Archive Page 2

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.

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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.

Stanley Park: January 16th 2013

I decided to take another walk at Stanley Park for the second day in a row this afternoon. In particular I hoped to relocate at least one Greater White-fronted Goose that had been reported there on Sunday. Plus it would give me another opportunity to play around with my camera. Stanley Park is a great place for bird photography in my opinion as many of the birds are used to the presence of people and one can get quite close to a lot of them. On my way to Beaver Lake I passed through the rose garden and it was here that I found three Greater White-fronted Geese feeding on the grass with the ever present Canada Geese. They were a bit more wary than the Canada’s but still obliged for a couple of photos.

The bird in the above picture appeared to have some damage to the feathers on its right wing. It would also frequently tuck its right leg underneath the wing and feed on the grass around it while standing on one foot. The other two birds appeared quite healthy; perhaps they were keeping the injured bird company while it healed. Hopefully he or she will be back to full health soon!

New Camera and a Virginia Rail at Lost Lagoon!

This past weekend I got a new camera, one that I can finally take some better bird photos with; a Canon SX50 HS. If you’ve visited this blog before you can see how awful some of my bird photos are! I’ve been holding a camera or my phone up to my binoculars or spotting scope and the results haven’t been that great; often one can’t even tell what species is in the picture.

The other benefit to a super zoom like this is being able to document a sighting. This was illustrated in my last post twitching the Red-flanked Bluetail in New Westminster. Even if the photos aren’t great you can at least still tell what species it is. Hopefully I’ll also be able to post more often now that I’ve got something that resembles a bird to show everyone!

Today I took a walk around Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park and came across a Virginia Rail in the marsh impoundment at the north east corner. Normally there would be no way I could get a recognizable photo of such a shy fast moving bird; even though it was only a metre or two away from where I stood. I had to crank up the ISO as it was overcast and the reeds plus the overhanging trees made for some dim conditions. But at least you can tell it’s a Virginia Rail!

I spent about fifteen minutes with the bird before it scuttled off into the reeds. By standing completely still it grew comfortable enough to venture out into the open a couple of times, and even take a bath at one point. Every time someone would walk past it would run into some thicker reeds and once they’d past it would pop back out again. It was a real privilege being so close to a bird that is normally quite well hidden and shy!

Red-flanked Bluetail in New Westminster

On Sunday afternoon a probable Red-flanked Bluetail was reported in New Westminster’s Queen’s Park. I had no idea what a Red-flanked Bluetail looked like yet alone even thought of it as a possible bird to show up in the Lower Mainland so needless to say I planned to make a run for it the next day (Monday, January 14th)! By the time I left home around mid morning the bird’s identity had already been confirmed, heightening my excitement and sense of urgency. Queen’s Park is conveniently located on public transit which made chasing the bird much easier as I don’t own a vehicle. The only potential dampener on my plans was that it was snowing today! Thankfully, not too heavily at least.

When I got off the bus at the park I didn’t have far to walk before sighting a group of birders observing the bird. The area that the Bluetail was foraging around in consists of some tall conifers with little to no underbrush (paste 49.216514,-122.9093 into google maps to see the area of the park where the bird was). The only understory cover comes from the low hanging leaves of the younger conifers, tree stumps, and the occasional leafless bush. There was also a playground and a number of picnic tables. Luckily for us humans this makes moving around quite easy, and the bird certainly made everyone work for their views. Thankfully it was hanging around low down underneath or at the bottoms of the conifer trees; however, it wouldn’t sit still for more than a few seconds at most before moving around the base of a tree or to an entirely different tree. Viewing the bird basically consisted of a few seconds watching through binoculars before it would fly off, then moving five to ten metres before repeating. Occasionally I and the other birders would lose track of the bird and we’d have to spread out looking for it. It also didn’t seem to associate with any of the Juncos and Sparrows also hanging around. I also don’t think it made a single sound the entire time I spent observing it.

The snow and low light levels underneath the trees made getting photos a bit difficult, not to mention the shy skittish nature of the bird! But I did manage to get a few record shots showing the diagnostic features of a Red-flanked Bluetail…

I also managed to get a shot of it with a small insect in its bill. I can’t say that I noticed many bugs around with the snow and all but hopefully this little fellow is getting enough to eat. Maybe it was moving around so much in order to find enough food.

I spent about four hours following the bird as it circled the playground from tree to tree. It was truly a fantastic experience observing and appreciating this spectacular rarity. Many many thanks to the birder who first found the bird!

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.

Harbourside Park: December 27th 2012

On Thursday morning my mom had to take the car in for its service at the North Shore Auto Mall. I decided to come with as this would give me an opportunity to bird nearby Harbourside Park while we waited for the car to be ready. Winter is also a good time to visit the area as most of the activity is on the water and readily viewable from the pathway along the shore. The weather was mostly overcast with the lightest of drizzle, making it not entirely uncomfortable to be outside.

I started off at the south end of Fell Avenue where there are two empty lots on the east and west side of the street. Both lots are slated for development sometime soon and the eastern lot already had most of the weedy vegetation striped away and any debris sorted into several rubble piles. It was on one of these mounds that I spotted three juvenile White-crowned Sparrow, and, in a small tree behind a port-a-potty, I found two adult birds. I’ve found Harbourside to be a reliable location for this species during the winter in North Vancouver; although, as the park has seen more use since its establishment, I’ve typically found them in the brush of this particular area as opposed to other parts of the park. I wonder if this species will even continue to winter here once the lots are developed and the park becomes even busier.

Next I checked out the log booms near the marina at the end of the street. In addition to the usual Harbour Seals lounging on the logs and other floating debris, I could see several Black Turnstone walking about. It took a few minutes to spot them with my binoculars as they can be quite well camouflaged amongst the logs at a distance. This is very reliable spot for this species in North Vancouver; I’ve also seen them on the exposed mud banks of Mackay Creek at the western end of the park. Hopefully the Black Turnstones residing here for the winter will persist despite development as I’ve only ever seen them foraging in these two areas which are reasonably in-accessible to people or dogs.

There were also quite a few Canada Geese on the water; at least 295 by my rough count. They appeared to have spent the night at the mouth of Mackay Creek and were now making their way out towards the east for the day. At the mouth of the creek a single Cackling Goose was preening on the sandy bank amongst the Canada’s. It was also here that I first heard and then spotted a gorgeous male Anna’s Hummingbird flying amongst the trees and shrubs. As the tide was on its way out there was a section of exposed mud bank on the western shore of the creek. In addition to the usual assortment of ducks there were six Killdeer resting and preening close to the water. They blended in remarkably well and if it hadn’t been for the occasional head movement as they preened I might have missed them.

It was quite an enjoyable outing at Harbourside. Though every time I visit the park I can’t help but wonder what the area will be like bird-wise in the coming years as more and more land is developed and more people, particularly their dogs, come to use the park.