Tuesday 18 November 2014

Harris's Sparrow Twice

Nov17 2014 Iona Regional Park and Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Richmond BC Sunny 6c

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
I include the image of the House Finch for no other reason than I like it. If I didn't like it I wouldn't have taken it in the first place, it's as simple as that. I only photograph what catches my eye. I am drawn to this image because of the muted earth tones, it was one of the first frames I took while waiting for my next subject, the Harris's Sparrow.

Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)

This wasn't exactly a hard bird to find, someone had left seed the previous day. When I arrived on Monday morning a flock of sparrows including Golden-crowned, Spotted Towhees, Song and Fox were busily scratching the ground. After a ten minute wait there he was, the much sought after Harris's Sparrow. It wouldn't be a lifer for me as I had photographer adult birds in Churchill, Manitoba. David Tang, myself and another couple were the only ones there.
For those interested in seeing a Harris's in full plumage see June 2012 blog.
Harris's Sparrow Adult/Manitoba

The Harris's Sparrow is not that common in the Lower Mainland so it is a 'good bird' for those wanting it for their BC list, myself I only have a Canada list. Perhaps one day i'll get completely addicted to birding and have all kind of lists!
Next up I had this crazy idea to see whether on my way home I could find the other Harris's that had been spotted at Reifel. On arrival I couldn't find the bird anywhere but didn't matter. I continued my way along to the outer dyke to look for the Swamp Sparrow, a bird that has been quite a nemesis for me. Yet again, a reed stem got in the way of a decent shot. Oh well, there's always tomorrow!

Eventually i'll get a clear shot.

While waiting for the Swamp to re-appear I thought I saw some movement along the dyke, with the sun in my face it was hard to discern whether it was an American Robin or perhaps a Northern Shrike. I slowly inched my way along the dyke until the sun was in a better position. Just as I was going to press the shutter, you guessed, the bird took off. I started my approach again and this time I was able to shoot through some bushes with the aperture wide open (F4 or F6.7 with the 1x4 converter) so that the branches didn't show.
Here is the result. On close inspection some blood can be seen on the bill of the shrike, living up to its nickname 'Butcher Bird'
Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor)
Sibley's notes that the shrike is uncommon to rare and indeed I normally see only a few each year. This is my fourth already this winter.

Both these images look like they are taken in the open but are in fact shoot through a small gap in a maze of thin branches. As mentioned this effect can be had by shooting wide open and a long lens.
I used a D7100 plus a Nikon 500 F4 with a 1x4 extender which is about a 1000mm. The neck and back pain come free with the job!

Anyway, with all these distractions I made my way back to car. On the way I couldn't resist a few shots of a male Wood Duck reflected in the dark water. As I approached a turn in the trail I spotted a flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows feeding on seed someone had thrown around. Within minutes the bird I couldn't find earlier suddenly jumped into view and viola, I had my two Harris's Sparrow something I hadn't really planned on but it was nice way to end the day.

Harris's Sparrow at Reifel

I had so much fun I forgot to mention the Peregrine Falcon flying at hyper speed to chase off another from its territory, there was even a few feathers flying on impact. This type of behaviour seen from a distance is what attracts me to birding. Even the Dark-eyed Junco was fun to watch as it looked for seeds someone had put in the hollow of a tree trunk.

I hope you've enjoyed this ramble, I certainly enjoyed my day out and adding these images to my portfolio.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

1 comment:

  1. Your blog posts are so wonderful John! I love the photos here especially of the house finch! Great find on the swamp sparrow and nice views and shots of both harris's. There is also one in southlands as well so we have quite a few this year in winter plumage. I hope you see them in breeding plumage they are quite striking all black and white heads.

    Swamp sparrows are notoriously hard to find. I did get to see one recently in SK and they are really beautiful. The juvenile shrike you got is gorgeous shots ! Really great job and finds