Monday, November 27, 2017

November 27 - Monday Birding Part 1 - Pitt Meadows

I was still off from work due to my eye surgery, but was allowed to drive. I took the opportunity to head for Pitt Meadows where I hoped to find some Bohemian Waxwings.

Once you get on Rannie Road there are good chances for seeing Hawks and Kestrels on the telephone wires. If traffic is light, as it was today, it's possible to get some good shots from the car.

I saw three Red-tailed Hawks on the way to Pitt Lake and was able to photograph each one.

The first was a light adult (according to my Sibley guide).

Red-tailed Hawk - Rannie Rd, Pitt Meadows BC

The second was quite different looking but I had an expert birder look at it and confirmed it was a Red-tailed.  I wonder if it is quite a young bird that was still dependent on an adult for feeding.

Red-tailed Hawk - Rannie Rd, Pitt Meadows BC

The third hawk was much closer to Pitt Lake and looked like it was considering whether I was a threat when I stopped.

Red-tailed Hawk - Rannie Rd, Pitt Meadows BC

At Pitt Lake I ventured out on the nature trail, which looks completely different in the winter when all the leaves have fallen.

There were very few birds of any kind on the trail, never mind any Bohemian Waxwings.

I did see two of the more  common species:

Spotted Towhee - Pitt Lake Nature Trail, Pitt Meadows BC

Northwestern Crow - Pitt Lake, Pitt Meadows BC

I still had all the afternoon available and read that there had been White-winged Crossbills seen near Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta.

The next post details the afternoon events.

November 27 - Monday Birding Part 2 - Alaksen National Wildlife Area

I'd heard that there were White-winged Crossbills as the Alaksen National Wildlife area, so I made the drive from Pitt Meadows to Ladner. This area is adjacent to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary, but I'd never set foot in there before.

Due to my current employment, I only visit Reifel on weekends when Alaksen is closed. So it was quite strange to be in a completely unknown area so close to one I knew like the back of my hand.

It's very quiet at Alaksen as only the birders tend to go there when its open. It reminds me of the the Shire from the Lord of the Rings a bit.

Alaksen National Wildlife Area, Delta BC

Here's another shot further into the area, not sure if this is a pond or an oxbow from the Fraser River.

There was a small group of birders on site already, most of whom I was acquainted with. We did eventually find a large group of birds, but they were all Pine Siskins.

Pine Siskin - Alaksen National Wildlife Area, Delta BC

There were large number of Robins in the area as well.

American Robin - Alaksen National Wildlife Area, Delta BC

One of the birders found a Common Redpoll with his scope and I had a good look, but it was too high up in a heavily shaded area to find with a camera. Here's a shot of one taken at Reifel in  December 2015.

Common Redpoll - Reifel Bird Sanctuary - December 2015
2017 Bird #214

The birders split up and eventually some Crossbills were spotted near the Alaksen gate by the Reifel turnoff. We jumped in our vehicles and got there in time to see a flock in the nearby trees. The light was very poor, but in this situation the Nikon Coolpix can still get decent photos.

The birds were a mix of male and female White-winged Crossbills, a species I'd never seen before.

White-winged Crossbill - Alaksen National Wildlife Area, Delta BC
Life List #424
2017 Bird #215 

The light was poor and the photos are heavily cropped. There's two males in this shot and a Pine Siskin in the background.

The black and white on the sides distinguish the White-winged from Red Crossbills, which look more like House Finches.

The female is quite interesting, this is a heavily cropped photo.

White-winged Crossbill (F) - Alaksen National Wildlife Area, Delta BC

And finally, a cropped close-up of the male:

White-winged Crossbill - Alaksen National Wildlife Area, Delta BC

After not having a lifer since November 2016, I now had four since September. 

That was it for November, we'd see what December birding would bring.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

November 26 - Brief Point Roberts Outing

It was another Sunday visit to the Point for cheap gas and a brief check of activity at Lighthouse Marine Park.

The first sightings were the familiar Red-breasted Mergansers. Normally I only see females here, but today there was a male quite close to shore.

Red-breasted Merganser - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA

This bird is easily distinguished from the similar Common Merganser by these differences:

  • the reddish breast patch with the white ring above it
  • the crested head, not too visible here
  • the overall thin appearance, this species only weighs about 2/3 of what a Common Merganser does
  • The long thin bill with a slight upturn as seen below.
Red-breasted Merganser - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA

You can tell there's not much going on when I start taking photos of Glaucous-winged Gulls, our most common species on the west coast.

I decided to take a photo with each of my cameras as this gull posed for me nearby.

Here's how the Nikon P900C super zoom saw it:

Glaucous-winged Gull - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA (Nikon)

My Canon T4i saw it differently and more closely resembled what I saw with my eyes.

Glaucous-winged Gull - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA (Canon)

To be fair, I'm using the bord-watching setting with the Nikon, and it may be affecting the colour balance.

As I was leaving I spotted a sea lion swimming by quite close to shore. This is where the Nikon shines as i was able to get an in-focus shot from quite a distance.

Steller's Sea Lion - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA

With not much else to see, I returned to Canada and headed home.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

November 25 Part 1 - Brydon Lagoon

I decided to travel to Langey's Brydon Lagoon to see if I could get a photo of the often reported Green Heron. This bird likes hiding in the reeds around the south end of the lagoon, spearing any fish that comes near. I had seen the bird briefly in the spring  but still had no photo for the year.

I noticed on Google that the official name is Brydon Park and the lagoon is called Duck Lake. I'll use the names interchangeably.

I would not be successful in seeing the Heron but got some good photos of the winter ducks and grebes.

Brydon Park is situated in South Langley in a residential area. There are BC Hydro high tension wires in the area, so there is also a good amount of open space around the Lagoon.

At the south end of the lake there was a collection of Hooded Mergansers, including this showy male.

Hooded Merganser - Brydon Park, Langley BC

In the same area was a Pied-billed Grebe. Both of these birds were close to shore which made for good photo opportunities.

Pied-billed Grebe - Brydon Park, Langley BC

Here's a grebe with a female Hooded Merganser in the foreground.

Pied-billed Grebe and Hooded Merganser (F) - Brydon Park, Langley BC

As I made my way back to the north end of the lake I saw some Common Merganser males. They were farther away so the photos are not quite as sharp.

Common Merganser - Brydon Park, Langley BC

Another Grebe was in the same area, I can never get enough of these birds.

Pied-billed Grebe - Brydon Park, Langley BC

The most common duck at the shallow end of the lake is the Mallard. Many people feed them so they tend to congregate in this area.

Mallard - Brydon Park, Langley BC

Upon leaving I saw another common bird:

Song Sparrow - Brydon Park, Langley BC

I headed back west and visited Boundary Bay, as detailed in the next post.

November 25 Part 2 - Boundary Bay

While my last stop in Langley was in a sheltered area, I was out in the elements at Boundary Bay. It was blustery but not worth aborting the visit. There had been reports of a White-crowned Sparrow being seen with a group of more common sparrows.

Here's a group of White-crowned Sparrows, all in first winter plumage.

White-crowned Sparrow (Imm) - Boundary Bay, Delta BC

As usual, there were Song Sparrows willing to pose for pictures

Song Sparrow - Boundary Bay, Delta BC

There were large numbers of ducks out on the surf, most of them Wigeon.

American Wigeon - Boundary Bay, Delta BC

In the sky, there were huge numbers of shorebirds on the move. Most of them are probably Dunlin.

Dunlin - Boundary Bay, Delta BC

They eventually settled until a Peregrine Falcon decided to see if it could catch an afternoon meal.

Peregrine Falcon - Boundary Bay, Delta BC

This caused all the shorebirds to take flight. In the chaotic photo below, you can see the Falcon near the lower centre-right area.

If you cant see it in that photo, here's a zoomed in shot with the Falcon as the largest bird in the foreground.

Peregrine Falcon - Boundary Bay, Delta BC

One more sparrow shot before I left. I'm pretty sure that this is an immature White-crowned Sparrow, but it could be an immature Golden-crowned as well.

White-crowned? Sparrow (Imm) - Boundary Bay, Delta BC

On my way home I took 112 St back to the bay as I've seen Hawks and Falcons on the telephone poles and wires. I was rewarded with this hawk for the last bird of the day.

Red-tailed Hawk - 112 St Delta BC

Thursday, November 23, 2017

November 23 - Burns Bog Nature Trail

I had the opportunity to go birding on this day as I had eye surgery the day before and was off work until the following week. The surgery went well but I was staying close to home.

There is a house near the nature trail entrance that has a good collection of bird feeders. I noticed that one of the chickadees was different looking and identified it as a Chestnut-backed. it was hard to get a good photo of it, this is the best I took.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee - Burns Bog Nature Trail, Delta BC

Here's a Black-capped for comparison.

Black-capped Chickadee - Burns Bog Nature Trail, Delta BC

I saw a Hairy Woodpecker in a tree just of the trail and took this video of it.

The last bird I saw was a Spotted Towhee.

Spotted Towhee - Burns Bog Nature Trail, Delta BC

I had enough for this day and returned home.

Monday, November 13, 2017

November 13 - Boundary Bay Raptors

This is a short post featuring only two birds. I decided it was time to return to Boundary Bay as I hadn't been there in quite a while. I won't say exactly where as it's a no-no to report locations of certain types of birds.

However, it's been a month and a half since this visit and the bird of concern is no longer present.

The first bird sighted after a short hike south east from the parking area was a Northern Harrier. There are numerous species of Harriers in the world, but only the Northern Harrier in North America. It's like a cross between a Hawk and an Owl.

Here it is flying over an unidentified golf course.

Northern Harrier - Boundary Bay, Delta BC

You can always identify a Harrier by the white patch on the rump. This is a female, identified by the brownish colouring. The males are greyish/silver.

The bird of concern mentioned earlier is the Snowy Owl. When word gets out that they have come down from the north, many people flock to the bay to see them. Some of those people are obsessed with photographing the Owls and will trespass into the wilderness area and harass the owls with no concern for their well-being or their ability to hunt and feed themselves.

These photos were all take from over 100 meters distance, so the quality is not great. The owl is not longer present at Boundary Bay and no others have shown up this winter.

Snowy Owl - Boundary Bay, Delta BC - 2017 Bird #213

Here's a short video clip of the Owl, it was quite a blustery day.

That was the end of my long weekend of birding. Next up was a trip to Ucluelet, which is detailed in our Vacation Blog. You can view it here: 2017 Vacation Blog

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 12 - Good Luck at Point Roberts

After the bad luck of losing my binoculars the previous day, I was owed a break. It came on this very short visit to Point Roberts.

The day started with a couple of good looks at a Steller Sea Lion quite close to shore.

Steller Sea Lion - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA

If one wasn't good enough, how about two?

Steller Sea Lion - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA

I was situated right at the lighthouse beacon when I noticed some movement nearby. It was a Snow Bunting within 10 ft. of my location. I snapped off a few shots, this is an adult in non-breeding plumage. When breeding, they are predominately white with black on the wings. But you have to go quite far north to see them like that.

There had been reports of Snow Buntings on the Tsawwassen Ferry jetty, but none at Point Roberts. My find made it onto the BC Rare Bird Alert.

Snow Bunting - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - 2017 Bird #211

A more common bird at this location is the Common Loon.

Common Loon - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA

I spotted another Sea Lion and snapped this picture below. I had noticed a bird flying by when I took the photo but it was long gone by the time I finished. I forgot about it until I downloaded the picture. But, I could not identify the bird. I sent it to the woman who operates the Rare Bird  Alert and she came back with Long-tailed Duck. Much head slapping ensued. This is a bird I should have known, having seen them here before.

Steller Sea Lion and Long-tailed Duck - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA
2017 Bird # 212

I left the Point , but still had the Monday on the long weekend to find more birds.