Archive for the 'Maplewood Conservation Area' Category

Maplewood: November 7th 2010

Sunday afternoon proved to be sunny with some clouds so I put aside my schoolwork and went birding at Maplewood Conservation Area. The tide was coming in when I arrived at the mudflats and the birds were positioned perfectly for observation with my scope; not too far out so as to strain the resolving power of ones eye, but distant enough such that a human presence doesn’t alter their behaviour or movements.

Right in front of the log where I was seated a group of Greater Yellowlegs foraged in the shallows. They hung around long enough for me to attempt some video by handholding my camera up to my scope’s eyepiece.

Also present at the mudflats was at least one drake Eurasian Widgeon. I didn’t have time to scan the entire flock for others as a Bald eagle flushed the group; they didn’t settle back down but instead continued flying west. Luckily the gulls decided not to flee the area entirely; interspersed amongst the Mew and Glaucous-winged Gulls were a handful of California Gulls.

On my way out I had the pleasure of watching a very late male Black-throated Gray Warbler flitting about in the trees nearby the bird feeders. Looking at eBird, I see that my sighting is the only one ever reported in November for the province! It’s also clear that the fall migration for this species appears to have petered out by mid October. I wonder what held this little guy up?

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Northern Pygmy-Owl at Maplewood

I swung by Maplewood Conservation Area on Friday afternoon (29 Oct) while on my way home from school and, just as I was leaving the place, I had the distinct pleasure of watching a Northern Pygmy-Owl catch a Black-capped Chickadee in the trees nearby the bird feeders at the entrance. Maplewood is a good spot to see this species in the Vancouver area and, if you have a look at eBird, you will see that just about everyone has seen it there except me.  It’s not from lack of trying that I had yet to see the bird; I’d gone after it on several occasions soon after the bird has been reported and sometimes I’ve even been there on the same day that others have seen it.  On Friday I finally caught up with my nemesis bird in a spectacular way!

After a couple of minutes spent watching the activity going on at the feeders around 1730 the birds became noticeably agitated and began giving alarm calls. I turned around to have a look at the source of the calls just in time to see the owl dive into a bush close to the path; at this point the Chickadees, House finches, and sparrows were in full panic. Here is a shaky video I shot with my cell phone showing the chaos that ensued after the owl made a kill…

Well, it doesn’t quite capture all of the activity going on after the owl made its kill but at least you can kinda hear the birds screaming bloody murder.

It must have been about 30 seconds or so after the owl dived into the bush that it re-emerged with the chickadee in its talons. It flew up to a branch about 3m above the ground in the tree just by the bush where it sat for about a minute just resting. I would imagine that carrying the chickadee must’ve been a bit of work for the little owl. Black-capped Chickadees weigh between 10 and 14 grams and Northern Pygmy-Owls between 60 to 70 grams so this little owl had to transport roughly 20% of its body weight (1, 2). The bird moved from branch to branch; pausing for up to a minute at each stop. I eventually lost track of it as it flew further away from the path and my position; though a group of chickadees stayed with it continually scolding the bird.

The Northern Pygmy-Owl was a great way to wrap up the day particularly since I had spent years chasing this species at Maplewood. After continually missing a bird that others have seen with relative ease one begins to doubt their abilities as a birder. The sense of satisfaction after seeing it was immense!

References:

1.      Foote, Jennifer R., Daniel J. Menill, Laurene M. Ratcliffe and Susan M. Smith. 2010. 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/039doi:10.2173/bna.39

2.      Holt, Denver W. and Julie L. Petersen. 2000. Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium gnoma), 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/494doi:10.2173/bna.494

Marbled Murrelet at Maplewood (14/08/10)

I’m currently in the midst of final exams but I really needed a break; or rather, an escape from the sheer boredom that is word for word memorization. I decided to head to my local patch, Maplewood Conservation Area, where I was rewarded with the sight of a juvenile Marbled Murrelet at Otter Point (south west corner of the property). Although this is not really a rare bird for the Vancouver area, it is for Maplewood; the WBT’s checklist lists the species as casual.

The bird was sleeping most of the time and unfortunately I didn’t have my spotting scope or camera with me so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was there!

Maplewood: July 28th 2010

It’s been over two months since my last post and during that time I haven’t been able to get out for any amount of serious birding because of an insane amount of school work. Every week since mid May I’ve had an exam or major assignment due and so, during this absolutely gorgeous summer weather Vancouver’s been having, I’ve been indoors in front of a computer or behind a desk. Thankfully I had my last exam before finals on Tuesday so it was an easy decision to head to Maplewood Conservation Area for a couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon.

When I got to the lookout at the mudflats I found the tide to be out and the birds just little specks in my binoculars, but this afforded me the first opportunity I’ve had to get a look at the booming along the Burnaby shoreline at the Chevron refinery. There has been a slow leak of “a mix of crude oil, gasoline, water, and a “diesel-like” substance” since at least April 21st (1). I don’t find it surprising that a major energy corporation like Chevron has let things get to the point where oil is seeping out of the ground; if the Gulf Oil spill has taught us anything it’s that big oil can’t be trusted. The leak is “only” 50 liters so far and although more than this probably leaks out of the cars, trucks, buses, and boats in Vancouver each day any leak, especially one this close to such critically important habitat as Maplewood Flats, is a worrying sign. We need to wake up and stop consuming all of this crap.

And now onto the birds! At the mudflats I had the pleasure of watching two different Ospreys hunting and catching fish one of whom flew right over my position with its prize clenched in its talons. Near the Old Barge Channel I got excellent looks at a sleeping Common Loon and managed to get off this blurry pic with my cell phone…

At Otter Point a pair of distant Surf Scoters were present as well as an out of season male Barrow’s Goldeneye. Looking at eBird I see that a lone Barrow’s Goldeneye has been seen at Maplewood since July 14th. At this time of the year this species is normally found in the interior of the province where it breeds (2). You can look up a map of its breeding distribution at the BC Breeding Bird Atlas.

The other surprise bird of the day was a Green Heron at the West Pond. It was quite well hidden in the cattails and I think it was there was more luck involved in me finding it than skill. According to the WBT’s checklist Green Heron is a rare sighting at Maplewood; it’s certainly the first time I’ve seen the species there.

In the forested section I came across a mixed flock of mostly Black-capped Chickadees and a couple of finches but there were also two Black-throated Gray Warblers and a single Yellow Warbler.

It was nice to get outside for a bit of birding; hopefully it won’t be too long before I can do it again.

References:

  1. http://www.straight.com/article-326396/vancouver/chevron-cleaning-after-burrard-inlet-oil-leak
  2. 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.

For more on the Chevron spill see this CBC article: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/05/28/bc-chevron-refinery-leak-squamish-nation.html

Maplewood: March 27th 2010

I was expecting it to be a bit of a wet Saturday but luckily the weather forecasts were a little off and it turned out to be a pretty decent day, which in turn led to an excellent time out at Maplewood Conservation Area. I think everyone else was expecting rain too as I only encountered one other person in my first hour or so of birding.

Soon after taking the path that heads to the mudflats I spotted a male Downy Woodpecker and not long after that a second one. The two were busily foraging for insects or other arthropods and after I stood still for a minute or so one of them came within two metres of where I was standing (1).

The tide was too far out for me to confidently identify everything at the mudflats but I was able to spot two Turkey Vultures soaring high above Burnaby Mountain and a little while later a Rufous Hummingbird spent a couple of seconds flying about the bushes at the lookout. At the south east corner of the property I heard the buzzing call of two Bewick’s Wrens coming from the brush which was shortly followed by a brief appearance of one of the birds. I wonder if these were two males establishing their respective territories as this type of call is used in such situations (2). In the distance a group of Red Crossbills were audible.

After heading across the footbridge that spans the Old Barge Channel I soon noticed the distinctive shape of a perched Red-tailed Hawk in a tree near the center of the west side. I quickly walked to the trail that runs through the middle of the area and took some pictures through my binoculars before a few crows managed to chase the hawk off.

While watching the hawk I noticed that it made frequent looks down at the ground below the tree it was sitting in. Perhaps it was looking for one of these Garter Snakes…

Over at the West Pond a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers (Audubon’s Warbler) were catching some flying insects. It’s great to see these birds again and I can’t imagine it’ll be much longer before some of the other Warblers start showing up on a regular basis.

References:

  1. Jackson, Jerome A. and Henri R. Ouellet. 2002. Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), 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/613doi:10.2173/bna.613
  2. Kennedy, E. Dale and Douglas W. White. 1997. Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii), 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/315doi:10.2173/bna.315

Maplewood: March 14th 2010

With the forecast calling for rain I wasn’t expecting much in the way of activity but luckily the worst of the weather was just a couple of brief showers and the birds were out and about as usual.

After watching a mixed flock of Bushtits, Black-capped Chickadees, and a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet near the entrance, I made my way over to the mudflats. The waterline and, consequently, most of the birds were too far out for me to confidently identify everything with my binoculars so I decided to check out the rest of Maplewood before finishing up at the mudflats. One bird of note, however, flew high above the area in an easterly direction; a Red-tailed Hawk.

In the trees on the western bank of the Old Barge Channel I found my best bird(s) of the day. A flock of eight Red Crossbills were perched at the top of two trees not far from the footbridge. This species feeds on conifer seeds; not something in abundance at Maplewood as there aren’t many trees of this type on the property when compared to the surrounding area (1). The nomadic nature of the species, a result of fluctuations in the seed crop, also contributes to the irregularity of birds at this location (1). As such, the Wild Bird Trust’s checklist describes Red Crossbill as rare throughout the year.

Elsewhere on the west side a group of five American Goldfinches were feeding on the seeds of a tree near the West Pond and at one point this large group of gulls circled overhead before heading west…

Back at the mudflats the usual ducks, gulls, and Northwestern Crows were feeding, preening and resting much closer to the viewing area than when I had first checked in. After twenty minutes or so of observation a lone Herring Gull buzzed past and I decided to call it a day.

Reference:

  1. Adkisson, Curtis S. 1996. Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), 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/256doi:10.2173/bna.256

Eurasian Green-winged Teal at Maplewood… Again

I decided to take advantage of the nice weather today and the fact that everyone else would be watching the gold medal hockey game to head out for some birding at Maplewood Conservation Area. My hunch panned out, the place was practically deserted… little did they know that the real gold was to be found here.

I found this Eurasian Green-winged Teal at the same location that I had seen the previous one, Otter Point. It is quite likely that this bird is the same individual that I saw two weeks ago.

The bird was preening itself and splashing the water about quite a bit, much to the irritation of some nearby Mallards who swam off in the opposite direction. In the half hour or so that I spent watching the duck I didn’t notice it associating with a hen as I had seen it do last time. I wonder if something happened to her or if the two separated (I’m not sure to what extent this occurs in the species)? Most Green-winged Teal have formed pairs by March and the remainder will get together during migration or on the breeding grounds so I suppose there is still time for this bird to find a mate, unless it decides to head back to Asia or Europe (1, 2).

It was nice to see such a great bird again, especially seeing as how it marks the end of my two week break from university and the end of the Olympics.

References:

  1. Johnson, Kevin. 1995. Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca), 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/193doi:10.2173/bna.193
  2. Mckinney, F. 1965a. The displays of the American Green-winged Teal. Wilson Bull. 77:112-121.