Sunday, January 20, 2019

Best of 2018 Part 5 - November/December

The final post of the 2018 blog details the highlights in the last two months of the year.

November 2018

The first three photos are from Reifel Bird Sanctuary, the best place for winter birding in the Lower Mainland.

I can't say why I picked this Chickadee to shoot, but I took a burst of five shots. I realized after I got home that the second shot showed the bird with a sunflower seed under its tongue.

Black-capped Chickadee - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - November 4, 2018

One of the reasons I visited on this day was to try to see the Harris's Sparrow that had been reported. We usually get a few of these sparrows in the winter, in the summer you have to go into Northern Alberta to see them. Of all the times I've seen this bird, I've never seen one in breeding plumage. But the basic plumage looks pretty good too.

Harris's Sparrow - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - November 4, 2018

Winter is showtime for Ducks at Reifel, they're back in breeding plumage and are quite photogenic. This male Northern Pintail is a good example.

Northern Pintail - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - November 4, 2018

I took American Thanksgiving day off so I could do some birding and watch football later in the day. I visited Boundary Bay hoping to see some Raptors. There is an electrical sub-station near 72 St that often has Hawks and Owls. One of the regulars is this Rough-legged Hawk, looking very miserable in the rain.

Rough-legged Hawk - Boundary Bay, Delta BC - November 22, 2018

The following Saturday I was on my way to Reifel again. Just after crossing the Westham Island bridge, I spotted a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a power pole crossbeam. Traffic was light so I pulled over and took a few shots through the windshield using the zoom capabilities of my Nikon camera. 

I felt like the bird had noticed me and was not too happy about it.

Peregrine Falcon - Westham Island, Delta BC - November 24, 2018

After visiting Reifel, I decided to try Brunswick Point, which is back on the Mainland side. I met up with some photographers who were only interested in Short-eared Owls. When a wintering Meadowlark started singing behind us, I was the only person taking notice.

Western Meadowlark - Brunswick Point, Delta BC
November 24, 2018

December 2018

Here't the last five photos for 2018. 

On December 1st I visited Beach Grove Lagoon in Tsawwassen hoping to see a rare Ruff, an Eurasian shorebird. I did see the bird but the photos were not great. I got some better shots in January which will be in the 2019 blog.

I took this shot of a Northern Harrier hunting over the foreshore that I quite liked.

Northern Harrier - Beach Grove Lagoon, Delta BC - December 1, 2018

I haven't included many backyard photos in the Best of 2018. I like this House Finch on the feeder, taken through our living room window.

House Finch - Backyard, North Delta BC - December 2, 2018

I visit Point Roberts most weekends to get some cheap gas and visit Lighthouse Marine Park. It's a unique environment with a rocky shoreline, a steep drop-off and lots of wave action.

A bird frequently seen on rocky salt water beaches is the Black Turnstone. True to its name. the bird turns stones on the beach over hoping to find small insects and crustaceans underneath.

Black Turnstone - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - December 15, 2018

A week later at the same location I caught this loon doing some stretching exercises quite close to shore.

Common Loon - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - December 22, 2018

The last photo of the year is a nice shot of a female Wood Duck taken on Christmas Eve.

Wood Duck - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC
December 24, 2018

Thanks to those who read my posts, I'll be cranking up a 2019 blog very soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Best of 2018 Part 4 - August to October

This period was my slowest of the year for birding. I seemed to find myself at Reifel Bird Sanctuary every weekend. Although Fall shorebird migration starts in September, I didn't have much luck this year with the common species. However, I did see two of the rarer shorebird species.

August 2018

As mentioned, pretty well everything in August was seen at Reifel. The most common shorebirds arrive quite early, the Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs. Identification between the two can be tricky unless seen together. This one is definitely a Greater based on bill length.

Greater Yellowlegs - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC
August 4, 2018

Some species are still engaged in nesting activity at this time of year. These Barn Swallow chicks may have been a second batch for the parents. This nest was inside a bird blind and remained open to the public.

The chicks were placid while waiting for food to be delivered.

Barn Swallows - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - August 4, 2018

When food arrived, it became a begging competition!

Barn Swallows - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - August 4, 2018

At this time of year most of the ducks are done with nesting and are taking it easy. They also moult into eclipse plumage at this time and can lose their ability to fly until the new feathers grow in. They can still swim and stay close to water to avoid predators. This Mallard seems quite content.

Mallard (F) - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - August 11, 2018

These Sandhill Cranes were also in the process of moulting.

Sandhill Cranes - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC
August 19, 2018

The last August photo was taken in our backyard where a Nuthatch stopped for a drink.

Red-breasted Nuthatch - Backyard, North Delta BC - August 30, 2018

September 2018

In September the shorebird migration picks up steam and monitoring the BC Rare bird alert is a frequent activity. One of the rarer shorebirds is the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. This is a medium sized sandpiper with a buffy yellow colouring and a large eye-ring.

I went out to Boundary Bay on the Labour Day Monday afternoon and was fortunate to meet up with some other birders. Together we were able to locate the bird and I took some decent photos.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - Boundary Bay, Delta BC - September 3, 2018

Later in the month I was again at Reifel and was very fortunate to help find another rare shorebird, in this case a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. I did get credit for this on the rare bird alert, my first ever such recognition.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - September 22, 2018

The next two shots were taken on the same day at Reifel. I've always liked the rounded look of the Fox Sparrow.

Fox Sparrow - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - September 22, 2018

These Shovelers look like they are in a synchronized feeding competition.

Northern Shovelers - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - September 22, 2018

The final shot selected for September is another of the Yellowlegs, this time a mixture of Lesser and Greater (I think...). I believe the two on the left are Lesser and the other three are Greater.

Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC - September 22, 2018

October 2018

The final month for this post does not have any Reifel photos. My other favourite location is Lighthouse Marine Park in Point Roberts WA. Not only is the gas cheap, but this park has a rocky active shoreline, much different from the placid Boundary Bay. 

I often seen Killdeer in among the rocks on the shore looking for any morsels of food underneath. Something about these birds makes them very photogenic.

Killdeer - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA
October 8, 2018

In mid-October I received an email from my friend Mary-Jean. She had seen and photographed a male Rusty Blackbird at Burnaby Lake Park. The rare bird alert revealed that both a male and a female had been sighted. 

I crossed my fingers that the birds would stay for a few days and finally got there on Sunday the 14th. The male was easy to find and there were a few birders there already. I did not see the female. 

The Rusty is the most attractive of the blackbirds in my opinion. I guess the Yellow-headed would be a close second.

Rusty Blackbird - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - October 14, 2018

The photo conditions were very good on this day and even the Red-winged Blackbird looked pretty good.

Red-winged Blackbird - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - October 14, 2018

The last photo taken on this day was of a male Wood Duck straining the lake water for edible plants.

Wood Duck - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - October 14, 2018

My last shot for this month was taken back at Point Roberts. A Horned Grebe has a pretty good sized Flounder for a meal. They seem to be able to swallow them whole.

Horned Grebe - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA
October 21, 2018

Two more months to document in the next post and the 2018 Blog will be done.

Best of 2018 Part 3 - June and July

Part 3 of the best of 2018 details two months. Most of the photos were taken away from home in Alberta, Washington State and on Vancouver Island.

June 2018

I had one outing in the Lower Mainland early in the month. It was at Burnaby Lake Regional Park on June 2nd. I did not create a post for this outing for some reason, probably because I was off to Calgary two days later.

The Swainson's Thrush is a bird I often hear at this time of year, but seldom see or photograph it. They like to hide in whatever tree they sing from and blend in very well. 

On this day one was quite visible and this was the best shot I managed of this elusive bird.

Swainson's Thrush - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - June 2, 2018

I normally go the the Okanagan in June for a brief birding trip. Due to extensive spring flooding, many of the sites I would normally visit would be inaccessible.

So I decided to do a trip in Southern Alberta instead. There wasn't time to drive out there, so my friend Mary-Jean and I flew to Calgary. She stayed with friends and I stayed at my cousin's place. Full details of the trip are located here: Alberta Birding Trip

While birding at Glenmore Park in Calgary we were inundated by a sudden rainstorm. It didn't last too long and brought out the birds when it finished.

Here's a Chipping Sparrow taking a bath in a parking lot.

Chipping Sparrow - Glenmore Weaselhead Reserve, Calgary AB - June 4, 2018

This House Wren looks none the worse for wear after the rain. This is one my favourite photos of the year. I still use it for my desktop background at home.

House Wren - Glenmore Weaselhead Reserve, Calgary AB - June 4, 2018

One more made the cut from this day, a Least Flycatcher seen later in the afternoon.

Least Flycatcher - Glenmore Weaselhead Reserve, Calgary AB - June 4, 2018

The next day we drove south to High River to visit Frank Lake, a well know birding spot. I could have added three or four more photos from this day but picked just two.

The Barn Swallow is a common bird, but I like how this photo shows the colours that this bird exhibits.

Barn Swallow - Frank Lake, High River AB - June 5, 2018

There are many Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Frank Lake, and I usually shoot the flashy males. But this shot of a female with a dragonfly was my pick. It was probably taken to a nest to feed hungry nestlings.

Yellow-headed Blackbird (F) - Frank Lake, High River AB - June 5, 2018

Our third day saw us heading east towards Brooks to visit two provincial parks: Dinosaur Prov Park and Kinbrook Island Prov Park. I'd visited the former many times, but this was my first time at Kinbrook. Two photos stood out from there.

The first was a shot of a Common Grackle, a larger cousin of the Blackbird.

Common Grackle - Kinbrook Island Provincial Park AB
June 6, 2018

Another bird seen overhead was a Wilson's Snipe. This is only the third or fourth time I've ever seen this species, and the photos I took are by far my best ever.

Wilson's Snipe - Kinbrook Island Provincial Park AB
June 6, 2018

Our last day in Alberta we spent in Calgary visiting Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. I took a couple of interesting photos there.

It's not often that I post photos of the invasive European Starling, but this shot shows the beauty of the bird.

European Starling - Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Calgary AB - June 8, 2018

I can't figure out what was happening in this photo of Eastern Kingbirds. I assume the lower one is a chick begging for food. But it appears that the upper bird is angry and is about to strike the younger one. I took a burst of shots and it's inconclusive whether the bird below was fed or struck.

Eastern Kingbirds - Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Calgary AB - June 8, 2018

No guessing required here in what's going on with these Tree Swallows...

Tree Swallows - Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Calgary AB - June 8, 2018

One last shot from Alberta, where a Wood Duck becomes a CottonWood Duck...

Wood Duck - Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Calgary AB - June 8, 2018

The last photo for June was taken in Southern Washington State where Edith and I took a small vacation in a place called Westport. There were thousands of Sooty Shearwaters on the move one evening. I like how the ocean waters look like clouds.

Sooty Shearwaters - Westport WA - June 28, 2018

July 2018

Only four photos from July, two taken locally early in the month and two from a short Vancouver Island vacation.

Early in July a rare bird alert came out for a Chestnut-sided Warbler in North Vancouver. The location was a lower trail on Grouse Mountain called the Powerline trail. 

If I didn't see the Warbler, at least I could enjoy this shot of the common Spotted Towhee.

Spotted Towhee - Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver BC - July 2, 2018

My luck held and I also saw the Warbler. It wasn't a lifer as I'd seen one in 2012 at Point Pelee in Ontario. But this was a good bird to see again.

Chestnut-sided Warbler - Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver BC - July 2, 2018

In late July, Edith and took a short vacation on Vancouver Island. We stayed at a very nice Bed & Breakfast in Metchosin. The back yard had a water fountain that attracted Chickadees and Nuthatches, and the occasional Hummingbird as well.

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is quite common on the Island, sometimes more so than the Black-capped.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee - Metchosin BC
July 26, 2018

I believe the Nuthatch on the left is a fluffy juvenile. It is certainly different looking from the one on the right.

Red-breasted Nuthatch - Metchosin BC - July 26, 2018

That's the end of a long post, the next one will detail birds seen in August and September.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Best of 2018 - Part 2 - April and May

Here's part 2 of the best of 2018. With spring migration this is the meat of the birding year. It's only two months as June was very busy.

April 2018

For the last few years I've been kicking off April with a trip to the Okanagan for a guided birding tour with Avocet Tours. This year was a bit disappointing as we had poor weather for most of the three days. I did see a good number of new species for 2018 and managed a couple of good photos. 

This Great Horned Owl was roosting at the Lakeside Resort in Oliver where the group stayed for two nights. This was taken around 8:00 AM as the owl was preparing for a daytime sleep.

Great Horned Owl - Lakeside Resort, Oliver BC - April 8, 2018

After the tour while heading home we stopped at Manning Park Lodge. The Ravens were working the parking lot looking for any scrap of food. We had four of them on the hood of the car at one point. This shot captured the conditions they were dealing with.

Common Raven - Manning Park BC - April 10, 2018

Next are two shots taken on the same day at Lighthouse Marine Park in Point Roberts, both featuring the local ducks. There had been a Herring run in the last week and the birds were still numerous and active.

This shot shows a pair of Harlequin Ducks, the male in the foreground.

Harlequin Ducks - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA
April 14, 2018

On the same day I saw this pair of Red-breasted Mergansers just as they came together quite close to shore. This is one of my favourites for 2018.

Red-breasted Mergansers - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - April 14, 2018

On the following day I met with a birding friend named Chris who runs a website named . Chris was from Montreal but moved out to the coast. I think he might have returned to Montreal later in the year.

One of the places we visited was Brunswick Point, which is located at the west end of River Road in Ladner. One of the birds that day was a male Northern Harrier. They look quite different from the more frequently seen female and are sometimes called "the Grey Ghost".

Northern Harrier - Brunswick Point, Delta BC - April 15, 2018

This photo did not make it into any of my blog posts for some reason. It was taken through our living room window at a distance of less than 30 feet. There were actually two of them in the yard but the best photos were of single birds.

Pileated Woodpecker - Backyard, North Delta BC - April 29, 2018

May 2018

May is considered the prime birding month in most of North America. It may be a little late out here on the west coast but the results in 2018 were pretty good.

One noticeable bird in the spring is the Marsh Wren. The males are unabashed singers looking for a mate:

Marsh Wren - Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Delta BC
May 6, 2018

Spring is a good time to see Swallows, and one of my favourites is the Violet-Green. This is a western bird and the colours are spectacular.

Violet-green Swallow - Colony Farm Regional Park, Coquitlam BC - May 7, 2018

By mid May many species have young that they are guarding carefully. This shot from Reifel Bird Sanctuary shows that parents will put their chicks anywhere that they feel is safe.

Mallards - Reifel Bird Sanctuary - May 20, 2018

Although we thin of birds as cute creatures, some of them are stone-cold predators. Here's a cute Pied-billed Grebe with an unfortunate small frog.

Pied-billed Grebe - Colony Farm Regional Park, Coquitlam BC - May 21, 2018

Whenever there's a rare bird alert, most birders try to attend the scene and get a record for the year and sometimes for a life bird. So it was in late May when an alert went out for a Great-tailed Grackle in Vancouver. I'd seen one in Arizona in 2008, but this was my first in a while.The bird was being seen at a residence around Alma and 4th Avenue in Vancouver.

The day I went out it was pretty easy to find:

Great-tailed Grackle - Vancouver BC - May 27, 2018

On the same day I visited Lighthouse Marine Park in Point Roberts just across the border in Washington State. Usually i'm there to see Loons and Sea ducks,  but the star on this day was a sparrow on the shoreline.

White-crowned Sparrow - Point Roberts WA - May 27. 2018