Monday 27 January 2014

The Falcon and the Goldfinch

Jan 23-24 2014 /Harbour Park and River Road, Ladner B.C.

Thurs Jan 23/14 Foggy with Sunny breaks

This week I had the opportunity to drop all my household chores and search out some of the raptors species that make the Lower Mainland their winter home.
As an aside, I missed having a five falcon day (no Merlin) that a few birders have had this week but four out of five ain't bad. The four falcons were the Peregrine Falcon, Gyrfalcon, American Kestrel and the Prairie Falcon.
The rich farmland in the Fraser Valley remains mostly fallow during the winter and makes excellent habitat for rodents and their avian predators. Many species of raptors arrive in the late fall from their frozen breeding grounds in the north, the prairies and the Interior. . They spend their winters in our temperate climes before returning in the early spring. Others like the American Kestrel can be found year round while the Prairie Falcon is a welcome rarity.
I started my day at Harbour Park in Ladner where exactly one year ago I photographed a White-throated Sparrow. No such luck this time but in the trees close to the car park, a flock of American Goldfinch were feeding on high protein alder catkins. The juicy insides can be seen in the bird's beak.
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
From there I made my way along River Road to see if the Prairie Falcon which was still spending its day chasing down Northern Harriers and stealing their food, it was. So far I have been quite disappointed with my efforts to get a definitive shot. Some would say it's all down to operator error! I'd heartily agree as I am finding bird photography both enjoyable and very challenging.

I spent a couple of hours trying for another chance but I can honestly say I am still searching for a definitive 'keeper' shot. Until then here goes.

A Prairie Falcon (top) tussles with a Northern Harrier.
The falcon spends most of the day stealing the harrier's prey. This very long distance shots is far from perfect
but I think does give an idea how the birds spar for food and territory.


If you are reading this and plan to go down to photograph the falcon please respect the farmer/owners property. If you don't have a long lens then stay on the road and use a scope or bins. If you are hoping to photograph the bird you'll need at least a 300m telephoto lens and if you are patient the falcon will eventually fly closer, especially in the afternoon.
Good Luck and be nice to the farmer and his wife, they are both elderly and deserve our respect even though they don't get what all the fuss is about.
It just isn't fair for the birding community to be blamed for the bad manners of a few who are spoiling what should be a positive experience for everyone. PLEASE STAY OUT  OF THEIR DRIVEWAY.

Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus)

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