Archive for the 'Birding' Category

First bird of 2014

2014 owl
While out walking with my wife yesterday, I spotted this Great Horned Owl (Grand-duc d’Amérique). There were actually two of them, but the second was perched only a few feet away and almost impossible to see in amongst the shadows.

Black-capped Chickadee – Mésange à tête noire

Can anyone identify the bush this little fellow is perched on? (Click the image to view a larger version.)

Sandhill Crane – Grue du Canada

I find it fascinating that ‘we’ have fossils of these birds that are approximately 2.5 million years old, considerably older than most other living bird species. Watching them move about is like being able to see through the thickness of time.


In 2012, I added 32 birds, including this Ring-necked Duck, to my bird list. Here they are:

American Coot
American Goldfinch
Barred Owl
Black-billed Magpie
Black-headed Grosbeak
California Quail
Cedar Waxwing
Clark’s Nutcracker
Common Goldeneye
Common Tern
Double-crested Cormorant
Evening Grosbeak
Fox Sparrow
Horned Grebe
Lesser Yellowlegs
Long-billed Dowitcher
Long-tailed Duck
Marsh Wren
Mottled Duck
Northern Harrier
Pacific Loon
Pine Siskin
Red-breasted Merganser
Ring-billed Gull
Ring-necked Duck
Sandhill Crane
Short-eared Owl
Snowy Owl
Stilt Sandpiper
Wood Duck

Evening Grosbeak

While at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Saturday, I spotted my first Evening Grosbeak. Unfortunately, her beak was a bit of a mess, but she was far too intent on eating to stop and get cleaned up for a photoshoot. Can anyone identify the fruit? Click on the photo to see a larger version.

My Small Year

Red-winged Blackbird IllustrationThis is my second ‘official’ year as a birder of sorts. Actually, I’ve been casually watching birds for years but somehow never worked up the enthusiasm to bother identifying the various species I didn’t recognize. It was a lazy enjoyment without any sort of catalogue or accounting. All of this changed, however, after I chanced upon iBird, a smartphone app that makes identifying birds a fairly simple task. After successfully using the app to identify an American Dipper that was feeding along the shore of Rolley Lake as my wife and I walked by, I was hooked.

After I installed iBird on my phone, I created a list of all the birds I was certain I’d seen in the recent past by marking them as favourites in the app. This list was quite small as I didn’t want to record any species that I might have mistaken with another in the days when I wasn’t concerned with such details. For that reason, I left most of the various waterfowl, shore, and seabird species off of my list despite having seen a great number of them in the past. This was my initial list:

American Robin
Anna’s Hummingbird
Bald Eagle
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Brown-headed Cowbird
Canada Goose
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Common Loon
Common Raven
Cooper’s Hawk
Dark-eyed Junco
European Starling
Glaucous-winged Gull
Gray Jay (Whiskey Jack)
Great Blue Heron
Hermit Thrush
House Finch
Northern Flicker
Northwestern Crow
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-winged Blackbird
Rock Pigeon
Ruffed Grouse
Rufous Hummingbird
Sooty Grouse
Spruce Grouse
Steller’s Jay
Trumpeter Swan
Varied Thrush

Then, I started keeping an eye out for new birds while out and about. I came across a few birds that I wasn’t able to identify, like the owl, I assume, that flew overhead and vanished among the trees before the synapses in my brain could even light up with owly thoughts. Despite my sluggish synapses, however, I identified and added the following twenty-nine slower moving species to the list:

American Dipper
American Wigeon
Belted Kingfisher
Bewick’s Wren
Brown Creeper
Common Merganser
Common Yellowthroat
Downy Woodpecker
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Hooded Merganser
House Sparrow
Lesser Goldfinch
Lesser Scaup
Northern Pintail
Northern Shoveler
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Pacific Wren
Pileated Woodpecker
Purple Finch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Ring-necked Pheasant
Snow Goose
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Swainson’s Thrush
White-crowned Sparrow
Wilson’s Warbler

Still, even with these new additions, it remains a fairly short list. That’s okay. I really don’t want to become an obsessed birder travelling all over the country in search of birds and bragging rights. In fact, I’ve recently discovered and am quite taken with the idea of green birding. These birders focus on the birds they can find within the self-powered reach of their own homes or workplaces. I’ll admit the notion wouldn’t be too much of a hardship on me as I am fortunate to live within walking distance of Burns Bog, but the idea would fit nicely into what I’m already trying to do in terms of weighing the environmental impact of all my actions and, consequently, pursuing only my deepest of interests.

A Spotted Towhee

I had a chat with this young fellow the other day and he let me take photos while we talked. I’ve been trying to get decent pictures of his parents for quite sometime but haven’t been able to get close enough as they’re awfully wary. Thankfully this one decided, for reasons still unknown, that I was harmless. He said he might bring the family around one day to meet me. That would be nice.

A Song of Certainty

White-crowned Sparrow
Spotted this White-crowned Sparrow while hiking in the Cascade Mountains on Friday. He seemed to be keeping a close eye on me. I asked him how he sings with such certainty when we are surrounded by such overwhelming complexity. He said he had no idea what I was talking about.

Sparrow Encounters of the Weird Kind


The short version:

The above photo should have been of a House Sparrow.

The long version:

Last week, I had a House Sparrow approach me in the backyard. I was walking towards the apple tree when I noticed it exploring the ground around the trunk. It also noticed me, checked me out a little, and then skipped a few steps in my direction. Surprised, I stopped moving. It looked at me quizzically and then took a few more skips towards me.

At that point, the dog ran up but the little bird stayed put. This made me wonder if there was something wrong with it. So, I sent the dog searching for my wife and the sparrow moved even closer towards me as he ran off. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the dog came racing back at full throttle, excited to report he had accomplished his mission and show he had earned any biscuits I might have stashed away in my pocket. Oddly, the sparrow didn’t spook and skipped a little closer yet. I told the dog to sit, which he did, and the little bird seemed okay with his presence until the dog noticed the bird – by then only about four feet away – and started to moan and tremble in excitement. That’s when the curious sparrow decided to fly away.

So, I quickly put the dog in the house, grabbed my camera, and raced back out to the apple tree with my iPhone. I played the House Sparrow call with iBird in the biophilian hope of calling the little fellow back. It didn’t work. Instead, three Chickadees landed in the apple tree to investigate all the noise I was making. I snapped a few photos of them – the one above being the best of the lot – while they lectured me extensively on the finer points of Chickadeeism. It’s an interesting philosophy worthy of one’s complete attention, but I couldn’t stop wondering what was going on in the mind of that sparrow.

May Birds

Brown-headed CowbirdI added four species to my bird list in May: Brown-headed Cowbird, Lesser Goldfinch, Pileated Woodpecker, and Purple Finch. I may have also seen a Pacific-slope Flycatcher or two, but I’m not absolutely sure. They were moving too fast.

I spotted the Brown-headed Cowbird, who let me get close enough to take the above photo, and the Pileated Woodpecker while walking in Burns Bog, but the Lesser Goldfinches and Purple Finches seem to be nesting among the Chokecherry trees in the back corner of our yard. It’s nice to have them as daily visitors now that our old regulars, the Dark-eyed Juncos and Varied Thrushes, have disappeared.

I’ve had a few really good looks at the Lesser Goldfinch, including once when one sat still in a rose bush that was only three or four feet away. Generally, however, they like to stay hidden among the leaves and all I usually get to see are busy flashes of bright yellow, that rarely reveal themselves fully, or the occasional dart across the yard on a bouncy flight path.

Oddly, we’ve had very few robins and hummingbirds in the backyard this spring but both are in good numbers only a few minutes away at the bog. Like the finches, the hummingbirds would nest in the Chokecherry trees but they seemed to have made their homes elsewhere this year. Perhaps the major pruning our neighbours did to their side of the trees last year have upset them.

American Robin
Anna’s Hummingbird
Bald Eagle
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Brown-headed Cowbird*
European Starling
Glaucous-winged Gull
Great Blue Heron
Hermit Thrush
House Finch
House Sparrow
Lesser Goldfinch*
Northwestern Crow
Pileated Woodpecker*
Purple Finch*

Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Steller’s Jay