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


  1. PpS the two pale western bluebirds were indeed females not juvies

  2. Thanks for correcting the ID for me. I agree, it was a fantastic day to see both the bluebirds and finches.