Wednesday 7 December 2016

Afternoon Birding

Dec 4 2016  Boundary Bay Bay Various Locations.

I hadn't planned to go birding. It was just one of those days when the rain and wind just wouldn't stop. I had decided to sit by the bay window, listen to the patter of rain and read a few chapters of Trevor Herriot's latest book, The Road is How. Between chapters I made myself a coffee and watched birds at the feeder. Over the years we have had thirty-six species visit us.
A break in the clouds offered up the possibility of a few hours birding on the bay. 

 I was mid-afternoon when I arrived at the dyke, the wind had died down the clouds had parted. The only remaining question being, was there going to be some "sweet light" later in the day?
 I was only feet from the parking lot when a mixed flock including a yellow-rumped warbler caught my attention. I had hardly time to set-up my camera. Recently I have been shooting at high ISO's and have been forgetting to set it back my standard ISO 400. Anyway, technical particulars aside and after several attempts to get a clear shot, the warbler landed on a perch with a nice clean background.
Yellow-rumped warblers are able to survive our wet and cold winters by switching from an insectivore diet to a seed based food supply.
Yellow-rumped warbler.

In the distance, silhouetted against the sky six meadowlark were resting on a pacific crabapple tree. I had heard them earlier but they tend to be secretive and hunker down in long grass, hiding away from predators. As I crept closer, four birds flew away, with sun now behind me only two of the flock remained. One was behind a tangle of twigs and wouldn't make a good photo, this one fairly out in the open made for a better composition. Note the wind ruffling the breast feathers. You can see the setting sun as a catchlight.
Western meadowlark
There were four northern harriers hunting over the foreshore, occasionally they all seemed to converge on the same territory, over lapping each others hunting grounds. The resulting acrobatics too fast for this photographer but nevertheless a joy to watch.
Northern Harrier.
Northern harriers never fail to interest me. They're like silver ghosts patrolling the foreshore, deathly hunting machines.
Purple finch.
Purple finches pick out the seeds of the pacific crab apple, leaving the pith to fall to the ground.

Rough-legged hawk.

The rough-legged hawk (above) is one of the most majestic birds to be found on the bay. It can be easily identified from most of our other Lower Mainland hawks by the way it hovers while hunting. If unsuccessful in the hunt it will bank skyward gaining elevation before slowly gliding to almost a stop, when again it will begin the hover looking for unsuspecting prey.

Sharp-shinned hawk.
The sharp-shinned hawk hunts for voles along a log strewn foreshore. 

Sharp-shinned hawk on the move

Once I had acquired a good photograph I just had to wait until it took off, hopefully in my direction. I should have used a faster shutter speed of at least 1/1000 of a second but on the other hand the motion (from too slow a shutter speed) in the wings does imply movement. 

Short-eared owl.
I love to photograph backlit subjects. It's nearly always better to have good light over the shoulder but sometimes our avian friends just won't co-operate. Having photographed short-eared owls many times before it is always a challenge to come up with something a little new. These two images demonstrate how the"feel" of the same bird photographed moments apart can reveal much about the creatures anatomy.
Short-eared owl

As I mentioned before in many of my blogs I feel so lucky to live so close to one of Canada's premier birding hotspots. I hope that over the next two decades, when a million more people are anticipated  move to move to British Columbia that humans and birds can continue co-exist. We as birders have to be diligent and monitor our governments and big business. We will have to, so that future generations will be able to enjoy the unbelievable beauty that is Boundary Bay and other birding areas in BC and Canada.

More about Boundary Bay

More of Trevor Herriot
Trevor's book

Nature conservancy and Trevor Herriot

Trevor Herriot /Nature Conservancy

"It's never too late to start birding:

John Gordon
BC Canada

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