Posts Tagged 'North Vancouver'

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.

 

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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?

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

Harbourside: October 9th 2010

I wasn’t planning on birding today due to a forecasted downpour and a sizable amount of school work but when a break in the rain happened around midday I couldn’t resist the urge to get out. I decided to head to Harbourside Park in North Vancouver.

Of course, just as I was arriving on scene it started to pour again and it didn’t let up during my visit. The rain did, however, force a number of dog walkers to retreat which is always good for birding. The place was still a veritable minefield though with feces all over the grassy areas and at several spots on the path; I think I spent all most as much time looking where I was walking as I did scanning the area for birds.

At the base of Fell Avenue I checked out a couple of Harbour Seals lounging on the logs along with a number of gulls, the most interesting of which was a California Gull. In the bushes along the path following the shoreline were the usual assortment of Emberizidae expected in this type of habitat; Song and White-crowned Sparrow as well as Spotted Towhee and Dark-eyed Junco. Over at Mackay Creek the exposed western bank held a number of Black Turnstone as well as a couple of Killdeer. Sadly I could only walk as far as the first viewing platform since the area to the north was closed off because of construction on the Spirit Trail.

When I returned to the bottom of Fell Avenue I decided to check out the brushy lot on the eastern side of the road. Here I was rewarded with a decent view of a Western Meadowlark and a fleeting glimpse of a Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Western Meadowlark inhabit a variety of grassland habitats; not really the first thing that springs to mind when I think of the area at Harbourside Park (1). The lot I sighted the bird in was a mix of bush, weeds, gravel, and asphalt. There is also a grassy/weedy lot just across the street but the total area of possible habitat for this species is pretty small. I see on eBird that three birds were sighted on the 29th of September at the same location. I wonder if these are just birds migrating through or if there’s a few that have decided to stick it out for a while. Judging by the signs posted on each lot this small patch of Western Meadowlark habitat is destined to be “developed” in the near future removing any stopover or potential wintering sites at this location.

Reference:

  1. Davis, Stephen K. and Wesley E. Lanyon. 2008. Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), 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/104doi:10.2173/bna.104

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