Stanley Park Ecology Society: April Bird Count


Stanley Park Ecology Society‘s most recent bird count took place on Sunday, April 11. Even though it was fairly quiet, I was able to get a few interesting photos. And it was a treat to see three species of the swallows (Tree, Violet-green and Barn) flying over the water to catch insects.

The count was led once again by Else Mikkelsen, who is a longtime SPES volunteer and is pursuing an undergraduate science degree at the University of British Columbia.

The photos featured today were taken on the park’s Lost Lagoon or Beaver Lake with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. None of the birds were baited, called in or set up, although the chickadees and squirrels were attracted to seeds left behind by other users of the park. These species will be featured in a separate post in the days to come. [UPDATE: Actually, I like the photo gallery setup so much that I will progressively update each of the captions below, rather than posting each species individually. I will move to other photos, instead.]

  • Photo above: Male Wood Duck, taken not far from Lost Lagoon
  • Photos below: Each species identified separately


Will the real gull please stand up?


On this Canadian Thanksgiving day, I thought I would post a photo that is rather unusual on my site, since it prominently features human-made objects. This sculpture of three gulls on a ship’s sail is found on a children’s playground close to the seawall in West Vancouver, BC, Canada and is often visited by real gulls (usually by Glaucous-winged Gulls, like the one featured in this photograph). It always makes me smile to see them there, next to their wooden “cousins”!

Glaucous-winged Gull (juvenile): Portrait


Glaucous-winged Gull (juvenile) | Goéland à ailes grises | Larus glaucescens: Taken on September 27, 2015 on the seawall in West Vancouver with with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 400 | 300mm | f/5.6 | 1/640, cropped for composition). Not baited, called in or set up.

Glaucous-winged Gull on Ambleside Beach


Glaucous-winged Gull | Goéland à ailes grises | Larus glaucescens: Taken on Ambleside Beach (West Vancouver, BC, Canada), with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 2500 | 300mm | f/11 | 1/4000, cropped for composition). Not baited, called in or set up.

Glaucous-winged Gull in Tsawwassen


Glaucous-winged Gull (adult) | Goéland à ailes grises | Larus glaucescens: Taking shots of flying birds is always a challenge, even when they are gliding in strong winds next to a boat. I only got a few shots that I liked, two of which are featured here (and they are not perfect!).

These photos were taken from the Vancouver (Tsawwassen) — Victoria (Swartz Bay) ferry on July 3, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 400, 170mm, f/6.3, 1/1600). Not baited, called in or set up.


September Stanley Park Bird Count

This is starting to sound implausible (given that we’re in Vancouver, after all), but we had another magnificent and sunny Sunday morning and another another great bird count at Stanley Park.

If you haven’t read my blog before, I volunteer regularly for this monthly event organized by the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES). Aside from allowing all participants to appreciate the wonder of having such a splendid natural area minutes from downtown Vancouver, having more that five year’s worth of consistent data from this count allows SPES to obtain highly reliable measures of how the park’s bird population is doing. Kudos once again to our fearless leader, SPES’s conservation officer Robyn Worcester, who thought the highlight of the day was the Rudy Duck, rarely seen on Lost Lagoon. The full tally of our bird count may be found here.

I also thought you might want to see a few pictures of the birds we saw on this day. I would like to point out two things about the gull photos you see below:

1) I normally shy away from identifying juvenile gulls because they are so hard to get right. At the risk of upsetting Robyn (who also finds it too difficult to tell them apart with certainty, especially since we get a lot of hybrids in this part of the world), I feel quite confident about the ID of the first year Glaucous-winged Gull, especially since I was able to consult this highly useful guide to hybrid and immature gulls in coastal B.C., published by Birds Canada.

2) You may notice that the adult Glaucous-winged Gull pictured below has a strangely shaped bill. I was especially intrigued about it because of an article I had read a while back regarding this issue (unfortunately, I do not remember the details of the article). Turns out that some biologists seem to think that deformed beaks may be be becoming more prevalent in North American birds, as indicated in this article published two years ago. It seems they are conducting further studies to see what might cause these malformations and what impact they have on individual birds and overall bird populations.

I would like to once again to thank SPES and especially Robyn for holding this event every month since 2006. It is highly appreciated by all participants.

You can find out more about SPES, its mission and activities and of course about Stanley Park here:

See you in October, if all goes as planned! Oh, and did you find the rather obvious “intruder” in the gallery of photos? I thought some might find it cute.