Aug. 8 - 11 - Shooting Mosquitoes
For three evenings my goal was to photograph the Common Nighthawk. Prior to this week they have been a very sporadic and elusive species in my neighbourhood. My only sightings have been a few single birds passing high overhead. With more frequent reports locally, I decided to dust off my neglected camera to try for the Nighthawk which is tantamount to photographing mosquitoes.
After a recent report of the birds near the Nanoose Petrocan, I decided to stake out a good vantage point at the Nanoose Community Centre. I waited, and waited, and waited ... Nothing appeared in the sky except the occasional cloud, but there was some chipping in the tangled brush in front of me. A glimpse of green revealed an couple of Orange-crowned Warblers - an adult female and a juvenile. With a some gentle pishing, the female popped up right in front of me. The gentle evening light was ideal, and I soon forgot about the Nighthawks.
After the female moved on, another movement caught my attention. A grayish hood and prominent eye-ring grabbed my attention. Mourning????, Connecticut????, darn! just juvenile MacGillivray.
No Nighthawks, but an unlikely consolation bird.
The Orange-crowned Warbler was preoccupied with foraging for supper.
An almost rare bird, but it was a juvenile MacGillivray's Warbler.
The next evening I decided to drive around to look for the Nighthawks. Starting with the Petrocan, I proceeded to River's Edge which I felt was a good bet. No luck. Frustrated, I headed home on Northwest Bay Road. Near Springford's Farm, I spotted a couple of birds winging over the second growth forest bordering the farm. Nighthawks! I waited by the farm driveway, but the birds continued to work the treetops of the forest. I headed for the logging road in the middle of the forest. I could see a few Nighthawks zipping throught the opening in the trees, but it was a poor situation for taking photos as I couldn't anticipate where the birds would come from. I decided my best chance was at the western end of the road where there was a clearing and viewpoint. I parked and waited anxiously. I could hear the Nighthawks to the east of me, but all I had were a few Barn Swallows.
The sun was at the horizon, but still no Nighthawks. I had another 15 minutes before the light would be gone. Suddenly, the Nighthawks arrived. They were flying low over the trees and a few zipped over my head. Several passed very closely, but it was all too quick to find the bird in the lens and get a focus. For 10 minutes I was in a frenzy - tracking, focussing, clicking, cursing! Then they were gone. It was amazing. I was on a high just from experiencing the birds close-up. I stood motionless for a few minutes reflecting on the magnificence of the Nighthawks.
The next evening I couldn't resist another Nighthawk experience. I waited at the same clearing. An hour passed and the sun slid towards the horizon. Doubts crept into my mind, and I asked myself, "What were the probabilities that the Nighthawks would return to the same spot?" As if the Nighthawks were reading my mind, a nasally "beep" aroused me from my stupor of doubt. The Nighthawks swirled around, but they worked the taller trees around the perimeter of the clearing. There was only the occasional photo moment. That didn't diminish my wonderment. It was fun just to watch - another magical Nighthawk monent.
The Common Nighthawks were magnificent.
Aug. 11 - A Butertubs Moment
Buttertubs is one of those places that demands regular visiting if you ever want to discover its potential as a bird habitat. If I lived in Nanaimo, I would be there more than the half a dozent times I manage a year.
It was hot and quiet today and most birds were already snoozing in the shade after an early morning start. I was lucky to find a perky juvenile Chipping Sparrow.
Pied-billeds are regular in Buttertubs. We should start seeing some candy-striped juveiles pretty soon. I just missed seeing an Osprey catching a fish. I was obscured by some trees and only got to see it high in the trees munching on its catch.
Aug. 15 - Yard Report
Regular fallouts of migrating songbirds continued during the past week. Townsend's and Black-throated Gray Warblers were the most common, but there were sprinklings of Cassin's Vireos, Brown Creepers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and even a few groups of Bushtits. A surprise evening visitor was a Western Wood Pewee which was a new yard bird. My last hummer was seen on Aug. 11, and it's now time to take down the feeders.
Black-throated Gray Warblers have been moving regularly through my yard.
Aug. 16 - A Reifel Fix
Photography is not unlike any chemical addiction. When you haven't used your camera for a few days, withdrawal pangs start gnawing on your mind and soul. The only solution is a fix, and if there is nothing available on the Island, Reifel is ony a short ferry ride away. It wasn't the best time of year to visit, but there was enough there to provide the fix I needed.
If you take the Tsawassen ferry, you can start your fix at the base of the ferry jetty. That's Willie the Willet's winter home. He has faithfully returned to that location for over a decade proclaiming his preference over the over-populated and over-developed Californian coast. In fact, Willie has his application in for Canadian citizenship and is hoping to be renamed the "Canadian Willet."
It was a bit early for Reifel as the fall migration is still just a trickle. It gets progressively better as the weather gets cooler. However, there are a number of resident birds that can provide photgraphic satisfaction. The Great Horned Owls are usually quite obliging as they snooze in the trees near the east trail. Apparently, the adults successfully raised three chicks so the odds of finding one bird has increased significantly.
Greater yellowlegs and Long-billed Dowitchers were abundant as they enjoyed the easy foraging in the shallows of the west pond.
Siesta Time - After a hearty lunch the Greater Yellowlegs enjoyed a rest to let the food digest.
A few Lesser Yellowlegs were found scattered around the various ponds and sloughs. Here's one enjoying a drink of scummy water.
Now you can see why it's called "Lesser." It is much less than the size of a Mallard. It's also lesser in stature than the Greater Yellowlegs.
Wood Ducks are a fixture in the quiet ponds and sloughs. They are often resting peacefully on logs or branches.
Most of the ducks were females.
I managed to find one male. It was half way to molting into its winter plumage. A few other birds I saw but didn't photograph were the Black-crowned Night Heron (too far), Black-capped Chickadee (poor light), Northern Pintail (too shy), Green-winged Teal (too fast), and the Great Blue Heron (too still).
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