CGio’s birds, May-June 2012

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June 24, 2012 by Rokman61

(Previously presented as email on Jun 24, republished here Oct 24)

May – June, 2012

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May is gosling time at the Riefel Refuge, as many of the pathways are dominated by meandering clutches of baby geese at different stages of development. One would think that photographing them would be like shooting fish in a barrel – slam-dunk easy. However, the little tykes are in nearly perpetual motion, usually facing away from the camera.

Eventually one will be turned around and looking your way.

And occasionally they do stop for a rest.

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The Canada Geese are not the only ones in full production – the resident pair of Sandhill Cranes are also hard at it. Here one is about to turn the eggs before settling down to incubate them.

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Dunlins are a type of sandpiper, of which roughly 100,000 spend the winter around Boundary Bay. In basic (non-breeding) plumage they are rather bland gray/brown birds with pale bellies, but before they leave for their arctic nesting grounds many moult into their colourful breeding suit. Usually they are in big flocks, and difficult to approach closely. One day I came upon this solitary individual who was most accommodating.

The pattern and colours are exquisite.

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Peak-a-view of a Red-breasted Sapsucker.

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California Gull, in classic full adult plumage.

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A bit of excitement was generated for the twitchers, when a Snowy Egret was discovered on Vancouver Island near Victoria. This species is quite common farther south, but I had never seen one in Canada, so off we went. This one is # 416 on my BC Lifelist.

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And the nearly-requisite Great Blue Heron for this journal.

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On any walk in the woods near my house at this time of year, I can hear a dozen Purple Finches singing – but all of them are waaay up in the canopy of tall trees – just a speck if visible at all. Then one day I was surprised when I nearly stepped on this gorgeous male, foraging on the path right at my feet.

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This bird is a very common nester in grassy areas all across America, a Savannah Sparrow.

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My birding buddies Roger and Andrew discovered this beautiful rarity, a Black-throated Sparrow, native to the deserts of the southwest, and very seldom found so far out of range. It turned out to be part of a mini-invasion of the species, with 8 or 9 different individuals discovered at various localities. In my photos I strive to incorporate some feeling for the bird’s natural habitat, like in this example . . .

Here is a closer view, taken while lying on my belly, and shooting under a pick-up truck.

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Northern Rough-winged Swallow – now there’s a mouthful of a name.

And a Violet-green Swallow. One can only guess from whence its name was derived. The brown crown indicates that this is a female bird (or last year’s young?), as full adult males are green right to the top.

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A quick trip to the Okanagan produced but one bird photo worth including here. This is a Nashville Warbler, common in the interior and only occasionally seen on the coast. Easily recognized by the nasal twang in its voice.

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On June 1-2, I attended a birding convention in Princeton BC. We went on field trips in the morning of each day, and I brought my camera along with hopes of getting some nice bird shots. But photographing in a large group does not provide the best opportunities. This MacGillivray’s Warbler was my only bird capture worth including. Even it was quite distant, so the image is severely cropped. This is a species that likes to stay hidden deep in the shrubbery, and only occasionally poses like this one did.

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Another peak-a-view, this one a male Black-headed Grosbeak.

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The presence of Yellow-headed Blackbirds in our area has an interesting story behind it. The species is common and abundant in much of the West, but around Vancouver there was only one tiny disjunct population. A few birds nested annually near the airport in a small marsh that got swallowed up by a new runway, and the airport was required to establish a new colony in the area to replace the displaced birds. One scheme that was tried involved the placing of Yellow-head eggs in the nests of the more common Red-winged Blackbirds in another local marsh, and have the Red-wings do the parenting. To get eggs at the right time of year to match the Red-wing’s nesting season, the Yellow-head eggs had to be sourced in California. The fostered young were raised and fledged successfully, but for whatever reason very few ever returned, and the experiment was declared a flop. Meanwhile, the original airport birds had self-relocated to a nearby marsh that was placed under protection and enhanced for their use. Several pairs have nested there each year since.

The birds are usually rather reclusive whilst nesting, and mostly stay hidden in the reeds. On this day they were nosily foraging in shrubbery beside their marsh, and posing conspicuously like the ones in these photos. The first bird is a female, and the second an adult male.

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My Big Find for 2011 was an active nest of House Wrens, a bird that is only seen sporadically in the Lower Mainland, and very rarely breeding. This year I found another nest very near the one from a year ago.

Two birds were busy bringing food to their nestlings.

And one last shot . . .

Now I am off to the wilds of northern BC to do some work for the BC Breeding Bird Atlas. Hopefully I will have some good material on my return.

Carlo

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