Archive for the 'Birding' Category

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The Birds of April

Birding in April was a bit of a bust. Putting almost no effort into the endeavour, I was rewarded accordingly and identified only two new birds, the Golden-crowned Sparrow and the White-crowned Sparrow.

I actually spotted three others while walking in the mountains but was unable to identify them. I think the first two may have been Pacific-slope Flycatchers and Pine Siskins, but both were experts at remaining half-hidden in the trees and evading careful study. The ‘third’ looked like an insomniac bat out in the sunlight and I’m really not sure that it wasn’t. The silhouette and erratic flight pattern looked very much like the bats that hunt mosquitoes above my backyard on most summer evenings, but it was just too far away to be certain and it disappeared quickly into a group of Douglas-firs.

I also came across the fresh remains of a bird in the middle of a trail where it had served as someone’s breakfast. Nothing remained but the legs and a pile of feathers. As you can see in the photos, the feathers were light brown with small patches of white and orange-yellow and the soft down had bright yellow tips. I’ve been through my bird books and software and can’t even muster a guess as to what it was other than, apparently, delicious. Any guesses?

American Robin
Anna’s Hummingbird
Bald Eagle
Black-capped Chickadee
Common Loon
Dark-eyed Junco
Glaucous-winged Gull
Golden-crowned Sparrow*
Great Blue Heron
House Finch
Northwestern Crow
Osprey
Rock Pigeon
Song Sparrow
Steller’s Jay
Varied Thrush
White-crowned Sparrow*

The Birds (and Bees) of March

Smiling BeeHappy Spring! Below is my bird list for March. It contains fewer additions than I’d hoped for, but there are a couple of new birds and I was finally able to get a decent look at the hawks too. Early in the month, my wife spotted a House Sparrow at our feeder but that was, unfortunately, the only time we saw it. Likewise, I only managed one good look at a Brown Creeper while walking the dog through the trails at Dogwood Park a few days later.

Two weeks ago, we went for a walk along Centennial Beach at Boundary Bay Regional Park and a Bald Eagle buzzed our heads and landed close by. It was a huge, chocolate coloured juvenile, but when it flew away we could see that it was bright white under its wings. This creature’s enormous size made me question the sanity of the couple who came walking along behind us with their snack-size Shih Tzu off-leash.1

Spring is coming on quick in our neck of the woods. The garden is surging back to life and we’ve even had a few bees about. The neighbourhood crows are busy building nests, as were the pair of Bewick’s Wrens that spent last Saturday morning scouring our garden for building supplies. I could make no sense of their selection/rejection process but it seemed like pretty serious business. One day, I even heard a hummingbird zip by, a sound that always reminds me of the rapid whir of my fly reel when an angry trout suddenly takes off with my line. An obvious sign that it’s time to go fishing!

American Robin

American Wigeon

Bald Eagle
Bewick’s Wren*

Black-capped Chickadee
Brown Creeper*

Bushtit

Canada Goose
Cooper’s Hawk*

Dark-eyed Junco

European Starling

Glaucous-winged Gull

Great Blue Heron

House Finch
House Sparrow*

Mallard

Northwestern Crow
Red-tailed Hawk*

Song Sparrow

Spotted Towhee

Steller’s Jay

Varied Thrush

Winter Wren

  1. Update: Apparently a 5 to 7.5 kg. Bald Eagle can lift only about half its weight. So a 4 to 7.5 kg. Shih Tzu may be in less danger than I thought. Still after watching this video of a Golden Eagle hunting goats, I think I’d still proceed with caution.

The Birds of February

Here is my February bird list. The birds in italics are new to my master list.

Anna’s Hummingbird
American Robin
American Wigeon*
Bald Eagle
Black-capped Chickadee
Bushtit*
Canada Goose
Dark-eyed Junco
European Starling
Glaucous-winged Gull
Great Blue Heron
House Finch
Mallard
Northern Flicker
Northern Pintail*
Northwestern Crow
Rock Pigeon
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Stellar’s Jay
Varied Thrush
Winter Wren

Beyond those, I think I also spotted a Belted Kingfisher and a number of Cooper’s Hawks and/or Red-tailed Hawks. Unfortunately, my novice eyes didn’t get a long enough look to be sure.

Blackie Spit

My wife and I took the dog for a short walk about Blackie Spit last weekend. Somehow we managed to time it just right and were able to stay dry despite the variable weather. It’s changed quite a bit since we moved away from that area ten years ago and I like the improvements that have been made to protect the birds.

At first, I was disappointed with the restrictions now placed on dog owners, but after narrowly avoiding quite a few piles of dog poop, I remembered that there are a lot of pretty poor pet owners out there and thought it just as well. Since we had our dog with us, some areas were off limits to us, but we still saw a lot of birds (12 species in total that day) and I was able to sort out some of the duck issues I was having with my bird list. We saw Mallards, American Wigeons and the Northern Pintail, which I find to be one of the most striking puddle ducks. My wife was thrilled with the number of Great Blue Herons we saw. We also spotted a number of hawks on the way there, but I haven’t added them to my bird list yet as I’m still not sure I’ve identified them correctly. I think at least one was a Cooper’s Hawk.

Unfortunately, we also saw a lot of people down there and I think I’ll look for more remote locations for future birding. Why anybody would want to live like a sardine in busy Crescent Beach is beyond me.

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Robin perched on branchThis weekend will be the first time I’ve participated in The Great Backyard Bird Count. All one has to do is spend at least 15 minutes of one of the days counting birds. However, one can do more if one chooses. The count runs from February 18th through February 21st.

Time to top up my feeder!

For more information on how to participate, click here.

January 2011 Birds

This is a list of the birds I spotted in January. The ones marked with an asterisk are new additions to my master list. I hoped to get out more this month and visit a few spots where I’ve seen other birds in the past, but bad weather, bad health and various other obligations kept getting in the way. Hopefully, I’ll do better in February. I’ve seen more birds in the past than appear on my master list but I don’t want to add them until I’m 100% sure I have them identified correctly.

American Dipper
Bald Eagle
Black-capped Chickadee
Dark-eyed Junco
European Starling*
Glaucous-winged Gull
Great Blue Heron
Hermit Thrush*
House Finch
Northern Flicker
Northwestern Crow
Song Sparrow*
Spotted Towhee*
Steller’s Jay
Varied Thrush
Winter Wren

My meagre list of birds …

Over the holidays, I purchased the iBird Explorer PRO app for my iPhone and have been having a lot of fun with it. One of its many features allows the user to keep a list of favourite birds, which I’m using to keep track of the birds I’ve positively identified in the wild. Here is my meagre list so far:

American Dipper
American Robin
Anna’s Hummingbird
Bald Eagle
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Canada Goose
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Common Loon
Common Raven
Dark-eyed Junco
Dusky/Sooty Grouse
Glaucous-winged Gull
Gray Jay
Great Blue Heron
House Finch
Mallard
Northern Flicker
Northwestern Crow
Osprey
Red-winged Blackbird
Rock Pigeon
Rufous Hummingbird
Spruce Grouse
Steller’s Jay
Trumpeter Swan
Varied Thrush
Winter Wren
American Dipper
The first bird I identified with the app was this American Dipper my wife and I spotted feeding along the edge of Rolley Lake.

One warning though, listening to the various bird calls and songs included in the app may drive your dog batty. Best not used indoors!