June 17, 2008
Raven-Mania - Wow! The past week was wild. The media was ravenous for the White Ravens. It all started with an innocent little article sent to the Times-Colonist. It made the front page of the Friday edition of the Times-Colonist, the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, and probably a few other Canwest Global affiliates across the country. It also captured the imagination of the CH News and CBC News (local and national), and the after-shocks are continuing with at least one radio interview with the CBC's "As it Happens" out of Toronto. It didn't stop there. Yahoo.ca also picked up the video and placed it on their front page for the world to see!
So what does that all prove? Just what I have been advocating all along. Bird information does make good news, and the media is interested. A lot of people with good cameras have been getting great pictures of interesting birds. I encourage all of you to try to get those pictures and stories to the media. The general public knows almost nothing about birds and nature, and I think we can all do our share to help remediate the situation. Sharing to bird groups is fine, but you're only preaching to the converted.
What makes a good story? In the past year I've hit the media with the Bobolink and the Black-throated Blue Warbler. I didn't get the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, but that would have been great. The Green Heron chicks at Ambleside would have been an instant hit as everyone loves babies. Ralph's collection of the Anna's would have been fabulous.
Getting the big dailies does take something more unusual, but the small local papers often love submissions as they are usually under-staffed. In fact, the small papers can be the route to the large dailies as they are all affiliated anyway.
One last thing. I do it for the birds and nature. I would prefer if they would leave me out of it, but they love getting a quote or misquote. They don't always get it right which makes you look bad in some cases, but that's the risk. In the final analysis, there's more good done than harm. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from individuals who have appreciated learning about various birds that they were not aware of, and that has vindicated my efforts as far as I am concerned.
Back to Normal - The White Ravens are special, but it was time to move on. Revisiting and interviewing was interfering with birding and photography. My target for the past week was the Common Merganser family. I just love watching the protective instincts of the mother and the discipline of the ducklings not to mention the fluffy, red wine cuteness of the little ones. I had the opportunity to make four visits, and enjoyed every one of them regardless of photographic success.
Standing Guard - Ever vigilant, the Merganser hen was constantly checking for predators and photographers. Incidentally, Martin was right. There were 14 ducklings in this brood. I initially counted 13, but it's easy to miss one. (Tell the truth, Mike. You have trouble counting past 10 fingers.)
Full Speed Ahead - The ducklings had no problem keeping up with Mother as they headed for a new hunting area.
Planned Parenthood? - One parent has fourteen and another has two. I just hope it didn't start out with 14.
The two ducklings were growing fast, but they were still cute.
Unlike most teenagers, the two ducklings obeyed every command Mother made.
Good morning Mergansers. Mother Merganser was sleeping on her brood before I arrived, but it was time to rise.
Everyone stayed in line as they marched to the water.
How would you like to have a bathtub full of these cute little duckies?
My fourth and final visit was the best. At first I couldn't find the family and decided to photograph two Caspian Terns instead. On my way to the terns, I discovered the Mergansers in a small, isolated pond.
Quickly surveying the situation, mother Merganser decided that the ocean would be safer.
There was no panic - just a quick, organized march to the sea.
The sun was at my back and the sea was calm. These would be my best pictures.
With a couple of hundred Merganser pictures on the flash card, it was time to focus on the Caspian Terns. Just as I thought, they took flight before I could get close.
The good news about my smaller hand-held lens was that it was handier for flight shots.
The Caspians made one obliging circle around me before heading east.
That only left the belted Kingfisher and I. He was almost in range for a good shot.
Backyard Report - The easiest way to sum up the backyard is that I'm going through a lot of feed. Activity at the feeders is non-stop. Obviously, the birds don't know we're in a recession and seed prices just went up 25%. New fledglings continue to arrive regularly. Newcomers include several Spotted Towhees, seed-gobbling junior Band-taileds, and at least one little Downey Woodpecker. Some birds are on their second broods like my Dark-eyed Junco with three new gaping mouths in the nest. I finally snuck a photo of the female Black-headed Grosbeak on a perch. I've got the male on a feeder, but I'm still trying to get it on a perch. I had him beak-to-beak yesterday but he was off before I could focus. Meanwhile, the Violet-green Swallows are quietly going about their business with no sound of peeping from the nest boxes yet. Mind you, my swallows arrive much later than most. Western Tanagers were in the trees for three days but seem to have moved on.
The fledgling Towhee was extremely shy. One look and it was gone.
Mommy Hairy and her son were frequent visitors to the feeders.
Junior Hairy often came to the feeders on his own, but still enjoyed being fed by his parents.
The flock of Band-tailed Pigeons has doubled with the addition of fledglings. This in one of the adults. The fledglings have brown eyes.
A pair of American Goldfinches are regular visitors.
I finally got a close-up of the female Black-headed Grosbeak. I did get a photo of the male but he had sunflower hulls stuck to his bill.
June 8-18 * Hummer Report
Feeder consumption dropped from 6-8 cups to 2 cups/day early in the week, but by June 12, consumption was back to 4 cups/day with most of the birds being juveniles. Adult females were few and far between. One adult male continued to be present and was a frequent visitor to the feeders. Meanwhile, the eggs in Louie's nest disappeared with no explanation. At Pete and Maggie's, two juveniles were still in the nest on Tuesday, but by Wednesday they were gone. The surprise was in the second nest. Originally, we thought there was only one nestling. It was a complete surprise when Pete discovered two young ones. The second nestling must have been buried under the first one. My search for a photographable baby hummer was finally successful on June 12. One of the pretty tellers at the bank called me over and told me she was thinking of me. As I was fantasizing the unmentionable, she told me she had a hummer nest by her garden. That was even better! I quickly got her number and address and was out to Errington the next day.
There were still two young ones in the second nest at Pete and Maggy's.
Here's a view from the other side of the nest.
I love watching the feist little juveniles. They're always challenging each other. I spent hours trying to get one with its tail fanned in the challenge position.
The fanned tail feathers are often vibrating quickly making it difficult to catch them in focus.
There are still a few adult females around. Some may be on their second brood.
And Now There Was One - It's a good thing I went out to Eva's at my first opportunity. One had already flown the nest, and the second one looked ready to go at any time.
The lone nestling looked like it was ready to fledge within the hour. It's amazing how it completely fills the nest.
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