December Birding in BC

It has been a busy month, so we did not get out too many times. However, we managed an outing to Harrison Mills yesterday and to Iona Beach and the Reifel Sanctuary today. The highlight at Harrison Mills was watching and listening to a juvenile bald eagle, perched on a tree devouring a salmon. This bird was calling loudly and frequently! The highlight at Iona Beach was watching two eagles and a peregrine falcon pursuing green winged teals. The maneuverability of the eagles was surprising, while the speed of the peregrine was phenomenal. We cheered when a teal finally escaped repeated attempts by the raptors. However, about five minutes later, the two eagles were able to finally catch the teal which repeatedly dove into the water to escape. One of the eagles finally managed to pounce on the teal as it came up from a dive, and the eagle proceeded to drown it. The highlight at the Reifel Sanctuary was a northern goshawk which passed overhead four times, before finally landing in a tree. This is the first time we have seen a goshawk in the wild, and it certainly is very large compared to other acceptor hawks!

Juvenile bald eagle, calling out
Bald eagle, in snowy conditions at Harrison Mills
Great blue heron in flight at Harrison Mills
Juvenile peregrine falcon, at Iona Beach. This was the falcon that we watched pursuing ducks. Note: This peregrine is tagged.
Ring-necked duck at Reifel
Pintail duck (female) at Reifel
Northern shovelers at Reifel
Great-blue heron, at Reifel
Northern goshawk

Late November Birds

All of these photos were taken yesterday either at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary or at Blackie Spit. With ice on the ponds at the Reifel Sanctuary, there were not as many ducks as there have been. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful, sunny day with a good variety of birds.

Spotted towhee
Great blue heron
Ring-necked duck (female)
Duck on ice! Fun to watch landing! (Female mallard)
Black oystercatchers
Eurasian wigeon
Black oystercatcher

A few BC Ducks

The Lower Mainland of BC is an excellent place to observe ducks in the winter months, as the Fraser Estuary, the shallow bays on the coast and the many wetlands provide exceptional winter habitat. The following photographs were taken in the last couple of weeks.

Wood duck (male)
Hooded merganser (male)
Harlequin ducks (female on left, male on right)
Ring-necked duck (male)
Northern shovelers (male)
Hooded merganser (female)
American wigeon (male)
Wood duck (female)

The Eagles of Harrison Mills

Yesterday we literally saw several hundred eagles at Harrison Mills. The eagles follow the spawning salmon. With lower water levels, there are literally thousands of salmon on the Chehalis / Harrison Flats. The peak of this eagle concentration is expected in about two weeks.

Eagles: Observing Behaviour

As the eagles move into the Fraser valley, abandoned eagle nests are being claimed by eagle pairs. Concurrently, significant interaction between eagles can be observed. Yesterday I was able to observe two eagles inter-locking talons while in flight. It is speculated that this kind of interaction can be a form of play, pair-bonding or aggression. As the one eagle had nesting material and subsequently both eagles were seen at a nest, it seems likely that this was a pair-bonding activity. The following is the series of photos I was able to take.

Looking for Eagles

As November approaches, eagles return to the Fraser Valley. The peak of the “eagle season” is generally in mid to late November, and the richest concentration is around Harrison Mills, about 30 miles from where we live. As it was a perfect autumn day today, we decided to explore the area. It was a great day, and we managed to see about 100 eagles as well as some spectacular scenery.

Hicks Lake
Deer Lake
Harrison Lake
Harrison Mills

The Sun Returned

After about ten days of wet and foggy weather, the sun came out again, and so we took advantage of a gorgeous day! The eagles are returning to the valley, and the ducks are in breeding plumage.

Mount Baker from Boundary Bay
The streak of white against the mountains is a flock of snow geese – literally thousands – they are several miles away!
Trumpeter swans and snow geese, flying together.
A friendly (hungry) sandhill crane.
Sandhill crane in flight
Cedar waxwing
Western meadowlark
Spotted towhee
Long-billed dowitchers in flight
Wood duck

A Trip to Alberta

Last week, we traveled to Alberta. The objective was to photograph great grey owls, But I had no luck in that regard. However, it was nonetheless a wonderful trip, with lots of wildlife and absolutely exceptional scenery! The following photos show some of the highlights.

Steller’s jay
Moose (cow)
Chinook arch. A very major change in weather occurred with temperatures dropping 24 degrees Celsius and snowfall of 20 cm.
Ruffed grouse
Bow River in Banff
Moraine Lake (Banff National Park)
Lake Louise (Banff National Park)
Grey-crowned rosy finch (normally seen in the tundra or above tree line)
The view from Roger’s Pass (Glacier National Park, B.C.)

And Now from the West Coast!

Since I last posted on this site, we have made the move to British Columbia, and we are well into the process of getting settled. I have had little time for “the outdoors” since the move, however that is starting to change. One’s perspective of “Nature” is a lot different in British Columbia, than it is in Ontario or Kentucky, and wilderness is far more accessible. Similarly, one’s perspective of “Today’s World” is different. Environmental issues and issues of sustainability attract a lot more attention in the general public. I look forward to doing more exploring and getting back to posting on this site as we settle in to our West Coast life. The following photos were taken in British Columbia, Oregon and California over the last two months.

Mount Baker (Washington) seen from our yard in Abbotsford, BC.
Coastline, Central Oregon
Cascade Mountains, Manning Park, BC
Grey whale, Central Oregon Coast
White-faced ibises in flight, Northern California
Female wood duck, Oregon
Raven, Manning Park, BC
Clark’s nutcracker, Manning Park, BC
(Long-billed) Dowitcher, Delta, BC
Mount Shasta, Northern California
Steller’s jay, Oregon

Early Summer Birding in Ontario

This past week, we have been touring South Central Ontario with family from England. While the weather was cool and the forests damp and buggy, it proved to be a good time for birding. On our circuit, we managed to see a few rarities as well as one of my nemesis birds, the golden-winged warbler, a bird I had very much wanted to see before next month’s move to British Columbia. The rarest bird seen, was the piping plover of which there are less than ten breeding pairs in Ontario. The bird had been extirpated, but assisted by willing volunteers, there have been a few returning to the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. This bird is endangered, in all of its habitat as beaches are taken up by indiscriminate development and human activity.

Piping plover
Eastern bluebird
Tree swallow
Belted kingfisher
Grasshopper sparrow
Black tern
Great-crested flycatcher
Cedar waxwing
Golden-winged warbler

The End of the Spring Migration

Now into June, we are in “meteorological” summer. While the weather has been decidedly unsummerlike (cool and wet), the migration is over, the tree canopy is generally very thick, and birds are becoming more difficult to locate. I had very much hoped to photograph a mourning warbler and a golden-winged warbler this year, but had no such luck. It was however a good year in general for spring bird photography. Next year, I look forward to seeing the Spring Migration from a Western North American perspective!

Wilson’s snipe
Tree swallow
American redstart
Grasshopper sparrow
Caspian tern
Yellow warbler