October 2013: Part 1, birds and bugs


November 14, 2013 by Rokman61

October is another month of transitions from summer to winter.

I find the autumn vistas particularly appealing.  (Click on photos for larger view).

Katzie and trees 2013.10.26 5443

Cottonwood trees, Katzie Marsh, Pitt Meadows.

This cute little Douglas Squirrel, aka Chickaree, was taking advantage of the autumn bonanza of maple seeds.  The Chickaree is our native tree squirrel, found only along the Pacific mainland.  Interestingly, it is not present on Vancouver Island, where the wide-ranging Red Squirrel occurs instead.

Chicaree 2013.10.05 4432

Here is a holdover from the warm summer months.  Surprisingly, a lot of these big dragonflies were on patrol on a sunny day Oct 3rd.  I believe the blue one is a male, and the brown one a female.  I thought the late date for flying might enable me to identify the species, but that didn’t help at all.

Mosaic darner sp? 2013.10.03 4374

Mosaic Darner, Aeshna sp., male?

Mosaic darner fem? sp? 2103.10.03 4389

Mosaic Darner, female?

The Wooly Bear caterpillar is a common critter characteristic of late fall.  Curious about why I only see them at this time of year, I consulted Wiki.  It turns out that they hatch from eggs in the fall and over-winter as larvae.  Since they have quite a northern distribution, they often freeze solid – how tough is that!  The adult form, the Tiger Moth, emerges in spring.

caterpiller Wooly Bear 2013.10.30 5727


On the birding scene, migrants were still passing through.

Plover Am Golden 2013.10.14 4980

American Golden Plover

The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper is a Siberian species that migrates south to Asia and New Zealand.  A few first-year birds show up on our side of the Pacific every fall, but The Fraser Delta area is the only place that they can be reliably seen every year.  For this one I could only get close enough for a ‘documentation’ type photo.

Sandpiper Sharp-tail 2013.10.14 4933

When shorebirds are passing through there are always a few Peregrine Falcons to chase them around.

Peregrine 2013.10.28 5589

Sparrows of several species are another abundant fall migrant.

Sparrow Savannah 2013.10.12 4803

Savannah Sparrow

Sparrow Lincoln's 2013.10.11 4783

Lincoln’s Sparrow

This is one of my favourite sparrow-like birds, the Lapland Longspur.  The little guys nest on the Arctic plains right across the northern hemisphere.  I have a fond memory of a visit to Tuktoyuktuk and hearing them singing energetically from perches along the village streets.

Longspur Lapland 2013.10.09 4526

Longspur Lapland 2013.10.09 4520


A fairly rare visitor to our area is this Great Egret.  We seem to get one every few years, and sometimes they hang around for an extended period – this one for more than a month to date.  The best I could get were a few ‘documentary’ photos.

Egret Great 2013.10.25 5456 Egret Great 2013.10.25 5399

Whilst searching for the Egret, I came across an assemblage of perhaps a hundred American Coots, busily gleaning goodies from the gloppy marsh water.  I was wondering what term would best describe such a group: is it a covey? a congress? a crowd? a conglomeration? a collection? a concentration? a council? a convention? a commune?  Whatever, lots more than a couple.

Coot convention 2013.10.25 5434


One of the most spectacular nature shows is the annual arrival of perhaps 70,000 Snow Geese from their nesting grounds on Wrangel Island off the coast of Siberia.  They literally fill the skies and herald their presence with a cacophony of cackling in their Russian accent.  (Click for sky-full view).

Goose Snow flock fly 2013.10.28 5573

Such magnificent creatures they are, so elegant on the wing.

Geese Snow flyx4 2013.10.15 4987

Regally statuesque on the ground.

Goose Snow ad 2013.10.15 5022

This one is an immature, hatched during the summer in faraway Siberia.Goose Snow im 2013.10.15 5030

This month I had another encounter with Cackling Geese (see Sept blog for more about this species).  This time about a hundred of them dropped into the marsh right next to a busy highway.  Note the single Wigeon duck – which provides a nice size comparison.

Geese Cackler flock 2013.10.16 5076

Here comes another one now.

Cackler fly 2013.10.16 5070

As you can see, they come in a remarkable range of colours.

Goose Cacklers dark & light 2013.10.16 5098

A(nother) nice comparison of Cackling and Canada Geese.

Cackler vs canada 2013.10.16 5089


The Willet is a large plump sandpiper that is very rarely found in our area, except when one takes up winter residence.  One such bird appeared 16 consecutive years at the base of the Tsawwassen ferry jetty, until it failed to show up at its usual haunts in fall of 2012.  Meanwhile, a second Willet appeared very sporadically near the White Rock Pier over the last several years.  I discovered what is likely this individual back in August near the base of the Pier where it has remained at exactly the same spot ever since.  Here it poses like a monarch overseeing its domain.

Willet 2013.10.29 5670

Willet 2013.10.29 5631As you can see, it’s a rather plain-coloured bird – all shades of gray from bill to feet.  However, when its wings unfold, a striking pattern is revealed.

Willet stretch 2013.10.29 5646After watching and waiting patiently to get more shots of the wing pattern, it suddenly launched itself for a short flight – straight into the sun of course.

Willet fly 2013.10.29 5675

This month not one but three special birds made appearances on the White Rock waterfront.  The second one was this Franklin’s Gull I found on October 5th.  This little gull is a prairie nester, and each fall a few young birds wander into our environs.  This was the first one I have seen in White Rock.

Franklin's Gull im 2013.10.05 4399

The wing and tail pattern are indicative of a first year bird.Franklin's Gull fly 2013.10.05 4426

But the star of the beach trio was this Black-necked Stilt, discovered not by me but by a visitor who poached this beauty right in my backyard.  This handsome wader is a real rarity, showing up in our area perhaps every 5 to 10 years.

Stilt Black-necked 2013.10.09 4641This bird stayed in the same convenient place for several days, allowing many photographers to get fine shots.  It was so tame that at one point it came so close to me that I couldn’t fit its feet in the frame.

Stilt Black-necked 2013.10.09 4703

At times however it seemed to show some displeasure at all the attention.  Here I’m getting the stare down.

Stilt B-N portrait 2013.10.15 5046

This dainty little Bonaparte’s Gull was busy foraging on the eelgrass along with the Stilt and the Willet.  The colour on the wings indicates that this is a first year bird.

Gull Bonaparte im 2013.10.10 4756


Late in the month I had occasion to make a brief trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island.

A family of seven River Otters were frolicking near the shore, but wouldn’t let me get close enough for good photos.

River Otters 2013.10.26 5488

Even at this late date (Oct 27) a few big dragonflies were still zipping about, probably unaware that their days were numbered.

Darner sp 2013.10.27 5552

Mosaic Darner, Aeshna sp.

Harlequin Ducks are so sleek and impeccably groomed they remind me of painted decoys.

Duck Harlequin M 2013.10.26 5464

A little group of Surfbirds at roost was a nice treat.  These wintering shorebirds prefer rocky tidelines, so are much less common on the marshy shores on our side of the Straight.  The lower bird in the first photo is a Black Turnstone.

Surfbird x4 2013.10.26 5513

Surfbird x2 2013 10.26 5537


Back on the mainland: one can never pass up a chance to photograph an owl, even when the lighting is terrible.

Barred Owl 2013.10.08 4498

Barred Owl

Barred Owl 2013.10.08 4457

Barred Owl

We didn’t use to expect to see hummingbirds in the winter, but in the last decade one species has moved in and become a common local resident.  The Anna’s Hummingbird is a remarkable story: it does not migrate, but from it’s centre of abundance in California it has been spreading northward and has reached all the way to Alaska.  In the 70’s it was fairly rare in our area, gradually became more widespread and common, and first showed up in our yard several years ago.  Now we have at least one resident coming to our feeder every day.

Hummer Anna's DGio 02:10

The males perform territorial displays at all times of the year.  The bird begins its dance by hovering about 2 or 3 metres above the ground for a few seconds.  It then slowly rises straight up until just a speck in the sky.  From there it suddenly dives straight down with lightning speed.  At the bottom of the dive it puts on the brakes with wings and tail feathers, making a very loud chirping sound.  I hear this often, but only occasionally get to see it.  Trying to photograph the bird in the air is a challenge: it’s rather small for the camera’s autofocus to pick up, and it doesn’t stay put for very long.  Here is the best I have gotten to date.

Anna's hover @ 1:8000 2013.10.12 4844.

You probably didn’t notice that I did not include the usual image of a Great Blue Heron in my last blog, nor in this one – so far.  Here are two for a catch-up.

Heron GB scratch 2013.10.28 5565

Great Blue Heron – get that itch!

Heron GB land 2013.10.25 5442

Great Blue Heron – touchdown!

More October coming next.



One thought on “October 2013: Part 1, birds and bugs

  1. Ed says:

    Is a group of “coots” called a Senate?

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