Archive for November, 2009

Maplewood: November 29th 2009

Rain prevented me from getting out yesterday but there was a break over Maplewood this afternoon that allowed me to get out birding for a little over an hour.

I decided to check out the feeders near the entrance first and I was rewarded with a sighting of a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in one of the trees to the east of the path. The bird appeared to be preening when I first sighted him but I noticed the occasional glance in the direction of the birds at the feeders (who were aware of the hawk as they were giving alarm calls).

Small birds form a significant part of the diet of Sharp-shinned Hawks but they are also known to take small mammals and large insects (Bildstein and Meyer 2000). During the 19th and early 20th century thousands of these birds were shot annually; often for no other reason than the fact that they ate song birds (Bildstein and Meyer 2000). Carcasses were often left to rot (Broun 1949). Shooting doubtlessly still occurs in some parts of North America but thankfully the senseless killing of the past two centuries is now history.

I had just finished snapping a few photographs when the hawk darted from its perch into the bushes nearby the feeders. I heard an awful shriek and all of the chickadees, finches, and sparrows fled the scene making quite a racket when they left. The hawk quickly flew to the south west and I was not able to find it again and determine if it had indeed captured one of the small birds. After a couple of minutes most of the birds had returned to feed on the seeds.

It was high tide when I checked out the mudflats. A raft of at least two hundred Mallards were milling about on the water; many of them were resting or preening. This must have been a flock of migrants making their way to their respective wintering grounds as the species has the most prolonged fall migration of any other duck; meaning its not uncommon to find migrating birds in late November (Drilling et al 2002). Mallards often leave their breeding grounds only when water freezes and their food sources are covered with snow (Drilling et al 2002).

I’m glad the rain let up as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get out birding this weekend. Happy Thanksgiving to any Americans who may be reading this!

References:

Bildstein, Keith L. and Ken Meyer. 2000. Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), 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/482doi:10.2173/bna.482

Broun, M. 1949. Hawks aloft: the story of Hawk Mountain. Dodd, Mead, Co., New York.

Drilling, Nancy, Rodger Titman and Frank Mckinney. 2002. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), 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/658doi:10.2173/bna.658

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Maplewood: November 21st 2009

Last weekend I managed to get in a rather quick hour of birding during the early afternoon in the eastern section of Maplewood Conservation Area. The tide was coming in when I viewed the mudflats and so I was able to get some excellent views of the lone Greater Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows close to the viewing area. Interestingly; the bird paid no attention to an adult Bald Eagle that flew across the mudflats at one point, despite it being considered a prey species of Bald Eagles (Elphick et al 1998). The bird must have noticed that a predator was nearby as just about every gull present took flight while giving alarm calls. I must admit, however, that my observations of Greater Yellowlegs’ response to birds of prey is limited to just two other occasions but in both instances the birds took flight before setting down not far from their original location while giving alarm calls.

While looking south across the Second Narrows I watched three Common Loon diving and occasionally preening themselves. Several Pelagic Cormorants, a single Double-crested Cormorant, and a Harbour Seal were also feeding in the same area.

At this point it started to rain and within a few minutes it had turned into a bit of a downpour so I was forced to cut the day short; I still had an excellent time though.

References:

Elphick, Chris S. and T. Lee Tibbitts. 1998. Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), 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/355doi:10.2173/bna.355

Dundarave, and Whytecliff and Ambleside Parks: November 14th 2009

School work has kept me tied to my desk for the past three weeks but I managed to get in a few hours of birding in West Vancouver last Saturday. I visited Whytecliff Park first and then travelled east to Dundarave and Ambleside Park as the day wore on.

The weather was somewhat miserable with overcast skies and light showers but I find this is the best time to visit Whytecliff Park as it typically attracts quite a few people on the weekend (early morning is another good time to visit). While still in the parking lot I spotted Song and Fox Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee, and Varied Thrush. The tide was in when I arrived so I spent most of my time looking west at the section of Howe Sound that separates the mainland from Bowen Island. Several Species of Gull were flying up and down the Sound, and a single female Surf Scoter and two Common Golden eye also flew past. Looking down over the cliffs I observed a female Red-breasted Merganser diving in the water. After about fifteen minutes she was scared off by a boat that passed to close.

Two Pelagic Cormorants were foraging in Batchelor Bay and a Bald Eagle flew over the area for a bit before moving on to the west.

By the time I arrived at Dundarave beach it was raining lightly and a stiff breeze was blowing off of Burrard Inlet. I immediately noticed six Harlequin Ducks diving in the water to the east of the pier. Overhunting is a major cause in the decline of the species in eastern North America (Goudie 1989). I cannot understand why anyone would want to shoot such a good looking duck. The eastern population is currently listed as “endangered” in Canada; however, the global population is listed under “least concern” (Goudie 1991 and Birdlife International 2009). In BC the Harlequin Duck is on the “yellow list” meaning the population is not at risk (Anonymous 1995). Ten minutes was all I could stand in the cold out on the exposed pier.

The rain had stopped when I reached Ambleside Park allowing me to view the Hooded Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Lesser Scaup, and Bufflehead on the pond with some measure of comfort. Quite a few Mallard and American Widgeon were also present in addition to the resident Mute Swans.

Well I’m glad I finally managed to get out and do some birding. Three weeks of seeing nothing but crows and pigeons from the window of my bus ride to school is really pushing the mental limits of any birder.

References:

Goudie, R. I. 1989. Historical status of Harlequin Ducks wintering in eastern North America – a reappraisal. Wilson Bull. 101:112-114.

Goudie, R. I. 1991. The status of the Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) in eastern North America. Committee On the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada (COSEWIC) Ottawa, ON.

BirdLife International 2009. Histrionicus histrionicus. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 November 2009.

Anonymous. 1995. Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals not at risk in British Columbia; the yellow list (1994). Wildlife Bulletin no. B-74. Ministry of Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.