Archive for September, 2009

Maplewood: September 26th 2009

I was at Maplewood again around midday today. As soon as I arrived at the mudflats I heard the call of an American Pipit (a low series of high, clear or jingling phrases tseewl-tseewl-tseewl . . . or pleetrr-pleetrr-pleetrr and other variations; given in flight for up to 15 seconds according to Sibley’s). There were three present foraging on the mudflat about a metre from the water’s edge. About five minutes after I arrived, however, they took flight to the South. Scanning the ducks present revealed the usual mix of American Widgeon, Northern Pintail, and a few Mallards that have been here for the past couple of weeks.

Two ducks soon caught my attention though. My instinct told me they were Blue-winged Teal but I decided to consult my field guide before positively identifying the two birds as they were in non-breeding plumage and my confidence at ascertaining the correct ID in this state is still a little sketchy. They were indeed Blue-winged Teal. The ducks were on the water close to shore about twenty metres north of the viewing area. Early August into mid October is when this species migrates through British Columbia (Cambell et al 1990). For many their final destination for the winter is northern South America although a larger proportion of birds banded in western provinces and states tend to be found in Mexico (Rohwer et al 2002).

Once again I didn’t have enough time to see what was going on the western side of the area so I went straight for the bird feeders near the entrance. Their wasn’t as much activity as I had seen yesterday evening but several species including Black-capped Chickadee, House Finch and Song Sparrow visited the seed while I was there. A male Downy Woodpecker also ate some suet before flying off into the trees.

I often feel that I learn far more about the world when out birding than I do while reading a textbook or attending a lecture…

References:

Campbell, R. W., N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, G. W. Kaiser and M. C. E. McNall. 1990. The birds of British Columbia. Vol. 1: introduction and loons through waterfowl. R. Br. Columbia Mus., Victoria.

Rohwer, Frank C., William P. Johnson and Elizabeth R. Loos. 2002. Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/625doi:10.2173/bna.625

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Maplewood: September 25th 2009

I was able to find the time to visit Maplewood Conservation Area this Friday evening. The bird feeders in the fenced off maintenance/gardening area near the entrance had been stocked full of seed so there was a fair bit of activity occurring. Black-capped Chickadees, Song Sparrows, and a few Spotted Towhees were, of course, present. A male and juvenile Downy Woodpecker was also there feeding on peanuts. This is the first time I’ve seen a juvenile Downy Woodpecker at Maplewood this year. I wonder if it is the offspring of a resident pair? This seems likely as young birds will remain within their parent’s territory for several weeks and adults are known to drive young other than their own form their territory (Lawrence 1967). Also present near the entrance were several Yellow-rumped Warblers (all in first winter plumage), Ruby-crowned Kinglets, juvenile Cedar Waxwings and American Robins, as well as a Red-breasted Sapsucker.

I didn’t have enough time to walk the paths on the western side of the property so instead I made my way to the mudflats. Northern Pintail, American Widgeon, Mallard, and Canada Goose were all accounted for.

References:

Lawrence, L. de K. 1967. A comparative life-history study of four species of woodpeckers. Ornithol. Monogr. 5: 1–156.

Maplewood: September 19th 2009

I was at Maplewood Conservation area for about two hours during the evening and just like last weekend there wasn’t much happening.

The best bird of the day was a group of four Yellow-rumped Warblers; all in first winter plumage. They were busy gleaning insects off of the branches and leaves of several trees near the shoreline approximately 25m west along the path once you’re across the bridge. I am particularly pleased with this sighting as I was able to identify them from their call (“a dry, husky chwit with slightly rising inflection” according to Sibley’s) before they came closer to the path and visual observation could be made. This has personally reaffirmed my commitment towards studying bird songs (I use the “Stokes Filed Guide to Bird Songs-Western Region” as well as Cornell’s “Bird’s of North America”) in addition to reviewing the field guide. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any pictures as the birds could not sit still long enough for me to line up my camera with my binoculars.

Nearby where I sighted the warblers this deer, a common occurrence at Maplewood, was busy grazing close to the waterline:

It was high tide when I checked out the mudflats and once again there was a group of American Widgeon, Northern Pintail, and some Mallard out on the water. Most appeared to be resting and a few were preening.

An Osprey was also present on one of the pylons busy eating a fish.

All in all it was a pleasant evening.

Maplewood: September 12th 2009

I spent about two hours during the evening at Maplewood Conservation Area and it was slow… very slow. I usually check out the mudflat first and today there were quite a few American Widgeon as well as a couple of Mallards and several Northern Pintails.

During this time of year Gulls begin to show non-breeding plumage; such as this Ring-billed Gull foraging in the shallows:

A slow birding day is often a good time to reflect and appreciate some of the more common, ever present, species of birds such as the Black-capped Chickadee. As summer turns to fall chickadees form flocks of six to eight birds; although, in areas with abundant sources of food, such as suburbs with bird feeders, larger groups will develop. Chickadees will cache food so that it can be retrieved at a later date when needed. This mostly occurs during autumn; though, birds may store food at any time of the year. This may play an important role in the survival of the bird during winter; particularly northern populations (Smith and Susan 1993). It has been found that Chickadees can remember a particular cache site up to a month later (Hitchcock and Sherry 1990). During very cold nights Black-capped Chickadees can enter a state of regulated hypothermia in which they slow their metabolism and thus lower their body temperature by ten to twelve degrees centigrade (Chaplin 1976). This allows them to conserve precious energy.

The day wasn’t a complete bust though; near the westernmost pond I located a female Merlin sitting at the top of a tree. As I went to take my camera out of my backpack the bird swooped after a small songbird, likely a sparrow or finch, and proceeded to chase it west across a grassy area. The hunt was unsuccessful and the Merlin continued flying west.

References:

Smith, Susan M. 1993. Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/o39

Hitchcock, C. L. and D. F. Sherry. 1990. Long-term memory for cache sites in the Black-capped Chickadee. Anim. Behav. 40:701-712.

Chaplin, S. B. 1976. The physiology of hypothermia in the Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus. J. Comp. Physiol. B. 112:335-344.

Two Semipalmated Shorebirds at Maplewood

While checking out the mudflats at Maplewood Conservation Area on September 4th I observed a Semipalmated Plover and a juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper foraging at the water’s edge.

On several occasions the juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper got a little to close to the plover and it briefly chased the sandpiper away while giving an alarm call.

Lewis’s Woodpecker at Maplewood

Two juvenile Lewis’s woodpecker made a rare appearance at Maplewood Flats last week. Typically this species is normally found in the Southern interior of the province where it is present during the breeding season. According to the sightings board at the entrance they were first spotted on the 31st August. I first saw them on the 3rd September and was able to see them again on the 4th; however, I could not locate them on the 7th. I located the pair near Osprey Point at the Southeast corner of the property. I was able to watch them catch several flying insects and one of them ate several berries.

Lewis’s Woodpecker will typically form loose and nomadic flocks of adults and juveniles in late Summer and early Fall and it is during this time that birds will depart from the Northernmost portion of their range (i.e. BC) (Tobalske and Bret 1997).

The species may have declined by as much as 60% since the 1960s according to Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count; however, due to the bird’s irregular nature and the small sample size of BBS and CBC data these results should be interpreted with care (Tobalske and Bret 1997). The IUCN lists the status of the species as “Least Concern” (Birdlife International 2008). The biggest threat facing Lewis’s Woodpecker is habitat destruction particularly the loss of “standing, dead or partly dead trees (snags) in advanced stages of decay for nest sites; and old cottonwood trees or power poles with desiccation cracks for winter storage sites” (Tobalske and Bret 1997).It used to breed in the Vancouver area, but not since 1940 (Siddle and Davidson 1991); possibly due to habitat loss as a result of development?

Paul (revs) has posted some excellent photos of the pair at Maplewood on the Birding in BC forums (http://birding.bc.ca/community/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=3480&p=16132).

References:

Tobalske, Bret W. 1997. Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/284

BirdLife International 2008. Melanerpes lewis. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 10 September 2009.

Siddle, C. and G. Davidson. 1991. Status of the Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) in British Columbia. Report commissioned by Wildlife Branch, Ministry of Environment, Victoria, British Columbia.

The Purpose of this Blog

Hello,

The purpose of this blog will be to discuss birding in and around Vancouver, Canada, as well as birding related news. I will be posting reports of my birding activities and other related information. Posts will most likely be made on a weekly and time permitting basis as I attend university. I usually bird at several locations within North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, and the City of Vancouver as I don’t have a car; so, the majority of trip reports will feature locations in these cities. I hope to eventually provide information on several birding hotspots that this city has to offer. The appearance of this blog will likely change several times over the coming weeks as I work to find an appearance that suits it.

Marc