Sunday 22 April 2018

Herrings and Twitching

April 2018

 Point Roberts USA

April 12 2017

Last week the herring were spawning off Point Roberts. The annual event attracts thousands of seabirds as well as good numbers of seals and the occasional whales. A wonder of nature, the spawning is an important food source for wildlife. Overfished for years the herring fishery is now highly regulated, hopefully stocks will rebound in the future.
The herring lay their sticky eggs on kelp and other aquatic vegetation. A small flock of Sanderlings gorged themselves on the beach, each new wave adding more bounty. 

Sanderling feeding on herring eggs attached to seaweed.
The constant activity overhead was mesmerizing, a birders dreamland. Flocks of Brant flew overhead, thousands of Surf Scoters feasted a few hundred metres offshore.
Brant flying over Surf Scoters

(Below) A raft of Surf Scoters prepare to follow the spawning herring toward the shore.
Surf Scoter inspired by Liron Gertsman

Several years ago I saw an award winning picture by young birder and upcoming nature photographer Liron Gertsman, the image made an indelible impression on me. I was hoping to witness something similar. Although this picture is nowhere near as interesting I am glad I was able to witness the sight for myself.

Surf Scoter
I knew the shot I wanted and because the Surf Scoters were backlit and lighting harsh I went for shape, form and feeling over a more literal presentation. I worked hard to find some simple symmetry in the birds wing patterns while including the rest of the flock in the background to give depth to the image.

A Surf Scoter dives leaving a curtain of water.
Harlequin Duck
 Timid and never coming too close to shore Harlequins are one of my favourite ducks  I waited and waited for something different and eventually the female rose out of the water sending a little spray toward the male. 


Great-tailed Grackle


April 18 2016

I spent the morning looking for the Sage Thrasher at Piper Spit in Burnaby but to no avail.
 I had already made a back-up plan to go for the Great-tailed Grackle on Vancouver at Kennedy and West 4th 
Grackles are common in the southern USA and Mexico and wouldn't normally warrant a glance but in Vancouver it was very twitchable.
There was a full-on twitch when I arrived. The bird had been posing for everyone until the exact moment I arrived when it decided fly off across the street to a block of apartments. Eventually it came back and gave everyone great views.

Once the sighting go out it even made both of the daily newspapers. I include the link below.

Great-tailed Grackle
See below for the Vancouver Sun story

A good "twitch bird" catches and swallows a beetle.

Colony Farm Coquitlam BC

April 20 2018
I barely had time to finish my Honey-Do chores around the garden when news of a Black Phoebe starting filtering on the Inter-web. John Reynolds had found a Black Phoebe at Colony Farm. They are very rare in Metro Vancouver, perhaps only a handful in the past decade. I would be a BC and Metro Vancouver lifer for me.
I picked up my neighbour CAGI and we were soon on the road to yet another twitch, our third of the week. On the way we chatted away, mostly complaining about the price of gas and aches and pains associated with gardening, eventually taking the wrong lane over the Port Mann Bridge and overshooting out destination. After a few choice expletives from the driver (JOGO) we arrived at Colony Farm. We found the birders before the bird, this twitch was even easier than the grackle a few days earlier. Three twitches in three days can't be bad. Too bad I was talking and missed the Sage Thrasher.

Note. Except for sharpening and cropping there is no extra editing. To ensure that the background of the images had no distractions I only shot when the bird was on an unobstructed branch.

When I viewed the bird through the viewfinder. I noticed the back view of the bird showed off the primaries so beautifully.

Secondly I wanted a side shot showing as much detail as possible and below I wanted was a shot with eye contact and finally I ensured that there was a catchlight in all the shots.

Mission accomplished we made sure we found the right overpass and were soon home none the worse for wear.

Finally here are a few of the best links I have found this week;

Amazing Cormorant Fishing

"It's never too late to start twitching"
John Gordon (JOGO)
BC Canada

1 comment:

  1. you got stupendous shots of the black phoebe john! also love the GTGR. i have to say you really captured the amazing herring spawn so well and lovely shots of the harlies glad you had a great first visit to the point.