Thursday 23 November 2017

Redpolls Finally

Nov 20 2017 Mill  Lake Abbotsford BC

I had been looking for Common Redpolls for weeks. Finding a reliable report is fine but flocks tend to move around making them difficult to locate. This time I had a good lead from vanbcbirds that there had been a sighting in Abbotsford. That was on Saturday, Sunday I had other plans but for Monday I had the time to make the thirty minute trip from Cloverdale
When I arrived Mill Lake was wet and cold, even a few flakes of snow. After walking halfway around the lake without much luck I finally spotted a small flock of birds. There were perhaps twenty in total, soon more arrived and then another influx, I counted at least a hundred. They were too far away to photograph and were high in the trees against an ugly grey sky. Apart from a few Pine Siskins, a single Black-capped Chickadee and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet they were all Common Redpolls.

As I mentioned I had heard about the flock on vanbcbirds, a list server that notifies birders about bird sightings. Where ever I have travelled in BC, across Canada or around the world I have found an amazing network of birders willing to take the time to show complete strangers like myself around their patch, it's simply amazing. Most areas have birding sites like vanbcbirds so why not go online next time you are headed out, it's well worth it. 

Recently I have been wondering how much ego is wrapped up in the publishing images on social media. Why do we continue to photograph a species especially one at risk when we may already have dozens images already on file? Sometimes we may happen upon a bird and the opportunity presents itself and that can be fine but when twenty or more photographers converge on the same bird day after day and when it's the same photographers morning, day and night there has to be some questions asked about the motive. Maybe they're new to bird photography and will move on to other species once they have their fill. The focus for everyone is different but meanwhile wildlife can't speak for itself. Finally it's up to the individual to become mindful the impact the pressure might have on wildlife.

Another place to find put about BC bird sightings is


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

Tuesday 14 November 2017

The Langleys-Another Book Review

The Langley Times and reporter Monique Tamminga  gave The Langleys a super write-up resulting in the book selling out at Chapters. I have now re-stocked the book. Thanks to everyone for helping making the book such a success. 

  1. The Langleys

Monday 13 November 2017

Fall Birding in Metro Vancouver

Oct 21-Nov12 2017 Various Locations/Lower Mainland

After returning from my visit to the UK I was eager to go birding again.

Apparently I hadn't missed too many birds for my year list, only the American Avocet stands out as a complete loss as it was long gone by my return.
All that remained was to catch up with the odd vagrant and newly arriving winter species. 

Iona South Jetty

The Horned Lark, was a recent arrival at Iona south jetty.

I used my iPhone for this aerial view of Iona's south jetty as I left for the UK. The Horned Lark and Snow Buntings were found halfway along the jetty on the day of my return in mid-Oct.

This Merlin had just captured an American Goldfinch.

A pair of Snow Buntings feed on seeds halfway along the south jetty. The jet lag was completely forgotten as I concentrated on trying to get two birds in one frame. Does it really matter that the one in the background is out of focus, I don't think so. Even with F8 there isn't enough depth of field, besides selective focus is a technique I use often in flower photography. The lack of focus  forces the viewer to alternate between foreground and background.

A flock of snow geese rest in the shallows at Iona. The standout was of course the adult blue morph snow goose in the top centre in the photo.


A few days later I headed to Reifel to search for the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, I dipped. Just as I was leaving I watched a Sora scuttle across the shallow water. I saw it again but was too slow for a picture, besides the light wasn't great and I already have a good number of pix of the secretive rail so why not just, just sit back and enjoy the moment. Taking pictures mindlessly is like going to a concert and videotaping the show with your iPhone, really pointless in my opinion.

While chatting with birders in the UK they mentioned how they admired the majesty of the Bald Eagle. When I mentioned that one recent winter afternoon we have had over one thousand at Boundary Bay they were speechless. 
                                                           Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

           The Cedar Waxwing chomps on a Pacific Crabapple. 

Boundary Bay

I originally saw this Northern Shrike eating berries and then lost track of it when suddenly it popped up right in front of me. I find sitting down on the dyke, rather than standing and keeping a low profile often pays dividends.

Moments after photographing the shrike a pair of Western Meadowlarks landed on the foreshore.
They were quite a distance away so one bird on its own would have looked very small so I incorporated the two birds forcing the viewer to move the eye around the frame and back the bird in the foreground.
As much as one thinks other people are interested in your photographic exploits the simple fact is that unless there is some really compelling storytelling going on then the most we can expect others to look at an image is about three-seconds. Not a lot of time to make an impression.

A Barn Owl flies past me just as the sun sets. Maybe not the best technically executed of images but for me one of my favourite bird shots this year. I'm photographing a little less these days, especially birds that I already have stock images of. On my last two outings my camera stayed in my bag. I even shelled out for a small scope to view distance specks bobbing out on the ocean. I am even having fun twitching. I've expanded my repertoire and enjoying every moment of it.

Brydon Lagoon

Another Good Bird

Close my home is Brydon Lagoon. On Nov 3 2017 Langley birder Cos van Vermerskerken* found a Clay-coloured Sparrow.  Although I have seen many in the BC Interior this was the first I had seen in the Lower Mainland. 

I waited two hours for the bird to appear. I sat and looked in vain for ages when I heard a rustling right behind me. I very slowly turned around and there it was perched on a stem of grass about two metres away.

A passerby flushed the bird into a bush which gave me the opportunity of another angle and neutral background. In a perfect world the bird would have turned toward me a little but I am happy enough to get a second yet different angle.

  This time I lay on the ground to get yet another angle, different light and different effect.


American Goldfinch
I saw this bird coming to a feeder. It landed on a few different perches. I liked this one in particular because it looked pleasing to the eye. The colours of the bird, the leaves and background created a pleasant colour co-ordinated palette. 

 White Rock Pier

Red-necked Grebe
Photographing down from White Rock Pier for most part creates an unnatural angle but occasionally the birds co-operate and provide something interesting. I think the grebe must have been spooked by a predator above or some distracting movement on the pier.

Brunswick Point

Hermit Thrush
I went to Brunswick Point looking for the Harris and Swamp Sparrow. I managed looks at both. I have a so so photo of the Harris hidden in a bush against a bright sky, not a bad shot but it's not really going advance the world of avian photography anytime so why show it.


Mountain Chickadee
As luck would have Mountain Chickadees have been showing up in the Lower Mainland, normally one would have to climb to higher elevations so I and scores of other birders have been flocking to a house in Ladner where the owners (birders themselves) have set up feeders where not one but two of the 'eyebrowed ones' have been posing for all and sundry. 
 Crescent Beach South Surrey

Three Western Bluebirds/A Mega Sighting(So I'm told)

Male Western Bluebird
Western Bluebirds are just not found in the Metro Vancouver area, it was so rare a sighting it drew some of the areas most experienced birders.  Many had been birding two, three or more decades and had never seen the species in the area.

Female Western Bluebirds (Above and below)

Grant Narrows

Catbird Slough and mountain background

Harlan's Red-tail Hawk
This Harlann's may be the same that one that took up residence last year in a tall Popular on Rannier and Ladner in Pitt Meadows. Take a few shots from a distance as it is easily spooked before approaching more closely. When I arrived a Cooper's Hawk sat in an adjacent tree.

I continued to Catbird Slough looking any signs of redpolls and grosbeaks but none were around. The scenery was stunning that morning. I'm glad I took a few shots when I had the chance as later the blue skies were replaced by grey billowing clouds. 

Varied Thrush
My last bird of the day was a Varied Thrush, one of my favourite forest birds. At first I didn't see it but could hear a rustling in the bushes. I sat on the ground and waited for the bird to emerge where I watched it dine on worms beetles and slugs.

This may be my last blog for a while as I am suffering from some kind of brain fog. Too much copper has been one diagnosis which can be traced to drinking water or maybe something altogether different.
Finally if I find something to say I will try to get in down somehow, meanwhile good birding and I hope to see you all in the field.

Al images D500 and 200mm-500mm F5.6 
except scenic of Catbird Slough Nikon P900
 and Iona aerial iphone 5s

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

Friday 3 November 2017

Up in Flames

Book reprint goes up in flames for Langley photographer
The second edition of John Gordon’s picture book caught fire en route to him.

Langley Advance
Oct. 31, 2017 


Disaster struck.

Imagine John Gordon’s horror when, back in August, he receives a call from his publisher telling him an entire reprint order of his book, The Langleys, has been destroyed in a truck fire.

Disaster might be a bit of an over exaggeration, but it was shocking news for the retired Black Press photographer who had covered many a fire call in his days working for the local newspaper.

Turns out, that on transit through the Rockies, his books – coming from Friesens Printers in Manitoba – went up in smoke.

“I was facing a total loss,” said Gordon, who originally published his The Langleys book in 2008. He sold out of the first 3,000 copies and had ordered a second printing – of another 1,000 copies – earlier this summer.

A freshly cut hayfield.

“I and 11 other authors lost their books,” he said, noting he took possession of the reprinted reprints on Thursday.

He sold out of this book almost a year and a half ago, but was constantly receiving requests for more, which prompted him to consider publishing a third book. But that, he said, was too costly and time consuming an undertaking. So, the avid birdwatcher and traveller opted instead to simply do a reprint on The Langleys.

They’ve arrived just in time for the Christmas season, he said, and “to my surprise orders have been pouring in even before the book was delivered, word of mouth and social media are wonderful things.”

Gordon noted that a further reprint may be needed sooner than he expected.

He also published another book about Langley called Familiar Places: Familiar Scenes, which was released in 2004 and sold close to 3,000 copies.

So what inspired these books. Many things, he said. But most of all it’s the people and the scenery of Langley.

“First impressions often leave an indelible impression,” he recounted.

Fort Langley

“That was the case when I first visited Langley 20 years ago,” Gordon said, explaining the inspiration for his $20 paperback book.

“As I drove along the Fraser Highway heading east and crossed over 192nd Street before me was Langley. Not only was the community nestled in a picturesque valley but a majestic snow capped Mount Baker completed the scene. I now know it as a community of communities, a place where people still greet each other by first name and where town really does meet country.”

In this book, he attempted to gather a collection of photos showing off the beauty that initially attracted him to settle in the area.

As he sat, staring at the computer screen and watching his collection of photographs originally come together for this book, he said: “I can’t stop thinking about how lucky I am to work and live in one of the most beautiful corners of British Columbia.

“Whenever I return from a trip overseas, I am always grateful to get home. There is something about the mountains that surround us, the proximity to the mighty Fraser River, the parks and trail system, the fresh farm produce, the list goes on and on. But most of all, it is the residents of Langley who top the list as reasons to live and work here.”

More information on Gordon and his book are available online at: by calling to 604-533-7171.

Books also available at Chapters in Langley, Wendels in Fort Langley or direct form John

John Gordon
BC Canada