Birds and more, Sept-Oct, 2012

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October 15, 2012 by Rokman61

This is my very first effort of posting a new journal to my blog-site instead of sending it out as an email. When using emails, the file (photo) size must be kept to a minimum to avoid making the email too large to send.  Use of a blog-site has the advantage of being able to handle photos that open larger and without loss of detail.  The first several images in this posting were sized for emailing, and the others are larger files with higher definition.   So . . . here we go!


Late summer to fall is when the northerly-nesting shorebirds are in transit to their wintering grounds.  Some travel from the high Arctic all the way to southern South America.  (One species, the Bar-tailed Godwit, flies non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand).  This group of Sanderlings, a type of small sandpiper, may spend the winter here or continue south as far as South America.  Since they have recently arrived from their Arctic nesting grounds, it’s no surprise to see them catching a snooze like this.



As the summer wanes and autumn approaches,  many species of waterfowl  return to the Fraser Delta area to spend the winter.  Among the first to return in numbers are the sprightly little Green-winged Teals.  This one is a female, and nicely shows the metallic green speculum (coloured patch on wing) for which the species is named.


Also a sign of the season are many small songbirds heading south in migration.  The most numerous by far are Yellow-rumped Warblers, which can occur in loose waves of such numbers that it seems like the trees are dripping with them.  Many are relatively drab immatures like this one.  The photo is soft and noisy because it is severely cropped, but I liked the way the bird blended in with the background.

Same bird, different setting.


The Canada Goose is one of the most familiar birds to most anyone.  Semi-tame, non-migratory populations inhabit city parks across America, parts of Europe, ‘down under’ in New Zealand, and probably elsewhere, and often considered to be a nuisance.  Non-birders usually refer to them as “Canadian” geese.  That seems like a harmless misnomer, until one recalls the incident a few years ago in New York when a few of the honkers got ingested into the engines of a jetliner, bringing it down onto the Hudson River.  The press loudly announced that “Canadian geese” were to blame for the accident.

Truly wild geese are magnificent creatures.  They come in all sizes, some barely larger than a Mallard duck.  A few years ago, the Canada Goose was officially split into two separate species: the smaller ones are now  Cackling Goose, and the two species together are referred to as ‘white-cheeked goose’. Here is a Cackling Goose that was hanging around at Reifel Refuge this summer.  It is not only considerably smaller than the ‘regular’ Canada Goose, it has a much shorter neck, and a short stubby bill.  A real cutie.


There is a single tall, conspicuous, dead, douglas-fir snag at Reifel that dominates one end of the Refuge.  Over the years an amazing variety of birds have used it as a perch, with a distinct hierarchy of who gets to use it.  Eagles rule when they chose to, and this Peregrine Falcon is also very near the top – in more ways than one.


Early autumn is also the season for spider webs and heavy morning dews.  The combination makes for interesting photo ops.


On a brief visit to a nature reserve across the border in Washington State, George and I came across some Grand Fir trees.  I was intrigued by their striking seed-cones.


As we were walking around a loop trail on the reserve, a hand-wrtiten sign warned of the presence of honey-bees.  Sure enough, jammed into a hole in a douglas-fir trunk was this patch of wall-to-wall bees.  The setting was so dark I had to work the image aggressively to bring it out, with less than ideal results..

This one is a Rusty Blackbird.

A rather interesting species on several accounts.  Firstly, its nesting grounds and general behaviour set it apart from most other blackbirds.  Rustys breed in wooded swamps in the boreal forests right across northern Canada.  In migration they tend to be somewhat reclusive, so not a common sight.  Their population is experiencing drastic declines, for reasons that are not well understood.   Vancouver lies near the limit of their migration route.  Because if this and their relative shyness, they are a fairly rare bird in our area.  So it was a truly unusual event when TWO of them showed up in early October at a popular urban venue (Burnaby Lake),  became extremely tame and habituated to human presence, and presented an outstanding photo-op for the many photographers who took advantage.

In breeding season, these birds are entirely glossy black with a slight purplish-blue cast.  By fall they have taken on the rusty tones you see in the photos here.  This colour change is accomplished through moulting their fearhers and growing new ones, but probably not exactly how one might have guessed.  It turns out the new feathers have rusty margins, and by spring these have worn off and the birds appear all black.

The birds were so accommodating that most photographers took several hundred or more frames of them.  This approach is typical for many shoots, but it leads to a real challenge in how to manage one’s photo collection.  Of course it makes sense to sort through them and keep only a few of the best, and it’s easy enough to discard the bulk of them which are inferior for one reason or other.  But the real dilemma comes when one ends up with a dozen or more images of about equal quality and nearly identical pose, and it’s almost painful to discard some of one’s best images, even though there is obvious duplication.  Some photographers address this dilemma by posting numerous, nearly identical images, as if leaving it up to the viewer to decide which they prefer.  I strive not to be guilty of this, so when I present multiple images of the same bird,  you should find them different enough to keep it interesting – as in the current run of Rusty Blackbird pics – which I have probably overdone – maybe – but I hope not.


Whilst shooting the blackbirds, a few other targets presented themselves.

Gadwall duck.  Not a lot of gaudy colour, but such elegant texture and style.


[On reviewing this journal, I note that most of the birds to this point are facing left! That got me wondering if the birds I photographed in New Zealand were mostly facing right.  I’ll try to even things out a bit with my last few entries].


More Green-winged Teals.  The first one is a drake (male) in  fresh breeding plumage, and the second a duck (female) in portrait view.


And ending this journal with the ever-popular and stunning Wood Duck drake.

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