Thursday 1 February 2018

Metro Vancouver January Birding

January Birding

 Metro Vancouver

One bird that led me a merry chase during 2016 was the Whimbrel. I must have been down to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal at least five times without the slightest bit of luck.
Eventually, one cold January morning I eventually found one foraging along the cobble strewn shoreline. Accompanying it was a small flock of Black Turnstones. I can now relax and concentrate on ticking the other 200 plus Metro Vancouver species.

Recently I ventured down to Boundary Bay to look for owls. There are less this year but the ones which are there are sure putting on a show. I had a visitor from France so I took him to see the what we could find. He had never seen so many eagles in one place. We were especially fortunate to photograph this Barn Owl hunting in the daytime, neither had he ever seen Northern Harriers approach so closely and when 'Barnie' flew past he was speechless. It was almost dark before I could drag him away and get him back to his hotel.

Barn Owl carrying a Townsend's Vole

This winter there has been an eruption of northern species including plenty of Common Redpolls and White-winged Crossbills. We have even had Gray-crowned Rosy Finches in downtown Vancouver.
Common Redpoll

I went to photograph the Blue Jay a few weeks ago. Blue Jays in Vancouver are few and far between, probably ten in the last decade. When I arrived the bird was behind a chain-linked fence so I had to shoot through the mesh. To be successful the aperture has to be wide open so the fence won't show up. This means and depending on the lens shooting at F2.8 or F4 or on the Nikon 200-500 F5.6.
Note the out of focus background or 
Blue Jay

What's not to love about the Wood Duck? This one at Reifel has become so bold it will eat grain out of the hand. The visitors love it and what an introduction to all the young children who visit the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Wood Duck
My patch or local birding spot is Brydon Lagoon in the City of Langley. Most days the pond and forest area gives up the usual suspects. Mallards, Pied Grebe's, Red-winged Blackbirds, Great-blue Herons can all be found on most visits. Some birds stop off for just a few hours, some stay for a few days or more. The Canvasback stayed for a few days. A Green Heron has stayed throughout the winter, drawing birders from Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
Canvasback (female)

The Yellow-headed Blackbird can be found throughout the province and across Canada. The Metro Vancouver area birds breed in just a few spots. The most reliable location is Iona-beach-regional-park
Several birds return in April to breed around the outer ponds.
To find one in January is a bonus. The bird below was photographed high up in a tree at Westham Island Bridge and was hanging around with a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds.
Yellow-headed Blackbird

A few Fridays back I had an hour to kill so I visited Blackie Spit. 
As usual for the spit there were the Long-billed Curlew and a few Marbled Godwits. There were  a good number of Eurasian wigeon and a lone Sanderling. 
What caught my eye mostly were a small flock of Black Oystercatchers. They were dancing around , picking up objects and dropping them in front of each other. It looked like a courtship ritual. I wish now I had spent more time with the birds but the light was terrible and the rain unbearable. The next morning the birds were gone. 

Black Oystercatcher
Nikon P900

I know that the European Starling is a most unwelcome pest, occupying nest holes of native species. Introduced to New York in 1890-91 the starling has spread across the continent. Despite all the negatives, when caught in the right light, the iridescent plumage is quite spectacular. I have tried a number of times to capture the colours but until this shot I had always fallen short. As the bird is often found in urban environments I have no problem with the barbed wire, the background is the ocean. I photographed it while waiting for the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches to fly back to the shoreline in downtown Vancouver.
European opportunityStarling

The Hutton's Vireo is the kind of bird that can be easily overlooked. A secretive bird and easily confused by the neophyte birder for a kinglet. I would never have had the opportunity to photograph this bird had it not been for the fine-tuned ears of my birding buddy and neighbour Carlo G. who made me aware of the bird's presence.

Hutton's Vireo

Thank you for taking a look. I hope to see you all in the field.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada