Friday 16 January 2015

Four Days/One Blog

Jan 12-14 2014 

Day 1. 112th and  Hornby Drive Delta.  Foggy 6c.

It wasn't the best of weather but I had the next three days free. What's a person to do? Suddenly my bird brain hatched a cunning plan, why not go birding!
First stop was nearby 112th and Hornby Drive. I am not too sure what it is about this location but there always seems to be something interesting. Last year I photographed an escapee budgerigar flying with a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds. There is a very photogenic resident leucistic Eurasian Collared-Dove. It has been hanging around for months and much photographed. This is my second attempt to get a portrait, at least there is some contrast to play with this time, in my previous shot the bird was on a wire against a grey sky.

Leucistic Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Another reason to visit the farm at the corner of 112th was the report by Melissa and Liron (two of the best young birders this side of the Rockies) of a hybrid White and Golden-crowned Sparrow. A real oddity. Although I saw the bird briefly I was unable to snag a pic. Next time perhaps, I did however get to see the Rusty Blackbird for my 70th species of the year.

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)
Rusty Blackbird (centre) feeds amongst a mix of Brewer's, Red-winged Blackbirds and European House Sparrows
I spent the rest of the day photographing Yellow-rumped Warblers and a flock of six American Tree Sparrows.

Day 2 Alaksan and Reifel: Foggy, Overcast and Sunny Breaks

Another foggy day, it was grey and the light was flat. I hadn't walked very far when a small flock of sparrows flashed by. One of them was whiter than the rest and a dead give-away, it was the Harris's Sparrow, a bird that has attracted many photographers, myself included. I hadn't yet managed a shot of the bird on a branch, all my shots were of the bird feeding on the ground. This time I managed a different pose.

Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)

Finally the sun came out so I made my way to nearby Alaksen National Wildlife Area
At the parking lot I heard a bird calling from the bushes, it turned out to be a Bewick's Wren.

Bewick's Wren (Thryomaners bewickii)
 The sun had begun to peek through the fog bathing the bird in afternoon sun. Finally it came out of the thickets to continue feeding before a passing car scared it away.

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
On the way out I photographed this Hermit Thrush from the car window.
I had two more species to add to my year list. The fog by this time had enveloped what little sun there had been. Time to head home.

Day 3 Jan 14 2015 Elk View Rd Chilliwack. Sunny 8c.

It was my second attempt to find the Northern Pygmy Owl but with the help of Mel, Peter and Floyd we were successful. Not only did we find the owl we found two. One male and one female. We weren't alone, there was a mini twitch going on as the news spread and the bird's location spread across the interweb. The birds for their part seemed completely unperturbed by the whole circus going on around them.

I composed this shot in the camera. With a little cropping I bisected the frames to aid the composition.
Careful consideration went into the background. Even with lots of forethought I still wasn't able to frame a shot with owls and forest that made any sense. Either the owl was way too small so I went for this composition as my favourite of this series.

This quick snap shot (1 of 3 frames) picture taken with a $300 Canon SX50HS.
All others taken with slightly more expensive Nikon 500mm F4!
The blown out details I think has a lot to do with the file processing.

Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium gnome)
The Pacific race of the Northern Pygmy Owl are more reddish than
their interior cousins. I used backlighting and exposed for the bird.

Disclaimer: All owl pictures taken from the road. No birds were pushed, coralled or harassed. While it might be important to get a good photo, please let these birds feed in peace. Trampling over their hunting territory not only disrupts their feeding regime but scares away prey. The owls rely on unsuspecting voles and other creatures so when a dozen or so photographers are clambering through brush up to their waists just get a little nearer it makes the owls life that much more difficult.

Remember it was a birder who first let us know about these beautiful birds, he was there this week and wishing he had kept the location secret. Most probably there are many other birds out there that the finder(s) won't want to share and for good reasons.

Day 4 Jan 16/14 Blackie Spit Sunny (it was forecast to rain ) and 12c

I hadn't meant to go birding today but I was conducting a one on one photography class at Blackie Spit. During the session this Ruby-crowned Kinglet popped into a tree beside me. It was hawking insects. I used my Tamron 150mm-600mm with the lightweight Nikon D7100.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)

All the other pictures were taken with the Nikon 500mm F4 with the D7100 or D3s.

It was a full week and a welcome break from the hectic pace of the 'real world' I'm sure after a few days rest it will be time to head out again, until's never too late to start birding!

John Gordon


  1. Beautiful shots John. It was so great birding with you and the guys! Your owl pics are fabulous. I also love the leucistic dove you first found many months ago last week I saw him mate with a female so we can be sure he is a male ;-). I love the hermit thrush shot as well and boy that rusty blackbird is a beautiful bird. Hope you have a great trip to england.


  2. Thanks for guiding us to the owls. It was a treat to find the two owls and the weather was perfect. I am hoping to add the Golden Eagle, Gyrfalcon to my year list which is 81 species so far. I had a flock of Chestnut-backed Chickadees at my feeder this morning which gave me species #81.