May 27, 2015 by Rokman61
February-March spans the transition from late winter to early spring. I’ll start this instalment with my last birding highlight of winter.
Owls often cause a frenzy within the bird photography community. Word got out that two or more Northern Pygmy Owls were being seen and photographed in a small clear-cut near Chilliwack in the Fraser Valley. The ‘Big Lens Boys’ (and Girls) arrived in droves, and some chased the little owls mercilessly around the clear-cut. Others took great exception to this behaviour, and things got rather heated. There was even threat of slashing tires, and eventually a Wildlife Officer was called to the scene to keep order. I chose to avoid the circus, and waited about a month for things to cool down before Norma and I went to have a look. On our visit there was only one other birder/photog present, who fortunately managed to spot an owl for us. Pygmy Owls are actually quite tame and will allow close approach – the images here are minimally cropped.
As owls go, this bird showed an impressive array of expressions. Regretably, I apparently accidentally nudged the settings on my camera, and what could have been my best photos were hopelessly fuzzy. Yet another lesson to remember.
Whilst searching for the owl, Norma spotted several clumps of some remarkable flowers . . .
The showy flower-heads of this species appear before the leaves — an exuberant sign of spring renewal in a plantscape still largely locked in the grip of winter doldrums.
April brought a new bird for my BC Lifelist (a rather infrequent event after more than forty years of looking). A Loggerhead Shrike, a bird from more southerly places, which only occasionally wanders into BC, and then doesn’t usually hang around for long. This one showed up at the Hope Airport and stayed long enough for a number of twitchers to catch it. It kept its distance from the viewers, so my photos were only good enough to provide documentation.
Most of the time there are no rare birds to photograph, so more common fare get extra attention. At this time of year the ducks are showing their best and are easy to photograph at parks where they have become used to human incursions. Here are a few such examples.
Spring of course is when many birds migrate north from their normal range in the tropics to nest and raise young in northern forests. The first such migrant that I encountered this year was this Myrtle Warbler, a subspecies of Yellow-rump Warbler that nests far to the north and east of us and was just passing through.
But of course spring is not just about migrating birds. More obvious is the ‘greening up’ of the plant world. Here is bit of a twist – emergent black cottonwood leaves that start off in shades of gold and burgundy, before ultimately turning green.
Here is a mystery plant – maybe you can recognize it? It is a common species in the Lower Mainland, but this particular individual appears very odd. My explanation at end.
A few spring flowers. Here is a trio of trillium (or should that be trillia?). I’m told that they all start off white then gradually turn colour, but only after they have been pollinated. How cool is that!
Lilies of the genus Erythronium are among the most cherished of wildflowers. They are mostly absent from our area, except for one rather nice patch in a park very close to where we live.
These are White Fawn Lilies, Erythronium oregonum (other species come in pink and yellow).
At this time of year the forest floors are locally carpeted with flowers such as False Lily-of-the-Valley and the pink Bleeding Heart.
Another bird that only passes through in migration – the Townsend’s Solitaire.
A different kind of ‘bird’ – the US Airforce F18 fighter jet.
Such an amazing machine – essentially a metal tube with two seats, a humongous torch, and millions of $$ worth of electronics to drive it. Several of these were practicing ‘touch-and-go’ manoeuvres on Whidbey Island in Washington State. I was subjected to their ear-shattering roar for more than an hour-and-a-half whilst I waited to catch a ferry. When one of the workers was asked how long these sessions could go on, the response was “For hours on end!”. When asked what they thought of it, they answered “It’s the sound of freedom!”.
One evening whilst dining, I looked out to the yard and saw this:
These cute but unwelcome guests are Black Rats, uncharacteristically out in the open in broad daylight. Wikipedia tells me that they vary in colour, but of the 40+ I trapped at our last house, they were all charcoal grey like the one here.
Some time ago I wrote up a little article for the BCFO (British Columbia Field Ornithologists) newsletter. Since very few of my readers would have seen it, I thought it might be of interest to re-present it here.
From the BCFO newsletter ‘Birding in BC’, Sept 2014
Bird Names – a case of Capital Confusion!
This one could also be correctly labelled as a ‘White Rock pigeon’, because it is a pigeon and it was located in White Rock. However, you can see it is not white, and it is in fact a Band-tailed Pigeon, not a Rock Pigeon. Got it? Perhaps you are more confused than ever. But please note – Bird Names should always be Capitalized!
It’s the ubiquitous and highly invasive Himalayan Blackberry or ‘bramble’, but this one looks oddly stunted, curled up, and colourful. Here is what I suspect has happened: it is growing right next to some Giant Knotweed, which is even more invasive than the bramble. The knotweed has been treated with glyphosate (‘Roundup’), which has also affected the blackberry, not enough to kill it, but apparently enough to compromise its normal growth. Here is what it looked like about 7 weeks later. Note the larger ‘normal’ leaves at bottom.
curled up in Cloverdale.