Archive for January, 2013

Second Beach: January 30th 2013

The weather forecast for yesterday was originally calling for rain all day, but luckily the rain held off and it was just cloudy. I decided to take a walk around Lost Lagoon with a stop off at second Beach in the afternoon. Here’s a quick video I shot showing some of the birds I saw at Second Beach:

Also of note was a Virginia Rail at the marsh in the north east corner of the lagoon. The bird wasn’t nearly as photogenic as the last time I saw him or her (assuming it’s the same individual), but I did at least get a record shot!

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Burnaby Lake: January 29th 2013

I decided to take the Skytrain out to Burnaby Lake for the afternoon today. I flock of Cackling Geese had been reported on the rugby fields located at the west end of the lake. Not only did I need this species for my year list but I hoped to get a few photos. The action started off as I walked down the pedestrian only section of Sperling Avenue with a large flock of Pine Siskin. As I continued down the road I came across a small group of Black-capped Chickadees in the bushes along the side of the road with a Bewick’s Wren tagging along!

When I reached the rugby fields a quick scan revealed a large group of geese on the south easternmost field. I made my way over and confirmed that they were indeed the Cackling Geese, with a few Canada Geese along the outskirts of the group. Despite sticking to the trail on the outskirts of the field, the geese were still a bit wary of my presence and would slowly move away from wherever I stood. Eventually I just sat on some bleachers and the birds settled down a bit; though several of them would still look over in my direction every so often.

The above bird was banded, but unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough to read the bands, or get a photo where the detail on the band could be seen. Has anyone been able to read the band on this individual? Or even find out when and where it was banded?

Eventually I had to get up and get moving in order to finish birding the lake. It was clear that the geese weren’t in any mood to oblige me with a close up shot! Just to the south of the rugby fields I came across another Pine Siskin flock, except this one contained a few Common Redpolls! I managed to get off a distant shot just as it started to drizzle lightly showing a male bird. I figure there were at least fifteen individuals mixed in with the siskins.

I carried on a bit further south to the boat house at the lake’s south west corner. From here I had some distant views of Pied-billed Grebes as well as a group of three Greater Yellowlegs and thirteen sleeping Long-billed Dowitchers. Once I’d finished scanning the lake I backtracked north and walked east to Piper Spit. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary for the rest of the afternoon, the rain probably had something to do with that, but I had delightfully peaceful walk.

Gyrfalcon at New Brighton Park

Not far from where the Northern Waterthrush was hanging out a Gyrfalcon was reported. The bird had been seen at both the Hastings horse racing track and the Viterra grain terminal just east of New Brighton Park. The grain terminal is, naturally, flush with pigeons. The bird had first been seen on Tuesday (January 22nd) but today was the first opportunity I had to head back to the area to have a look for it (January 25th). After hearing and then having the briefest of views of the Northern Waterthrush at the sanctuary once again, I walked over to the nearby racetrack to look for the Gyrfalcon. The falcon had been seen in the trees along the northwest side of the track. From here it would have a good view of any waterfowl on the pond in the track’s centre or out on the grass of the infield. Unfortunately there weren’t many ducks in the area and, consequently, the trees were Gyrfalcon free.

The Viterra silos were also visible from the race track and once I’d walked around to the north side of the pond I began scanning the terminal. Although the distance was quite far I eventually managed to pick up on a light grey falcon shaped bird perched atop the structure. I used my camera to confirm the identification as the Gyrfalcon; another benefit to having a super zoom as I found out. After getting a few record shots I walked north to New Brighton Park to try get a closer view.

By the time I’d reached the waterfront park the Gyrfalcon had apparently decided to move on and I couldn’t relocate it on the terminal. It wasn’t in the trees by the race course either. Looking at the surrounding landscape from New Brighton Park did give me an appreciation for how large of an area was available for this bird to hunt and perch. In addition to the racetrack and Viterra terminal, the bird could have been anywhere along the North Shore’s industrial waterfront. There are also numerous spots nearby in Burnaby or Vancouver where large numbers of pigeons and/or waterfowl congregate.

Despite the extremely distant views I was quite happy to see this species today. Normally, Gyrfalcon are seen a few times during the winter around Boundary Bay in Delta, and as I don’t have a vehicle I can only get down there infrequently. That area is so large that it’s almost pure luck to bump into a Gyrfalcon; obviously the more you visit the greater your chances of seeing it. Thankfully this bird had decided to stick around the same area for the past few days, allowing me to see it!

Northern Waterthrush at Hastings Park

A Northern Waterthrush was reported at Hastings Park Sanctuary on Monday afternoon. I only read the post yesterday morning and by the time I got on scene it was already noon (Tuesday January 22nd). The park is not very large and is centred on a small lake with a set of paths encircling it. I started walking in a counter clockwise direction around the lake and in the north east sector of the park I heard the “spwik” call of the bird. The Waterthrush was along the waters edge and not immediately visible from the trail. By the time I had got into a better position I only had the briefest of split second views before the bird took off across the lake and into the brush on the west side of the park. It was enough to see the brown back and defined streaking on the sides and flanks, but hardly a satisfying view.

I made my way over to the other side of the lake but could neither hear nor see anything resembling a Northern Waterthrush. After waiting quite a while on the trail above the thickets where the bird had flown into I decided to keep walking around the park. Probably an hour or so later I was again on the eastern side of the lake when I heard the “spwik” call once more; however it was coming from the western side of the lake from the same spot I had seen the bird fly earlier. Naturally, by the time I got there, there wasn’t a sound to be heard!

The specific site where the bird appeared to be hiding was along the waters edge downhill from a memorial dedicated to workers. Despite staking out the area for over an hour the bird did not want to come out. I had all but given up and decided to take another, final, walk around the lake as it was already getting close to sunset. By the time I made it back around to the memorial the sun had already gone down and the light was quickly disappearing. After another fifteen minutes of waiting I heard the bird calling again! This time it was coming, not from the thickets and conifers I had seen the bird fly into, but just a few metres south where there were no conifers. I quickly popped my head over the hill and honed in on the source of the sound; the bird was visible for just a few seconds before ducking back into the thicker brush and going silent, but at least this time I had a good look! This was around 1645 and well into the twilight of evening but thankfully there was still enough light to see the pale eyebrow stripe and defined streaking on the chest and sides. I also observed the characteristic tail and rear body bobbing. Although the light was bad and the view brief, after putting in an entire afternoon’s worth of searching I was more than satisfied with what little time the bird offered me!

Townsend’s Solitaire at Terra Nova

According to the BC bird alert page for the Lower Mainland a Townsend’s Solitaire has been seen at Richmond’s Terra Nova park since December 31st. Yesterday was the first opportunity I had to head out that way and take a look for it. Arriving at the parking lot for the community gardens (49.170753,-123.196398 from google maps) around 0830, I witnessed several hundred Snow Geese in flight overhead! The birds were flying in a south easterly direction and must have come from the waterfront.

The Solitaire had been seen around the parking lot for the community gardens as well as in the gardens themselves. I started off by scanning the bushes on the west side of the parking lot. Near the red barn looking building I found a Bewick’s Wren. Occasionally the bird would call and pop into view before dropping back down and foraging through the undergrowth. As I was enjoying the wren a bird flew into a tree just at the edge of my field of vision. It was the Townsend’s Solitaire! I followed the bird as it moved south from tree to tree before flying across Westminster Highway and out of sight into the trees in that part of the park (this part of Westminster Highway is not really a “highway” but more of a quiet street).

I spent the next twenty minutes checking out what else was going on; which included some close up views of a group of Purple Finches feasting on berries. After scanning the marshes from the dyke at the end of Westminster Highway I turned around to find the Townsend’s Solitaire perched close by in a tree! Here the bird provided some of its best views yet. For a “grey bird” this species’ plumage is quite beautiful in my opinion; a subtle smooth grey, accented by the dash of buffy yellow on the wings and the white eye ring.

Crow and Gull Play with Balls on Lost Lagoon

Here’s a video I shot just before I left Stanley Park on Wednesday. It’s of a Northwestern Crow and Glaucous-winged Gull finding some amusement in two balls that found their way onto an iced over Lost Lagoon. Despite the ubiquity of crows almost everywhere in Vancouver I still enjoy seeing what they’re up to. Their social nature and intelligence often lead to interesting interactions with the human landscape and unique solutions to surviving in the city.

Queen Elizabeth Park: January 17th 2013

There had been a Northern Goshawk reported recently at Queen Elizabeth Park, which I hoped to photograph. I was also hoping that the Pine Grosbeaks that had been frequenting the park would be around for a few pictures as well. Unfortunately I couldn’t locate either species; in fact I found the level of activity around the tennis courts and lawn bowling area to be quite low. Atop a Douglas Fir on the northeast side of the hill I found a possible explanation; a Merlin. Perhaps with the Northern Goshawk, and now this guy around, most of the other birds were keeping a low profile.

The pond just north of the Bloedel Conservatory was almost completely iced over; just a solitary female mallard was present on the small patch of water. Nearby, however, I came across a Red-breasted Sapsucker. It was just off the path on a tree that was obviously well frequented by this species as it had the characteristic ladder of sap wells drilled along its trunk. The bird seemed quite oblivious to my presence or that of other people as they walked by, it just carried on about its business.