So I saw (very well) for the first time a great new bird species: Wilson’s Snipe — I am very happy to add it to my life list! I not only saw it, but was able to take many good pictures, too. Stay tuned for more about this month’s fabulous Stanley Park Ecology Society monthly bird count…
I have taken an editorial decision: In order to stretch out how long I can post photos without repeating a species (I hope that made sense), as of today, I will publish my D50 archives only once a week, every Thursday morning.
This week’s post features the Pigeon Guillemot (en français: Guillemot colombin; scientific name: Cepphus columba). For the past two winters and springs, I have found these birds near the Burrard Dry Dock Pier in North Vancouver. I believe they nest somewhere under the dock, but have yet to find conclusive proof of this. What I have observed and captured in a series of photos taken over the past two years, including the one above, are a pair of birds circling each other for several minutes on the water and chattering away quite loudly to one another.
I’ve included the picture below in this post because it shows very clearly one of the characteristic field marks that distinguishes this species from the very similar Black Guillemot, namely the black mark that streaks the wing’s white “window.”
For today’s “archival” photo, I have chosen a bird that is, in my view, one of British Columbia’s most iconic species, the Steller’s Jay (en français, Geai de Steller / scientific name: Cyanocitta stelleri). The blue/black combination, especially when the lighting conditions are right, is quite simply spectacular! As can be seen in the photo below, these birds are often attracted by human food and can come quite close to us, although they are not at all as bold as their cousins the Grey Jays. Both photos were taken in May 2013, in the parking lot area of Brandywine Falls Provincial Park.
One of my favourite volunteer events organized by the Stanley Park Ecology Society (and led by Robyn Worcester, their conservation officer) is the annual Winter Waterbird Survey along the park’s magnificent seawall (for more details on last year’s survey and the route that we take, click here). This year marks the third time that I participate. And the weather was great: a bit on the cool side, but sunny! We saw literally thousands of ducks on the ocean, mainly Surf Scoters and in lesser numbers Barrow’s Goldeneyes, but the highlight for me, I guess, were the handful of White-winged Scoters that were hiding among the huge flock. Here are a few shots I managed to get…
And while I was in Stanley Park, I also took a few pictures in other locations. These birds are not added to the count, but I thought I would share them with you nonetheless, especially the Snow Goose that was hanging out among the Canada Geese in the park’s Rose Garden (they are abundant in this region, but almost never seen in Stanley Park):
When I arrived in British Columbia with my family in September 2011, the Wood Duck was by far my favourite wildfowl species. And it’s easy to see why: Those colours are quite simply extraordinary. And coming from the eastern part of the continent, I did not get to see them all that often.
Although they are still certainly among my favourites, I have regularly seen many other beautiful ducks in this part of the world and have had to admit that other duck species now compete for my attention. I do not know if the Wood Duck remains in the number one position. Still, they are certainly in the top 10 because they are simply quite spectacular — and as the picture below demonstrates, the female of this species is also lovely, albeit in a much more understated way.
Today, I have decided to feature photos of the Lesser Scaup (en français: Petit fuligule / scientific name: Aythya affinis), if only because it should soon become one of the more abundant ducks in the region, until about April when they return up north to breed. They can be found here on both fresh water ponds like Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park and on the ocean. One of the main challenges with this species is that it is easily confused with the very similar Greater Scaup, but it is far more scarce in this part of the world – perhaps I can try to sort things out for you in a future post!
In the mean time, here is a photo of a male taken on Lost Lagoon in Vancouver’s Stanley Park:
And to end this blog, here is the understated, but nonetheless lovely, female Lesser Scaup (also taken at Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon):
Dear reader, you may ask yourself why I like to blog… I like blogging because it allows me to share a passion, namely bird and nature photography, with others. Many of you have said you enjoy seeing them and I hope this is true. Putting these pictures up on my office wall also works, but I can reach far more people with the internet. But I also love the interactions my blog allows me to have with my readers… so please continue sending in your comments!
Well, after several months’ labour, I have finally finished putting a bit of order in the photos I took with my old Nikon (the very reliable D50). I have discovered to my great surprise that, over the past two years, I have captured around 70 different bird species with this camera, mostly in the Great Vancouver area. Some of these photos are not really usable for a blog, but many are. As a result, I will draw from these archives to publish one or two photos, twice a week (on Wednesday morning and Sunday afternoon). Each post will include only one species and, when they are distinguishable, a photo of each sex.
This first photos in this series feature the beautiful Spotted Towhee (en français: Tohi tacheté / scientific name: Pipilo maculatus):
Choosing the first bird to feature was difficult, at first. Then I found this photo and my mind was made up. Why? Because it is one of the first bird photos that I took after we moved out to Canada’s West Coast and represents one of the reasons I decided to renew and deepen my double hobbies of birding and photography. The detail and colours of the feathers, not to mention *that* red eye just blew me away and convinced me that I must continue trying to find more shots like it. And I have, thanks to the fabulous birds that call this part of the world home!
Now I should add that since this bird was evidently “baited” with rice (by some unknown person, I hasten to add), I have decided to end this post with a more “natural” shot that I took in early 2013:
If you have read my posts in the past, you may already be aware that I am a volunteer at the Stanley Park Ecology Society and that I especially like participating in the monthly bird count lead by the society’s fearless conservation officer, Robyn Worcester. She has been leading these counts since 2006 and has accumulated an impressive amount of data over the years on the abundance and frequency of this incredible birding area. (BTW, if you live in Metro Vancouver, you may be interested to know that SPES has a number of volunteer opportunities.)
This most recent count was quite interesting, if only because I did not forget to put the fully-charged battery in my camera this time! It also doesn’t hurt that for the first time in a week, there wasn’t a heavy blanket of fog over large bodies of water. And the fall colours were really quite lovely!
Although there were still a small number and variety of ducks to be found, we did see a few female Green-winged Teals and a large number of very colourful Wood Ducks of both sexes. The Passerines were also quite active and included a good look at several Golden-crowned Kinglets (but no photos, alas, because yours truly does not focus fast enough), not to mention a fairly good look at a White-throated Sparrow, which is quite rare in this part of the world.
The photos below represent a small sample of the birds seen on this day. I will post (or provide a link to) the full species list here when it is available.