As I've mentioned previously, I am preoccupied with my book project on "Denman & Hornby NATURE." But, I actually wiped off the dust and cobwebs of my 300 - 800 mm bird lens a couple of weeks ago for a brief birding trip. Everybody has been reporting shorebirds so I thought I would at least attempt to get a few pictures for this website. It seemed like a good time to check out French Creek and Admiral's Lagoon. With sunny skies and a mid-level tide I was optimistic, but as Murphy would say, "The best laid plans ..." Well, I did see a couple of distant Killdeer, but that was it. I was about to leave Admiral's when the begging call of a juvenile Bald Eagle caught my attention. I turned around and spotted the juvie in a tall fir about 100 m away. The I spotted one of the adults even further down the beach. The juvie was on private property so I decided to visit the adult. I set up about 30 m from Baldy and waited for some activity. Baldy wasn't doing much except complaining to anyone who would listen that it didn't want its picture taken. Finally, it gave up in frustration and flew off to join its offspring. I managed a picture of the take-off, and that's all there was.
After my Starbuck's break I decided to check out Kaye Road on the way home. A family of Kingfishers was busy diving at Rascal Pond. I wasn't sure what they were catching, but I was hoping it would be bullfrog tadpoles. The closest I could get was about 50 m on the opposite bank so that's where I set up. I had no hope of getting any pictures worth posting, but I wanted to see what the birds were catching. Except for the proximity, the Kingfishers were cooperating as they dove regularly for their prey and then retreated to a branch or snag on the opposite shore to down the snack. After about 50 clicks I gave up but I was able to confirm my suspicions. The Kingfishers were doing their part to deal with an invasive species. I've passed the word on to a couple of Great Blue Herons that bullfrog tadpoles are a delicacy, but so far I haven't seen any herons at the pond. I've also passed the word on to the the Ministry of Environment but that was a waste of time.
Aside from this brief birding break, I have been concentrating my efforts on the book, and I think I can see a little light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the photography has been completed. Of course, there's lots of room for improvement, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I'm now working on the text which has been extremely challenging to say the least. For example, I spent 4 hours yesterday doing internet research on the invasive opossums on Hornby Island. After 4 hours I gave up in frustration and decided to leave the topic out. Last week I spent about the same amount of time trying for information on Denman's Old School. All I could find was that one of our past Education Ministers actually taught there. Now I know why most authors have a team of researchers working for them. Anyway, now that I've got the tiger by the tail, I can't let go.
I'm not going to apologize for the lack of bird pictures, but I do have a few shots from home and close to home. I'll also post an article about my book, and something new. I've agreed to do a few book reviews for Princeton University Press, and I'm already 3 books behind so I'm starting today.
It was a bad year for Rufous Hummers. 90% of my usual crop didn't show at all. If you think I was disappointed, you should have seen poor Harry, my dominant male. He would sit for hours by the feeders wondering where all his lady friends were. At least I had some fun taking pictures of Harry. The few hummers that did show were at least three weeks late, and I'm sure many were late in nesting. Usually by early June most of the hummers have fledged, but I got a call on June 16 from a friend who had just found a nest with a pair of newborns. I checked regularly until July 7 when the last one was almost ready to fledge. This picture was taken on June 30.
I returned on July 3 and the pair was still in the nest.
On July 7 there was only one hummer in the nest. It tried to fly when it saw me, but it wasn't quite ready for fledging. I carefully put it back in the nest and watched for a few minutes before leaving. I hope it fledged successfully.
As of August 8 I still had a few juveniles buzzing around the garden. In most years they would have been long gone.
One of the popular flowers is the bee balm. Thanks to Emma, I now have 6 mature stalks in my meagre patch.
As usual the hummers love a shower when I'm hand watering the garden. I sprayed one for about 5 minutes yesterday and was worried that I would waterlog it, but it just merrily turned, twisted, stretched, arched, and fanned its tail and wings. It would have been a great video if I had a camera in the other hand.
It was a good year for Dark-eyed Juncos. They must be on their 3rd set of offspring. I'm sure there are a few nests in the garden, but I haven't bothered looking this year.
The Red-breasted Nuthatches have also had a successful year.
There has been a non-stop progression to the feeders since spring. The young ones are fearless as they land right next to me when I fill the feeders.
The cup is half full. I was happy to get one picture in three hours on my only birding opportunity in two months. Thank you to the Columbia Beach eagle.
Postage stamp time. As mentioned in the intro, I was about 50 m away from the kingfishers. You would see a lot of noise if I cropped any more.
The kingfishers were having a tadpole feast. It's always fun to see them diving. One of these days I'll get a close-up of the action.
After checking the hummer nest near Fairwinds on June 30, I heard a bunch of robins complaining. You guessed it. The Barred Owl was trying for an afternoon nap. It was actually happy to see me as my presence caused the robins to back off.
My backyard feeder pole has kept me amused all year. There have been many occasions when Downies, Hairys, and Pileateds have all been on the pole jockeying for position. Needless to say, size trumps everything else.
The male Pileated has been quite amusing. I can hear him a mile away when he announces his presence with his vigorous and cheerful calls. His pattern is predictable as he lands on a nearby fir before gliding down to the feeder pole.
I've been trying for a flight shot, but my window of opportunity is only about 3 hours in the late afternoon when the sun is right. I had a near miss yesterday.
One of the topics in my book is butterflies. Between Jenny Balke and myself, we have most of the pictures we need, but there is always room for improvement. I've been seeing Lorquin's Admirals regularly, but am still after the perfect shot.
The Pine Whites have been showing for the past four days. They are quite cooperative so I'm happy with my previous photos.
I've also seen Tiger Swallowtails quite often for the past two weeks. Most of them have been in poor condition. I'm still after a good photo of one nectaring on the right flower.
Woodland Skippers are abundant right now. I've seen about 50 in the past 3 days.
I saw my first Wood Nymph of the year a week ago. Since then I've seen about 40. Our island subspecies "incana" is red-listed.
Yes, wildflowers are part of my current project, and I've enjoyed learning about them. This is spreading stonecrop, and it does grow on rocks.
Harvest brodiaea is one one the late spring flowers on Hornby. It is quite abundant at Helliwell and Tribune Bay.
As you can see from the poster, my marketing plan is to offer the book as a fundraiser. I never did that with my previous publications as I wanted to see if they could survive on their own merit. I'm happy to say they have. My current book is more specific for a small market, and I expect it will only be of interest mainly to Denman, Hornby, and the Comox Valley. As a result, I've decided to offer it to the Denman and Hornby Island Conservancies and the Comox Valley Natural History Society for fundraisers before it is released to the bookstores. If the respective organizations mount an internet and word-of-mouth campaign I'm hoping they will be successful. Last week I passed out a half dozen flyers on my trip to Hornby and that resulted in seven orders. Please contact one of the three organizations if you are interested. The phone number for Denman is on the poster (or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Hornby orders can be sent to amanda@hornbyislanddiving. Orders for the Comox Valley Natural History Society can email from their website. The book will only be available by order for the first 4 weeks.
Have you ever considered New Jersey as a birding destination? If you haven't, you should. I know Revs & Audy were there a few years ago, and they wouldn't go unless it was highly recommended. I have been salivating at a chance to go there ever since I started checking the wonderful photos at calvorn.com a few years ago. Cal specializes in birds of Central Park, but he also does a lot of work in New Jersey. You can bet I was excited to receive my review copy of "The Birds of New Jersey (Status and Distribution)" by William J. Boyle Jr. from Princeton University Press.
The book is soft cover and 308 pages long. It is not a field guide, but it can easily serve as one especially to experienced birders. Experienced birders are mainly interested in where and when and the possibilities of encountering the species. Boyle has meticulously distilled his information of the 465 official state species from 200 years of accumulated records up to mid-2010, and he presents all the essential information in brief and simple layman's language. In fact, just by looking at the colour-coded distribution maps, one can determine the general location, frequency of occurence, and time of year for each species. The write-ups fill in information such as abundance from permanent resident to accidental and provide historical notes on patterns of occurence over the years.
Other aspects of the book include a comprehensive introduction describing important topics such as the physical geography and natural regions of New Jersey, a history of birding records in the state, and criteria for acceptance of bird records. Another feature is the excellent colour photographs sprinkled throughout the book. Although not every species is represented, there are enough photos to break up the monotony of straight text to make the presentation more interesting. The book ends with a lengthy bibliograhy and complete index.
In summary, "The Birds of New Jersey" will serve well as the "bible" for the birds of New Jersey. It provides all the information one needs to know if they ever plan to visit the state. As well, the book is an excellent model for any other state or province to emulate.
The book is published by Princeton University Press (http://nathist.princeton.edu), and the U.S. price is $24.95.
My poster is on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House