Archive for October, 2010

Stanley Park: October 25th 2010

After spending the weekend studying for a midterm I had on Monday I knew I needed to get out for a bit of birding as soon as my exam was over. The weather wasn’t particularly good on Monday but I opted to turn this to my advantage by heading to Stanley Park where I expected the rain and wind to keep most people indoors; allowing me to have a quiet and relaxing outing at a great location for some fall birding.

I started off at the pond in Devonian Harbour Park just east of Lost Lagoon were I had some smashing views of a Belted Kingfisher preening itself on a log. American Widgeon, Mallard, and a lone American Coot were present as well; three species that I would see plenty of during the rest of my walk.

At the northeast corner of the lagoon I had distant views of a Ring-necked Duck along with some excellent looks at a couple of Bushtits; a number of which were no more than an arms length away in a small tree. As I continued to circle the lagoon in a counter clockwise direction I came upon this interesting Mallard, or rather it came upon me in an attempt to beg for some food.

According to this post on the Birding in BC forums the duck has been identified as a domestic duck x Mallard hybrid with the petite Call Duck breed contributing some of those domestic genes. This particular duck is certainly smaller than your average Mallard.

Shortly after I had had my fill of the interesting Mallard hybrid a group of Northwestern Crows drew my attention towards the top of a conifer where they were actively involved in mobbing a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. The raptor didn’t sit still for more than a minute before the constant dive-bombing and cawing of the crows forced him skyward. In the same vicinity a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets, Chestnut-backed, and Black-capped Chickadees were foraging; none of them appeared to be phased by the rain which had, by now, soaked the lenses of both my glasses and binoculars and was slowly seeping through my rain jacket.

The area surrounding the stone bridge located at the lagoons west end was quieter than usual; only a couple of Mallards and American Widgeons were out and about, the rest were huddled along the banks napping or preening.

From here I walked out to the seawall at Second Beach where the tide was in and not much was going on other than a couple of gulls careening about in the winds. I noticed that one of those birds, a first cycle Glaucous-winged Gull, had a candy wrapper in its bill. The bird positioned himself upwind of me where it released the wrapper which flew towards me and smacked into my arm. Perhaps this gull was trying to communicate its disdain for humanities propensity to pollute the environment by throwing this piece of garbage back at the first person it could find. Or maybe it was just angry that the wrapper was empty and he wanted me to fill it with some candy.

Along the southern shore of Lost Lagoon the usual assortment of ducks and gulls along with a couple of Canada Geese were present. A juvenile Snow Goose was also hanging about on the grass nearby; possibly the same bird I sighted here on the 10th of October.

Despite the rain and the wind I had a pleasant time out; there was still plenty of activity, considering the poor weather, and the place was practically deserted of people!

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Sharp-tailed and Wood Sandpiper at Reifel

On Saturday (10/16/10) I finally made it out to Reifel Bird Sanctuary in the hopes of tracking down the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper first reported there on October 2nd, I also hoped to see the more recently reported Wood Sandpiper. I’ve come to learn that being a university student and not owning a vehicle makes it exceptionally difficult to chase rarities in Vancouver and so it was quite lucky that I managed to visit the sanctuary on a day when both birds were cooperatively in view.

The two species were observed between 11:30 and 12:15 in and amongst a large flock of Long-billed Dowitchers near the base of the lookout tower. The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was sticking to a reedy section of the pond more easily viewed from the western dyke than from the lookout tower; perhaps the bird had had enough of the steady stream of birders and photographers coming to view him or her and just wanted some privacy. The Wood Sandpiper spent most of the time I was there dozing in the middle of the tightly packed flock of Dowitchers making it a tough bird for me to pick out.

The size differences between Long-billed Dowitcher and Wood Sandpiper initially clued me onto the bird. With so many Dowitchers packed together and the sun angling into my face everything can start to look a little similar but luckily Wood Sandpiper measure in at 8” whereas the Long-billed Dowitcher is 11.5”; this allowed me to spot the bird on my third sweep through the flock. After observing it for a couple of minutes the bird raised its head and stretched out just long enough for me to completely confirm identification. Unfortunately I was so engrossed in the bird that I didn’t check the photos I was digiscoping, if I had I would have noticed that they were all unrecognisable blurry smears so the only shots I have to show you are crops of a picture of the entire shorebird flock. As you can see even these are not enough to qualify as record shots.

Thankfully the photos I took of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at least show enough to recognise the species. The bird was easily distinguishable from the Dowitchers and spent most of the time during which I observed it busily preening itself or resting.

Another fantastic outing at Reifel complete with two great birds, not to mention the huge numbers of returning Snow Geese in the fields of Westham Island, made for a pretty decent day.

 

Harbourside: October 9th 2010

I wasn’t planning on birding today due to a forecasted downpour and a sizable amount of school work but when a break in the rain happened around midday I couldn’t resist the urge to get out. I decided to head to Harbourside Park in North Vancouver.

Of course, just as I was arriving on scene it started to pour again and it didn’t let up during my visit. The rain did, however, force a number of dog walkers to retreat which is always good for birding. The place was still a veritable minefield though with feces all over the grassy areas and at several spots on the path; I think I spent all most as much time looking where I was walking as I did scanning the area for birds.

At the base of Fell Avenue I checked out a couple of Harbour Seals lounging on the logs along with a number of gulls, the most interesting of which was a California Gull. In the bushes along the path following the shoreline were the usual assortment of Emberizidae expected in this type of habitat; Song and White-crowned Sparrow as well as Spotted Towhee and Dark-eyed Junco. Over at Mackay Creek the exposed western bank held a number of Black Turnstone as well as a couple of Killdeer. Sadly I could only walk as far as the first viewing platform since the area to the north was closed off because of construction on the Spirit Trail.

When I returned to the bottom of Fell Avenue I decided to check out the brushy lot on the eastern side of the road. Here I was rewarded with a decent view of a Western Meadowlark and a fleeting glimpse of a Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Western Meadowlark inhabit a variety of grassland habitats; not really the first thing that springs to mind when I think of the area at Harbourside Park (1). The lot I sighted the bird in was a mix of bush, weeds, gravel, and asphalt. There is also a grassy/weedy lot just across the street but the total area of possible habitat for this species is pretty small. I see on eBird that three birds were sighted on the 29th of September at the same location. I wonder if these are just birds migrating through or if there’s a few that have decided to stick it out for a while. Judging by the signs posted on each lot this small patch of Western Meadowlark habitat is destined to be “developed” in the near future removing any stopover or potential wintering sites at this location.

Reference:

  1. Davis, Stephen K. and Wesley E. Lanyon. 2008. Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), 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/104doi:10.2173/bna.104