Stanley Park monthly bird count (September 2016)

Green-winged Teal (female)

Green-winged Teal (female) | Sarcelle à ailes vertes | Anas carolinensis or Anas crecca caroliensis

After a lengthy absence from my blog, I felt like posting a few pictures taken during Stanley Park Ecology Society‘s most recent monthly bird count, which took place last weekend, on September 11, 2016 and was led by Else Mikkelsen.

We saw a number of interesting birds, but the most interesting for me was seeing (and hearing!!!) a pair of kingfishers up close and personal at the northwest corner of the Lost Lagoon, near the lagoon’s tributary. I captured only a marginally acceptable shot of the male, but I have posted it here nonetheless. We were also lucky enough to get some good views of Gadwalls, Green-winged Teals and Wood Ducks, not to mention a few migrating birds such as a Warbling Vireo and Yellow Warbler (the latter is not 100% certain, but I’m fairly confident that this is what I saw).

But the strangest thing that happened as we began our walk was that we got a very good and long look at a bat as it flew on the lagoon in broad daylight to hunt insects. Unfortunately, this may also indicate that this individual had rabies, as it is highly exceedingly rare for most bats to be so active after the sun has fully risen. Let’s hope that it only was temporarily confused! I’ve included a photo of the bat, even though it isn’t very sharp.

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American Robin in Vancouver

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American Robin / Merle d’Amérique / Turdus migratorius: Taken on April 19, 2015, at Harbour Green Park in Vancouver, BC, Canada with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4 & AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II (ISO 400 | 420mm | f/5.6 | 1/1600). Not baited, called in or set up.

Another sign fall is here…

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Aside from the fact that we are bracing for at least five days of rain (starting this afternoon), the arrival of certain bird species signals the start of fall in this part of the world. In my previous post, you saw a juvenile Cedar Waxwing feasting on the now very ripe berries. The birds pictures above (Greater White-Fronted Geese) are another such species, which come down here from their Arctic breeding grounds. I was lucky to see about a dozen individuals last weekend on one of the lawns of Vancouver’s Jericho Park.

Thursday bird photo: Pigeon Guillemot

This photo of a Pigeon Guillemot (Latin: Cepphus columba; français : Guillemot colombin) was taken a couple of days ago on Burrard Inlet, from Burrard Dry Dock Pier close to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, BC (Canada). I’m glad I finally photographed one of these before they moved on to their wintering “grounds” (well, coasts, actually).

Monday Nature Photo: Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

This photo was taken a few weeks ago after a brave — or foolish? — family hike, from the second peak at St’a7mes / Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh / Squamish, BC (Canada)… in spite of the difficult climb, this was a great experience, especially considering the view!

Stanley Park Ecology Society Bird Count

On this beautiful July 8 morning, I participated (as a volunteer) on the monthly bird count of the Stanley Park Ecology Society. Aside from allowing all participants to appreciate the wonder of having such a magnificant natural area minutes from downtown Vancouver, BC (Canada), this count allows to have a reliable measure of how the Stanley Park’s bird population is doing.

To see the results of the July 2012 bird count, click here: http://stanleyparkecology.ca/2012/07/11/bushtits-merlins-and-hummingbirds/

I would like to take this occasion to thank SPES and in particular, its Conservation Officer, Robyn Worcester, 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: http://stanleyparkecology.ca/

See you in August, life permitting!

Family Visit to Capilano Park

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Today (July 1st), which happens to be Canada Day in these parts, the whole family had a great outing in Capilano Park (between Cleveland Dam and the federally-run salmon hatchery), less than 15 minutes from home in North Vancouver. It was a good outing to have before sitting down to witnessing Italy’s crushing defeat to the Spaniards in the Euro Cup 2012.

As is usually the case in natural areas on the Northwest coast of North America, we were able to admire rushing waters and lush green plants and trees, since they are often covered in moss. The photos below should give you a faint idea of the natural (and sometimes human-modified) beauty we witnessed.

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Again, although this was not the objective of our walk, I was able to hear (and in a few cases see) various birds, including American Robins and Pacific Wrens, not too mention various unidentified thrushes, warlbers and various wood peepers. I’m also fairly certain hat I heared a Pacific-slope Flycatcher (would have been a lifer if I had been 99.9% certain). I also think that I saw a Western Tanager eating berries, but I was not able to get a second look to confirm, so it will have to remain a tantilizing possibility for now. I did get to photograph a huge (Banana?) slug and some nive flowers, however.

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Random bird post: Golden-crowned Sparrow

I guess you could say that today’s post is truly random, since I have nothing much to say about my chosen bird, the Golden-crowned Sparrow (Latin: Zonotrichia atricapilla | français: bruant à couronne dorée), except to say that I like to see this bird and have been lucky enough to get some good pictures of them (actually, the second-last picture was taken by my son Carl).

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Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

Today (June 24, 2012), the whole family visited Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (a.k.a. Squamish), about 45 minutes north of our home in British Columbia, Canada. Although the terrain was quite challenging, it was a great outing, with perfect weather, plenty of fresh air, beautiful scenery and even a few bird sightings (mostly hearings, actually)! And something truly odd happened: we crossed our next door neighbours during our walk, completely by coincidence!

I have included a few photos of the scenery in this post, even though they give you merely a faint idea of the splendours of this region.

And even though I was not birding at all on this day (the terrain was really too steep!), I still heard or saw many species including: Grey Jays, a Raven, a Pileated Woodpecker, a Sooty Grouse, at least one Swainson’s Thrush and Varied Thrush, with various unidentified kinglets, warblers and hummingbirds (not to mention several highly curious Douglas Squirrels and Chipmunks). And at the very end of our hike, I even managed to take a few pictures of a family of White-crowned Sparrows enjoying the sun and feeding their offspring (see the last two pictures below).

I strongly recommend this park to anyone who likes a challenging but highly rewarding hike!

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Random bird post: Northwestern Crow

Northwestern Crow harasses a Bald Eagle just above our backyard in North Vancouver, BC (Canada), May 2012

You might be forgiven for thinking this blog will be about the Bald Eagle pictured above, but I will probably talk about this majestic raptor at another time (if and when I can capture better photos than what I currently have). Instead, I would like to spend a bit of time discussing the Northwestern Crow (Latin: Corvus caurinus; en français: Corneille d’Alaska).

As you can see, the much smaller crow is very intent on driving out the eagle from “its” air space: in this case, the eagle did leave the area above our back yard rather quickly after having endured several diving attacks. Few birds are so relentless with the eagles, with the possible exception of blackbirds.

Northwestern Crow, photo taken in December 2011 at Jericho Beach, Vancouver, BC (Canada)

These crows live in a very thin band of land on the northern part of the North American Pacific Coast (on the northern tip of Washington State, all of British Columbia and the southern half of Alaska). It is quite difficult to tell apart from its slightly larger, slightly deeper voiced and very closely related “American” cousin – only our close proximity to the ocean ensures that we can identify it with any certainty. It should also be added that, wheras the American Crow is omnivorous, its Northwestern’s cousin eats mainly fish and crustaceans.

Northwestern Crow, photo taken in February 2012 at Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC (Canada)

The two species are so closely related that the American Ornithologists’ Union suggests the two species are in fact identical (or conspecific), but this issue has still not been completely settled (source: Grace Bell, “Northwestern Crow: Remarks,” taken from the Royal BC Museum’s website). I suppose we will only know for sure if and when some genetic testing is done on the two populations of birds. In the meantime, I shall continue to count it as a species on my life list!

Random bird post: Pied-billed Grebe

Today, my post will be about a species that is not always easy to spot (if only because it is a diminutive and not very colourful member of the Podicipedidae family), namely the Pied-billed Grebe (Latin: Podilymbus podiceps / en français: grèbe à bec bigarré).

Pied-billed Greeb (breeding adult), Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC (Canada), April 15, 2012

I suppose today’s post is not really that random: I am writing about the Pied-billed Grebe because I found out a few days ago that at least one pair of these birds is breeding this year for the first time in a while at Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC (Canada). If you want to see a photo of one of the newly minted Stanley Park PBG chicks, click on the following link, which will take you to the appropriate page of the park’s Ecology Society website: All about birds.

Pied-billed Grebe (non-breeding adult), Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC (Canada), December 2011

I will conclude by pointing out that although Stanley Park did not have a nesting Pied-billed Grebes for several years, this species is nonetheless considered to be of least concern by IUCN (to find out more, visit the appropriate BirdLife International page).

Random bird post: Great Blue Heron

To continue on my “Random Bird Post” feature, I would now like to share a few thought about a magestic (especially in flight) wading bird, the Great Blue Heron (Latin: Ardea herodias; en français: grand héron).

Great Blue Heron in flight, taken in August 2010 at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, MA (USA)

One of the interesting things about these birds is that they attract a lot of attention, especially their nests and nesting habits, in part because they’re so damned interesting, but also because the rely on wetlands to propagate. This makes them a good indicator of the relative health of these important, but highly sensitive natural areas.

The Cornell Lab in Ithica, NY, for instance, has two live webcames trained on a GBH nest (but you may want to look at it really soon because the young might start leaving the next any day now: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=2433

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Great Blue Heron, taken during the monthly bird count in December 2011 at Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC (Canada)

I should also point out that our very own Stanley Park, right next door to downtown Vancouver, has one of North America’s largest urban Great Blue Heron colonies. The pictures immediately above and below were taken there, BTW. This colony is closely watched by the fantastic staff and volunteers of the Stanley Park Ecology Society. In spite of intense egg-poaching by another magestic species (Bald Eagles), the herons seem to carry on as best as they can. To find out more about these herons, please visit SPES’s website: http://stanleyparkecology.ca/conservation/urban-wildlife/herons/

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Great Blue Heron, taken during the December 2011 bird count at Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC (Canada)