October 2016 Stanley Park Ecology Society Bird Count

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Hermit Thrush | Grive solitaire | Catharus guttatus

After a month-long absence from my blog, I’m posting a few pictures taken during Stanley Park Ecology Society‘s most recent monthly bird count, which took place this weekend, on October 9, 2016. It was once again very ably led by Else Mikkelsen and features about 15 dedicated volunteers!

This was an unusually calm count, especially since none of the winter ducks have yet arrived on Lost Lagoon… the flock (or raft, if you prefer) of Surf Scoters featured below was taken on the ocean before the count even began, near Stanley Park’s Ferguson Point. But we still saw many birds rather well, including Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Black-capped Chickadees and Northern Flickers. But the highlight for me was not doubt the Hermit Thrushes seen at the western edge of Lost Lagoon, especially since I was able to get several good photos of it, including the one featured above.

All photos taken with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. To see more pictures, please visit (and like, too!) my Facebook photography page and my Instagram account.

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Stanley Park March Bird Count

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Northern Shoveler (male) | Canard souchet | Anas clypeata (ISO 900 | 330mm | f/5.6 | 1/500, cropped for composition)

I have decided to interrupt my usual posting schedule to present several photos taken during the monthly count organized by the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES). Although lighting conditions were somewhat challenging, I was still quite happy with many of the results.

Even though we were told a big storm was on its way from Oregon, I decided to join last Sunday’s (March 13, 2016) bird count in Stanley Park, Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada. It 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. And in spite of the threat of rain, about 20 volunteers signed up for this month’s count.

Although we did not see any truly rare species on this count, this time around, we got a really good look at some less common and interesting species such as Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, Varied Thrushes and Barrow’s Goldeneyes. The latter were a particularly unexpected treat; even though they are quite common in the Vancouver area, they are pretty much exclusively seen on the ocean, not on a freshwater pond like Lost Lagoon.

All of the photos featured today were taken next to or on Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon 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, even though some of the ducks were probably expecting (but did not receive) handouts from the crowd of eager birders.

In conclusion, I should mention two things: 1) We did not see the Surf Scoters on the count, but I thought I would add this photo, because it was taken from Stanley Park’s Second Beach a few minutes before the count; 2) I will be posting several other photos of these species over the next several days, so stay tuned!

Taken from Second Beach in Stanley Park in Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada, on March 13, 2016, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. Not baited, called in or set up.

[I’ve not quite finished the captions, but will do so soon!] Done!

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Barrow’s Goldeneye (female) | Garrot d’Islande | Bucephala islandica (ISO 800 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/800, cropped)

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Barrow’s Goldeneye (male) | Garrot d’Islande | Bucephala islandica (ISO 800 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/800, cropped for composition)

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Common Goldeneye (male) | Garrot à œil d’or | Bucephala clangula (ISO 800 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1000, cropped for composition)

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Common Merganser | Grand Harle | Mergus merganser: (ISO 1100 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/500, cropped)

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Dark-eyed Junco (“Oregon”) | Junco ardoisé | Junco hyemalis (ISO 1600 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/160, cropped)

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Glaucous-winged Gull (maybe hybrid?) | Goéland à ailes grises | Larus glaucescens (ISO 720 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1000, cropped for composition)

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Pied-billed Grebe | Grèbe à bec bigarré | Podilymbus podiceps (ISO 450 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1000, cropped)

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Bufflehead | Petit Garrot | Bucephala albeola (ISO 1600 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/320, cropped for composition)

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Varied Thrush (male) | Grive à collier | Ixoreus naevius (ISO 1600 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/60, cropped for composition)

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Song Sparrow | Bruant chanteur | Melospiza melodia (ISO 1600 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/125, cropped for composition)

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American Coot | Foulque d’Amérique | Fulica americana (ISO 1600 | 350mm | f/5.6 | 1/500, cropped for composition)

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Surf Scoter (two males) | Macreuse à front blanc | Melanitta perspicillata (ISO 640 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1000)

White-crowned Sparrow at UBC Vancouver

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White-crowned Sparrow | Bruant à couronne blanche | Zonotrichia leucophrys: Taken on the the Point Grey campus of the University of British Columbia, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 400, 300mm, f/6.3, 1/1600). Not baited, called in or set up.

Golden-crowned Sparrow in Jericho Park

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Golden-crowned Sparrow | Bruant à couronne dorée | Zonotrichia atricapilla: Taken on April 25, 2015 in Jericho Park in Vancouver, BC, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 400 | 220mm | f/5.3 | 1/1000). Not baited, called in or set up.

White-crowned Sparrow at Jericho Park (again!)

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White-crowned Sparrow / Bruant à couronne blanche / Zonotrichia leucophrys: I realize that I published photos of this species only a week ago, but these were taken with my borrowed lens and the light was especially good, so I thought I would post a couple more photos.

Taken on April 18, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4 & AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II. Not baited, called in or set up.

  • Top: ISO 400 | 420mm | f/6.3 | 1/1600
  • Bottom: ISO 400 | 420mm | f/5.6 | 1/1250

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White-crowned Sparrows signing away in Jericho Beach Park!

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White-crowned Sparrow / Bruant à couronne blanche / Zonotrichia leucophrys: Both photos taken April 11, 2015, at Jericho Beach Park in Vancouver, BC, Canada with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED. Not baited, called in or set up.

  • Top: ISO 3200, 300mm, f/11, 1/4000
  • Bottom: ISO 400, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600

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Fox Sparrow at Jericho Park in Vancouver

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Fox Sparrow / Bruant fauve / Passerella iliaca: Taken on a rainy day at Jericho Park in Vancouver, BC, Canada on January 10, 2015, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 1600, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/100). Not baited, called in or set up.

Male House Sparrow at Reifel’s CBC

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House Sparrow / Moineau domestique / Passer domesticus (male): Taken during the 2014 Christmas Bird Count at the  George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Delta, BC, Canada on December 21 with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 1600, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/500). Not baited, called in or set up (but there were bird feeders nearby).

Lifer at Reifel: Harris’s Sparrow

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Today features the first of several photos taken on December 21, 2014, during the Christmas Bird Count at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC, Canada.

The photo above shows a first winter Harris’s Sparrow, a species I had never seen before, let alone photographed. Although it is not a great photo and had to be seriously cropped, I decided to publish it nonetheless, because I was glad to get any picture of this bird.

Taken with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 1600, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/250). Not baited, called in or set up (but there were bird feeders nearby).

Golden-crowned Sparrow in the snow

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I photographed this Golden-crowned Sparrow after a fresh snowfall in late November in Jericho Park in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The snow and colder temperature meant that it was “stickier” than usual and so I was able to get quite close to it.

Taken on November 29, 2014 with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 1600, 260mm, f/5.6, 1/500). Not baited, called in or set up.

White-crowned Sparrow

Having just celebrated International Migratory Bird Day on May 10th, I thought I would post a photo of a White-crowned Sparrow, which nests in greater Vancouver (I can hear one signing outside as I write these lines), but winters in nearby Washington and Oregon states. I realize this is not a perfect photo, because of the visual noise created by the branches and leaves, but I like the level of detail that can be seen in this bird. And I like that this was a chance photo, since I took it at the end of my work day as I was going from the office to the bus loop at UBC’s Point Grey Campus.

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Get off my branch!

Anna’s Hummingbirds (ANHU) have a reputation for being a bit feisty in spite of (or maybe because?) of their size. I was privileged to witness an interaction between an ANHU and a White-crowned Sparrow yesterday at UBC’s Point Grey campus that proved this point quite well: The sparrow had the temerity to perch – and even sing! – on the hummingbird’s favourite tree. After seeing the ANHU dive-bomb this foolish sparrow twice (I should add that he expressed his displeasure quite loudly, too), watch what happens next:

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The moral of this tale? Don’t fool with hummingbirds!

Can you tell these birds apart?

So I thought I would do, for once, a cross post from “What Bird Is This?,” another site that I contribute to (http://whatbirdisthis.wordpress.com):

I will now test your knowledge of sparrows. Both of these handsome specimens were taken on the same bird count last January in Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC. They are quite tricky to tell apart in this part of the world in late fall and early winter, especially for those of us used to seeing them out East (unless we see them together, of course, since one is noticeably bigger than the other). In this case, I would invite you to look at three important features to make you determination: the head, the bill and the shape of the spots on the breast. Good luck!