Sunday, 20 January 2019

2019 Week 1

Jan 2019 Mill Lake Abbotsford

Birding can be so unpredictable. I had spent a fruitless and chilly January morning looking for the Great Egret in Aldergrove. Disappointed I returned home to warm up and take care of a few honey-do chores. That afternoon I went on a second twitch at Abbotsford's Mill Lake where a vagrant Cape May Warbler was found Jan1 by Neal Doan. 
Cape May Warblers breed in the Peace country and east of the Rockies, they are rarely found on the south coast. The Abbotsford bird is only the second on record for the south-west corner of the province.

 The bird was an easy twitch and very confiding for those late to the party. The bird was attracted to a flowering Mahonia and ignored everyone and everything. At one point a dozen onlookers watched the diminutive warbler as it flitted flower to flower feeding on protein rich pollen.
* The bird is still present Jan 20/19 

Cape May Warbler feeding on pollen
Fellow birder Carlo Giovanella provided the interesting information below;

Mahonia aquifolium, aka Tall Mahonia, aka Tall Oregon-grape, aka Oregon-grape Holly, etc. is a common native shrub, blooming in early summer.  Cultivars of this are often planted in local landscaping.  The blue fruit are true ‘berries’.

The winter-flowering varieties are hybrids of M aquifolium crossed with Asian species. 

One lesson a birder can take away from this experience is that if a vagrant bird ends up in unfamiliar territory it will need a food source to survive. Where no insects are emerging it would make sense for the bird to find flowering plants. Good birders know to check these areas as was the case last winter when a Nashville Warbler was found feeding on the same type of shrub at Lonsdale Quay.

Note the accumulation of pollen on the bill. Some have speculated it is a growth. Further photographs will tell as the bird is still around at the time of writing.
For the above photo I have used leading lines, a commonly used compositional technique. Note the leading line coming from the bottom left of the image as well as in the bottom centre. Another leading line from the top left trains the eye subconsciously toward the subject.

These photograph were taken in the late afternoon as the light was fading. Shot at ISO 2500 with a Nikon D500 and 200mm-500mm 5.6 zoom. The camera was set to automatic ISO so that the exposure of each image would be the same regardless of where the bird was feeding. Obviously when the bird was feeding under the canopy of the plant the shutter speed would drop too low for a sharp picture.

The pinkish background is from a building in the background. 

An added bonus
On the way home from Abbotsford I decided to take a detour and look for the Great Egret which has been feeding in the same farmers field since before Christmas. I think it may be only the second or third I've photographed in the Lower Mainland. It was feeding on large earthworms while some have  photos of it catching voles.

Great Egret 

One less Bull Frog
Great Blue Heron

One of the most insidious creatures to have been introduced to Canada and the Lower Mainland is the Bull Frog. Below a Great Blue Heron tries the difficult task of swallowing its catch. An indigenous species would be smaller and therefore an easier meal. The heron eventually flew off, the frogs fate unknown.

An adult Bullfrog can weight a kilogram when full grown and spawn 20,000 eggs at a time, most will survive as they are unpalatable to most predators.

After days of rain the sun finally came out and although I had seen the Snow Buntings on the Christmas bird count it had been raining and bitterly cold.
Now I have a scope I tend not to photograph in less than optimum lighting situations unless of course it's a lifer, vagrant or ID shot. 

Snow Bunting

A small flock six snow bunting have been feeding on newly planted grass seed at the BC Ferries jetty. 


Sometimes late in the day the light is so poor that high ISO's are the only way to capture an image. The images below are fine for web use but wouldn't really work for fine printing. I used 1/1250 ISO 250 at F5.6 to get some which I posted on eBird.

The Prairie Falcon is carrying a vole before landing in a tree.

Prairie Falcon with vole
To be continued....

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

1 comment: