Archive for October, 2012

Iona: October 28th 2012

The last time I was able to get out birding was when I wrote about my walk through Queen Elizabeth Park weeks ago. Luckily on Sunday I wasn’t entirely swamped with homework and the weather seemed cooperative, enabling me to get briefly for a walk down Iona’s south jetty with my mom.

The first thing I noticed upon exiting the car was a series of bangs set off by the airport workers in charge of keeping the birds out of the paths of the aircraft. This was followed by the over flight of a number panic stricken Snow Geese and other waterfowl in a hurry to get out of there! At the base of the south side of the jetty a number of ducks were sleeping or resting; apparently undeterred by the airport staff’s fireworks. A quick scan of this group produced a Eurasian Wigeon sleeping amongst its American brethren.

As I set up my scope to scan the area to the north of the jetty I noticed another birder waving and pointing at something. It was a Short-eared Owl flying right past my position! I quite likely might have missed the owl if it hadn’t been for the other birder, so thank you!

The walk down the rest of the jetty held only the regular species one might expect to see at this time of year; including Horned Grebe, Surf Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser. As I was with my mom we opted not to walk the full length to the jetty’s end but turned around about halfway out. Although I was only able to bird for a short while, any amount of time outside after spending so long behind my desk was a welcome reprieve!

Queen Elizabeth Park: October 16th 2012

I had an appointment within walking distance of Queen Elizabeth Park yesterday, so I decided to see what was in the area on my way home. Plus with all the rain Vancouver had on the weekend I felt like I needed to get outside for a bit when the sun returned after being cooped up. Walking up Ontario Street I first came to the easternmost pond. A few Gadwalls were hanging about as well as two American Widgeon. A Great Blue Heron was also standing motionless up to its knees in a reedy section of the pond.

From there I made my way up the hill towards the Bloedel Conservatory. Along the fence line of the pitch and putt course I came across House Finch and Dark-eyed Junco. Also of note was a group of seven Northern Flickers. I would come across nine in total within the park. This group spent most of the time perched atop a leafless tree.

I continued moving up the hill coming to the lawn bowling facility. In the brush around here there was a lone Ruby-crowned Kinglet with a group of Bushtits and a gang of twelve American Robins sat surveying the area from the tops of the shrubs. At this point it started to drizzle lightly and I was worried it’d start to rain and I’d have to call it a day, but thankfully the rain abated!

On my way over the hill I found a single Fox Sparrow with a group of Song Sparrows and at one point a pair of Bald Eagles flew overhead. Next I came to the pond just to the north of the conservatory and here I discovered where all the Mallards were hanging out. I estimated around a hundred of them. A single Ring-billed Gull was also sitting along the pond’s edge with the Canada Geese.

As I was about to continue on a group of ten Northwestern Crows flew overhead in a hurry. Not really anything to get excited over but they did seem a little agitated so I stopped walking and had a look around. A second or two later I heard the call of a Raven and then another. Not sure what the crows were up to but those Ravens were not happy to see them! They continued chasing them to the south west around the base of the hill.

I checked out the northernmost pond on my way out of the park and found another small group of Gadwall. While I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary for this time of year in my hour long walk, it was still nice to get outside for a bit!

Rusty Blackbird at Piper Spit

On Sunday a Rusty Blackbird was reported at Burnaby Lake’s Piper Spit. I’ve never had much luck trying to see this species in Vancouver; either the birds didn’t stick around long enough or they were located somewhere I couldn’t get to quickly because school or other commitments got in the way. Thankfully, this particular bird was hanging out at a spot not far from where I go to school at Simon Fraser University and it decided to hang out for a few days until I could see it!

Not more than five minutes after I arrived on scene yesterday did I sight the bird in a tree along the path to the boardwalk pier. It was amongst a small flock of Red-winged Blackbirds who would occasionally scold the new comer if it ventured into their personal space. The bird was hopping about the tree looking underneath the leaves for insects; at one point it perched on an outstretched branch for some excellent views. Having both Red-winged and Rusty Blackbirds in the same field of view so as to compare field marks certainly helped clinch the ID too! After several minutes observation the flock suddenly sprang from the tree and took flight before disappearing out of sight.

This gave me some time to check out what else was about and I immediately noticed a Peregrine Falcon perched atop a tree overlooking the ducks gathered about the mudflat area. The bird appeared quite content to sit and survey the many Mallards, Green-winged Teals, and Wood Ducks, as well as a couple of Gadwalls, who went about their business with only an occasional glance in the predator’s direction. The falcon must not have seen anything to it’s liking and eventually flew off; garnering only a minor response from the ducks.

A little while later the Rusty Blackbird made a reappearance as it perched on the handrail of the boardwalk. I then had the privilege to watch the bird at very close range eating the odd seed or bit of bread left by visitors. The blackbird would venture out and scrounge around the grass and shrubs, even underneath the boardwalk, until it found a meal and then returned to the cover of some long grass to chow down. At several times it was less than a meter away from where I stood and seemed quite unconcerned by my presence. This allowed me the opportunity to get a handful of some terribly poor photos by holding my phone to the eyepiece of my binoculars.

An easy lifer on my way home from university, without having to go miles out of my way; a pretty decent way to cap off a school day!