Wednesday 24 September 2014

Summer Birding/The Final Days

Sept 21 2014 Iona South Jetty Richmond BC Sunny 24c

Summer still had a few glorious days left so the four kms walk (8 km round-trip) out to the Iona south jetty seemed the perfect way to get some fresh air, exercise and hopefully see some birds.
When I arrived at Iona for the flood tide, the jetty was already very crowded. I wondered whether any birds would tolerate all the foot and bicycle traffic. I decided to keep to my plan and hope for the best.
I was partially right, due to the large numbers of people only a few birds showed themselves for the first two kms. At the three kms marker things began to change, a flock of Western Sandpipers circled around me looking for a place to roost.
Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri)

Once the flock of about 75 birds found somewhere safe to land they went about preening. The sandpipers were quite approachable and with a little stealth and the Tamron 150mm-600mm I was able to crawl over the rocks, zoom in and make my crops in the camera.
The birds suddenly flew away when a River Otter came up out of the water and spooked the flock.
This River Otter came out to check the sandpiper flock.
 There were plenty of salmon in the area and the otters were having a feast.

Close to the end of the jetty a pair of American Pipits were feeding on insects and Savannah Sparrows flew from rock to rock, their bright yellow lors standing out again the blue of the water. The light was getting better all the time and I really appreciated not having to lug a big lens and tripod with me all the way to the end of the jetty.

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichchenis)
It was at the very end of the jetty that my efforts paid off when I spotted four Sanderlings resting on the rocks. Slowly I crept closer and closer being careful not to be cut off by the rising tide and keeping my profile below the horizon. My only concern was a rogue wave. Fortunatly there was only one which forced the birds within even closer shooting range. 
Sanderling (Calidris alba)

Heres comes a second rogue wave and the birds were gone..just like that!

After the rogue wave the birds flew closer before flying away.

It was time to make my way back when another birder spotted a Wandering Tattler. The sandpiper was hunting for food. It would wait for a large wave to hit the rocks then pounce on any small crabs as they scuttled around in the backwash, a very ingenious and productive method.

Wandering Tattler (Heteroscelus incanus)
As I made my way back a flock of Surf Scoters, perhaps fifty in total were feeding on shellfish at about the half way mark, had it not been for the large amount of foot traffic I may have had the opportunity to get some closer shots.
Surf Scoter (Melanitta perpicillata)

As the sun began to wane I composed this shot of the Double-crested Cormorants on the pilings all the time waiting for a decisive moment when one of the birds would fly into roost. Put your thumb over the bird landing and see how it changes the 'feel' of the image.
Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Overall I enjoyed a great walk, saw plenty of birds, a River Otter and a Harbour Seal basking on the rocks. I count myself lucky to call The Lower Mainland, BC and Canada home.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon

Tuesday 23 September 2014

What's Wrong With This Picture ?

Sept 20 2104 112th and Hornby Drive, Delta BC Sunny 20c

I was returning from 104th and Boundary Bay after a fruitless search for the Dusky flycatcher when at the corner of 112th and Hornby Drive a flock of Brewer's Blackbirds flew overhead. Nothing unusual about that except amongst the flock was a Blue Budgerigar. The budgie landed on a wire away from the rest of the flock, it then dropped to the ground and began to feed on the flowering fronds of corn.
Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulates) Brewer's Blackbird and Eurasian Collared Dove.
Below is a record shot taken from one hundred metres away. All images Tamron 150mm-600mm handheld.

Although this budgie may have been caged at one point it is very wary.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon

Thursday 18 September 2014

Rare BC Flycatcher

Sep 14 2014 104 St Boundary Bay Delta B.C.
When the news of an Ash-throated Flycatcher at 104 St in Delta surfaced I decided to go down and have a look. Myself, the novice and two really experienced birders scanned every bush without much success. Finally after an hour or so the bird flew from a small fir tree onto a dead branch. It spent several minutes dispatching a darner, eventually maneuvering it head first down its gullet.
Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens)
The Ash-throated is a larger flycatcher is rarely seen in BC, very few records exist over the last ten years so this was a special treat to all who have managed to seen it. The bird was again seen Sept  17/14. Coincidentally a few years back another flycatcher, a Tropical Kingbird also spent a few weeks at the same general location.

I like this image because of the clean background. The head looking back into the frame tells us that the bird is on the lookout for food or perhaps wary of a predator.

What a way to spend a Sunday morning!  Our never ending summer has brought all kinds of birding surprises to our doorstep and for me and many other another "Lifer" to enjoy.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

Monday 15 September 2014

Brydon Lagoon/Lost Files

Sept 13 Brydon Lagoon, City of Langley BC
There were still plenty of warblers at the Lagoon. They were in almost every bush and tree. The Green Heron was still present as were a few Common Yellowthroat, Cedar Waxwing, flycatchers and a large flock of Bushtits.

Yellow-rumped Watbler (Dendroica coronata)

I never tire of photographing this dainty and colourful warbler.

Looking for a meal the Yellow-rumped Warbler can sometimes be seen during our winters where it
 feeds on berries until its primary diet insects, return in the spring.
A Flycatcher, perhaps a Western Wood Pewee. Any takers ?
Juvenile Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryl alcyon)
These Green Heron shots were taken the day of the big fish kill with the Canon SX50HS. I had downloaded them in a hurry and thought they were 'lost' ago until I found them a few days buried deep with an unrelated folder. I am happy I found them because it reminds me how good a camera the Canon is. These were shot at 1200mm and handheld which goes to show how good the image stabilization is.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Note the dead fish in the water following the spell of hot weather that depleted oxygen in the Lagoon. Two fountains were not working leading to many questions about the City of Langley's commitment to the lagoon.
I for one will be very interested to see what plans are in store for the lagoon which used to be 2-.5 metres deep. These days it is less a metre. The only source of water is run-off and rainfall hence the need of fountains for oxygenation.
Interested parties will meeting at the Lagoon Oct 1 at discuss plans for the site. City of Langley representatives, Langley Field Naturalists and interested parties will discuss problems facing the popular birding site. . Hope to see you there.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

Sunday 14 September 2014

QE Park: More Birders than Birds

Sept 11 2014 Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver BC  Sunny 20c

It is sometimes the case when birders converge on a rare or unusual sighting that there are more birders than birds. With all the tall stories being bandied about one wonders whether our feathers friends are just peering out from the bushes chuckling away,  planning how to hop from branch to branch without being seen.
Such was the case Thursday at Queen Elizabeth Park where a keen eyed birder by the name of Brian S spotted a Blackpoll Warbler, a bird not often seen in Vancouver.
As soon as the news hit the internet, the hordes (myself included) descended on beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park. QE Park a former quarry in the middle of Vancouver rises above the surrounding sub-divisions and is a popular spot for weddings, Tai-Chi classes and birders.
To cut a long story short I never saw the reclusive warbler, neither did any of the other photographers and birders who spent most of the morning staring into a thicket of bushes. Occasionally when the conversation petered out some of us would wander off to see if we could find the flock of warblers which had moved silently off while we were sharing birding yarns.
Anyway, there were plenty of other birds to watch and enjoy like the small flock of Western Tanagers, a Black-headed Grosbeak and numerous Anna's Hummingbirds.
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)
Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata)
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)
Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii)
All Images Tamron 150mm-600mm with D7100.  Handheld VR for most shots.

All in all it was a great morning of birding even though none of us saw the Blackpoll Warbler. I did however have two guided tours by two great birders, Brent D and Mark W, all the time soaking up their encyclopedic knowledge of bird lore. Building friendships while birding it seems is as much  fun as the actual birding itself!

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Brydon Lagoon Stroll

Sept 9 2014 Brydon Lagoon, Langley City B.C Sun and Cloud 20c

Brydon Lagoon is only five minutes from my home. The best thing is I can walk there. Like any hotspot Brydon Lagoon reveals it's secrets slowly. 
This year the return of the Green Herons, the big fish kill in August (due to oxygen depletion) and now a stream of migrating songbirds make it a very great place to bird.  
It will be interesting to see if enough fish are left to feed the Common and Hooded Mergansers, the Canvasback Duck, Belted Kingfisher, Great-blue Herons, Double-crested Cormorants and Bald Eagles. Winter birding is particularly good. 

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza linconii)

Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)

All these images were taken at the main entrance of the lagoon during my morning walk. There is a large resident flock of European House Sparrows which seems to attract other species. Safety in numbers I suppose!
"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

Monday 8 September 2014

In Search of the Sharpie

Sat Sept 6 2014 Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Delta B.C Sunny 26c

It was early in the morning, the lesser travelled outer dyke's path was still festooned with dew laden spider's web.

 In the distance a Belted Kingfisher dove for a fish, too far away for a decent photo but just one of those moments that gets indelibly etched into a birder's brain.
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)

The main objective of the morning was to locate the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper that had recently been seen in one of the ponds. I had a distant look at one last week at 'The Mansion' so I was hopeful of seeing one again albeit a little closer this time.
When I arrived there were both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of the West Field, their distinctive feeding patterns would help me locate the other sandpiper species that might be present. Some species seem to peck the water, others like the Stilt Sandpiper use rapid stabbing motions, the Yellowlegs feed like American Avocets. It wasn't long before the Yellowlegs spooked themselves (something they tend to do) and flew off leaving a single sandpiper feeding close to the, there was the Sharpie I had been looking for. Still, the bird was quite a distance away but as these shots hopefully demonstrate close-up aren't always the best option. I prefer shot #1 over the close-up, I feel it has better story telling.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata)
Rather than zoom in more than I already have I chose to leave some of the pond's vegetation. The bull rushes leaning toward the bird forces the eye of the viewer toward the bird while providing information about the bird's habitat.

This closer picture of the Sharpie tells little more than it inhabits a watery environment. The reflection does give the image an"artsy" feel. Handheld with the Tamron 150mm-600mm VR enabled.

Turkey Vulture:A Bonus Shot

10.30 A.M.
As I left Reifel for home and camera packed away (always a bad idea) when I spotted Turkey Vulture flying above the sanctuary entrance. I have heard vultures have an incredible sense of smell. As I stood out in the open the bird flew closer and closer, eventually circling around and above me, at one point it was joined by a Northern Harrier. It might be a crazy theory but I think that bird was checking me out for a potential meal!
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
 These could be a little sharper which I put down to operator error or the bird is just too far away or a combination of both. I would hate to blame the Tamron but shooting at F6.3 and 600mm (900mm equivalent on my D7100 handheld might be pushing the limits. I still like the lens a lot and as I have mentioned I have already secured numerous 'keepers' purely because of its portability.

* check some of the same pictures on my Flickr.. I feel they are a tad sharper
I'm not sure but this may me a juvenile as the head is not very red but that could be a trick of the light.

I'm glad I took the effort to spend a few hours out on Saturday morning especially as there was no 'Footy" on the telly. Something to do with the international break for the European championships. These days with the PVR (best invention ever) I can watch the games anytime I like and not miss the birds.

"It's never too late to start birding or anything else for that matter"
Refusing to take life too seriously...
John Gordon 
Langley /Cloverdale

Friday 5 September 2014

Tamron 150mm-600mm Walking the Serpentine

Sept 4 2014 Serpentine Wildlife Management Area Sunny

I had a few spare hours Thursday morning so I decided to walk the Serpentine Wildlife Management Area in Surrey. It is close to my home and there is usually something interesting to photograph.  
I took my Tamron 150mm-600mm which allowed me to walk the trails without the hindrance of a bulky tripod and heavy lens. Coupled with the Nikon D7100 the walk covered a couple of kilometres.
Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Purple Finch I think ? There were females nearby so I think it's not a house. What do you think?

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
At the look-out tower overlooking the river, you can shoot into the canopy of trees from above. There are often birds feeding on seasonal fruit. This downy flew in as I photographed Song Sparrows.

All these shots were taken handheld with VR enabled. I still have my Canon SX50HS which I now use for video while the Tamron has now become my go to'Walkabout' lens. Would I have been able to react so quickly to the Merlin flying by if I had been burdened by a tripod, I doubt it and for that reason alone I'm glad I have it.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
Langley Cloverdale

Thursday 4 September 2014

Birds, Birds and more Birds

Sept 3 2014  Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary and Boundary Bay. Sunny and Warm 20c

I was good to be birding again. The wind, the sun, the birds, plus meeting more than a few birding friends made for the perfect morning to go birding. There were the two Peters, both photographers and avid birder Floyd. Super birding duo Tak and Mama rounded out the gaggle watching the two rails and sandpipers.
I also met to Ian, a Canadian who now calls Seattle home, his tally of birds has just surpassed an amazing 6000 species. Sorry to tell you Ian, only 4000 more to go!

A most unusual sight, a Sora (Porzana carolina) in a tree. 
The morning began in a most unusual fashion with number of us photographing a Sora climb a bush and then fly across the pond. No one had ever seen a Sora behaving in that manner. Thanks to Floyd for spotting that one. Then the Virginia Rail came searching for food obliging us with excellent views. As the rails went round their business, the trees behind us were alive with Red-winged Blackbirds, American Goldfinch, Orange-crowned Warblers and Downy Woodpecker. A Lincoln's Sparrow and Yellow Warbler made a brief appearances further along the trail.

Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)
The first three pictures were all taken at the same spot at the corner of the West field.

The two rails, the Sora and Virginia Rail fed within feet of the lookout, seemingly oblivious to onlookers.
Out in the pond seven Stilt Sandpiper fed amongst the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. The Ruff was nowhere to be seen and may have moved on. A Peregrin Falcon flew low scattering the Western Sandpipers. The Yellowlegs headed for the rushes to join a Muskrat feeding on the bullrush tubers.

Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata) with a snail.
Soon it was time to head for Boundary Bay for the rising tide. At 13metres there was hardly any meaningful movement so I donned my boots and walked out into the muddy bay. Except for the odd raiding Peregrine Falcon the flocks of Western Sandpipers had the place to themselves. Small groups of Semipalmated Plovers scurried across the sand accompanied by a few Sanderlings. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs fed together while a spotted Sandpiper picked off insects from a log. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Green-winged Teal and Mallard fed in the shallows.

The image below shows the size difference between a Spotted Sandpiper(l) and the Greater Yellowlegs (r)

Boundary Bay is a busy place in Aug through Oct. Masses of shorebirds migrate through which attracts predators like the Peregrine Falcon. 

The Predator
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

The Prey
Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri)

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris malanotos)

As the tide ebbed it was time to head back to the dyke. I have learnt to tread carefully as many species of Sandpipers feed well away from the water and close to shore. Sometimes they can so well camouflaged any can be very easy to miss.
On my way back I photographed two Black-bellied Plover and this Pectoral Sandpiper. A careful approach is often rewarded with birds continuing to feed, allowing for a close-up image. I carry a small pad to kneel on so that I stay comfortable and dry. This allows me to keep still as sudden movements will flush the bird.

Reaching the dyke I could see quite a few small birds feeding on the piles of pungent and rotting seaweed that had been washed ashore. At first there were a few Savannah Sparrows, their yellow lores and white bellies shone in the sunshine.

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)

As the sparrows became used to my partially hidden location a Cooper's Hawk flew past scattering the smaller birds everywhere, a few minutes later a flock of American Pipits arrived in their place.
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)
The day ended with a search for the pair of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers at the Mansion. They were quite far away out and I was satisfied to watch them through the binoculars.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

©John Gordon 2014

Monday 1 September 2014

August: Out with a Roar

Aug 29 2014 Reifel Migtatory Bird Sanctuary Delta B.C
If early August birding was somewhat slow the last few days of the month certainly made up for it. At Boundary Bay I was able to find small flock of Semipalted Sandpipers, a species I hadn't seen very often. As is often the case I spent an hour winning the trust of the birds only to have them spooked by an unleashed dog.

Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)
I found a small flock of Semipalmated Sandpiper mixed in with a few Western Sandpiper.
Note the shorter bill.

I only averaged of one outing a week but as August came to a close I did manage to include the Stilt Sandpipers and the Ruff or Reeve at Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The Ruff was a 'Lifer' and only the second time I had seen Stilts in the Lower Mainland. I had previously seen them in Churchill, Manitoba where they were in full breeding plumage. For more on that trip see June 2013 blog.
There were also a number adult and juvenile Sora and Virginia Rail at Reifel which delighted many who had not seen the birds before. A small flock of transient Sandhill Cranes proved very popular with visitors, especially the photographers and out of town visitors.

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) at Reifiel

Sora (Porzana carolina)

There were four rails in the West Field, two Virginia and two Sora. Adults and juveniles of both species were evident. It was a quite a treat as the shy and secretive birds showed well as they fed along the pond edges.

Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
The female Ruff (above) is referred to as a Reeve.

Stilt Sandpiper (calidris himantopus)

On the breeding ground the adult birds use Leks in a similar fashion the grouse family.
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)

The ponds at Reifel held both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs giving the opportunity to differentiate the two species.

Although my birding was somewhat curtailed I am lucky to have seen some excellent birds as well as meeting up with some fellow birders who I haven't seen for a while. Meanwhile I hope to keep up with the blog on a more regular basis once school is back, whenever that is!

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon