It was a bit unreasonable to expect someone to meet me at 8:15 AM on a cold winter day, but the next ferry wouldn't get in until 10:00 AM. I wasn't sure how happy my host would be. Needless to say, I was relieved to see his cheerful smile just as the sun was rising.
Birding can be very much a "needle-in-the-haystack" exercise unless you have the advantage of local expertise. I had Carlo, so I expected a good day. Just to make sure we had at least one bird, we started with the Tsawwassen Willet. It is remarkable and unexplicable how the single Willet has chosen to winter north of the border for the past 10 or so years as opposed to the sunny shores of California. As the saying goes, "Ours is not to wonder why, ours is just to visit and take the picture." Did I get that right? Anyway, that was the beginning of a very fine day and a few new images. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed seeing the birds and taking their pictures.
Carlo said the Willet was a sure thing, but we began having our doubts as we trudged a few hundred meters past the usual spot. Gratefully, on our return, it magically appeared. The sun was directly east at an awkward angle, but at least there was sun.
The early morning sun cast a warm, orange glow on the bird as it meandered along the shoreline.
Over the years the bird has been photographed and viewed hundreds of times. It was accustomed to the paparazzi.
I try not to take a picture until I see the reflection of light in the eye. The Willet cooperated wonderfully.
Carlo mentioned that the Willet's favorite position was usually on some floating driftwood. Guess what happened next?
I think Carlo has the Willet trained. I should have asked him for an aerial display.
I was happy with the "Willet-on-the-log" shots.
One last shot to show everyone the wings. After hearing about the Willet for the past five years, I was grateful for finally seeing it in my lens.
The Clark's Grebe was next on the list, but Canoe Pass was grebeless. Carlo's sharp eyes picked out the rich cinnamon colours of a drake Cinnamon Teal. It was barely visible as it snoozed in the tall grass. We proceeded to Reifel for the B&B - Bohemians and Bitterns. It was Tuesday, but Reifel was as busy as a weekend. There were cameras and scopes everywhere. Carlo and I fit right in.
Being from the Island where there are no Black-capped Chickadees, I couldn't resist a few shots.
A short ways down the east dyke, we encountered a congregation of cameras. We followed the direction of the lenses to a Great Horned Owl. It was sleeping in the shadows of a tall fir. Its mate was on the other side of the tree. I set the camera at 1000 ISO and f 5.6. The best shutter speed I could get was 1/13th of a second.
Our next stop of interest was to meet the genial and well-informed John Ireland. He chastized us for being late, but he still did his best to point us towards a possible Bittern. It was not to be. He did point out two consolation birds which we appreciated - a Virginia rail and Saw-whet Owl.
Our quest for the Bohemians yielded a few Cedar Waxwings and a lonesome Snow Goose.
The Snow Goose was separated from its flock which suggested that it was injured or just tired of the same old gang.
Gadwalls are not common on the Island. There are some, but they are extremely difficult to photograph. I couldn't pass up a close-up opportunity.
Just as we were leaving Reifel, one of the Night Herons flew on to a fir tree in plain sight. I unpacked my camera and returned for a few more shots.
Within minutes I was surrounded bu other photographers. I wasn't surprised as it's never easy to get a clear shot. Of course, I fell for Carlo's question, "How do you prevent getting red-eye?" I gave him the pat answer then realized that I had been duped.
I know Carlo was disappointed that we didn't find the Bohemians, but he had a surprise for me. He knew that there were three Common Redpolls on the premises, and his finely tuned ear drums finally located them.
I didn't realize how attractive they were. I was lucky to get one pretty good image. Talk about a great consolation bird!
Being the last of the big spenders, I treated Carlo to half of a Subway sandwich. I think he had his palate set on a juicy strip loin at the pub, but he was a good sport about it. My lame excuse was that I didn't want to waste too much birding time. Fortunately for Carlo, the clouds started rolling in, and my enthusiam for photography rolled out. However, like a good host, he had two parting gifts for me. The first was a Barn Owl. I had never set the camera to 6400 ISO before, and I had never set my tripod in cow manure before. But, that's what it took. Even at 6400 ISO my shutter speed was 1/10th of a second which is essentially a time exposure. I was pleased with the result even if it was super-grainy. The second parting gift was the Prairie Falcon. It was only about 100 meters away so you know what kind of image I got. I wasn't disappointed as I was lucky just to see the rare bird.
Thanks Carlo. I thoroughly enjoyed your company and a fine day of birding. If you ever recover, and we find a few good birds, come on over, and I'll reciprocate for your reciprocating.
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TOFINO - BOTANICAL GARDENS
Quadra Island - EXPLORE & BOOK BONANZA
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