Thursday 29 June 2017

Birding Peace River Part 2

June 13 2017 Dawson Creek Area 
BC Canada

The breeze coming off McQueen's Slough was a welcome change after a long day in the heat. McQueen's Slough is surrounded by rolling farmland and provided some of the best birding of the trip. There were birds everywhere. Black Terns over the marshes and Marsh Wrens scolding us as we walked along the boardwalks. 

Tree Swallow with a tasty meal.

  There were plenty of tree swallow boxes with parent birds bringing in what looked like damsel flies.         

McQueen's Slough

Marsh Wren.

Ruddy Duck.
McQueen's Slough, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 13, 2017 12:53 PM - 3:11 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.1 kilometer(s)
40 species

Canada Goose  9
Trumpeter Swan  4
Gadwall  6
American Wigeon  2
Mallard  12
Blue-winged Teal  6
Northern Shoveler  3
Northern Pintail  3
Green-winged Teal  3
Canvasback  3
Redhead  4
Ring-necked Duck  2
Lesser Scaup  30
Bufflehead  12
Ruddy Duck  12
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Eared Grebe  8
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Sora  15
American Coot  8
Wilson's Snipe  2
Franklin's Gull  20
Black Tern  8
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Alder Flycatcher  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
American Crow  2
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Marsh Wren  12
Common Yellowthroat  7
Yellow Warbler  15
Clay-colored Sparrow  4
Savannah Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  28
Yellow-headed Blackbird  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  3

The Clay-coloured Sparrow is a favourite of mine when birding outside the Lower Mainland.

Clay-coloured Sparrow.


Swan Lake, Tupper--Road 201 south, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 13, 2017 6:39 AM - 9:12 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.4 kilometer(s)
18 species

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Least Flycatcher  6
Philadelphia Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  7
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Swainson's Thrush  3
American Robin  2
Tennessee Warbler  1
Mourning Warbler  3
American Redstart  8
Yellow Warbler  7
Blackpoll Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  3
Fox Sparrow  5
White-throated Sparrow  5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2

Parting Shot

The Mourning Warbler was another long distance shot but what matters is that it was a lifer for many in the group including myself. The bird gave us a merry chase but eventually gave us great looks.

Mourning Warbler.

The three days of birding was finally coming to an end yet our guide Brian Paterson had one last trick up his sleeve. The weather was worsening as we drove slowly along a rural gravel road listening for any signs of a Connecticut Warbler. Brian was determined to find the bird for us and soon we were on foot and headed into the forest.
We were getting warbler neck, looking up and up and listening hoping for the bird to give away its location. There was no point wearing my glasses and forget about pointing a camera lens skyward, there was just too much rain. Finally after about twenty minutes the diminutive warbler sat out in the open long enough for us all to get really great views. What a way to end the BCFO extension trip.
On the way back to the truck I started to shiver and only then did I realize I was soaking wet. 
Time to buy a new waterproof jacket.


"Its never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
 BC Canada

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Birding Peace River

June 11-13 Dawson Creek and 
Fort St John Area. 
British Columbia

The Peace River region is somewhere I had always wanted to visit. Situated in the northern part of British Columbia, the Peace is a three thousand kilometre round trip journey from Vancouver.
Three days of hard core birding were slated for June 11-13 following the BCFO convention in Tumbler Ridge.

Twenty birders were split into 2 groups. Mark Phinney and Brian Paterson were group leaders.
Based in Dawson Creek and led by Brian our group visited numerous birding hotspots including Swan Lake, Road 201 and McQueens's Slough. Day 2 saw us visit Fort St John where we birded Beaton Park and Boundary Lake, Watson Slough as well as spots in-between.

Here are some of the results:

White-breasted Nuthatch
Like the Blue Jay below this bird came to the bird feeder at Mark Phinney's home where the group were treated to freshly baked cookies. How's that for service! 
A very wet Blue Jay at Mark Phinney's feeder. 
Rose-breasted grosbeak.
Many of these birds were singing from distant tree tops.

 Below is an interesting view of a Western Tanager as seen through what would be the equivalent of 12x bins. Later in the trip I was able to get tanager close-ups when photographing on my own.

Western Tanager

Common Grackle.
CA-BC-4909-4927 Old Hart Hwy (55.7388,-120.5445), Peace River, British Columbia, CA

Jun 11, 2017 3:51 PM - 4:06 PM

Protocol: Stationary

11 species

Hairy Woodpecker  1

Blue Jay  1

Black-capped Chickadee  1

White-breasted Nuthatch  1

Dark-eyed Junco  2

Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Common Grackle  5
Purple Finch  3
Pine Siskin  1
Evening Grosbeak  2

Eastern Kingbird

CA-BC-Peace River D (55.7084,-120.4761), Peace River, British Columbia, CA

Jun 11, 2017 5:48 PM - 5:53 PM

Protocol: Stationary

4 species

Olive-sided Flycatcher  1

Eastern Kingbird  1

Le Conte's Sparrow  1

Savannah Sparrow  1
Le Conte's Sparrow
The Le Conte's Sparrow was a target bird for many in the group and thanks to our group leaders everyone had great views. These birds prefer undisturbed wet fields. On reflection I would have preferred to have photographed the bird from more of a side angle but I didn't want to risk flushing it before everyone had had a good view. Thanks to Brian Paterson for getting us on the bird.

Solitary Sandpiper.
The numerous beaver ponds throughout the area attract waterfowl and birds like the Solitary Sandpiper which uses abandoned songbird nests in which to lay their eggs and raise their young.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Some of the best information I came away with from the group leaders was how to "read" the forest floor. While some birds might require the forest covered in wildflowers (vireos and warbles) other birds like the Ovenbird prefer open forest floor with little foliage. Knowledge like this helps the birder zone in on target species.
Swainson's Thrush

Eastern Phoebe
This bird was nesting as many phoebe's do inside a farm building. It has just caught a skipper type butterfly.

Some birds we saw:
Thanks to George Clulow for keeping the count.

Beatton Provincial Park, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 12, 2017 6:48 AM - 8:58 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.66 kilometer(s)
27 species

Osprey  1
Bald Eagle  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  4
Olive-sided Flycatcher  2
Least Flycatcher  15
Philadelphia Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  3
Red-eyed Vireo  2
American Crow  1
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Winter Wren  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Swainson's Thrush  7
American Robin  3
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  3
Black-and-white Warbler  2
American Redstart  6
Yellow Warbler  5
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Canada Warbler  3
White-throated Sparrow  4
Western Tanager  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  4
To be cont.. 

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

Saturday 24 June 2017

Birding Tumbler Ridge

June 10 2017 Tumbler Ridge Brassey Creek BC.

Birding with birders can be a most interesting experience. Normally I photograph on my own or car-pool with another photographer. We might spend a morning or sometimes all day stalking one species. Sometimes we come up blank, other days we capture something that makes the outing really worthwhile.

The advantages of joining a birding group are many. The first is you'll see a lot more species, sometimes over a hundred species in a single day. A group led by an experienced leader with local knowledge is the key to finding difficult species. Our group leader in Tumbler Ridge was renowned birder Mark Phinney. His specialized knowledge led us to a number eastern species not normally found in BC. A second group was led by Brian Paterson, another excellent birder. Brian would eventually lead the post extension trip I was to join but that's another story.

We had two mornings of birding before the business part of British Columbia Federation of Ornithologists (BCFO) annual conference. There were a number of trips arranged and I chose the Brassey Creek option. Brassey creek is a forty minute drive north off Tumbler Ridge. When we arrived it looked just like any other areas we had just driven by. Obviously Mark had scouted out the location and was able to pinpoint a number of species before many of us could even see them. Our first stop was a gravel pit where we soon found several Wilson's Snipe, Lincoln's Sparrows and a Townsend's Solitaire.

Townsend's Solitaire.

It was at Brassey Creek Rd that many of us got our first lifer of the trip. Mark took us into the forest of aspen and fir, the understory he explained would be ideal for vireos and warblers.
Soon enough Mark has us on a Philadelphia Vireo, a lifer for me and many in the party.

Philadelphia Vireo.

The more time we spent in the forest the more birds we found. Don't even mention the mosquitos which were soon forgotten when a Black and White Warbler gave us fleeting views before disappearing off into the canopy. 

Black and White Warbler.

Another bird we saw from a distance was the blue-heard Vireo, not a lifer for me but a BC bird all the same. If I was to return to the area I think a week or two earlier when there would be less foliage.

Blue-Headed Vireo.

Thanks to Mark our group was now getting some really good birds. As you can imagine a group of ten can make quite a lot of noise. It always amazes me how when arriving on location birders are great slammers of car doors. I also wonder why some birders don white shirts and hats and bright red anoraks. Don't me wrong I know how ridiculous some photographers can look dressed up in camo but white!


A long distance shot the Ovenbird, another of those eastern species found in Peace River region and nowhere else in BC. Possibly because of the size of the group we were never able to get very close to any of the birds which was fine with me and everyone seemed to be more than happy as long as they had a good views. 

Tennessee Warbler.
Once I have photographed a species a few times I start looking for opportunities that display different  behavoir patterns like this Tennessee Warbler gleaning a caterpillar. 

This bird is obviously distracted by a dozen sets of eyes, it remained long enough for a few frames.

White-throated Sparrow.
The blue skies and warmth of Saturday were replaced by torrential rain Sunday. Despite that we still went out but the inclement meant the birding wasn't as good but that's how it goes sometimes.
Overall the convention was a great success, great company, and new contacts made, two lifers in the bag and the added excitement of leaving for Dawson Creek for four more days of hardcore birding.
A birder's dream!

Below are a some of the Tumbler Ridge sightings.

Fish Creek Community Forest, Peace River, British Columbia, CA

Jun 12, 2017 9:46 AM - 10:51 AM

Protocol: Traveling
1.88 kilometer(s)
19 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  1

Hairy Woodpecker  1
Olive-sided Flycatcher  3
Western Wood-Pewee  2
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
Brown Creeper  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Swainson's Thrush  5
American Robin  4
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  2
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Western Tanager  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1


Swan Lake, Tupper--Road 201 south, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 13, 2017 6:39 AM - 9:12 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.4 kilometer(s)
18 species

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Least Flycatcher  6
Philadelphia Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  7
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Swainson's Thrush  3
American Robin  2
Tennessee Warbler  1
Mourning Warbler  3
American Redstart  8
Yellow Warbler  7
Blackpoll Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  3
Fox Sparrow  5
White-throated Sparrow  5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Quesnel Birding

Quesnel British Columbia June 7-8 2017

My eventual destination Quesnel was an eight hour drive north from Vancouver. To break the journey  I stopped off at Williams Lake to rest, picnic and bird 

There were the usual suspects including the following

Finally it was time to leave for Quesnel where I was to meet up with other birders prior to the British Columbia Field Ornithologists (BCFO) AGM and conference in Tumbler Ridge. Two days of birding in Quesnel had been arranged with group leaders and local birding experts Adrian Leather and Brian Murlands. 
The Quesnel area has a good mix of birds and a variety of habitats to explore. We would not be disappointed. The itinerary included trips to the West Fraser Loop including visits to Soda Creek, Route 26 to Barkerville and Wells as well as the prolific bench lands on West Fraser Road.
Below are some of the birds to be found in the area. Our group, led by Brian Murlands ticked 116 species. 
Combined both groups spotted 129 species in two days. That's more than some of the five day BC Bird Breeding Atlas trips I had been on! 

We birded the road to Barkerville on Day 1 and Day 2 the West Fraser Rd which is across the river (see map) from Hwy 97 and south of Quesnel.

The first bird of the day was this merlin that was looking for an early morning breakfast.

Once some of us learnt to recognize the call of the American Redstart it was easy to locate them skulking in the bushes.

American Redstart.
The road to Barkerville offered up some choice birding locations. One of the best was the historic community of Stanley. It was here we found a good variety of flycatchers, thrushes, crossbills, grosbeaks and warblers. The highlight for many of us was the Tennessee Warbler which popped out of the shrubbery to give everyone a great look.

Tennessee Warbler. 

Another Stanley bird was the Swainson's Thrush which came out of the thick forest to see what all the fuss was about, namely 10 birders waddling around in gumboots and rain gear.

Swainson's Thrush


Photographing a bird in its habitat is usually no problem, most times the subject matter is so far way  that loads of background is inevitably included whether you want it or not.
Often the background is so cluttered with distractions that the resulting picture often ends up confusing to the viewer.
Perhaps this picture is a compromise and different enough from the close-up field guide pictures which most photographers are obsessed with. The snipe was a long way off so I had a chance to carefully plan the background by moving my original position. I'm not too sure if it works or not but as I have plenty of close-ups of Wilson's Snipe already I gave me the opportunity to try something different.
Wilson's Snipe and marshland.

The area around historic Stanley had numerous species of flycatcher including allow, alder and least.

As mentioned earlier, backgrounds are so important when photographing birds. There were other opportunities to photograph the species but I chose this one because of the dark background which I knew would set off the light coloured bird against the dark shadows in the background.

Least Flycatcher.

I really like the painterly quality of the image below. The pastel colours blend well with the bird's plumage.
A Song Sparrow carries an insect to the nest.

The road to Baskerville and Wells provided plenty of opportunity to photograph warblers including Blackpoll, Wilson's, Yellow, Tennessee and Northern Waterthrush.

Spruce Grouse.
Finally after ticking off over one hundred species and just as we were leaving for the day we bumped into Adrian Leather's group who had spotted a Spruce Grouse high up in a tree. The bird posed for us before moving to a better perch where it continued to feed on spruce buds about twenty metres from the ground.

This is what birders look like when they find a good bird. Some call it warbler neck others just get a pain in the neck.


Day 2

West Fraser Rd offers the opportunity for some great birding and exceptional scenery.

 Northern Mockingbird, a rarity for the area. 
One of the group (who wants to remain anonymous) spotted this Northern Mockingbird, a rarity for the area at the Dunn Levy Ranch, 5845 Soda Creek, MaCalister Rd, Mcleese Lake, BC.

Willow Flycatcher

The two days passed way too quickly. I plan to return to make some sound recordings as the West Fraser Road in particular is quiet.
 I would like to thank Brain and Adrian for hosting and herding the flock from place to place and to the BCFO who originally hatched the idea of two days birding prior to AGM and Conference.
Finally, I am already planning a return trip to the area later in the summer.
"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada

Friday 2 June 2017

A Really Good Chat

May31/2017 Bell Park, Brookswood Langley BC

Every once in a while a really good bird takes a wrong turn and lands close to home. Such was the case this week when Langley birder Cos van Wermeskerken found a Yellow-breasted Chat behind his home in Langley. He's one of the lucky ones whose property backs on to a municipal park. The Yellow-breasted chat is a very rare occurrence in the Lower Mainland and endangered in Canada where their numbers can be counted not in the thousands but in the hundreds. Their preferred wetland habitat has now been severely depleted. Normally the best place to see them in BC is the Okanagan Valley, especially Road 22 where some wetland habitat remains relatively untouched.

When Carlo and I arrived at Bell Park we were greeted by the raucous call of the chat. We still hadn't seen it by the time we hooked up with Mike K and Raymond. They had already seen the bird high up in the trees and for fifteen minutes it continued to give us only slightest of glimpses.
Un-cropped image

Eventually we were joined by Quentin, Floyd, Peter and Brett. Floyd was the first to spot the bird which had now come down to eye level, we couldn't believe our luck, not only did the bird choose a number of photogenic backgrounds it sang as well. We all the chance of some great stills and some amazing video.

Yellow-breasted Chat

We couldn't believe our luck, as we left we all had the widest smiles. We left the bird to forage in peace. No doubt there will be a steady procession of birders arriving soon.

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