Sunday 23 March 2014

Spring Break Birding

Spring Break Birding. Mar 2014 Mostly Sunny

Friday Mar 21/2014 Vancouver/New Brighton Park
A Gyfalcon (Falco rusticolus) with a pigeon tucked away under its wings flies away after a successful hunting expedition.
I have a number of shots of the bird flying against a blue sky and several with the bird hunting but this is the first with prey. The white background is the Viterra Granary. The Gyrfalcons and the pigeons natural colours makes for a pleasing monochromatic image.

Richmond Nature Park Hummingbird Feeder Station
Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
There are two hummingbird feeders at Richmond Nature Park. There are also many photographers, too many at times, so after a few shots I went off to a nearby bird feeder area where there were some beautiful House Finches, some with orange tones. 

 Richmond Nature Park
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
Before pressing the shutter I chose area where there would be a clean backdrop. Soon enough a finch landed near the feeder and with the sky as a background created this pleasant colour co-ordinated image. The branches create a frame within frame, another compositional tool the keep the viewer interested.  

Mar 21 Green Heron shots with the SX50 HS at Brydon Pond. 
I try to go for a quick walk everyday so I usually pack a point and shoot. I'm glad I did.

Adult Green Heron (Butorsides virescens)

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Further Adventures Canon SX50HS Brydon Lagoon

Brydon Lagoon Wednesday Mar 19 2014

Brydon Lagoon
The Canon SX50 HS super zoom is perfect for scenics having a 24mm wide angle lens

Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)
Even though the camera is quite good for taking long distance shots of birds (below) it can also capture close-ups like the Bushtit seen here. Although the ratio of decent shots is lower than a proper DSLR set-up the whole purpose for me is to be able to go for a power walk with just the SX50HS and a pair of binoculars. All these shots were taken while I sat on a park bench and listened to the birds singing. Slowly the more timid birds like the Canvasback below drifted in closer to me. Both shots below was taken with the zoom at 1200mm. The Bushtit at about 20 feet and the Canvasback at approximately 100 feet.

Female Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs to get the best out of the CanonSX50HS for birding set the camera to Scene Mode and choose the High Speed Burst HQ. It can be accessed through the Function Set button. It shoots 10 frames a second at Full Res, don't ask me how it works but it does. The Bushtit above is one of five shots I had to choose from, the other four frames had no birds at all. Anyway, readers have told me that they have bought the camera and enjoy it immensely.

Good Birding 
John Gordon 

A Windy Day/Change of Seasons

Mar 17 2014 Ladner Harbour Park/Brunswick Point Sunny

Monday was just one of those days. For most of the day the wind was so strong that our avian friends were nowhere to be seen.
The only way around the dilemma was to head for an area protected from the gusts of wind coming off the ocean. So it was off to Harbour Park in Ladner. Twelve months ago I photographed a White-throated Sparrow at the car park but today it was eerily quiet.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
Ladner Harbour Park 
 Sure enough my hunch was correct, the first bird to show was an Anna's Hummingbird. Then a few Chickadees and Bushtits flitted around but not much else.

A quick look around the parking lot turned up a pair of Brown Creepers, one of which kept still just long enough for a few frames.
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
Ladner Harbour Park
A flock of Dunlin paint the sky at Boundary Bay. As many as 50,000 spent the winter here.

The migration across Canada has begun. Many birds in British Columbia are already on the move. The return of the Rufous Hummingbird, Tree and Violet-Green Swallows and others signal the change of seasons. Soon the warblers will be here on masse, the Long-eared Owls long gone. The cycle of Nature continues.

Short-eared Owl (asio flammeus)
Brunswick Point
I have been trying to compose pictures showing more of a bird's surroundings. I haven't been too successful so far. In this picture I have tried to create a composition with the owl acting as a visual cue (diagonal line) leading to the bottom right of the frame and back again to the owl.

Good Birding
John Gordon

Thursday 13 March 2014

Four Birders/ One Show/ Five Bucks

 Here it is, better late than never.

Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) Blackie Spit

Red-tailed Hawk Feedback

Tagged Red-tailed Hawk N2

Thanks everyone for enlightening me about the tagged Red-tailed Hawk. Here is Gary Searing's response posted with his permission. I know some of you registered some concern about the size of the tag but I believe it provides important information as laid out below.  Also check the footnote here and reader feedback from the previous posting.

Hi John

Thank you for reporting your sighting of N2. This is great information.    
I tagged her as an After Third Year bird at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on 5 September 2013 and released her the next day  in Chilliwack, BC as part of a program to prevent raptors from being struck by aircraft. Yours is the first sighting of this bird since that date. Let me provide you with some information on the program so you understand a bit more why we are doing this:    
YVR began a program of trapping and removing Red-tailed Hawks and Rough-legged Hawks in October 2010 in order to prevent them from being struck by aircraft primarily to improve air safety, but also as a raptor conservation tool. Each year the airport has a large number of transient raptors that winter at YVR as well as resident adults and local-raised young birds. Based on information from SeaTac International Airport in Washington, we expect that adult residents are least likely to be involved in collisions with aircraft, but a significant number of young birds and transient birds are struck each year. Therefore, we are attempting to remove those birds from the airport environs by capturing them and releasing them just beyond Chilliwack where there is ample habitat and a reasonable likelihood that they will not return to YVR. I view this not only as an air safety program, but also as a raptor conservation program because, if successful, we may prevent the deaths of a dozen or more birds each year. We expanded the program this fall to all raptors (including owls). To date we have captured and relocated over 225 birds. Most of them were relocated to Chilliwack.     

We are wing-tagging Red-tailed Hawks because we need to know who our resident birds are and are co-operating in a joint program with Seatac and Portland International airports all of whom are wing tagging airport Red-tailed Hawks (using different colours for the tag material). Not only is this program contributing to air safety, we are already learning a great deal about our wintering raptors and hope to learn much more as the years pass. To date we have captured about 100 Red-tailed Hawks of which less than a third, mostly resident adult birds or  long-term wintering residents, have returned to the airport. Less than 20% of the very hazardous juvenile birds have returned. Several of our birds have been seen in Washington State and as far south as Oregon and we have had a few birds from Washington State come to YVR. We have had one sighting of a tagged Red-tailed Hawk near Kamloops. In addition we have captured 10 Rough-legged Hawks of which 2 returned to YVR, 2 Snowy Owls (1 returned), over 70 Barn Owls (only a few have returned), and smaller numbers of Great Horned Owls, American Kestrels, Peregrine Falcons, Coopers Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Merlins a few of which have returned to YVR. Raptors are one of the major strike risks at YVR and we believe that we are mitigating that risk significantly through the capture and relocation of raptors.    

It is through the sightings of many interested persons such as yourself that we are able to collect the essential information on bird movements and distribution and learn how well the measures we are using to manage wildlife at the airport and elsewhere are working.       

Thank you for your cooperation and your interest. Feel free to contact me for more information or with any sighting information.




Hi John

Go ahead and post away - the more the word spreads the better since I rely on sightings for my data.
Yes, the tags are relatively large, but this dramatically increases the flightability of the tags and hence the number of re-sightings of each bird. My colleague and I have been using this type of tag for more than a decade with many hundreds of birds tagged. There is absolutely no impairment of flight or other behaviour. Tagged birds that return to the airport resume their territorial behaviour, breed and successfully raise young. If the tags had a negative affect in any way, we would not use them since one of the reasons we are doing the program is for the safety of the birds (as well as air safety).



Gary F. Searing, M.Sc.      
Wildlife Hazard Biologist
Airport Wildlife Management International
Executive Director
Bird Strike Association of Canada

9655 Ardmore Drive
North Saanich, British Columbia
Canada V8L 5H5

Office/Home: 250.656.1889
Cell: 250.857.5133
Skype: gfsearing

Tuesday 11 March 2014

A Rapturous Day/Man in the Moon/Sunburn

March 10/2014 Brunswick Point Ladner B.C.  Sunny and first sunburn of the winter.

I wasn't until I arrived home Monday evening that I realized I had sunburn. I had been birding all day, so engrossed by all the activity around me I had completely forgot the sunscreen. Sunscreen in March, who would have thought it, eat your hearts out Winnipeg! It was cloudy in the morning but by midday the light was fantastic for photography. Blue skies allowed the use of fast shutter speeds, just enough to catch up with the speedy Prairie Falcon. I had photographed the bird before but I wasn't quite happy with the results. 
The first signs of Spring were everywhere. The trees are filing out, buds waiting to explode for the soon to arrive waves of warblers and flycatchers. A Turkey Vulture circled overhead, a pair of Lincoln Sparrows looked to be staking out a nest site, even the Tree Swallows have arrived, what a time to be a birder!
The day began with a trip to 104 St and Hornby in Ladner to see if I could re-locate the Leusistic Red-winged Blackbird (see previous blog) but the bird could not be found. From 104 to 72 I counted forty or so Bald Eagles, six Red-tailed Hawks, and a smattering of Northern Harriers. I couldn't find the Glaucous Gull. 
At Tsawwassen kite surfers took up much of the real estate but a small flock of twenty Brant bobbed about on the waves, Common Goldeneye dove for shellfish but the wind made photography difficult.  Then on through the Indian reserve and onto Brunswick Point which is where the real fun began.
The first picture in this series came about when I observed what I thought might be a hawk in a hedge. The bird turned out to be the Prairie Falcon. It normally perches high up on poles or trees so to see it so close was quite a surprise. I stopped the car and grabbed my camera. Unfortunately the bird was flushed by a passing pickup but as it flew into the air and away from the tangle of branches I was able to get this clean shot with the blue sky as background. Finally a half decent shot .

Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) chasing off a Coopers Hawk that had wandered into its domain. I estimate this birds territory to be 400-500 acres of open farmland. For those who know the area, that is from River Road to the Container Port. While I watched the falcon it not only bullied the Cooper's Hawk (below) but also had a run in with several Northern Harriers, a Bald Eagle and an American Kestrel.  

This Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) was hunting songbirds when it was set upon by the Prairie Falcon.

The Prairie Falcon then flew along over a fallow field chasing a Norther Harrier.
The Prairie Falcon glides at incredible speeds often snatching prey from other raptors but occasionally catching its own.

Red-tailed Hawk N2. Anyone know anything about the markings or who I should report to?

Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus) was about the only raptor not to be bothered by the Prairie Falcon. I think the bird has the long beak syndrome. Anyone have an opinion.

A distant grainy, greatly cropped shot of a mid air tussle between Northern Harrier (top) and
a Red-tailed Hawk. Both birds were fighting over territory. On one stretch of road alone five species of raptors
fought over territory. Note the setting sun and the golden glow on the birds.

A  female American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) tears apart a hapless Townsend's Vole. A bone from the rodent is stuck in the telephone wire although it looks quite large, possibly from a previous kill. The bird first skinned the animal before feasting on the juicy meat. The setting sun also gave this image the orange hue.

At the End of the Day
             Can you see the 'Man in the Moon' The two distinct eyes, a nose and puckered mouth.

What can I say. Another great day out of the house, not a care in the world except making sure that I didn't get run over by farm traffic. As I mentioned the weather is changing here in B.C.and soon we can all expect a flood of migrants including the sandpipers and warblers. I for one can't wait.

Good Birding 
John Gordon 

Saturday 8 March 2014

Leucisitic Red-winged Blackbird and Others.

Mar 7 2014 Birding in Delta and Richmond/Overcast

Morning Birding
Hornby and 104th Delta British Columbia. Canada

A Leucistic Red-winged Blackbird (foreground) feeds in a backyard at Hornby and 104th St, Delta. I had just told my birding companion I had never found anything unusual and two minutes later this guy!

The Leucistic Red-wing Blackbird sits in a fruit tree after the flock was spooked. There were about 20 females and a few males in the flock. They were feeding at a well stocked feeder.
Afternoon Birding
Riverport and Steveston in Richmond.
Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)
I was drawn into this composition by the fragility of the buds, the matching colour of the bird and building in the background. Then it began to sing.

I chose this frame from the others in the series because it does show that a little luck is needed sometimes. The fraction of a second it took for this Townsend' Solitaire to pluck and toss this coneaster berry into its mouth would be very difficult to time. I just happened to catch the moment perfectly. 

                                       Richmond Nature Park. Westminster Hwy/No 5 Rd

DownyWoodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Normally Downy woodpeckers are always on the move. They have been  quite a challenge to photograph.
This one however decided to take a nap.  I have several other shots with his eyes rolling then closed.
The notch in the wood held something of interest when occasionally the bird would dip its beak into the hollow. I can't remember who lost interest first, the bird or me.

Then it was on to the hummingbird feeder.

Male Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
A pair of these beautiful bird were feeding and gathering nest material (spiders web) on a very overcast gloomy afternoon. Rather than miss the shots I photographed at 1250 ISO to get a little higher shutter speed. I'll settle for noise in the picture over no picture at all. Technically it is all over the place (depth of field etc) but it is only the third or fourth time I have photographed these amazing creatures. The background is an ugly outbuilding so I chose an angle that would exclude the ugliest parts of the building. The result is an uncluttered backdrop with what I think is complimentary colour scheme. If you disagree let me know, feedback is important for artistic growth.

Male Anna's displaying throat and crown.
Female Anna's Hummingbird

Again I had an absolutely amazing day, completely absorbed with birds, the woods and fields and shoreline.
In between these photographs I drove down to the foreshore and watched thousands of Dunlin swirling along the ebb tide on Boundary Bay. What a sight to behold and the migration hasn't really started yet!

Good Birding
John Gordon