Saturday 30 January 2016

Vancouver Birders Go Gull Crazy

Jan 28th 2015 Trout Lake Clouds and Sun 9c

UK and Asia readers might wonder why this blog features the very common Black-headed Gull. Simple, it's only the second record in British Columbia since 2001. That's enough of a reason for many birders to make the trek to a small Vancouver pond. A red beak and legs make is easy enough to spot amongst the similar sized Ring-billed and larger Glaucous-winged Gulls.
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Trout Lake.
It took a while to find the bird as it was on the water when I arrived. Finally it flew over to a grassy area with a few ring-billed and just as I was going to snap a picture a dog flushed the flock and off they flew. 

Later a savvy photographer from Washington State came armed with a loaf of bread (why didn't I think of that) and soon the gulls were temped to fly close enough for some flight shots.

The red legs were a giveaway compared to the pale yellow/green of the Ring-billed Gulls.

I panned the camera with the bird to create the soft pastel background.
Using the Nikon 200mm-500mm zoom allowed me to crop in the camera when the bird came really close.

****               ****               ****
 Comparison shots from the Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire UK 2014 showing breeding plumage.
Courtship display Gibraltar Point UK.

Black-headed Gulls in full breeding plumage are colony nesters and make simple nests in the mud. 

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

BC Canada

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Siberian Accentor Makes the News.

Jan 27 2016

When the local newspaper phoned and asked me to give some background on the Siberian Accentor twitch I had no idea the story was going to be front page!

This what came about after being interviewed over the phone.

More on the Siberian Accentor

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

Thursday 21 January 2016

Finally..If At First You Don't Succeed!

Jan 20 2015 160th and Colebrook Rd Surrey British Columbia Canada
 8c Clouds and Sun

During the past two weeks I have been among many birders flocking to the Singh Blueberry farm in Surrey. The goal was to hopefully catch a glimpse or even better photograph a vagrant Siberian Accentor that had landed on our shores. Despite the location being only ten minutes from my Cloverdale home the bird proved quite a challenge.
How long it has been around no one knows. There is link at the end of the blog for those interested in historical data. Anyway, the accentor has and continues to show in and around a blueberry farm and bushes surrounding an abandoned farm building.
Originally it was found during the White Rock Christmas Bird Count by BC birder George Clulow and his crew. It's not the first rarity found during an annual count and I'm sure not the last.
I haven't been on that many twitches but talking to the many birders present the accentor was proving difficult to tick. The chances of ever seeing one again are probably non-existent so this was a chance of a lifetime not to be passed up. I expect quite a few have already left disappointed while others scored on their very first visit.
Today all that finally changed for myself and about thirty lucky birders when the accentor was spotted by 'Big' Mike Tabak who kindly alerted us all to the bird's presence in a bush next to the house. Only moments before Mike and I had been chatting about how much co-operation there is between birders. He's right of course, one of the best things about birding is the camaraderie and of course the odd rarity thrown in for good measure!

Siberian Accentor (Prunella montanella)

Leucistic Dark-eyed Junco. 

The Back Story
The waiting game for me began Jan11th with a fruitless 8 hour wait. When the sun set I photographed this pretty looking junco so that the whole day wasn't a complete loss. Cute face Eh!
The next two days it poured and only the hardy and those who had flown in from far away stuck it out.
Jan14th I spent another seven fruitless hours peering through my bins and snapping shots of sparrows but to tell you the truth my heart wasn't really into it, there was a lifer out there and that was the only thing that was going to satisfy my bird addled brain! Jan15th I put in a mere five hours, again with no success. The word was getting around, don't stand next to John Gordon but there were plenty of others who had made numerous visits and were yet to see the bird. It was so cold I could hear my kneecaps rattling. Then just as I thought my luck would break the bird appeared in front of us and to be honest I couldn't see it for the life of me, so deep it was in the thickets. I couldn't count it. Things were looking up, I would have to return. I spent the next three days knocked out by the flu, unable to bird and even too sick watch the FA Cup games...
Eventually enough energy returned to spend the morning of Jan20th birding and besides I needed some fresh air. Some of the familiar faces were there, some who had seen the bird, others who had already had glimpses but were hoping for a better view and those like myself who were just hoping for anything. 
Two hours into the wait I was packing away my gear with the idea of returning in the afternoon when the bird landed on a bush beside the house. I ran with my camera and tripod, heart beating from the short sprint from the farm gate to the bush. As I looked through the viewfinder there it was.
Siberia Accentor (Prunella montanella)
The wait was finally over! 

After perhaps 30 seconds the bird flew from the bush into a conifer where it sat on top and sang for a brief moment. Many had great shots, there was smiles all around, a few high fives, a huge sigh of relief and for some a mad dash back to the ferry or airport.

Overheard at the Siberian Accentor twitch.

1. I saw the bird for 5 secs about four hundred metres away!
2. I saw the bird's leg and rump in a bush, I think!
3. The bird was in right in front of me but I couldn't see it! 
4. The bird turned up 5 minutes after I left.
5. The bird turned up 5 minutes before I arrived.
6. The bird turned up in my dreams.
7. I was there when the bird made a brief appearance but I couldn't get on it.
8. My wife who isn't a birder but came to see what was the fuss was about saw it but I didn't!
9. Gord's son saw it but dad didn't, Ouch!
10. Have you seen the bird yet?

                   Obviously I have way too much time on my hands so until the next time. Here are some links

                  George Clulow supplied me with this historical reference which makes for a great read.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada
Siberian Accentor Capital of Canada

Friday 15 January 2016

Brookside Inn Abbotsford BC/Lesser Goldfinch

Jan 8th 2015 Brookside Inn Abbotsford BC. Mixed clouds and sun 12c.

I had just arrived in Vancouver after a nine hour flight from the UK. The jet lag saw me wide awake 4 a.m. next morning, fortunately I had taped a couple of FA Cup games to tide me over until dawn. As much as I like travelling it is always great to be back home in Canada.
While I was away I had noticed a forum posting for a Lesser Goldfinch, a bird I had yet to photograph and best of all it was only a few miles from my home. Brookside Inn in Abbotsford has a number of feeders making photography a snap and it was the during a Christmas bird count that the Lesser Greenfinch was found. The gracious owners Chris and Sandy, both avid birders have opened their garden to all and sundry.
Anna's Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
I would like to thank Brookside Inn owner Chris and Sandy for allowing myself and numerous others access to their garden to photograph the Lesser Goldfinch.
Brookside Inn and their charming hosts would be a great place for out of town birders to stay with easy access to numerous birding sites in the Fraser Valley. The Inn is spacious and the rooms are fitted out to various movie themes for the film buffs amongst you. For birders arriving in Canada (Abbotsford airport is only 15 minutes away) he or she could be birding moments after checking in. I intend to return for a better shot of the goldfinch but until I get a sighting of the Siberian Accentor the goldfinch will have to wait.

Here is link to Brookside Inn.

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