necessity. Even the shoreline of Boundary Bay looks like Churchill Manitoba at break-up. At least the air is dry but one has to wonder how our avian friends survive the nights. I have included an excellent link at the end of this blog that gives a far better explanation than I ever could.

I arrived at Reifel and for the first time ever I was, apart from staff the only one there. It was bitter cold and overcast but having been cooped up all weekend I couldn't wait to get out. Perhaps that is why in no time at all and before anyone else disturbed them I came across three Red-breasted Sapsuckers. I find the Sapsucker quite a wary bird and my shots are less than ideal but I was glad to actually get close enough to one to get this less than perfect shot (due to the gloomy conditions I had failed to check my shutter speed) Oh well, next time!
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)
Technically flawed. Really should have upped the ISO to 6400 to freeze movement.
This is where fill flash would have been ideal and could have used 1600 ISO.
How often is it so quiet in the forest that one can hear the wind in the trees, the soft pattering of snowflakes, the drumming of a woodpecker and the sparrows sifting through the crinckled leaves. Quite blissful, perhaps that is what draws us out time and time again.

Leaving Reifel I turned out the main gate and toward the open fields and hedgerows a sudden movement caught my attention. A Northern Shrike was on the hunt for food. Sometimes called the "Butcher Bird" the Shrike catches and impales its prey on hawthorn bushes or barbed wire.

Juvenile Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor)
This shot was taken through a tangle of branches. I set the aperture wide open F4 to soften the effect which in turn removed the foreground. Fill flash created the catchlight.


After  leaving I stopped off at Wellington Point Park which is just after the old wooden bridge as one heads back to Ladner. I watched a Red-tailed Hawk chase down prey and as I had my lunch a  movement on the snow covered gravel car park caught my attention. Luckily I had my lens on the front seat. The following shot of the Kildeer eating a frozen worm was the result.
Kildeer (Charaddruis vociferus)
This bird was feeding in the gravel parking. I have also seen this behaviour with Ruddy Turnstones.

I am glad I made the effort to get out and as I sit here at home, warm and with a cup of tea beside me I wonder what tomorrow might bring!

Good Birding

John Gordon

1 comment:

  1. John, great captures! I'm afraid you're braver than me out there in the cold!