Home again – Spring Birds and Flowers – April/May, 2013

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June 23, 2013 by Rokman61

After the discouraging results of my bird photography efforts in Asia, it was good to get back to some more cooperative subjects.

During winter, large flocks of Trumpeter Swans are observed rooting through the mud in agricultural fields (see Blog post Feb 13, 2013).  By the end of March most have left for the breeding grounds far to the north.  So it was a bit of a surprise to come upon this lone individual, on May 9th, perhaps wondering where the gang went.  Then my friend George found two of them in the same locality on May 22nd.  (Click on photos for larger views)

Swan Trump 2013.05.09 0533

Flocks of Pine Siskins are not unusual around our neighbourhood, noisily zipping around from treetop to treetop, but rarely coming down into the yard.  They purportedly like to dine on niger seed, so Norma dutifully kept a feeder full, hoping to attract them down.  For several years they paid no attention, then suddenly this spring they came in droves, all day long for weeks on end.  (Update as of mid-June, they’re gone).

Siskin Pine 2103.04.26 0415 Siskins on feed bag 2013.04.26 0398

Siskins feed flock 2013.04.17 9904

Here are a few more birds that frequent our feeders . . .

Junco dark-I 2013.04.200012

Dark-eyed Junco. They raise several broods in our yard every year.

Towhee Spotted 2013.04.20 0039

Spotted Towhee.  They too produce more than one brood per year.

Sparrow Fox 2013.04.17 9879

Fox Sparrow. Only here in winter, with one or two usually present.

Sparrow Goldencrown 2013.04.20 0049

Golden-crowned Sparrow, a fairly rare visitor, passing through in May.

The Whimbrel is a type of large sandpiper that has one of the longest migrations known – from the Arctic coastal tundra to South America.  On their spring passage they fuel up on the mudflats on our coast, and move to fields during high tide.  There is one particular field near my home where large flocks of them show up every spring.  Why this one field is so unique – maybe it’s just their whim.

Whimbrel x10 2013.05.11 0617

Spring is the season for locally-nesting waterfowl to produce a new batch or two.  Here are some goslings that are well-advanced by end of May.

Goslings Canada 2013.05.27 1111

This is one of the parents – an unusually pale Canada Goose.  Interestingly, the geese that nest locally are non-migratory and were introduced to the area from several different populations, hence we refer to them as ‘mutt’ geese.  In some places they have become an overabundant nuisance – golfers for one don’t like to get their fancy shoes messed up with goose poop.

Goose Canada pale 2013.05.27 1124

The cover photo on one of the most popular field guide books features a magnificent Red-tailed Hawk.  Birders are always looking for an opportunity to match this iconic image.  Here is my best attempt to date.

Hawk Red-tailed 2013.04.24 0298

This is the ‘original’ – still some room to up my game.

Sibley cover 1131

The first technique that bird photographers learn is that with digital cameras one can take numerous photos – it’s a bit like aiming at a target by throwing a handful of projectiles at it.  The second thing one learns is to throw a huge bucketful.  This leads to numerous frames of a single subject, and one is faced with the dilemma of what to do with so many of them.  In most cases only a few stand out, and the rest can be junked.  Occasionally one encounters a bird that sits still for a bit and allows you to take a whole batch of which virtually every one is a winner – however, they are almost all identical!  It is prudent to delete such ‘duplicates’, but oh such anguish on seeing your best images getting nuked.

Less often a bird hangs around close-in and allows for many shots with different poses and background.  Now one has another dilemma – what to do with lots of really decent shots of the same subject but many quite unique.  Exactly the situation I faced with this Hairy Woodpecker, and decided to include several.

Woodpeck Hairy 2013.05.23 0780

Woodpecker Hairy 2013.05.20 0728


Woodpecker Hairy 2013.05.20 0716

Tree hugger.

Woodpecker Hairy 2013.05.20 0735

Woodpecker Hairy fly 2013.05.20 0722

Enough! I’m outa here!

Ospreys are unique and fascinating birds.  They are obligate fish-eaters, and occur all around the world.  Since they always build their nests in conspicuous places, they provide a lot of pleasure to observers, especially anyone with a camera.  This pair chose to build within a few metres of a very popular boat-launching dock!  Unfortunately, there was just too much commotion going on, and the nest was quickly abandoned.

Osprey pair on nest 2013.05.23 0972


Every once in a while, a rare bird is sighted in our local area and all the hard-core birders flock out to get a look.  We were treated to several goodies this April/May.

This Dicksissal was an unprecedented find, coming to a feeder in the village of Ladner.  Most of the time it was concealed behind a fence, and made brief appearances perched high in trees, so my photos at best could only be described as ‘documentary’.

Dicksissal 2013.04.23 0259

At about the same time, a Palm Warbler was spotted in Richmond.  They show up every few years, but this one didn’t hang around for long.  I was lucky to catch a few useable photos.

Warbler Palm 2013.04.22 0161

And this Upland Sandpiper was the hit of the spring season, drawing a huge excited crowd.  It stayed hidden in tall grass for much of the time, eventually providing photo ops for those who both waited and got lucky.

Sandpiper Upland 2013.05.25 1070

Rails are marsh-dwelling birds, fairly common, but they tend to be so secretive that most people aren’t even aware that they exist.  This Sora rail spent the winter on a pond in a popular park, providing an unusual treat for many birders, but didn’t seem to like waiting around to have its picture taken.

Sora 2013.04.08 9725

I got lucky with this Virginia Rail – my best ever photo of this species.  (Click for larger view).

Rail Virginia 2013.04.20 9922

There are basically two ways that photographers manage to get really great bird shots.  One way is to apply a considerable amount of skill, time, and patience to the pursuit.  Often it is not possible to approach closely to a subject, so the alternative is to sit and wait for the bird to come to you.  The other way is by pure serendipity: one occasionally just gets very lucky and a bird presents itself close by, in good light, and is in no hurry to move on.  This Western Wood-Pewee is a perfect example of such a happening.  It helped to know that pewees often sally out from a perch to catch a fly, then repeatedly return to the exact spot.  This allowed me to position myself and catch it between sallies.

Pewee Western Wood-  2013.05.23 0872

Since I’m not one particularly inclined to telling stories, or adept at doing so, I’m struggling to come up with things to say about my photos.  The next batch of random subjects are just for show – no rambling patter attached.

Swallow V-G 2013.05.20 0811

Violet-green Swallow.

Dove Mourning A 2013.04.24 0323

Mourning Dove.

Warbler Yellow 2013.05.23 0926Yellow Warbler warbling.
Phalarope Wilson's 2013.05.25 1081

Wilson’s Phalarope.

Wren Marsh 2013.05.24 0983

Marsh Wren.

Accipiter Coopers ad 2013.04. 20 0085

Cooper’s Hawk.

Killdeer chick 2013.05.10 0584

Killdeer chick. From moment of hatching they are very mobile and tough to photograph.

Waxwing Cedar 2013.05.31 1186

Cedar Waxwing.

Spring of course brings flowers.  Here are a few examples of native flora that are relatively common and conspicuous.

One of the earliest, and an attractant for the first hummingbirds, Red-flowering Current (Ribes sanguineum).

Red Current 2013.04.24 0329

The Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) is a very special plant – long-lived but difficult to grow or transplant, so never abundant as it is in the east.  We are pleased to have 3 or 4 on our property.

Trillium ovatum 2013.04.209940

The genus Rubus (raspberries et al) includes numerous common plants that gives us both pretty blossoms and yummy fruits.  Here are my two favourites:

Salmonberry blossom 2013.04.23 0174

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis).

Thimbleberry blossom 20143.05.09 0573

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorous).

We also have several kinds of blackberries (also Rubus sp) in the Lower Mainland.  Most residents are very familiar with the conspicuous and nearly ubiquitous and aggressively invasive Himalayan (R. discolor) and Evergreen Blackberry (R. laciniatus) or ‘brambles’.  The flower of a third species, a more delicate native one, the Trailing Blackberry (R. ursinus) is shown here.

Blackberry native blossom 2013.05.18 0660

My most appreciated, when it comes to foraging, is the Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium), which is actually a reddish-coloured blueberry.  We have several very productive plants right in our yard that provide snacks for the full month of July.  The flowers are subtle but elegantly attractive.Huckleberry blossoms 2013.04.20 9997

Huckleberry blossom 2013.04.26 0351

Bleeding heart 2013.04.23 0211

Western Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)

Ninebark bee 2013.05.31 1201

Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus). Note the honeybee with loaded pollen sacks.

In May the trails through our local woods are literally lined with this next flower, the Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora).  Because the flowers are rather small and greenish they mostly go unnoticed, but close inspection reveals their superbly intricate and delicate form.  I tried to capture these with my new macro lens, but could not get really sharp images – something else to work on.

Mitrewort x3 2013.03.11 0632

The flowers start off greenish-white, then develop pinkish margins as they age.

Mitrewort blossom 2013.05.11 0638

My best effort was taken with my long telephoto lens.

Fringecup 2013.05.27 1086

Here is one from the “Can’t get much easier than this” department.  Our native Nootka  Rose (Rosa nootkana) is common, beautiful, easy to photograph, and even smells great.

Rosa nutkana bud 2013.05.20 0704 Rosa nutkana 2013.05.20 0701 Rose Nootka 2013.05.23 0710

This one is not a native, and happens to be a very invasive pest.  None-the-less, one has to concede that the flowers on Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) can be rather striking.

Scotch broom blossoms 2013.05.20 0823 Scotch Broom blossoms 2013.05.20 0831

The wood of Scotch Broom is also very attractive, hard, and colourful.

broom letter openers 02.04.07

This one is not what we usually think of as a ‘flower’, but it is a plant – algal scum on the surface of a pond.  The patterns intrigued me.

pond scum 2013.05.20 0783

I wasn’t sure whether this one belonged with the birds or with the flora.

Live sculpture birds 2013.05.27 i1830

And a few more miscellaneous creatures.

Coyote 2013.04.17 9762

Wiley Coyote.

Bullfrog 2013.04.25 0336

Bullfrog – a nasty invader from the east that eats our native frogs – and more.

Squirrel Douglas 2013.04.23 0172

Our cute little native resident, the Chicory or Douglas Squirrel.

Dragonfly meadowhawk? 2013.05.09 0558

I believe this dragonfly is some species of Meadowhawk – maybe somebody can tell me which one.


And, hot off the ‘press’, the latest issue of the BC Field Ornithologists newsletter.

That’s my photo on the cover, with the ‘cover story’ following.

BCFO mag 3013.06

BCFO mag 2013.06 cover story

As my fame grows, can fortune be far behind?

I won’t be spending any of it just yet!


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