Saturday, January 7, 2017

January 7 Part 1 - White Rock Pier

After running some errands in the morning, I decided to head south to White Rock for some early afternoon birding. There had been a Ruddy Turnstone sighting the previous day. Although we may get one or two of these birds in Fall Migration at Boundary Bay, it would be a good one to add early in the year.

Even if I missed that bird, I'd be guaranteed to add a good number of new birds to the 2017 list. Late Fall and Winter are the best time to see a variety of diving ducks from the pier. It's not uncommon to get great close-ups here as the ducks are oblivious to the people above them.

My first sighting was a common bird seen year round, but the presentation was terrific. It was a flock of Canada Geese swimming in formation. This was addition #20 for 2017.

Canada Goose - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #20

The next bird looked like the ticket taker for the pier attraction. All that was missing was a hat.

Glaucous-winged Gull - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC

Scoters are diving ducks that are found in the winter on salt water. There are three species in North America: the common Surf Scoter, the less common White-Winged Scoter and the rare, for here, Black Scoter. The first two are easy to find off the pier in winter.

The male Surf Scoter is the most easily recognized with it's patchwork look.

Surf Scoter - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #21

I was fortunate to find a male White-winged Scoter close to the pier, they often stay a little farther off. This shot was taken my Nikon Coolpix.

White-winged Scoter - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #22

Here's the same bird with the Canon SLR. I think the Canon won today.

White-winged Scoter - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC

I spotted a familiar Black and White duck diving deep and resurfacing. I was happy to identify it to a man and two kids as a male Bufflehead. Another first for the year. This is a notoriously hard bird to photograph. It dives frequently and its colours play havoc with camera exposure. After some digital tweaking, you can see the eye in this photo.

Bufflehead - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #23

The female bufflehead is very different looking from the male, but quite distinctive and attractive. You can see here that this duck species is one of the smallest.
Bufflehead (F) - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC 

Near the end of the pier I saw an immature Surf Scoter attempting to crack open a shell. I'm not sure who won the battle.

Surf Scoter (Imm) - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC 

There are always Rock Pigeons at the end of the pier. Sometimes there is a lady who feeds them and they will climb all over her. Today I got a nice natural shot of them on their normal habitat.

Rock Pigeon - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #24

While scanning the rocks for Turnstones, I spotted a small Grebe out on the water. It was pretty far away and I had to zoom the Nikon all the way out to get a half-decent shot for the record. It was a Horned Grebe, another first for the year.

Horned Grebe - White Rock Pier, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #25

At this point I checked the Bird Alert website and realized the Ruddy Turnstone had been seen at the base of the pier, not the tip. I headed back to the base, hoping to get lucky.

Once I arrived at the base, I started walking east along the rocky shoreline towards the White Rock. This would be perfect habitat for Turnstones. 

Immediately, I noticed some small gulls in the water and stopped to grab a look. I needed Ring-billed for the year, but quickly realized I had something else - Mew Gulls. These are similar to Ring-bills in size, but lack  the strong black ring on the bill. I was happy, as this is not a species I see every year.

Mew Gull - White Rock foreshore, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #26

I spotted some small shorebirds among the rocks, the trail was getting warmer. These ones were Dunlin, the most common shorebird seen here in the winter. They scour the shoreline looking for any morsel, and always seem to be in packs for safety.

This is their winter plumage, when breeding season starts they will turn reddish with a big black area on the underbelly.

Dunlin - White Rock foreshore, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #27

By this time I had teamed up with another birder and she spotted some other shorebirds. These were Turnstones, but Black, not Ruddy. They are common along the Pacific anywhere there are rocky shorelines. It was great to see them, but there Ruddy cousin was not with them. The Ruddy was spotted for a couple of more days but has not been reported since. I'll have to take my chances with Fall birding to see them here.

Black Turnstone- White Rock foreshore, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #28

I started making my way back to the Pier and spotted one more species for the outing, the common Ring-billed Gull. This photo catches the identifying features very well: smaller size, yellow legs, yellow bill with pronounced black ring and pale iris. Another bird for the year list.

Ring-billed Gull - White Rock foreshore, White Rock BC - 2017 Bird #29

The day continues at Blackie's Spit in the next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment