Friday, 29 February 2008

Vancouver - Birthday bash

Still shattered from the effects of jet lag but wasn't going to let this affect the Birthday boy!!
The first of two sessions today - a very quiet morning in Vancouver parks. Found a cracking female Anna's Hummingbird in Van Dusen Botanic garden

Downy Woodpeckers are pretty small and obliging - a male and female were seen in Queen Elizabeth park.

If there is water, American Wigeon seem to be wherever you go and usually scratching around in the undergrowth - Dark-eyed juncos!

For the afternoon, it was off to the Reifel nature reserve, north of Vancouver. This was pretty strong on wildfowl but there were plenty of other birds there too!

Wood Duck are incredible birds, Green-winged Teal and Bufflehead were the local specialities. Scaup and Pintail reminded me of home (not sure when I've seen quite so many Scaup though!) Think I know where I'd rather be right now!

Er, how about another American Wigeon - plenty of them here too!

How many birders drove the length and breadth of England to see a White-crowned Sparrow? I remember the Cley bird well - they were constantly underfoot here, with youngsters as well for comparison.

Golden-crowned Sparow were pretty cute too - the other guy is a Song Sparrow...

Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was distant views of a 3000+ strong flock of Snow Geese. I waited patiently but didn't get the mass take off - just a few individuals moving around

Or maybe a Great-horned Owl? Neck aching stuff trying to get a picture of this bird, difficult to see from any other angle other than directly below!

Spotted Towhee and Red-winged Blackbird to follow and a Red-tailed Hawk (so reminiscent of a Common Buzzard), patiently waiting....

Two common local birds to finish off with - American Coot (Ok it is slightly different to ours) and Black-capped Chickadee (no alarm call needed with these calling outside my bedroom window!).

Back to alpine plants now until next Tuesday - see what Vancouver Island has to offer.....

New Birthday birds:

Hairy Woodpecker
Pine Siskin
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Song Sparrow
Common Raven
Anna’s Hummingbird
Common Merganser
Double-crested Cormorant
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Snow Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Brown creeper
Great-horned Owl
Northern Shoveler
American Coot
Greater Scaup
Marsh Wren
Red-tailed Hawk
Brewers Blackbird
House Sparrow
Wood Duck
Bush Tit

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Vancouver - starting the list

I was fortunate to be invited to speak at he Western Study Weekend organised by the Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia and knowing about my 'other'passion for birds, my hosts had organised some short sessions out amongst the birds in Vancouver. The first, a two hour walk spent in the 'Terra Nova' area of Richmond - near the mighty Fraser river turned up 27 species!

First bird out of the car was a Bald Eagle = awesome start!

American Robins everywhere.....

Eventually managed a pic of the very flighty Golden-crowned Kinglet....

The silence was constantly shattered by the song of Red-winged Blackbirds, singing amongst the typhae - (bit like a child playing an out of tune penny whistle) real characters.

The rain came down and Northern Harrier and Cooper's Hawk were seen and the camera went in the bag - pity as the highlight of the session was bumping into an American Bittern which we accidently flushed in the open - just 10m away - by the time I'd started to open the lens bag - it had of course scuttled to safety......

Then it was off to Van Dusen Botanic garden where I was supposed to be admiring the plants.... Wait a minute, just look at these guys!!

American Wigeon

Then, surely what will be one of the highlights of the trip - Hooded Merganser, the male simply stunning - the female just back from the hairdressers and giving the male a real 'come on'!!

Bufflehead are pretty cute too - the light was pretty grim though - black and white not easy to capture....

Then finally back to my hospitality with a Dark-eyed Juno in the rain and fading light - what a start!!

Birds from the session:

Dark eyed junco
Black-capped Chickadee
Bald Eagle
Canada Goose
Northern Flicker
American Robin
Red-winged Blackbird
Northwestern Crow
Great Blue Heron
Fox Sparrow
Western Grebe
Common Loon
Cooper’s Hawk
Northern Harrier
Northern Pintail
Horned Grebe
European Starling
American Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Glaucous-winged Gull
Spotted Towhee
Hooded Merganser
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Bittern

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Vancouver here I come.....

The bags are packed, the camera too! An afternoon at Kew tomorrow with an overnight stop with a friend before jetting off to Vancouver.....

The theme is alpines and I will be working hard the following weekend giving lectures but play time follows - expect some fantastic birds and hopefully I can find somewhere to upload before reurning????

See you soon........

Friday, 22 February 2008

St Andrews - Purple Sandpiper

I had a free morning, it was blowing a severe gale so I sought out the shelter of St Andrews harbour. The brief walk to the end of the harbour wall, where I was nearly blown off my feet, confirmed my decision!

The tide was coming in and a scan around the rocks provided a dozen Purple Sandpiper - very nice! As the water rose, they came close enough for a pic or two before departing elsewhere.

Out at sea, the most common bird seen was undoubtedly Eider, there were numerous -mostly in communal groups, a fair number of Long tailed Ducks were also present. Red breasted Merganser, Red throated Diver and Common Scoter were also seen.

Redshank, Curlew and Turnstone also present and Rock Pipits foraging constantly in amongst the seaweed.....

Footnote - the return journey was meant to yield Surf Scoter but they weren't having any of it. Low tide and a cross shore gale didn't help. Lower Largo was and is the place for them but I had to settle for Velvet Scoter and Black throated Diver to add to the list....