Archive for the 'Vancouver' Category

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!

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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!

Brambling in Fairview Neighbourhood

On Sunday a report of a Brambling came in from a backyard in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood. See the BC Bird Alert page for details on the exact location. Normally I don’t like chasing birds reported in backyards because I feel a little weird walking around people’s houses staring into their backyards with binoculars. On Monday (January 7th 2013), however, I was planning on going to nearby Queen Elizabeth Park for my fourth attempt at locating some Pine Grosbeaks so I decided to swing by and try see the bird.

Thankfully I arrived on scene at the same time as some other birders, so I didn’t feel that uncomfortable staring intently at the bushes in someone’s backyard seeing as there were about six other people doing the same!  The house where the Brambling had been seen had several bird feeders as well as some dense bushes in the backyard; it was here that the homeowner first reported the bird and other birders had seen it on Sunday. My initial scans found that the bushes held a number of House Finches and Houses Sparrows, as well as a couple of Song Sparrows and a Fox Sparrow, but no Brambling. The other birders and I would have to wait about twenty minutes before the bird made a spectacular entrance flying into the bushes and perching in full view.

The Brambling continued to move about in the bushes giving some great views for the remaining twenty minutes that I stuck around for. My shoddy iPhone photos don’t do the bird justice as it is truly a handsome specimen. My visit to Queen Elizabeth Park also netted me four Pine Grosbeaks, another great looking bird! It was a nice way to cap the day off.