May 6, 2017
Last week, we went to Burnaby Mountain and found a grouse, hooting 70 feet up in a cedar tree. We got some record shots, but we came back today to try to get a better view of it. We got there by 9:00, and we checked out the cherry blossom trees down near the seasons resturant. We possibly of seen the female Calliope Hummingbird which has been here for a week. We walked up the path to the upper playground, were, I quickly spotted a large ground bird, on the ground! It was the Sooty Grouse, the same one as before! I approached it as quitley as possible, so I wouldn't scare him, but to my surprise while I was creeping, he walked towards me! And that walk turned into a run. A few seconds later I found myslef running in circles with the Sooty Grouse chasing me. It was very, very fast! It quickly calmed down and I was able to get some really close up shots of it just posing feet away from me. About 15 minutes later two people came by the grouse and the grouse started chasing them, too! They even almost bit their pants! We told them it was "slightly territorial". After 5 more minutes, it flew back up into the same tree in which we saw him yesterday in. He seems to go on the ground from 6-9 am, so we will be coming back tomorrow earlier to see if we can catch him displaying! In some of the small cedar trees at the start of the powerline trail just above the grouse spot, I spotted 4 Townsend's Warblers, which was a lifer! They were very fast but I was able to get some okay shots. The Townsend's Warblers were way more bright than I have ever imagined, and looked like shining gold nuggets! The place was full of warblers, the other two species being Wilson's and Yellow Rumped. We headed to Queen Elizabeth Park to try and see our nemisis bird, Nashville Warbler, but failed again for the fourth time. The highlight from there was atleast 11 Western Tanagers which gleamed like christmas decorations high up in the trees. We finished the day with some chow-mein and tofu! What a wonderful day of birding!
April 23, 2017
Day of the Blackbird
Our first birding back from the trip would hopefully be some good birding. Our target was a nemisis bird of mine, the Yellow Headed Blackbird. We drove to Iona, the only place in the Lower Mainland where they regualrly breed, and we drove in like we normally do, checking the fields for Say's Phoebes and whatnot. As soon as we got onto Iona Island, something caught my eye. Something... yellow. We stopped the car in a instant and I started shutterbursting like there was no tomorrow. It was a beautiful Yellow-Headed Blackbird, a lifer! We followed it back to the main parking lot at the park, and there it was on a shrub right at the parking lot. They bird was quite flighty and it flew around quite a bit. We lost it for a while, but since my dad had to get another memory card I had to wait for about 2 minutes. And within thoe two minutes, two Yellow Headed Blackbirds landed right on the ground, right on the pavement of the parking lot. They were very tame all of a sudden. When my dad came back, the seemed to become more tame! They chased after Red-Winged Blackbirds but still were very tame. After a while they seemed to not even be scared of us anymore, and often came so close to me I couldn't focus! After a while two Brown-Headed Cowbirds flew in, the first of the season for me. They were amazing birds, With their bright yellow heads and white wing bars. I noticed that they were significantly bigger than Red-Winged Blackbirds. They fed on the flowers and grass until we were going to eat some chinese food. After that, we stopped by at Queen Elizabeth Park to check for the two reported Nashville Warblers which we sadly couldn't see. But I did get another lifer, a very cooperative Hermit Thrush! What a great welcome back to the wonderful world of Vancouver birding.
April 18, 2017
Birding in the Grand Canyon State - The Last Day!
Today would be our last day, or our last half day. We only had time to go to one spot, and we decided that would be Tohono Chul Park in northern Tucson, a short 20 minute drive away. We thought since we missed a few desert species this would be our chance to get them before we left. We got to Tohono at 7:57 after a bit of driving confusion, but we got there in time for the 8:30 bird walk. We took a short walk around before we went on the tour, but no lifers yet. We did get to see some more Lesser goldfinch, Aberts and Green tailed towhee, but no better shots of the Green Tailed. I went to the washroom quickly and off we went on the bird tour. As soon as the tour started, I got a good photo of a photo nemisis bird, the Cactus Wren. There were two going back and forth from a nest that they made nestled between the arms of a saguaro cactus. I was able to get some good shots! Our first new species we picked up - one we really wanted to see was a Costa's Hummingbird, which was a iconic southwestern desert species. We saw atleast 6 of them on the tour. The tour went on for a while with nothing interesting, until we got to the lower part of the park, where are group leader (his name was Ed) spotted a Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher in a bush quite far away. I got a record shot and then we had to continue. Only 5 minutes later I spotted a bird I really wanted to see! A Verdin! it was far away, but not for long, They came in quickly. But I couldn't stay since the tour was continuing. Once the tour was over, we re-visited the Cactus Wren nest and when we were about to leave, the flock of verdin came out of nowhere and were very tame all of a sudden! It was like they were saying "bye" to us. We stopped in the swimming pool for a quick swim and we were off on our plane to... Los Angeles? Well we had to connect though the LA airport but it was cool to be in LA, or atleast the airport. I experienced the famous LA smog, too. We were off on our next plane, back to our home, the great city of Vancouver.
April 17, 2017
Birding in the Grand Canyon State - Flycatchers, Parrots and Owls
Our hotel was called Hilton Doubletree Reid Park. Notice that it is located near Reid Park, a very good birding spot, with, at time of writing, nearly 5000 checklists submitted on eBird. Our target was Vermilion Flycatcher, which seemed to be pretty realiable at Reid Park. We woke up at the nice time of 5:00 am. We left by 6:15 and just when I was getting into the car a flash of... vermilion flew past. And landed into a tree. A bright red male Vermilion Flycatcher, as looked as it was fake since it was so red, like a bauble, was hawking for insects in the parking lot of my hotel. Welcome to Arizona! Not many good shots since it was still kind of dark so we decided to head over to Reid. It was a quick 3 minute drive(if you are doing the same thing i'm doing it will be tiring to walk since you have to walk all around a golf course to get to reid park) As soon as we parked another Vermilion was hawking for insects, this time it was using monkeybars on the playground as a perch. It flew to land on a bench and then a tree. We got great shots. We also saw a groundhog! There was at least two Vermilions in the park. We walked over to the pond to meet a extremely tame Neotropic Cormorant, who was perching on the side of the pond. He let me come within touching distance! There were two in the pond. We saw lots of Gila Woodpeckers, too. We also got great looks at the local Great-Tailed Grackles who were eating hot spicy cheetos in the parking lot. We left quickly after an awesome photoshoot because we were going back to Phoenix to see some very tropical birds! One hour and a half later we were at Phoenix, en route to the wonderfully urban Encanto Park. Located in the cute little Encanto Village (if I lived in Arizona, this was the place I wanted to live!) Was the bustling Encanto Park. They were holding a huge easter extravaganza but luckily that didn't affect us since as soon as we stepped out of the car - literally - was a colony of Rosy-Faced Lovebirds up at the top of a palm tree. I counted 14. These tiny parrots were amazing, nesting in the tiny crevices of the top of the palm. They fed on seeds and never came to the ground! The Rosy Faced Lovebird was introduced to the Encanto area quite a while ago and populations are surprisingly, growing! I know many people are against releasing non native birds to new locations (these ones are native to Africa, around Angola) but I think, if done properly, can add a splash of color to a city. Plus, they were so darn cute! After a quick walk around the park we came back to the tree, and they seemed to be more tame than before. One was chased away from his/her home on the palm tree by a rather aggresive Grackle (which also nest in the palms, sometimes) and couldn't go back up so landed close to the ground on a tree. He seemed lonely, and I guessed the other lovebirds knew it! One came over to keep it company, and over the next 5 minutes half of the lovebirds which were in the palm have transfered temporaily to the small tree. After some awesome photos we jumped back into the car to the "Thrasher Spot" an intersection of Baseline Rd. and Salome Highway in the middle of nowhere near to the border to California. Sadly no luck there other than a brief encounter with a Swainson's Hawk. We got out of there quickly since there were flies everywhere (probably 30 in the car) so we had to drive fast to get them out. I jousted them out the window with an umbrella (don't ask why we brought one) but over the course of the day, even hours later I still found some stragglers. On the way back to Madera we stopped at Picacho State Park to get some photos of Saguaro Cacti. The next and last spot of the day was to go back to Santa Rita Lodge for a rather famous Elf Owl, which seemed realiable. We decided to come early so we could do some birding before it was time to check on the Elf Owl. When we arrived, there seemed to be more hummers! I counted 3 Magnificents. The first lifer was a Bridled Titmouse, which was one I really wanted to see. They were quite tame, and looked like a Mountain Chickadee with a funky hairstyle. The next, and very unexpected lifer was a Red-Naped Sapsucker, which liked to peck on one tree right next to the gift shop. They are a bit of a rarity down in Arizona, but was one I was going to try to see on my upcoming Okanagan trip (in May) but it was very cooperative which is always great! Next lifers were a brief encounter with a pair of Hepatic Tanagers, and a soaring Common Black Hawk which mixed in with the Black and Turkey vultures. It was 6:45, and it was pretty dark. People started going to the famous power pole the Elf Owl nested in, only right accross the road from the lodge. The owner of the house and the lodge (the power pole was on his property) showed people the power pole and made the mini tradition of an "owl night" at the power pole. I was one of the, probably 10 people watching the small hole in the power pole, and we waited for 15 minutes. It was 6:59. Right when the clock turned to 7:00, something... tiny poked out of the hole. It was an Elf Owl, the world's smallest owl. The owner said that the owl had nested there for 5 years, and is used to people talking so that we could feel free to talk in normal voices. When the petite tiny elf owl poked out we stared in amazement. Shutters clicked. People clapped. It was amazing. This owl continued to poke in and out of his nest until we couldn't see it anymore. Another Elf Owl came to the nest, and they started calling, but I couldn't of been sure since I couldn't see the owl anymore! The Elf Owl was a bird I thought I would never see, yet I just had one of the best experiences one could have with an Elf Owl. We left feeling awestruck. We enjoyed a 1 hour long swim in the awesome pool. Tomorrow would be our last day!
April 16, 2017
Birding in the Grand Canyon State - Southeast Specialties
We woke up at the crack of dawn at the nice time of 5:00 am. We left by six. We were going to the world-famous Madera Canyon. Gonna pick up some lifers, woohoo! We made it to Madera quite quickly, only took 50 minutes. The 9 kilometers to Madera are a delight, and I had my first wonderful experience of the day. We were driving along when I saw a interesting sparrow in the bush. We pulled over and I checked the same bush. Out popped - something. I couldn't really tell. After a bit of examining of the bird I found out it was a beautiful Black-Throated Sparrow, one of my target birds. We waited 25 minutes for it to come out but no luck. We decided to give up. I am not kidding but the next kilometer I must of saw 7 of them. The ones after that were very good posers and sung loudly and proudly from the tops of the shrub. In this area, called the "Santa Rita Experimental Range" (it was used for planting new and rare species of succulents) was a really good area and I was able to get very quick looks at a Cactus Wren and a possible Ash-Throated Flycatcher (couldn't identify) After climbing up a small hill in our trusty car we got to our first stop - Santa Rita lodge. Lifers were everywhere. As soon as we arrived 3 Broad Billed Hummingbirds were fighting over a feeder. A huge Magnificent hummingbird hovered around some other feeders. A Black-Chinned Hummingbird zipped around. At the main feeders, I picked up White Winged Dove, Mexican Jay, Acorn Woodpecker, Arizona Woodpecker, And lots of (Mexican) Wild Turkey. Here is it in more detail - As we arrived I first saw a Black Headed Grosbeak at the feeder, not a lifer but is kind of rare up in the Lower Mainland. I heard tons of loud cries from above and before I knew it a flock of around 8 Mexican Jays came into view. They were like a paler - larger - non-crested version of the Steller's Jays we get back in Vancouver. They were kind of the bullies of the feeders, until a large gang of 9 Wild Turkeys came through. They were loud. Really loud. They pushed out lots of other birds! The only birds which were still flying - flying their undulating flight typical of their family, atleast 6 Acorn Woodpeckers were flying around loudly. two were on a tree, two were on a feeder, and three were on a nearby power pole. I heard more in the background. Other non-lifers included a flock of Lesser Goldfinch and a Rufous Hummingbird. (I got the Lesser at Desert Botanical back in phoenix) All of a sudden - one of my more "important birds to see" an Arizona Woodpecker came out of nowhere and landed on the suet feeder. He stayed there for a while before going to the nearby bird bath. Meanwhile, during all the craziness tons of hummers zipped around. We looked in the gift shop, which was had one of the best collection of Arizona field guides i've seen! Also awesome t-shirts and hats. Our next stop, in Madera Canyon was a few other trails. Sadly, these other trails yielded no birds. Until the last one - the Ampitheater trail. We were walking around when all of a sudden, something flew over me. And flew into a tree. I zoomed into the bird. It was a female Elegant Trogon! This was one of the birds I really wanted to see. But it flew away and all I got was a really horribly bad record shot (you can barely tell it's a trogon lol) but it was better than no shot. While trying to relocate it I picked up another lifer - Dusky Capped Flycatcher. It was still relatively early and we still had time to go to our next stop - Paton's Center for Hummingbirds! Located in Patagonia, which was about an hour south of Madera Canyon. After driving for a while we spotted a sign that said "Exit 103 - Patagonia - 2 miles" Two miles later, no exit. Well we may of missed, it we thought, but lets keep going until we're sure. We keep going. We start seeing signs saying "Nogales Border Crossings" and "Guns and Weapons not allowed in Mexico" And we kept going. After a while we saw something, getting closer and closer. It was a... wall? And yes it was a wall. More exactly, the wall seperating Mexico and the US. I think we've gone to far. It was pretty interesting to see the difference on the different sides of the wall. On the mexican side, I saw green hills covered in tiny houses of metal sheets, and a bunch of run-down clubs and pubs. On the US side, I saw a well-maintained gas stop and a nice-looking auto-repair shop. We were still in our car, very close to the border when we decided to get the ol' Google Maps out. It worked and we were there within 30 minutes. Quite the detour! Once we got to Paton's, it was a mecca. The first sighting was two Ladder-Backed Woodpeckers eating at a orange feeder. Next was a very brief encounter with a Violet Crowned Hummingbird. Next was Abert's Towhee, Green Tailed Towhee, Lazuli Bunting, Inca Dove, Black Vulture and Summer Tanager. We also got really good looks at a pair of Gambel's Quail. After the Ladder Back Woodpecker, we went to the back of the feeding area and I saw a beautiful Violet Crowned Hummingbird. I was only able to get one quick record shot before it flew away. Next was a good look at an Abert's Towhee at the front feeding station, feeding with some Chipping Sparrows and a Lincoln's Sparrow. After a super quick look at a Green Tailed Towhee (I only got a picture of it's backside) Lazuli Buntings started popping up everywhere. A pair of Black Vultures perched in a nearby tree, and just when we were about to leave a Summer Tanager appeared out of nowhere. It was only in a hour, but it was amazing birding! On the way home, on Highwat 82 east we had to pullover real quick because something awesome was perched in a tree right beside the road. A Gray Hawk. Gray Hawks are usually high up in the sky but this one was right beside the road! We got back in the car quickly and drove back home (It took us 3 hours to get home since we got lost multiple times) We got home and had amazing mexican food for dinner. After dinner we had a great swim in our hotel's awesome pool. Another great day of birding in Arizona!
April 15, 2017
Birding in the Grand Canyon State - We're Here!
Most trips I’ve been on have been extensively planned beforehand but nope, not this one. We’ve decided to go just a couple of weeks before and after some research we had a handful of spots to go to on our 4-day Easter excursion. We woke up at 11 pm (yes, pm) to get ready and catch our 6 am flight (we got to go through security, get there, eat, and other stuff, check our bags, find the gate and other stuff) but fast forward to 6, and we’re on our plane. Our plane would stop at Sea-Tac airport near Seattle, to connect to a flight to Phoenix Sky Harbour. Our flight to Sea-Tac has been delayed – well we’re on the plane but it’s just sitting on the runway. This caused a bit of a chain reaction, meaning we missed our flight to Sky Harbour, meaning that we would get to Phoenix late – we were planning to go to quite a few spots that day since we wanted to spend the rest of the days in Tucson. We were supposed to get to Phoenix by 10:45, and start birding around 12:00. But because of this delay, we were stuck at Sea-tac with the next flight (with our company) being at 11:00. With a bit of luck, we were able to get free tickets for another company going to Phoenix at 8:15. We got on that one, and we were heading to Phoenix only one hour late. Something that was really cool was that I could see thousands of amazing canyons from the airplane, and they looked like mazes! We flew over 100's of miles of desolate lands where the only signs of human activity were a handful of quarries around. We got to Phoenix at around 11:50. Finally something good happened - I had Lunch! And obviously it had to be mexican food. I enjoyed the best quesadillas ever at this fantastic restaurant called Barrio Avion - Highly Recommended for some quick tasty bites! Then we had to get a rental car, and the dealer was surprisingly far away from the airport which meant that the rental car shuttle took a long while to get there. Once we got there we had to get a car, which took about 45 minutes and once we finally got a car, it was around 3:00. We had to cut off the Baseline/Salome thrasher spot and Encanto Park, but we had to go there so we said we would drive back to phoenix later in the trip. Our first spot was Desert Botanical Garden.
We drove to the garden, after only getting lost a few times and we were welcomed with hundreds of Saguaro Cacti watching over the beautiful city oasis. There was a large desert park in the middle of the bustling city, home of the garden and he Phoenix Zoo. Looking for wild birds we went straight to the Botanical garden. As soon as we entered the gates, there were lifer’s left right and center. Our first one was a small gang of Curve Billed Thrashers jumping around noisily at the entrance. They were quite beautiful, with stunning orange eyes that contrasted with their dark grey body. We continued down the trail, and I spotted a Phaniopepla in a tree. The bird, belonging to the Silky-Flycatchers family was a female and was a dull but nice gray. While I was looking at it a Gambel’s Quail crossed the path. No good looks, but hopefully later. Minutes later a huge bird ran across the underbrush and out into the open – A roadrunner!! Roadrunners were some of my targets this trip! The bird was way bigger than I expected, and looked like it belonged more in the gamebirds family than the cuckoos. It stood in one place for a full minute allowing great looks. After a brief look at a Pyrrhuloxia (sometimes called a desert cardinal) I saw a Gila Woodpecker pecking on a saguaro. After a few more laps I saw some Lesser Goldfinch, yet another new bird. We left this spot and went to the last spot of the day, Zanjero park. It was located on the outskirts of phoenix and was home to Burrowing Owls, a species I’ve wanted to see for almost three years. We arrived in the humble park, and we were welcomed by a good sign, no, literally - As we entered the park the first thing we saw was a sign saying "Watch out for Owls and their Burrows" and the same thing in spanish. There was a paved walkway that went on for about 0.2 kilometers, with burrows all along the right side. We were almost at the end, with no owls when I saw a blob on a stick around 30 meters away - a very skinny blob. I checked with the camera (kinda acts like binoculars for me) and, yes, that skinny blob on a stick was a Burrowing Owl. In fact, it was a extremely tame burrowing owl. We went closer, hoping not to scare it. We were about 5 meters away (still on the paved walkway!) And it stood still as a statue, posing in the sunset. Just when I thought it couldn't of gotten any better the same owl flew inches away from my head and landed - on a pole, within touching distance. The owl actually came to me! We walked a little farther down only to encounter 2 other very tame owls. There was one other photoghrapher there, and it was a great time. There are a few little dirt paths which go into the brush (the park is like a bowl - a trail goes all the way around the rim and in the bowl part there are smaller trails) and I was able to pick up two more lifers - a Black-Chinned Hummingbird, a quick encounter, and what I first thought was a Western Kingbird (but turned out to be a Cassin's - even better!) We had to leave soon since it was getting dark but we were able to pick out one more Arizona Lifer, a Northern Mockingbird. We got back into our rental car, and drove all the way to our hotel - which was in Tucson! We drove for 2 hours in the dark on the highway and I think I fell asleep but I'm not so sure. We arrived at our hotel, ate some quick late supper, and went to sleep. First thoughts on Arizona - Bird Filled, surprisingly not painfully hot, and great food.
March 19, 2017
Brilliant Black Duck
We were planning to go to Victoria for a day for a while now and this was the first sunny day in a long while. I woke up at an early 5:00 and we left at 5:30. We had 4 targets - The Pink-Footed Goose seen a couple of days ago, the long-staying Redwing, the rapidly declining Skylarks, and finally, an American Black Duck that has been in Victoria for years. We got to Swartz Bay in the Saanich Pennisula at around 7:30. The ferry ride was interesting as the crew aboard the BC Ferries were doing a drill where they pretended that there was a person overboard and they lowered a rescue boat, which was interesting to watch. Anyways, once we arrived, the first places we went to were the Canora and Willingdon Roads at the Victoria Airport for Skylarks. No luck there. Next we tried quickly at Martindale. No luck there. And finally, we checked Vantreight Bulb Fields, and there were no Skylarks there. Luckily, we planned that the seeing the skylarks would be unlikely so we only spent an hour looking for them. The next spot was at Blenkinsop Lake where a Pink-Footed Goose has been staying for two months, and no luck there. It wasn't looking good! Next, we tried for the American Black Duck at Beacon Hill Park. No luck there. We went to go to a chinese restuarant that we were planning to go to but they weren't open. Could things get any worse? We went to Chinatown to look for a chinese food place but there wasn't even any chinese stores! We drove down another road, with a real chinatown, where we found multiple restaurants. The on with the best menu was Shanghai City resturant and it was great! We then went back to Beacon Hill Park (Goodacre Lake) but it wasn't there. We asked a birder, and she said that the Black Duck was in another pond south of Goodacre. And she was right! As we walked in I quickly spotted the dark duck in a group of mallards and wigeons. A lifer! Many people were feeding the ducks, and as we quickly realized, the American Black Duck was a total glutton! He was always getting the biggest pieces of bread and whenever someone new was feeding them, he was the first to show up. He bit other ducks alot, and he stole bread from other ducks! He was always putting his face in the water so it was very hard to get a good shot. He was probably the most hyper duck in the whole pond! After a great 2 hour experience with the duck we tried for the Redwing and Skylarks (again) with no luck. I was still in for some fun though, as the ferry on the way back was both the best and most chaotic ferry I've ever been on! As the days are getting longer and it was quite warm I was able to stay on the deck of the ferry for 90% of the journey, even though we left at 6 pm. Before the ferry even left the dock it was awesome! A man was feeding a group of about 8 Glaucous-Winged Gulls with french fries, but the part that made it awesome was that he was feeding the gulls while they were flying! It was a little windy so the gulls were hovering in the air while eating the fries! After we left only one gull remained. The feeding fries to gulls trend quickly spread all over the ship and tons of people were taking pics, and even selfies with the gulls. It was pretty awesome in my opinion! But the ferry staff didn't like it. Two people told the people to stop and the captain had to say everyone to stop over the intercom! It was very intertaining to watch. We sailed past a rock which were covered in about 30 'rock sausages' - Seals, and a minute later I saw a Steller's Sea Lion swim past the ship. Then I saw someone feeding the gulls a napkin! Feeding them with food it awesome, but a napkin could kill him! Feeding the gulls napkins should be against the rules, not feeding them food. Luckily, the gull (the one which followed us all the way from Victoria) was very smart and quickly threw the napkin out of his bill and into the water! Everyone was happy. After getting stuck in a public washroom due to a faulty latch, I went back outside, and they blew the ship horn as I was outside, and even worse, I was right next to it! My ears rung. They blew it again. I was running back inside before they blew it again! After witnessing some more Ferry staff yelling at people to stop feeding the gulls we were there. What a crazy day!
March 18, 2017
The Bird Alert was helpful once again in finding what we were going to go see today. A Say's Phoebe was seen in Richmond! The Say's Phoebe is a bird of the interior and getting one in the Vancouver/Richmond area is quite rare! So we headed down, quite late in the day to go and try to twitch the Say's Phoebe. I also checked the Bird Alert on the way there, and It was seen this morning, and there was now TWO of them! So we continued driving down to richmond. It was seen along ferguson road. On the way there a saw a Western Meadowlark, which is not a lifer but is always a great thing to see! It was The exact location was between the horse stables and the Shannon Road dyke. It was quite a vast area for it to be so we drove back and forth along Ferguson to try to catch a glimpse of the rarity. And after like, 2 back and forth's I saw a medium sized bird hawking for insects about 30 metres north of the road. I zoomed in with my camera. I saw it - the beautiful Say's Phoebe! I got a record shot and we tried to get closer but we could not relocate it. It turned out that the sighting was the only one we got for that day but it turned out that the Short Eared Owl from 3 days ago was in the same place, so we looked at him for a bit. We also had glimpses of 3 other meadowlarks, and we met lots of birders. Today was an unexpected great day.
March 15, 2017
After checking the BC bird alert we were able to find out about a Tufted Duck at New Brighton Park, 2 Yellow Headed Blackbirds, and 2 Bohemian Waxwings. We left a little late but it ended up great! Our first stop was the small New Brighton Park in Vancouver. Our target bird was the code three Tufted Duck, which would be a lifer. It was one of my nemesis birds. When we arrived, we saw a good sign. Photographers! Standing by the.... pool? As I walked over I scanned a flock of ducks in the pool. They were all scaups except for one... And it had a tuft! It was the Tufted Duck! This amazing find was first found by Daphne Lang on March 14th at 5:15 pm and was relocated this morning by Mike Tabak. It sure was a beautiful tufted duck, and it came quite close. The main problem in getting photos is that there was a fence all around the pool since it was filled with rain water and it was not season, but thanks to manual focus and some photoshop, haze was reduced to a minimum. It's distinguishing feature was surprisingly not his tuft, but the amount of black on his back. The back pattern of a Tuffy resembles that of a Ring Necked Duck, but together with telltale tuft and behavior it was identified as a Tufted Duck. It was interesting that they were in the Swimming Pool as they probably won't be much food there but I think the main reason
they were there was to chill out. It was absolutely awesome finding a Tufted Duck after trying at iona twice. Next was lunch.
We had lunch at Hakkaku Ramen (my favorite ramen place, I highly reccommend it!) Afterwards we headed to Iona for the two Bohemian Waxwings. They were seen along Ferguson Road which is the road to Iona Island. While we were driving along, I saw about 5 photographers looking towards me? I went to them, and a small owl, not visable from the road, was huddled up on the ground 5 feet away from the photographers. It was a Short Eared Owl, which I have had awesome
experiences previously with (see 'Short Eared Surprise') But this may of been better! We stayed in the rain with the little guy for 30 minutes before continuing to try to find the BOWA's. Sadly, we couldn't find them. The Bohemian Waxwings are very high on my Nemesis list, as I have tried for them about 6 times. Next was the Yellow Headed Blackbirds, another Nemisis. Before checking, we decided to check Alaksen for anything since it was open today. As we were driving through some trees infront of the office, I saw a clump in the tree. It was a Barred Owl, a lifer! This may not sound crazy for many but the Barred Owl has been a nemisis of mine for about two years now. I have seen Great Grey, Northern Pygmy, Northern Saw-Whet, Barn, Short Eared, Great Horned and Snowy owls but I have never seen, often considered the most common, Barred Owl.
But now I have! It is a very beautiful owl. But, minutes later, I saw another clump in the same tree. Was it another Barred Owl? Well it wasn't but it was another Owl! It was a Barn Owl! It is quite a sight to see two different species of owl in the same tree. 2 Super nemisis birds in a day is completley crazy! We dipped on the yellow headed blackbird but today was still a crazy, lifer-filled day!
March 12, 2017
For one of the first times in forever, there was nothing to see. There was nothing new in the Lower Mainland on ebird, the forums, and nobody really was birding because of horrible weather. So, we decided to just go somewhere. So we decided on going to Pitt Meadows. We had about 2.5 hours of time to kill out in Pitt Meadows and we have never really gone anywhere in Pitt Meadows except the main birding roads; Rannie, Connecting, Sharpe, Thompson, Neaves, and McNeil roads. But there was still a ton of backroads that we haven't explored yet. On a sunny day the roads of Pitt Meadows are beautiful as you can see many mountains and fields reminicent of the Okanagan (but less mountainous) Anyways, the weather people were wrong today (but I must say that they were doing quite well for a while there) Also a bit of a side story, the winter of
2016/2017 was probably the most snowiest year in a decade or more. Usually we have about half a day of snow and it melts in the same day. But this year, there was probably 35 snow days and there was snow on the ground for almost 5 months. This has created huge irruptions in Bohemian Waxwings and most noticably, Red-Breasted Sapsuckers. Okay, back to the story. So the weather people said it would be cloudy with scattered showers in Pitt Meadows but boy they were wrong. On the highway there it was pouring rain. Luckily we didn't decide to go back because we were in for some surprises! First we drove down Rannie to Swan-e-set golf course. Along the road we saw two birders, who we stopped to talk to. It was nice to see some birders out on such a dreary day. They said that they saw 3 American Bitterns along a dyke trail and a few swallows. The swallows were somewhat significant since they are just starting to arrive in the lower mainland in small numbers and will probably be pretty common in about 3 weeks. He said to get to the trail we would have to drive down a gravel road for a kilometre north and then we would arrive there. So we drove down the bumpy road until we saw small birds flying in the sky - swallows! There was about 10, a high count for this time. But then, as we kept driving down we saw a small tree. Covered in swallows! We counted about 90. I picked out about 3 Violet Greens from the rest which were Tree Swallows. As we arrived at the end of the road, you could go left down an even worse road. But even though it was raining and foggy, it was pretty epic. It felt like you were in the middle of nowhere on some small road in like, Saskatchewan or
something but no - we were just 25 minutes outside of Coquitlam! But then I saw something huge. An eagle, probably. On a utility pole. On closer examination, I found out that the giant bird was no eagle. Black cheek patch, smaller beak, fierce look,
speckled body - it was a falcon. A GYRFALCON! A lifer! The largest falcon in the world. The Gyrfalcon is a rare visitor from the far north to the Lower Mainland (kind of like snowy owls in terms of their nomadic behavior). One was last seen on
Connecting road in Pitt Meadows about a month ago. We got out of the car as quickly but inconspiciously as possible, and creeped up on the amazing bird. It felt like a scene from the movie, the Big Year. You are in the middle of nowhere when you find a Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) on a pole. A Gyrfalcon has always been high on my nemisis list, but I never expected to find one today! After a few minutes of creeping I found myself rather close (for such a grand bird) to the falcon. After taking about 400 pictures it decided to fly away. It landed, high up on a transmission tower. What an unexpected lifer. Today was truly a great day, a Gyreat day!
February 25, 2017
Since there still wasn't much happening in the Lower Mainland we decided to go to Richmond Nature Park and Reifel. We wern't expecting much but who knows what will happen! We left kind of late and arrived at the park at around 12:00 and we went to check out the feeders-what we usually do. My target was to get a good shot of some juncos, and some other common birds. When I set up at the feeder area, there were birds everywhere! Tons of Song, Fox, and Golden-Crowned Sparrows fed on the ground, while Towhees and Juncos spent most of their time in the brush. I noticed about 2 or 3
differently colored juncos, which were the Oregon subspecies. They were lighter colored than most of the Slate-Colored Juncos. The Downy Woodpeckers fed on the suet feeders while some House Finches fed on the nyger feeders. All of a sudden, while I was trying to take a picture of a Oregon Junco, I saw something in my peripheral. Something with a white... throat? It flew off before I could snap a record photo. I walked in the direction it flew, about 4 metres away from the main feeding station. I checked in the brush- not there! I checked in the trees - not there either! Then, I checked a small branch right next to me. And there he was! A little White-Throated Sparrow. A lifer!! They are relatively rare in the Lower Mainland and are more common in the east, kind of replacing the Golden-Crowned Sparrow in the east. A WTSP (Banding code for White Throated Sparrow) was seen at Richmond Nature Park but it was last seen about a month and a week ago. Either no one checked for it or it was just hiding someplace, I found him! He was very skittish, and didn't stay in his nice perch for long. He flew to the right to the other feeding area. I took me about 15 minutes to sort him out of the similar Fox Sparrows until I found him. This kind of continued for a while until he made an unexpected move! He flew back to the main feeding station - right under the feeder! I got better shots until it went into the underbrush - he was probably still there, but we left since we were getting hungry for some tofu and crispy noodles. After our delicious lunch at Imperial Court Bejing and Szechuan cuisine (I highly recommend it) we took the quickest route over to reifel via the George Massey Tunnel which is going to be replaced in the near future, we got to reifel in record speed. It was still pretty late though, so we couldn't dillydally. We did our normal routine, checking the 'owl trail' for owls, we did find a Northern Saw-Whet but they seem to choose the most frustrating spots to roost! We checked the blue lookout tower area for Swamp Sparrows but none made themselves present. We checked the feeders on our way out - and WAIT. Is that another White-Throated Sparrow? It sure was. Two White-
Throated Sparrows is weird, especially since I have been on the hunt for them for about 5 months now. It seemed to good to be true, but it sure was. One White-Throat was seen hear 2 days ago but we have checked here before but dipped. This was probably the same one, since it was very (even more than the richmond one!) skittish, just like the forums described. It was still great to see two birds in the same day - and a lifer! 2017 may of started with a rocky start, but this weekend was surely
February 24, 2017
Super Surrey Surprises!
There wasn't much action over here in the Lower Mainland but there was a ruddy turnstone that has been seen by several people at White Rock and 1 Redhead and 2 Canvasback in Surrey Lake Park. So we decided to go to those to places. We couldn't leave that early since it was snowing but the day turned out to be quite hot for Vancouver at this time (+8 celsius). We were planning to go to the Ruddy location before we went to Surrey Lake but the lake was right next to the road so we decided to take a look before we went to find the Ruddy. As soon as we got over the small bridge in the entrance I saw one abnormally large-billed duck with a velvet head. A Canvasback! It was a lifer! Canvasbacks is a bird i've been looking for a while but from most sightings I've heard are in the ocean and just brief flybys. The male, the bird I first saw was quite far out but then I realized the female very close to shore. We creeped along the edges of the lake until we were just metres away from the beautiful duck. Canvasbacks have oversized black bills and males have a beady red eye. 1 lifer is always awesome! We couldn't find the Redhead, but another thing we saw was about 5 Ruddy ducks scattered around the lake. Some where males which we haven't seen before. After looking at them for about an hour we got back in the car, had a quick lunch, and drove to White Rock. We have tried for the Ruddy before here but we couldn't find it. It was last reported on the 23rd 100m east from the actual White Rock, and by the time we got to the approximate 100 metre area east from the white rock, it wasn't looking good. We kept going anyways and at about 200m I saw a small orange legged shorebird perching on a large rock next to the water. I checked in my camera. It was the Ruddy Turnstone! A British Columbia lifer! (I saw one in Maui) I was on the beach, but they were very flighty so I couldn't get close. So what I ended up doing was going on the upper walkway and getting photos from there, which worked out very well. Anyways, it was an awesome 1.5 lifer day!
January 21, 2017
Ruddies in the Reeds
I haven't posted in a VERRRRY long time since shortage of interesting bird business. The Lesser Goldfinch at Brookside Inn in Abbotsford was very popular at the time since it was supposed to be quite easy to find and hung out with a flock of 80 or so of his American cousins. It was first sighted on about the 11th of January by owner Chris Buis! A Lesser Goldfinch was here last year, but a female. This time it is a male. and was apparently not sighted in about a week so it was probably on it's way back to Arizona or wherever now. We had a backup plan to visit nearby Fishtrap Creek since two Ruddy Ducks were reported on the 18th of January. if the Lesser Goldfinch plan fails. So we left relatively late after eating some French Toast at home (which I learned to make at school!) Anyways at 11:00 am we were out of the house and on our way to Abbotsford. It was relatively quick going on the Transcanada Highway and we got there at around 12:05 pm. We arrived at the beautiful Brookside Inn (which was covered in bird feeders, and birds) as we drove into the parking lot. Chris Buis was kind enough to let us check the back of the inn, where many of the Goldfinches were, but after a while of searching, we could not find it in the large flock of American Goldfinches. The Lesser Goldfinch has my favorite banding code, LEGO. If you didn't know, I also like to make things out of lego in my spare time. After a while we jumped back in the car and drove for about 5 minutes, to what we thought was Fishtrap Creek Park. We got off the parking lot, walked all the way around the creek (It was a lake, not a creek, but it was still called fishtrap creek) but alas, there were no ruddies to be seen. Three people also told us there were a family of 6 otters there too, which we also couldn't see. It was starting too look bad, until we saw a sign accross the street saying 'Fishtrap Creek Discovery Trail'. Ohhhhhhh thats were we were supposed to be... Anyways as soon as we walked in the *real* fishtrap creek we were greeted by two River Otters, literally right at the entrance. One of them caught two fish, both looked kind of like a small tilapia. There was a bit of a fork in the path after a while, and we decided to go right - which was a bad choice since it was flooded so we went back the other way and went left. It was much better and things were looking better. We saw tons of Coots, Mallards, Geese, Widgeons, Buffleheads and Ring-Necked Ducks and no ruddies yet. But then I saw a little brown duck scooting it's way down the creek/lake. It was a Ruddy, a Lifer!! It was super fast and I had to run to get in front of it. It kept going until the end of the pond, where there were reeds, lots of reeds. Then, all of a sudden, another Ruddy came out of nowhere! Then, they got into proabably the worst possible spot for photography and fell asleep. We waited for about an hour and they moved to a better spot and slept. Again. it is hard to get a profile shot when they are sleeping so I had to wait. And wait, and wait, until it poked it's head up for a split second, and I got one shot I was happy with, which was good enough for me! The whole area was filled with Chickadees, Bushtits, Kinglets and Creepers. We left after having some fun with the Ruddies and we left and went to to walmart for some groceries abd went home. It was the first lifer in like two months!
November 20, 2016
Rainy Day Refuge
At the moment, they weren’t much rare birds sighted in the area we decided to go to Brunswick point to see if there was anything exciting. It turned out that there was not that much there since it was high tide and the only birds were cormorant plovers on the poles. Then we turned to plan B. We were going to Reifel! When we arrived, I stayed in the car when my dad was going to pay for the entrance fee. But he came back quickly and told me to see an odd bird. So I got out in a hurry, and there was one Greater White-Fronted Goose walking around the parking lot. A new bird! It was walking around when we noticed that it had a broken wing which was dragging behind. We went to tell the Reifel staff about it but it turned out that they already knew about it. He couldn’t fly, the poor goose but luckily for him Reifel is one of the best places for it to be since there is a lot of easy food sources. I have never seen one before and I have just realized how small they were – almost the size of a Mallard! The Reifel staff said that it has been there since Halloween and they have been trying to capture it to bring it to a wildlife rehab center but they said that it was quite hard to catch! It had went on the other side of the fence so we went on the trails for a little bit. I wondered how it broke its wing – maybe a dog or a hunter? With some help from other birders we managed to see a Great Horned Owl which is always nice but it was quite high up. After that we went back to the entrance, where we first saw the goose and it was still there! We got lots of photos of the handsome goose before we left. As we were driving home we saw a family of deer on the side of the road!
November 5, 2016
Pelagic Point Roberts
Today we finally went to Point Roberts after a long time. It was better than we were expecting! We got across the border (Point Roberts is in USA) and our first stop was Lighthouse Park. We arrived and I immediately saw my first lifer, right outside the car – a Black Scoter! Now I have seen all three scoters found in this area! We continued along the rocky beach and I came across a flock of Sanderlings waddling up and down the beach. It was a great photoshoot since they weren’t flighty and if they did fly away they would always come back to the beach. After that I stood in one place with my tripod for a very long time to spot any fly-by birds and I managed to see three flocks of Long-Tailed Ducks, a lifer!!!! Multiple large flocks of Red-Breasted Mergansers, and lots of Scoter flocks. There was no sign of any Ancient Murrelets or the recently sighted Yellow-Billed Loon but I did manage to barely spot a very far-away Common Murre which was the third lifer of the day! As we walked back to the car I saw two Steller’s Sea Lions swimming out in the sea, a ‘mammal lifer’ which I have never seen before. After ‘hanging out’ at Lighthouse Point we traveled to Lily Point, a beautiful beach which is quite challenging to get to. First, you must walk on a trail for about 30min and you get to a smaller trail which goes down the side of a cliff. Lily Point is one of the most scenic places on Point Roberts and once you get to the bottom which takes about 15min you can see a giant red cliff from the bottom. Anyways there were no lifers here but close looks at some Harlequin Ducks. We headed back up, which is, trust me, not as fun as coming down, we jumped back in the car and headed to lunch. On the fields outside the little Marina, I spotted at least 25 Killdeer, the most I have found in one area. We kept a look out for Meadowlarks but we couldn’t find any. After lunch we went to Lighthouse once again but it was void of birds, showing that birding in the morning, especially here is much better. We quickly left (although we did see a bunny, which is never a bad thing) and we headed for our last stop, Maple Beach. It was high tide so it wasn’t great and all I could see was scoters and Western Grebes far out. Since we left Point Roberts early we went to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal when we got back to British Columbia. No lifers but I did spot two Oystercatchers and one very flighty Snow Bunting. It was a great day in all, with three lifers! I was creeping up on 300 birds, with 295 lifers in all!
October 30, 2016
Today we were planning to go to the Stanley Park Ecology Society’s fall nature walk. We had to leave early since Stanley Park is and hour drive away, and we were excited for the trip! On the way there I checked the internet and I saw that there was a Snow Bunting at Tsawwassen! A main nemesis bird of mine. Yesterday I tried to twitch the Blackie Spit Snow Bunting but it was gone right on the day we came. I was excited/nervous that we may miss it but we went on the nature walk, which was a success. It was led by Liron Gertsman, an amazing birder.
We started off at Lost Lagoon (not much there) but we headed towards the seawall and saw man nice things. First off we saw a Racoon, which is always cool. Next, we saw a pair of Snow Geese on the seawall, swimming close to shore – which was an odd place for one to be! Next we saw two pairs of Harlequin Ducks on a rock, quite far but are always great to see.
While we were watching the Harlequin Ducks, a very aggressive jogger ran past us and yelling SPACE! MAKE WAY! And almost ran into our group. After the two great sightings we went to have lunch and go Tsawwassen, fingers crossed for the Snow Bunting. The first things I saw were two beautiful Black Oystercatchers and two Black Turnstones, and since the sighting was at the Taxi Pullout, once we were way past the pullout we were getting a bit worried we haven’t seen the Bunting yet. But then, a flash of white fluttered right in front of us – A Bunting. Finally! Of our super long nemesis list, this was one of the most wanted ones. It was a super-fast runner, it was running beside me as I followed it down the jetty. It only stopped a few times, and when it did, only for a split second. I got a few decent shots but they weren’t nearly as tame as the Longspurs from last time.
After about an hour we went to the other side of the jetty and saw a bunch of Oystercatchers, two of them were really non flighty. Finally, we left, to our final stop – Blackie Spit. It seemed crazy at first – about 10 birders around the spit, most of them focusing on the curlew. But that wasn’t what we were looking for. Just when we were leaving, an American Pipit flew out of nowhere. That was the bird we were looking for, the tiny American Pipit! It flew up extremely high and landed back on the spit thirty seconds later. A new bird! It, like the Snow Bunting, was very flighty but we eventually got an okay shot of it. While searching for it I saw a Lapland Longspur, which is sort of rare for this time. We finally left at around 4:30. What a great day of birding!
October 22, 2016
The Invisible Bittern
We have seen several reports of a very “friendly” Bittern at Willband Park in Abbotsford. The American Bittern has always been a nemesis bird of mine, and hopefully I can finally get it of that list. We live kind of far away from Abbotsford so it took a while to get there but once we did we went into “birder mode” and we scanned the reeds for the bittern, since the bitterns were famous for pretending to be a reed. We were walking into the park for about ten minutes when I was just heading around a corner and I looked back – luckily – and saw, a tiny, skinny head peeking out of the reeds. The Bittern!!!
It was an amazing lifer, #290 for me. It was such an cool bird. If I wasn’t looking for it, I would easily walk right past it. I got a few record photos before we tried to move in, but it was very flighty, contrary to what it has been acting like in the past few days. It flew out of the reeds, revealing how big it was and landed somewhere else in the little marsh area. We looked for it for quite long but we could not re-locate it! After about 30 minutes of searching we were about to leave when I spotted the little Bittern, on the on the island in the middle of the small pond area. As soon as I spotted it flew for the third time to another area. We saw were it landed and we saw it actually land so we ran over to the area, and all I saw was his tail and a movement in the reeds. A second later he flew again back to the island. At that point we were assuming that it probably wouldn’t come as close as in the beginning, so we left. It was a great time with the American Bittern!
October 15, 2016
At this time there was a relatively strong series of storms hitting Vancouver so we were thinking of not going birding – until we found out that it wasn’t raining as heavily as they said and there was a Townsend’s Solitaire in the area and it would be a lifer for me. So we went over to the location it was last spotted, at a dyke at the end of Blundell Road.
As soon as we got out of the car we saw another birder, and he said the Solitaire was on the Mountain Ash tree which was very close to us. So we headed there in excitement and we almost walked past it as it was very motionless and quiet, but I looked back and I saw the little grey bird tucked up in a berry tree. A lifer!
We pursued and it was quite tame, and allowed us to get quite close. It ate some berries then went to the other side of the fence bordering the neighbouring golf course. It came back to the other side of the fence at a better perch, but still not the best. It was flushed by some rainy day golfers and we tried to re-locate it but we couldn’t find it again and we were distracted by flocks of newly arriving Snow Geese to the Vancouver area as part of the migration season, so we didn't see which direction it went.
The rain was starting to come down hard, so we were going to leave until the little Solitaire silently re-appeared, quiety sitting on the barbed wire fence right in front of us. I took tons of photos and it was flushed back into the Mountain Ash tree. A few birders came through but the rain was pouring so hard not many birders were there. We waved bye to the cute little dude and we went to eat some Chinese food at the aptly "birdishly" named Pelican Restaurant. The restaurant was one of my favorite since they always showed nature documentaries and today it showed a documentary about the arctic. It was a crazy coincidence when they showed great footage of a American Dipper, which was one of the cool birds I saw last weekend. It was worth it to get soaked for a new bird!!
October 9, 2016
The Thanksgiving Longspurs
I was checking the forums for the fifteenth time that day when we found out about four Lapland Longspurs, an Arctic bird, at the Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty. We have sort of tried to see them before at other places but this time we were actually going to try. It was just coincidence that the Longspurs were here today since we were going to go here anyways so we could drop of my mom at the brand new Tsawwassen Mills shopping center, while me and my dad went to the jetty, which was only about five minutes away, four minutes being the ridiculous traffic.
Anyways, once we got to the taxi pullout we walked along the jetty, looking. But it looked lifeless for a while until we spotted three birders, far away. We ran the jetty, trying to get there as quickly as possible but we slowed down since we didn’t want to scare the birds away. Once we (finally) go to the birders they said the Whimbrel just left (which wasn’t what we were looking for anyways) but the Longspurs are just about 100 metres down the jetty. So we walked and I saw two, tiny little sparrow-like birds, running across the openings in the grass. Longspurs! I pursued the birds and I noticed two more, before they were flushed by a fire truck racing past. They flew towards the base of the jetty (sigh… more walking) and we got there, finally, and two of the four little Longspurs, were sitting casually on a log, waiting for me to take a picture, so that was what I did. And I took tons of photos, until they were flushed for a second time, as they flew towards the shopping mall. I got some photos that I was happy about on the log so we headed back down the jetty, and once the taxi pullout was only 50 metres away a little, sparrow-like bird, came out of the grass, like magicians. They were back!
Three of the Longspurs headed towards the pullout, while one little guy stayed, in front of us, very close. I was expecting him to fly away instantly but he stayed, and stayed, and I could sit down on the ground and he could come within reach, a lot of the times to close for my camera to focus! He was very curious, eating in the grass, and he never left, he even almost went under my tripod! The hour we had of birding before we had to meet mom for lunch was over. I got some better pics, though. We said bye to the little longspurs, who were still there when we left, and we got some lunch at the mall. It was super crowded, and to even get IN the stores you have to wait in a twenty-five minute line, and the food court was so crowded it felt like you were swimming in a sea of people. The best part was probably going to Bass Pro Shops where I enjoyed looking at all the hunter’s duck decoys which were quite realistic. I took a picture of a Surf Scoter decoy (who hunts scoters!?) and I liked the luxurious boats. Lunch was tasty, but I rather be birding!
October 8, 2016
There wasn’t a whole ton of rare birds out today so we decided to go back to Mt. Seymour, where we went birding last week (there was no blog since it wasn’t really eventful) and we saw Grey Jays and Red-Breasted Sapsuckers. We wanted to get a better shot of a Red-Breasted Sapsucker so we came back here.
Anyways, we got there at around 9am and we started birding. But it was totally quiet (except for one raven in a tree) and there were absolutely no birds. It seemed hopeless for a little while but then, I saw a little duck-like thing swimming in a pond about 50 metres away from us. I scoped in on it with my Binoculars and I saw the tiny little grey bird – an American Dipper! I sneaked down the hill that we were on to get down to the pond and once I got right to the pond I looked for it. It wasn’t swimming in the pond, which is what it was doing a minute ago. Then, I looked down. It was right there! Only, a foot away from me, the cute little ball of fluff sitting on a rock. Anyways, the reason I was so happy with the American Dipper (even though it isn’t a lifer) is that the last time I’ve seen one was two years ago, before I even had a half-decent camera. I just had a point-and-shoot! The place where I found them two years ago was a little park, Coquitlam River Park. And I haven’t seen one since, and never, ever this close. It is such a privilege to see such an awesome bird up close!
September 25, 2016
Yesterday we went to Princeton, which was an awesome trip! We wanted to see the Lewis’ Woodpecker there, but we just saw a Three-Toed (which was still amazing). But the day before we went to Princeton there was a spotting of a Lewis’s in Vancouver, in a Dog Park! (How ironic) Before we went to the Lewis’ area, we headed to a small, under-rated park in Coquitlam, called Oxbow Park. It has a little bridge and nice trails, and it was one of my favorite places to bird when I started birding. We always used to see dippers there, much to the point there were considered common for us but we didn’t have a good camera back then. That is the only place I ever saw them, so we decided to head back there for the first time in more than a year. We couldn’t see them but we did see a Common Merganser pair close up and there were a bunch of Yellow-Rumped Warblers there (they really seem to be everywhere this year-I’ve had them at Manning Park, Reifel, Princeton, and basically everywhere I go now) But no signs of a Dipper.
We then headed to East Van for the Lewis’ Woodpecker, where it was sighted in a tiny urban park called Burrardview Park, since it had a lovely view of the Burrard Inlet. We found it so quickly, before we even got out of the car since we saw a small crowd of people looking up into a large tree. The lighting was absolutely terrible but we observed its pattern, and we saw that it frequently returned to a nearby berry tree, which had much better lighting. So we “camped out” at the berry tree and sure enough after about twenty minutes of waiting it returned to the berry tree, allowing great views of the weirdly-colored woodpecker. In this lighting, you could see the bizarre coloring of the bird, dark green wings, a red face and a pink body, it is one of the oddest woodpeckers around. It didn’t just look weird, its behavior was odd too, it wasn’t drumming like any normal woodpecker, it was hawking for insects! It sat on a branch, waited for an insect and snapped it out of the air! It was very entertaining to watchand it was quite skillful, it maneuvered itself so sharply and caught and insect every time. One of the birders there told us about a Rock Wren in Maplewood Flats so we headed over there after a tasty ramen lunch. We headed to Maplewood and saw the wren but it was so fast I only got a blurry picture of it. It was a great day, with two totally odd lifers. A great weekend, too, with five lifers this week!
September 17, 2016
We decided to head over to Manning Park for a day. Our targets for the day was some grouse and Nutcrackers, and woodpeckers. We have heard so much from there but we have never gone there. It was a sunny day, and the conditions were right, so we left at about 6:15 in the morning.
The drive was long but beautiful, we took highway 3 to Manning, more commonly known as Crowsnest Highway. After about an hour and a half we passed the huge and awesome Manning Park sign, which featured a large statue of a Hoary Marmot. We weren’t coming from that entrance though – we kept driving for about twenty minutes until we came to an opening in the forest, and a few cabins and a big, cozy lodge. It was 9:15 in the morning, and we still had a whole lot of time for birding.
The air there was so pristine and rich, and I could see Pines everywhere. We started at a spot called Strawberry Flats, which weren’t really flat. We had to drive on a small, paved road behind the lodge to the “Flats” which we kept a look out for grouse on. We sadly did not see any grouse on the way there but we did see a Three-Toed woodpecker, the first lifer of the day! It was very far away but we did get ID-able shot, and you could see the odd orientation of the toes (most woodpeckers have two feet in the front, and two in the back, an orientation called zygodactyl but three-toed woodpeckers have three in the front and one in the back, like normal birds.) We continued and once we got to the Flats we hiked just a little bit in the trail and we saw a flock of Mountain Chickadees, high up in the forest canopy.
We could barely even get a shot since they were so high and I had to look almost directly up with the massive camera. After a little hike (literally like five minutes) we saw a rabbit, a very wild one. The ones we see a Jericho Beach were descendants from abandoned pets but this one had long ears and massive legs. We decided to head to Cascade Lookout on the other side of the road, so we drove back up the road.
But before that, I spotted a large amount of bird commotion in the horse camp area so we looked through the giant flock of birds. 95% of the birds were probably Juncos, the biggest congregation of them I’ve ever seen. I’m guessing that maybe the Vancouver population of Juncos travels to Manning in the summer because I haven’t seen many in Vancouver for a couple months now. While looking through the flock I spotted a streaky looking chickadee, then I thought – a streaky chickadee? Is that even a thing?
Then I aimed my camera when it was in a clear spot and afterwards I found out that it wasn’t a chickadee at all – it was a Warbler – a Black-Throated Grey Warbler! This was my first ‘Non-Yellow” warbler and it was one I have always (kind of) been looking for – but I wasn’t expecting it to be here since I thought their range was more farther inland, but I guess not.
After a while of looking at the bird (and avoiding horse poop) we headed back and spotted many Yellow Pine Chipmunks which were abundant in the park, and seem to be the largest population, but I’m just guessing. Anyways we continued our plan to go to Cascade lookout. After a long-ish drive up Alpine Meadows Road (the road to the lookout). I was surprised we didn’t see any Nutcrackers on the way up, and I was starting to get worried since I heard they were abundant but we kept going up the winding road which kind of reminded me of the one in Maui on summer.
Once we got to the top we saw Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels and Pine Chipmunks, the chipmunks being abundant, chasing after us with the hopes of handouts. My dad pointed out a silhouette of a large-billed bird on a Ponderosa Pine – a Nutcracker! The full name of this bird is the Clark’s Nutcracker, and it is native to inland North America.
It was far and flew away after we noticed it and after about twenty minutes of it not coming back we decided to go up the gravel road up, but even after that we haven’t seen a Nutcracker again. We decided to try again at the lookout, and then we threw out some peanuts and the nutcracker came flying down out of nowhere right beside us. Finally, The nutcracker was a target bird of mine and we finally saw the majestic bird right next to us. The squirrels joined the commotion to, and the two species of squirrels fought over the peanuts.
Two Steller’s Jays joined the quest for peanuts two and a raven made its presence on the other side of the parking lot. After about thirty minutes looking at the birds we went back in the car and drove back the winding road to the lodge and we ate chicken nuggets. After we drove the long drive home and stopped in Hope Airport but we did not see anything. We drove the last stretch back to Vancouver and I sat down and looked at all the photos we took during the trip. It’s always nice to take a little trip!
August 28, 2016
Lost Lagoon Surprise, BC
We were excited to attend to one of Stanley Park’s monthly bird walks, the first one we’ve been on! We also became members of the Stanley Park Ecology Society, one of the main nature groups in Vancouver. We left our house early (early birder gets the bird!) but surprisingly the traffic was not bad and we got there a bit too early, so we occupied ourselves with a very close heron catching small fish right by the nature house entrance.
After a while the little nature house opened and after and soon enough about ten people gathered around the nature house. After I entertained myself by looking at a bunch of bird books we got introduced to our guide for the day and we left the nature house. Our first sighting was two Yellow Warblers, which was nice to see. After a while of walking we found a Warbling Vireo in a flock of Chickadees, which was a nice find, and during the day we found a bunch of birds, but nothing new. It was a good day, though. But don’t stop reading! During our walk I saw two birders looking in the marshes, so I was curious. After the tour ended we went back to the spot and after a while of waiting on a small dock, something really cool happened.
A tiny, chicken-like bird came out of the reeds. It was a Rail. A Virginia Rail. This beautiful bird was a rarley seen bird of marshes which would only come out at the very early morning and the late evening. But it was 12 in the middle of the day, and it wasn’t quiet, it was quite loud, you could hear the honking of horns and the voices if large groups of people walking by! Yet, this small, rare, cute, and beautiful bird was minding its own business in a very open area! This bird was on my “nemesis” list for a very long time and it was finally of it! And I was never expecting something like this. It was one of my most amazing experiences in my whole life! The amazing little bird stayed for about fifteen minutes in the open feeding a few feet away from me! These birds are well known to be very skittish and non-social, but it stayed for a long time! Later, it ran into the bushes again and came back a minute later. This behavior continued for the next hour or so. We left an hour later, amazed at our experience. We ate lunch and decided the pictures were so good that we had to print them! So we took them to Walmart’s 1-hour print service and we admired our photos. The Iona day was crazy enough, but this weekend was probably the best Birding Weekend ever, with 8 lifers!
August 27, 2016
Iona Island Madness, BC
For our first *real* birding since we came home, we were in for a surprise. We checked the BC bird forums and I found out about a Buff-Breasted Sandpiper at the inner ponds at Iona. We headed down a Mosquito-filled trail to the inner ponds, filled with excitement – would we see the rare bird! All our questions were answered when we got to the ponds, to see five birders looking into what looked like a muddy field.
As we arrived we noticed the massive amounts of Sandpipers in the ponds – Pectorals, Semipalmateds, Leasts, Westerns, Bairds, and the famous Buff-Breasted Sandpiper! Thanks to all the birders who found it, I spotted the Buffy wading right next to three Semipalmated Sandpipers and two Killdeer. That was a new bird, and so where three other sandpipers (Pectoral, Least and Bairds) so in total, four new birds. Which was crazy enough already.
After about an hour of trying to identify a bunch of sandpipers, a Bulldozer came and flushed all of them but luckily many came closer, except for the Buffy who stood bravely after the bulldozer passed. Once all the birders moved on we kept following. With four lifers so far, today, was going very well. In the corner of the sewage ponds there was a commotion about a Brewer’s Sparrow.
Sadly, we could not find the sparrow even after looking for a while. We continued to follow a bunch of birders until we decided to go on our own onto the Jetty. Which was a good idea. We have only walked to the first shelter before (about 1km out) so we thought that was almost the end – but no, it was basically one fourth of the way there. By the time we reached the second shelter, we were tired as anything, but after what seemed like forever we reached the end, which was 4km long. Most people either don’t walk the whole way or bike the whole way, and we were surprised to see many birders at the end.
Once again, we looked where the birders looked and we saw a small, cute bird sunbathing on a rock. It was the Tattler, lifer #5 for the day. It was very calm, and didn’t seem to notice or care that a bunch of people were looking at it relax on a rock. After a while of looking at the rare (but very cute) bird we continued to the very end of the Jetty where many birders where.
Thanks to all the kind birders, we were able to see two Common Terns which we definitely couldn’t have seen without them. They were probably 2km out there, and the Common Terns were not coming closer. After a while of looking out into the ocean and having a good talk with the other birders, we decided to take our long, tiring walk back.
We seriously did underestimate the walk and we actually didn’t bring any water, so we were dehydrated. On our walk back, very happy with our six lifers, we had one more surprise. We were almost there, as tired as I was, I was curious to see what were those three shorebirds on a log close to the path were! I put my binoculars to my eyes and as soon as I relized what it was I exclaimed to my dad, “New Bird Alert!” and I stopped and we setup the tripod for the camera.
They were Semipalmated Sandpipers, which I have surprisingly not seen yet. They were very close, allowing good pictures. After a while of shooting a noticed other birders returning on their bikes from the end of the Jetty, and after a while some people stopped to have a look at the cute flock of Plovers. After they flew away I kept walking until we reached the end. We were as tired as a Hummingbird after it’s migration, and we stopped in at the Pelican Chinese food restaurant for a nice relaxing refill. We watched the TV, and to our luck they were showing a documentary about the Birds and Wildlife of the arctic. We ate our noodles and tofu, and got back in the car. We were tired, but at least we were full. We got home and basically just collapsed on the couch. It’s been an incredible 7-lifer day!
July 20 & 21, 2016
Hotel Birding in Maui
We have just arrived in Maui this afternoon so we took a taxi to our hotel. Our hotel is right on a small golf course, so after we got settled in our room we decided to take and evening walk, mostly to look for birds. We found the normal urban birds, the Mynas, the Waxbills and the egrets but then we found a Northern Cardinal!
Since we do not get them in BC it was exciting to see one so close. Last year and early this trip we caught quick glimpses of the cardinal but in Maui they seem to be much more common than in Oahu, since we saw many more that day. But the highlight of this walk was a grey bird, quite far away. As we walked closer we realized that it was a Northern Mockingbird, only a vagrant to BC. We took some “record photos” before It flew away quickly. A good start to the Maui part of the trip, a lifer on the first day!
The next day, we woke up at 6am, to take a quick morning bird walk. In Maui, the days seemed to be very short, and it only got bright by 7am. When the sun finally rose we walked around the small park. As we walked, we heard the loud but entertaining morning chorus of the Mynas and the Cardinals. We continued along a small beachside path until behind an electrical box, we saw some movement.
After a few seconds a moderately-sized bird came out. Then another and another, and another. After a minute or two they were five of them sitting in front of me. They were Grey Francolins, an introduced bird which we have only seen once before on the Dole Plantation train we barley saw it. (The train was moving quite fast – we didn’t even come close to getting a photo). But these birds were not very afraid, contrary to their Oahu cousins. There were two adults and three babies, the babies still had there fluffy plumage, but it was evident that they were close to molting season. After a few minutes they walked down the path and onto the beach. It was interesting to see these birds on the beach, as it was not they’re usual habitat. After a while the birds waddled away into some shrub, and we walked back to eat some breakfast. Sometimes the best birding can be in most unexpected of times!
July 17, 2016
Kyoto Botanical Gardens and Takaragaiike Pond
With only one day of birding left, we decided to visit the botanical gardens again. Like before, we saw all the three types of tits there (Long-Tailed, Varied, and Japanese) and we got better photos of the Long-Tailed than last time. There were definitely more tits today, and there were two separate flocks flying through the park. It was great to see them again.
But, as we kept following the birds we spotted a Japanese Pygmy woodpecker show up, which were teeny tiny woodpeckers the size of a towhee, walk up a branch. Last time we didn’t see one (well just for a second) but this time it was very tame and it came quite close, allowing us to get great pictures of them.
After that we decided to eat some pancakes there again, and then we were off to our next spot of the day, Takaragaiike Pond, which was called a “bird park”. But of course, the best time is winter, and summer birding in Japan is definitely not the best. So we crossed our fingers and we took a train to the pond. When we arrived we were surprised to spot one Sika Deer roaming around. After that we took the trail around the pond and saw the usual -birds, (Brown-Eared Bulbuls, Crows, and Eastern Spot-Bill Ducks) but nothing special. So we kept going and saw a weird white waterfowl on the shore of the lake. Was it a swan? That’s what I thought until I realized that it was a “domesticated” Swan Goose! After a while of watching it a woman came over with two small containers of a soup-like liquid and some special grass. With my mom’s translation, the lady said that the goose was left here by a farmer five years ago, and the goose was sick. It had an eye problem, and it couldn’t fly. Since these problems, the goose was very weak so the park started feeding it a protein-rich “soup” and some veggies for the last five years, and she said the goose is getting better! She said it will never fly but it will be a “resident” of the pond until it can manage itself. After hearing the story we left, with no new birds but a nice story and good pictures. We were leaving to Maui tomorrow and we were pretty excited. Next stop, Maui!!
July 16, 2016
Some park in Kyoto
After going to the train museum in the park, we were walking home to the train station when while we were in the park, we heard a weird call and we decided to search around for a little bird. In the trees, I saw a flash of dark green and yellow.
fter a while of searching, the mysterious bird finally came to view. It was an Oriental Greenfinch! A Beautiful small Finch native to areas in and around Japan. It was so crazy to see one at an urban, loud and small park! And it was right next to a waterpark! We only had our 300mm lens at the time so we snapped a quick shot. But, we had to eat lunch so we had to take a taxi home then I had to take a bus on the way back.
But since I wanted to get better photos, after we had lunch we dropped of the 300mm and we picked up the 500mm to bring back to the park. We weren’t really expecting it to be there but once we arrived we heard the same, whirring call so then we looked around. Nothing. But then, I looked above me, and there he was, staring down at me while he hopped along a thick branch. As it flew to another tree, I realized that they were more birds than I first thought, as I saw about three other Greenfinches pop up above a tree. Most were Males but there was one female. We got a bunch of good shots. Sometimes, some of the best birds are found in unexpected locations!
July 15, 2016
Katsura Station Surprise!
We were walking home from a 7-eleven, like normal when I spotted two birds on an abandoned building directly in front of the bustling Katsura Train Station! The two birds were perched, and almost immediately after one flew off, while one stayed.
They looked like some Bird of Prey, too small to be a Kite but too big to be a songbird. I pulled out my iPad to try and take a photo (it was all I had) but it was out of battery. We went back to our “home” at the time and brought the 300mm lens. We took some pictures and we found out it was a Eurasian Kestrel! I was surprised since Kestrels everywhere are pretty rare to find, but finding them on a building in the middle of a city square was even rarer! Over the last portion of the Japan part of the trip, we checked back after every day after birding, so we had the 500mm with us, so we got good shots. After the pair stayed there for almost five days it was safe to say that they were definitely nesting here. Falcons are famous for nesting on buildings in random places, so this was a good example. Anyhow it was a lifer, and probably one of the more surprising ones on the trip.
July 14, 2016
We planned this for a long time – it was going to the city of Nara! Nara is a pretty big city but it is famous for something we could get excited about – Massive amounts of Deer!
We arrived in a big station, and after ten minutes of being lost we finally found our way out. We walked down the sidewalk until we could see one – no, two, wait – maybe five, or about 15 deer! I think it was because there was a little stand set up there – selling veggie cookies!
Tourists and just people who pass by can buy a pack of 10 deer cookies to feed to the deer, which are healthy and made of Veggies. Watch out – when you have a pack of cookies, expect EVERY SINGLE deer in the area to follow you. Once I had about 10 deer chasing me. And when they put up deer crossing signs everywhere, they mean it! We kept continuing in the little deer park area until we found an area crowded by deer and people alike. It seemed to be an entrance to a temple. As we soon found out after paying a small fee and entering the temple, there was an absolutely massive Buddha statue, colored in a metallic gold! We took some pictures and went out, hungry as anything. When we were exiting the park we found a little store selling a bunch of deer-themed memorabilia. I got a little magnet and an awesome deer hat. we then realized that we passed a McDonalds on the way here. And McDonald’s Pancakes are LEGENDARY. We checked the time. In thirty minutes, Breakfast at McDonalds will be over! So we rushed through the crowds of deer and jumped in a taxi. We got there in time, and as we ate, we saw the meal change! After a nice “Brunch” we visited the deer again and then we left after we ran out of change for deer cookies. The End!
July 11, 2016
Nanko Bird Sanctuary – Mosquito Festival
We were actually pretty excited for this day – we thought it would be the best day of birding in Japan! But it turned out a bit different.
We took the two long Trains to Osaka, and we walked a bit to the Sanctuary. We were hot enough before we even got in the sanctuary! We were excited, so we went right in! We climbed up the stairs, and more stairs, and a bit more stairs until we were in the forest area of the sanctuary! There was like gazillion mosquitos, all trying to attack me.
Luckily I didn’t wear shorts, I would have probably lost all my blood or something. I tried to forget about it, and tried to find birds. Sadly, there wasn’t much birds to find. As I walked up the last stairs to the bird observatory, the bottom tip of one of my tripod legs just broke off! So we decided to take out all the bottoms of the tripod. Even though it was a bit short it still worked. As I stared out into the vast sand areas a weird old crab kept walking right next to me with a bunch of dust strings attached to his legs. And, I bet about one hundred mosquitos were biting me. I couldn’t see anything until my mom pointed out two birds in the sand! They were Kentish Plovers, a dull plover of the east. Thank goodness we finally saw a lifer. Then after, I saw a Juvenile Striated heron which was way too far away to take a good photo of, but, it was a lifer.
Afterwards I saw a few Little-Ringed Plovers, which I already had on my life list but I haven’t seen them since last year (because they can only be seen in Asia) After that we left earlier than expected to go to the nearby Osaka Castle Park but there was surprisingly nothing there except for a Japanese man who owned a raptor! He held it on a glove and it was very tame. It is illegal to have a “pet” Japanese bird of prey but an American one is legal. His hawk is what I believed to be a Harris’s Hawk, and in the background he had a tiny little American kestrel which was dwarfed by the hawk. Another person sprayed the hawk with some water to keep it cool. Later in the day we went shopping, and I realized how many bug bites I had! I counted and there were about 34 just on my hands! And somehow I got like 10 HUGE ones on my knee cap. Luckily they were all easy to go and went away in a week. Mosquitos are so annoying!!
July 9-10, 2016
Okikamuro – Home of the Kites
For these two days of the Japan section of the trip, it wasn’t really about birding, but to visit my great grandma who is currently 100 years old! We left my grandma’s house (where we were staying for the Japan part of the trip) at 7:00 and my grandpa drove us to the main station in the area, Kyoto Station, to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to another station.
kikamuro, the place where my great grandma lives, is relatively in the middle of nowhere. The town is like a fishing village, where everyone is about great grandma’s age. The closest store is about an hour and a half away in a car. (And that shop is a 7 eleven). So getting there is not the easiest task. WE would stay at my great grandma’s house for one night, and we would visit a hotel nearby and have a nice swim, since the hotel’s amenities where free to use.
First, we had to take a 2 hour Shinkansen ride and even though it goes at superfast speeds it still takes some time to reach the Closest nearby train station, which is the HUGE Hiroshima Station, which is part of a mall. From there we have to follow signs until we reach one of many identical looking train gates and we take a 1 ½ hour local train from there and reach a relatively deserted train stop, which honestly looks like it is in need of desperate repair, and after that we have to take yet another hour long train to an even more deserted train stop. After that, we take an hour long taxi ride we finally reached the hotel which we weren’t even going to stay in! We had a lot of fun in the swimming pool.
Afterwards, we took a little walk on the hotel area and a weird bird call interested us. It was quite the call! We identified the calling bird as a Japanese Bush Warbler, called Uguisu in Japanese. We saw only quick movements of the bird in the trees, but we could never see it clearly, even after an hour. Anyhow, it was a new bird. We continued but we saw nothing, but the beach was nice. After more swimming we took another taxi to the village which took thirty minutes. We finally arrived, and even though we were a bit tired, we took a small walk around the fishing village since it was so small, you could walk the length of the village in twenty minutes. The village was only made up of a handful of small, mostly run-down houses, and a warehouse – which is used for fishing or something I think. They are all laid out in a row, all facing the ocean.
On our walk we could easily find the neighbourhood Black Kites, which stayed in the area permanently since many of the people in the village threw out their old fish in the shores and beaches. (They’re not really beaches, just rocky shorelines.), and for them, that is an easy meal. The Black-Tailed Gulls were soaring on the water, which were hard to see, since, even it was almost the evening there was a bit of mist. We could also still hear the haunting sounds of the Bush Warblers, and we had a brief encounter with a flighty Varied Tit pair, and also Japanese Tits. Out on the Breakwater, there was a Grey Heron who seemed to watch everything. The whole village has a mysterious vibe to it. After eating supper we stayed awake in the house for a bit until we were sleepy enough to go to bed. The next day was basically the same thing, a quick morning walk to see some birds, but we did not see much – and the visibility was not the best. The whole village looked sort of eerie in the thick fog. After some last goodbyes to Great-Grandma we took a taxi, two hour long trains and a bullet train back home – or our home away from home. It was a long day, so we basically just sat down and watched TV, which we couldn’t really understand. It’s nice to experience the life of living in a village now and then!
July 8, 2016
Kyoto Botanical Gardens- Good Birding and Good Food!
It was our second day of birding in Japan, and we hoped it would be better than yesterday. We woke up at 5:45 and jumped on the “Hankyu Line” And went straight to our stop, Kitayama. Kitayama was the closest stop to the Gardens, and conveniently, as we later found out, it was right in front of the entrance to the Botanical Gardens.
e were greeted by a Japanese Wagtail, and abundant species in Japan, which was playing in a small pond. We continued and we saw a silhouette of a woodpecker, which, flew away as soon as we spotted it. It was probably a Pygmy Woodpecker, but we weren’t sure. We continued, and we started to get worried as we walked around. It seemed birdless! But then, we saw a flock of birds fly into a nearby Japanese Maple Tree. They were Tits, relatives of the Chickadees back home! It was quite a variety, and luckily for us, they were all new! They flew into a little forest area, where they were easier to see and we had much better lighting. The first species I Encountered was a Long-Tailed Tit, and for a good reason. They had longer tails than other birds, and they were significantly smaller than the other species in the flock. These were also the most numerous present and were easiest to see. The next species I saw was a Japanese Tit, a native species, only found in Japan. It was quite different from the Long-Tails as they were bigger and more Chickadee like. They had black faces and a whitish belly.
Finally, we were excited to see the colorful Varied Tit, and orange and blue-colored songbird. There was only one in the whole flock, and I was so lucky to get it in the perfect perch. All three of these birds were lifers. On a little wooden fence a metre away from me! I took tons of pictures of the entertaining little birds until a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker showed up.
This Woodpecker was really tiny, almost the same size as the Tits! It was quite flighty but despite that I still got some decent photos in the end. We kept walking until we came across a little café in the woods, owned by the Gardens! It was really nice, and you could sit down and watch the birds outside. I had Pancakes, which turned out to be one of the best ones I’ve had in my whole life, and I had some crackers and popcorn as a little snack. We went back out did a bit more birding but since there were not really any birds we decided to check out the flock of Tits again. They were even more this time! After we got really tired, we finally left. Birding with a nice lunch is always good!
July 7, 2016
Arashiyama River Birding
It was our first day in Japan, and I was clearly not used to the crazy hot weather, so we wanted to start of easy, but let’s say it wasn’t that easy. We started off at the central part of the river, and it was quite urban so there weren’t that many birds but we did see some Little Egrets in the water. We saw a whole bunch of Japanese Wagtails, relatives of Pipits. They are easy to see as they are Bright Black and White. We continued further and we saw a bunch Eurasian Tree Sparrows, equivalent to crows in Vancouver. (but smaller) We had a crazy idea of WALKING to a pond “nearby” 1 hour and a half later we were half dead so we waited for a while until a Taxi came. It was not the best day, but we now know how HOT Japan really is.
July 5, 2016
The Ducks of Honolulu International Airport
We were leaving Oahu today, and we got an awesome surprise in the gardens of the airport. Last year, we visited the gardens and saw another lifer, the Red-Cheeked Bulbul. This time, we were not expecting a lifer, but we just wanted to visit to see the “alien” bird species around the park. Well, it started of good. We walked through the “Japanese” styled garden and we were happy to find a cute little Lizard on a bench.
This little lizard appeared to have an interesting “throat sac” which he repetitively opened and closed, revealing a beautiful red color on this “inflatable balloon” thing. After a while of just staring at it an airport worker came by and asked us what we were looking at. We showed him the lizard, and, we were surprised to find out that he knew about the lizard species. It was a Brown Anole, or Bahama Anole, and it was brought to Hawaii a while ago. He worked for the US Department of Agriculture, and he has even worked with the preservation of birds! What a coincidence.
But it gets better. He told us about the Hawaiian Ducks, and that there is a family in this very garden! We thought it was just a regular female mallard, but, alas, it was a Hawaiian Duck, a species closely related to the mallard. But it’s even more special, since most of these Hawaiian Ducks are hybrid Mallard x Hawaii Duck but these were pure! He said that they can be distinguished by their brighter orange feet than normal mallards, and, that males and females both look like female mallards! We talked for a while about birds, tree snakes and other stuff for a while and when he finally had to go we said thanks and we looked at the duck for a while. I found a whole bunch of quite large anoles which were fighting one another. It was pretty entertaining to watch them stare at each other for minutes as they inflate their throat balloons over and over until they finally jump on each other and attack. But yet- it still gets better! My dad waves at me and I come over. One mama duck – and four baby ducks – come walking down the little road! They waddle right past me, and they keep going. We follow them, to find a dangerous situation!
The four babies kept trying to get through a door to an “exquisite flight lounge” but they are almost hit by the door as people come through. To help the ducks (and the annoyed mother) we carefully move them into the bushes by following them into the bushes. After two other attempts, we finally succeeded in getting them away from the swinging door. Seriously, these ducks really wanted to get in that lounge! A couple minutes later, a lady came out of the lounge with a bag of “wild bird food’ as it said on the packaging. I’m guessing it’s a daily activity as all the birds immediately came out of the bushes, including our duck family. She put a large pile of it to the ground and all the birds flocked to it. But only two of the babies were there! The two babies that were there found this out quickly. And reacted! The started calling out to the other babies, but that failed so they ran into the bush on a search for their fellow siblings! Five minutes later, the two ducks came back – with the other two! Later, dad duck came out of nowhere and joined the feast. After a while of eating the family jumped in the water. The duck family was reunited! And I had a new lifer! Everybody wins.
July 4, 2016
Today would be our last day of the Oahu part of the trip, and even though it was short this is just the beginning of the month long adventure. For our last full day, we decided to go to a place called Maka’puu Point, located northeast of central Honolulu, near the tourist-filled Hanauma Bay, and the Halona Blowhole.
It is the closest you can get to Manana Island, or commonly known as Rabbit Island, a nature reserve for massive amounts of nesting seabirds such as Wedge-Tailed Shearwater (about 10,000 pairs) Brown Noddy (around 20,000 pairs), Sooty Terns, (about 80,000 pairs), and a few pairs of Bulwer’s Petrels.
This, as we found out, is probably one of the best places to see the graceful Red-Tailed Tropicbirds on the main Hawaiian Islands. We got there relatively early and we walked to the start of the trail, which seemed to be very popular since it was crawling with tourists, and Tropicbirds, of course. To be exact, Red-Tailed Tropicbirds. Surprisingly, the supposedly commoner White-Tailed Tropicbirds weren’t present at the time. The red-tail was a Lifer, adding to my other Tropicbird on my list from last year, the white-tail. We kept walking up the long paved road up to the very end of the trail, which was a nice lookout out the ocean, and a nice view of the “Maka’puu Lighthouse” which sat upon the rocky cliffs. The Tropicbirds were quite entertaining, skimming the water and flying almost dangerously close to the cliffs. Is it just me, or birds seem much more confident than people sometimes!
On our tiring descent we found quite a few Frigatebirds soaring in the sky. And, once again, we saw all our Tropicbird friends. Were as tired as anything, and we got in the car as quick as possible, and we turned on the AC as high as it possibly can. Afterwards, we drove the short drive to Sea Life Park. It’s nice to have a bit of non-birding times once in a while.
July 2, 2016
We arrived in Oahu. Hooray! I was not used to the hot, humid weather of the Hawaiian Islands. But nevertheless, it was nice to be in somewhere tropical. On our first full day, we decided to drop back in on Tantalus Drive, the same place we went last year with our fantastic guide.
We planned to go back to the best place (for Oahu ‘Amakihi), but on the way there, there was a bunch of places where we wanted to stop at on the way there. Our first stop was a large (not to mention mosquito-filled) lawn. This is where we saw all our familiar “alien” birds which are extremely common in Oahu. But, even they were common, we haven’t seen any of them in a year, so we had fun with them for a while. Probably the main thing here was a pair of Northern Cardinals, which maybe common for people who live in the east side of Canada, but BC people don’t get these beautiful, perky birds.
fter they flew away, we jumped in our rented Corolla and drove up the long, twisting road up to the more “jungle-like” areas of Tantalus. We stopped at another place with a huge Banyan Tree, with one very cooperative Rose-Ringed Parakeet and many White-Eyes playing among the vines of the Banyan. After a great parakeet-white eye photoshoot, we jumped back into our car and went back to the place we went last year.
Our Amakihi buddies were still there, along with a gang of a bunch of White-Eyes which kept pretending to be ‘Amakihis (which was actually quite annoying!) I got a nice “action shot” of an Amakihi diving off a branch, but other than that, the birds were just too fast! After getting a bunch of pretty nice Amakihi shots, we left to go to the presumed Apapane trail, it was sadly closed because of dangerous rock-sliding conditions. We got back into the car yet again to go to the “Elapaio” trail, which was the place the guide recommended last time for Oahu ‘Elapaio, but after a while of searching, some tricky sparrows we decided that it was okay to go back. We did get a good picture of a White-Rumped Shama, so it wasn’t that bad in the end. We drove back to our hotel, and went into the pool. Life on vacation is great!
June 25, 2016
Last week, we went to the aptly named Catbird Slough, in the Pitt Meadows area of Vancouver. We saw a great lifer, the Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, almost competing the swallow section of my "BC life list". But, we did not see what we were looking for - the elusive Gray Catbird. Yet, we were determined to see them since the season would be over once we come back from our upcoming vacation, so we had to see them before they disappeared until next spring.
The week before, I started a small project to keep me busy, when I can’t bird, that is. A flock of different types of Lego birds! This actually started with me not seeing the Catbird so I made a Lego Catbird to start it off. If I had seen the catbird last week, I wouldn’t have made the Lego Catbird. Which in this case, was a good thing. Funnily enough, the Lego birds are actually now the most popular things on my Flickr! No, not the owls, or anything else, it is the Legos! Anyways, I was still wanting to see the Catbird, and/or a Redstart. So back we went.
Like Catbird Slough always is, I heard the songs of Swainson’s Thrushes, Yellow Warblers and Robins everywhere. The place was bustling with bird activity! At the entrance, the most popular birds were probably the Waxwings, swooping from bush-to-bush, probably looking for food to give to their newly hatched young.
We headed right, towards Grant Narrows, until we saw birders (aka "long lensers"), a good sign. Well, I’ll say that I’m pretty happy that we saw the birders (and no dog walkers - sorry dogs!).
We tagged along and we saw our target bird – and quickly! It was calling in a faraway bush, with it’s distinctive black cap and brick-red undersides. It was the first of three which I saw on the trail with the birders, but Catbirds do what they like most – being far away!
We were lucky to get one staying on a bush for a while, though. We kept on going until we heard someone in the group say “Redstart!” We followed along. We saw the bird, so it does count for my life list, but it was fast. And I mean fast! That bird was fast, very fast! Fast, fast, fast!
It hung around for a couple of seconds, long enough for us to identify it as an American Redstart easily, but then it was gone - in a flash! Nobody got any photos, so after a while of waiting, we kept on walking until we met another birder.
We looked around with him and we saw many Waxwings, Flycatchers and a pair of Black-Headed Grosbeaks. After a while of birding, we said bye and turned around for the long walk back to the car. Two new lifers in one day is always a good thing!
June 12, 2016
Adventures on Barnston Island
We decided to go to Barnston Island just for fun, because we wanted to ride on the small ferry that ran across the Fraser River. The ferry was only about 2 minutes long but we also got a lot more than we bargained for. While we were waiting for the ferry we saw many Violet-Green Swallows on the poles and wires around the dock. Not rare, but the species is significantly more rare than Tree and Barn Swallows.
We drove onto the ferry until we got to the other side of the river, where we were ready to "Road Bird". We were immediately saw a Flycatcher, probably a Willow. It was already a good day! After that we stopped at a few spots to see more flycatchers. We saw about 15!
We were driving along when we saw something golden. It was a Goldfinch! We saw some yesterday up-close but it was nice to see these guys again. We saw a waxwing in the distance, most likely a colorful Cedar Waxwing, which appeared along the road many times after.
We saw tons of Barn and Tree Swallows racing across the fields, and two Red-Tailed Hawks flying across the landscape. I looked in the forest side and saw a Brown Creeper, which was sort of rare, (we have last seen it last summer!) .
Next I saw what I initially thought was a Western Tanager - great - but I was definitely not expecting this - it was one of my nemesis birds - it was the great, colorful, Bullock’s Oriole! It was a great lifer, an elusive spring passerine, hopping in the thick bush as you walk by. The amazing spring migrant was right there. And we’ve been getting some good lifers these days.
We took many photos of the photogenic bird until finally, a car scared it away. We continued, not really expecting much more. It may have been the only lifer, but there was some nice birds after the male Bullock’s saw a female Bullock’s, which was not as cooperative but I got some photos.
As we expected, we saw many more flycatchers along the way but no other lifers. On the way back to the ferry, a bright male Black-Headed Grosbeak calling on a bare branch above the river. But there was just a little bit more: Right before we went on the ferry, a farmer came driving up to us in a beat-up old truck, almost crashing into us, and he rolled down his window. He then asked us what we were doing taking photos of his farm! He said someone has been stealing gas from our farm, and he thought it was us - which was totally ridiculous. We explained that we were taking pictures of birds on the opposite direction of the farm. And then ferry showed up, and we drove off. Escape from Barnston Island!
June 11, 2016
Good as Gold
We were in Langley doing our yearly Raspberry/Strawberry U-picking at Krause Farms. It is not really a "birdy place" but we did see a few White-Crowned Sparrows, Some Crows, and a few Swallows.
We saw a forum posting of a Northern Rough-Winged Swallow at Langley Airport so we decided to go there after, since it was quite close. Like we expected, we saw a bunch of “Iron Birds” but nothing except for the Barn Swallows. We drove around the airport about twice but we did not see anything except a Kestrel that led us to a new birding spot: Langley Demonstration Garden. A great park with a weird name, the Garden housed many migratory birds.
First was two flycatchers, Willows, which kept us going until we lost them. There was a large pile of woodchips which we climbed to get a better view. We saw something yellow. On closer examination I found out that it was none other than a American Goldfinch! We have not seen one in a long time for some reason but it was great to see them again. And even better, two of them! They were probably one of the most cooperative birds in a long while as they sat in front of us on two branches. They hung on for dear life as their perch swung in the breeze.
As we continued after they flew away we continued to the fields in the park. We heard and briefly saw a mischievous Bewick’s Wren which after a while, we gave up to look for. We saw the Kestrel again being mobbed by a Anna’s Hummingbird, which, surprisingly drove it away. We looked in some trees in the field and found many Savannah Sparrows and a beautiful Male Common Yellowthroat. The bird stood there staring at us, which meant, of course, great photos.
As we were leaving something caught my eye. Bunnies! Wild ones. They were probably some sort of Cottontail, and the bunny was basically posing for us. It stood up on its hind legs and tried to get a leaf on a branch, as it humorously waddled around on the path. We said bye to the bunnies and we left the park at 5:00 pm! We had a great, unexpected bird outing!
June 4, 2016
Iona Regional Park, BC
We had heard of Avocet Awesomeness - I was looking through the bird forums as I like to do, when I saw a report which made me almost drop my laptop. It was an American Avocet! For most people it would not be that crazy, but for me, as I have not yet gone to Florida (except when I was 5-years old and not a birder!) or anywhere in its natural range (many birders have), so the thought of seeing this somewhat “tropical” bird was exciting.
It was sighted in Iona (of course), and since Iona is known for being hit and miss, we weren't sure we were going. Not to give too much of the story away, but let’s just say I’m pretty darn happy that we went!
We arrived there fairly early at around 10:00 am (we live far away), so we were expecting some activity. As all Iona days, I always feel pretty skeptical getting there, but this time I wasn’t disappointed.
We checked out the two sewage ponds at the entrance of the park, as usual, it was completely empty except for the occasional Red-Winged Blackbird or Tree Swallow skimming across the surface of the water. It was pretty cool seeing the baby Tree Swallows in their houses, and we got a nice shot of two poking out at the same time, probably siblings, but we were lucky to see a few birders through the bushes on the other side of the pond.
We took the "thorny devil" -filled trail to the other “inner” ponds (I don’t really get the naming of the Iona ponds) and we walked past a locked gate and a long fence.
We went to the end of the trail and a small wire at the end of the trail, near the river. I saw blackish-blue swallows on the wire. Purple Martins? Really! It was finally nice to get a bird of my nemesis list.
We tried in Maplewood (twice), Iona (we couldn’t find the area) and other places. We stayed there for about thirty minutes as we saw the beautiful, social males and the females (feeding unseen chicks) hang around the nest boxes.
After going through all my photos afterward, I saw that the Purple Martins all had bands. Purple Martins are heavily protected and have many nest boxes, and even two clubs and newsletters are devoted to this handsome spring migrant.
My guess is that they were banded by the Wild Research conservation group at Iona (banders, like VARC). It was very lucky that a birding couple came by and asked us if there was any baby Martins. They mentioned that the Avocet was there - behind the locked gate (of course!) - they said you needed to ask one of the Park Managers/Sewage Workers to get them to open the door. So we decided to walk back.
The sign next to the door clearly said that it was only supposed be locked from July, but it was locked for some reason. We tried to open it, but it was definitely locked. My dad joked and said "Hello" loudly, and we were surprised to hear someone from behind the bushes inside say “Hello” back.
He kindly opened the door for us. We stared in the pond and searched for the rare shorebird – there was tons of ducks, and it was pretty hard to find. But after a while of searching, we saw the petite bird bobbing in the pond. It was here!!! It was awesome - the Avocet!. It was pretty far away, but I still got pretty good shots. It was very nice - a breeding male.
We looked for the Wilson’s Phalarope which was also sighted in the same pond, but we could not find it. While searching, we did see a bunch of Blue-Winged Teals, which, surprise, another lifer! That made 3 for the day! It was nice to see these relatively uncommon ducks quite closely!
We left the area and we went to a great Chinese restaurant (aptly named after a bird!) and we stuffed our hungry bellies with crispy tofu. What a great day!
May 21, 2016
Cliff Colony & Bird Count
Today, I participated in my first bird count! It was fun, but a lot of walking. We got to the meeting place, and to my surprise, a lifer was already there - Cliff Swallows! There was a nearby barn, which housed a whole colony of them, recognizable by their distinctive white “headlights”. While we were waiting for others to come, we set up near the barn and enjoyed seeing the Cliff Swallows fly in and out of their nests. After a while, the others counters came. We were in the group which went to the ocean side area, which eventually, after some walking, turned into White Rock. On the count, we didn’t see a new lifer, but we did see something else pretty awesome. A deer! And not far away. It was literally a metre away from us, and jumped around everywhere and actually followed us after a while, making funny faces and seemed to not be scared of us at all. After a while it got bored and walked away. We did only see the "normal" birds, but it was a fun experience anyways. The birds seen included a bunch of White-Crowned Sparrows, (which may have been the same bird counted many times), a pair of Northern Flickers, one Song Sparrow, one Downy Woodpecker (I spotted that one!), tons of Surf and White-Winged Scoters far offshore, and what felt like two hundred and five billion Glaucous-Winged Gulls. The walk was long, but in the end, the deer and the swallows were worth it all!
April 10, 2016
Iona Finally Comes Thru!
After a particularly bad day at Maplewood (except for a Brown-Headed Cowbird, which was a sorta rare for us) - we couldn’t find our target bird, the Purple Martin. For more than a month, we had no new birds. (last new bird was the Great Grey Owl!) Some good sightings, of course, but no lifers. Until today.
We took our chances at Iona. It was a cloudy, and I wasn’t expecting a lot. Maybe a new bird, probably a Violet-Green Swallow. So we got there at around 10:00, and it was a bit warmer today, but it never is that warm at Iona.
Anyways, on our way there at the sewage Swallow boxes, we saw a large amount of Tree Swallows. It wasn’t new, but a great photoshoot. One was conveniently poking its head out of a nest-box, and I got a funny looking shot staring at me. But that wasn’t it; there was more in store for me.
We were about to go on the long spit, when I saw slight movement in the marshy area at the beginning of the spit (the Killdeer nesting area) and we got the tripod set up. A head poked out of the reeds. It was a Wilson’s Snipe!!! Finally. A new lifer!
The secretive and incredibly camouflaged bird was there. It stayed for a while, and we got great shots of the beautiful bird probing in the sand. We decided to walk along the spit after about thirty minutes.
We walked up to half way, near the random moldy booth thing and we were distracted by a couple of Bonaparte’s Gulls, which we have yet to have gotten good shots of. We followed them back to the beginning of the spit, when I noticed it fly into a big gull colony.
Using my new lens, I easily spotted it and five other Bonaparte’s. And one other black headed gull. With a bright orange beak? I stopped for a second. A Caspian Tern? Could it be? I figured it couldn’t be anything else. With its elegant crest and carrot-like beak, it was a sight to see. Of course, it was pretty darn far away, but I could get okay shots. I had one photo with an immature Bonaparte’s next to it, showing how big the Caspian Tern really nicely. Another Lifer! But we weren’t done yet; we had another stop in mind.
After a nice lunch at a great Chinese food Restaurant (Crispy Noodles and Fried Tofu go really well with a good day’s birding!) we headed to feeder paradise - Richmond Nature Park. We still wanted to get a very nice picture of a Rufous Hummer. And we did. Definitely.
It was basically like a mini “Hummerfest” and there were at least five Rufous and four Anna’s Hummingbirds. They fought, they fed, and said “peew peew peew” for the whole day. I’ve never seen Richmond Nature park this busy before, with 5 long-lensers there at the same time.
The birds were putting on a good show, preening and showing their spotted tail feathers off. I was in panic when I ran out of memory card space, so we went back to the car and tried to delete the bad photos. Since that card had quite a few good shots on it, I ended up with 23 photos to use. Once I used those up, we decided we just had to take more photos, so we got in the car, drove to the nearest mall (about five minutes away) and came back, with two new, empty memory cards.
We also noticed an amazing hanging Bushtit nest right by the entrance, and only about five feet of the ground. It was really awesome to see the Bushtits take moss and branches and climb into their hanging nest hole, and squeeze back out. I was now free to take as many photos as I wanted, to I took advantage of this and I took many memory-eating videos of the Hummingbirds and Bushtit nesting behavior. After that, I enjoyed a cold cookie dough-flavored ice cream sandwich. The day was like a monsoon of birds!
April 3, 2016
We had just bought an awesome book about birding in Vancouver, and we decided to head to the Pitt-Addington Marsh Sanctuary area. So that meant we had to travel through Pitt Meadows.
We got there at around 11:00 am, and we were “Car Birding”. I spotted a juvenile Kestrel on the side of the road, which now I seem to see every time we go birding. This time I finally got an okay shot.
Anyways, we kept on going and I spotted a Bald Eagle. Or was it? After a few seconds, I zoomed in and saw the distinctive eye-stripe. Finally - an Osprey! I have only seen one in Japan and my shot was pretty nasty. I slowly got out of the car, thinking it would probably fly away.
It was on a telephone pole (as most rare birds are) and I walked closer… and closer… until I was almost right under it! I got the best Osprey shots ever, and I soon realized why it was staying there so long. It was eating a fish!
Ospreys are mainly fish-eaters, so it wasn’t a surprise. It was co-operating very well, just sitting there, posing for us. My dad followed me and we set up the tripod after doing some handheld. We stayed there for about twenty minutes until some dog-walkers (curse them!) scared it away.
We kept driving and saw another Kestrel, this time it was a Adult Male. We got even better shots this time. We drove down to the Marsh at the dead end, to find many boaters parked out. It was a great boating day, and it was very hot and sunny.
We walked down the nature trail, and we went down for about thirty minutes, and after many false “leafbird” sightings, we saw some Tree Swallows and Rufous Hummingbirds afterwards. We got great Swallow shots, the best I have ever taken. It was hard though, because they only perched a little.
We walked back after about thirty minutes. We went to “Carl’s Jr.” and we went to DeBoville Slough and tried to see something, but the only nice thing was the Rufous Hummingbirds. Today was a Owesome Day!