Posts Tagged 'nature'

Stanley Park: February 1st 2013

I decided to take another walk at Stanley Park yesterday afternoon. The weather was quite nice today, as far as winter goes, with some sun and a temperature of around eight degrees. It turned into a good opportunity to get some close up shots of the regular sparrows and other smaller birds. I spent a decent amount of time at the west end of Lost Lagoon in the vicinity of the stone bridge. There’s always a solid congregation of smaller birds around this spot during the winter.

From the stone bridge I turned north and walked through the forested trails to Beaver Lake. Bird activity in this part of the park is generally quiet during the winter but it’s always nice taking a walk through such beautiful forest so close to the downtown core!

There were several groups of Pine Siskins and Red Crossbills feeding on the cones high up in the treetops throughout the section of forest I walked through.

When I got to Beaver Lake I spent most of my time photographing the birds around the wooden bridge at the northwest corner of the lake. The birds are accustomed to being fed at this spot it seems and will come in for a closer look anytime someone stops by. The Chestnut-backed Chickadees are particularly adept at mobbing visitors for a meal.

It was definitely a great day to be outdoors!

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!

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!

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!