Wednesday 28 October 2015

Another Twitch

Oct 26-27 2015 Hougen Park, Sumas Prairie Abbotsford BC.
The weekends are usually set aside for family time (except for mega twitches) so I was hoping that the Pacific Loon would hang around until Monday. So it was with great anticipation I headed out to Abbotsford Monday morning. Local birder Henry Wall had found the loon in a local slough a few days earlier. After scanning the creek for about 30 minutes without any luck I decided to drive through adjacent Sumas Prairie farmlands to see if there were any newly arrived raptors. During winter Sumas Prairie is a great place to see Bald and the occasional Golden Eagle. If you are very lucky even a Harlen's Red-tailed Hawk, Gyrfalcon or some of the of smaller raptors. On this particular day there were quite few Western Meadowlarks in the fields.
The Kingfishers use the conveniently places telephone wires to hunt along the roadside ditches which at this time of year are teeming with life. The following shots were taken with the D7100 and Nikon 200mm-500mm from the car window.

Belted Kingfisher
Only a few metres down the road a juvenile American Kestrel was hunting, also utilizing the wire as a perch.
American Kestrel
For those of you who have driven Sumas Prairie the roads can be very busy, especially during harvest time but that didn't seem to deter these birds feasting on some spilt grain.

Spilt grain in a welcome treat for American, Crows,  European Starlings and Brewer's and Red-winged Blackbirds.

I then went to the Chiliwack Heron Reserve where feeders are always worth a check. Sure enough nothing too special until out from under a bush a juvenile White-throated Sparrow popped out. Its crown already turning from brown to white. One of my favourite sparrows and always nice to see.

Juvenile White-throated Sparrow.

Then I sat back and had lunch overlooking the small lake. A pair of Hooded Mergansers dived for food, several Bufflehead floated with heads tucked on their backs. A Kingfisher rattled across the water and a Ring-necked Duck sat motionless with beads of water resting on its head. Could life get much better when suddenly the sun broke through and its warmth seemed to bring a host of new activity including three Anna's Hummingbirds. One landed so close I could barely get it in the frame.
Anna's Hummingbird
For those of my readers from outside Canada who may be surprised to know that the Anna's Hummingbird overwinters here on the BC coast. Forget about the frigid temperatures from the rest of Canada. BC isn't called Lotus Land for nothing. 
Over the past few decades Anna's have gradually established as a wintering species. The preponderance of hummingbird feeders could be one reason as well as global warming or perhaps El Nino which is seeing warmer winters here on the coast. I tell most Brits our climate is akin to Cornwall, Guernsey or Jersey, defiantly not Newcastle or Manchester!

After a little sunbathing it was time to return in search of the Pacific Loon. I found a Hooded Merganser that had just empaled a crayfish and then a Red-necked Grebe but no loon.
Hooded Merganser with crayfish.

Red-necked Grebe

I had another look but couldn't find it and decided to make my way home. Fortunately I left my phone number with another birder, Bill Thomas. I hadn't been on the road more than five minutes when the phone rang with the news the bird had been re-located. I returned and voila!

Pacific Loon. Not the best shot.
Not happy with my efforts I returned the next day and found the photographers and birders first and then the loon. How easy is that!
Here area few more images and this time the bird popped up so close to me I couldn't hardly fit it in the frame. 

Pacific Loon with a hapless Pumpkinseed Sunfish.
                                                               More on Pumpkinseed

The Loon dropped and lost the fish a few times before it eventually re-captured it, this time the loon popped up right in front of me. It was the first fish I had seen it catch in the two hours I observed the bird. At least it was eating as there was little concern it may have a injury but I don't think that is the case as  I am told it continued to feed after I had left.

I used a Nikon D300s with 500mm 1x4 extender and tripod. I had just taken off my D3s which would have been better as I landed up bring too close in the end, funny how these things work out.

Anyway, it was another bird to add to my 2015 Canada list which now is #292 species. I know some birders have that many species from just in BC which is pretty amazing tally. One birder I know had one hundred species on New Year's Day. One year I might try for 300 plus BC species but at this moment I am just happy to bumble, stumble and ramble on enjoying the birding experience for all its worth. If you are out in field please say hello and don't forget what the T-Shits says Eat, Sleep and Bird!

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


  1. That final shot of the PALO with the sunfish in it's beak is priceless! Great blog post as usual my friend!

    1. Thanks, the yellow of the fish and blue of the bird make the image work. It was worth going a second time.