Swinging Into Spring

Apr. 3 - Now that I've said goodbye to the Horned Grebes, Common Loons, and other seabirds, it's time to focus on the incoming birds. Last week I greeted my returning Orange-crowned Warblers. This week there was a massive influx of Golden-crowned Warblers as well a single Chipping Sparrow and a few Cassin's Vireos. The Golden-crowneds are simply fueling up before heading north to their breeding grounds which extend from south-central B.C. all the way to northern Alaska. Chipping Sparrows and Cassin's Vireos are both local breeders.

The appearance of vagrants during the spring is always a source of excitement, this year has been no exception. I think the best sighting so far are the four Black-necked Stilts at Panama and Maber Flats in Victoria. Four stilts show qualify as a veritable invasion! I don't recall any being reported since I started birding in 2003. Another interesting phenomena has the invasion of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. At least 10 have been reported so far from Victoria to Campbell River. In most years we're lucky to hear about one or two. In fact, I still haven't seen one on V.I. Up island at Qualicum the star of the show has been an elegant Great Egret that has been foraging in the Marshall-Steveson Wildlife Area. Other uncommon sightings of note included a Lewis's Woodpecker in Victoria and an Arctic Loon at Jordan River.

My favorite sighting lately has been the return of the Vesper Sparrows to the desolate lands of the Nanaimo Airport. On a whim I decided to check out the airport on April 21. As soon as I drove along the fence at the south end I was greeted by a singing Vesper on a fencepost. After awhile it flew towards the highway and joined another on the wire fence. Both were banded. It's always gratifying to see the return of the Vespers. For me it's a symbol of the resiliency and perseverence of nature, and it's monumental struggle for survival against the devastating forces of human development.

Against all odds the tiny flock of Coastal Vespers have been clinging to survival at the Nanaimo Airport. For the past few years its population of about six breeding pairs has remained static.


Yard favorite - I love waking up to the trill of the Orange-crowned Warblers, and I love seeing them foraging for insects around the yard and garden. Occasionally I see them sneaking a drink from the hummingbird feeder. My best chance for photos is when they are focussed on their foraging.


Another yard favorite are the Cassin's Vireos. Their distinctive full-bodied calls are always a joy to hear.


I've only seen the Chipping Sparrow in my yard once this spring, but I'm sure they are around. My first chance for photos was on a cloudy day at Kaye Road which is always reliable for the Chippers. My apologies for the ghostly looking pics. I generally only take pics on a sunny day, but sometimes it starts out sunny then clouds over. For the past few years the Chippers have been regulars around the yard and feeders, and I occasionally see them feeding their young.


Another Kaye Road regular is the American Kestrel. I was sorry to see that their nest tree on Cinamom Sedge had fallen. It was a massive rotten fir tree right next to the driveway. I sure hope no one was around when it went over. The kestrels didn't seem to nest there every year so they must have an alternate nest.


Yes, here's Harry again. I just couldn't resist posting these pics as they present a couple of different views of my splendid tenant. And yes, I've been guilty of sitting for too long at the window waiting for some new shots.


Apr. 24 - The Golden-crowned Invasion - When I peeked out at the feeders this morning I saw my first Golden-crowned Sparrow of the spring, and then I saw another, and another, and another. By the time I gave up counting I had seen over 20. I never seen so many Golden-crowneds in my yard at one time. During the day reports filtered in from other birders that they were also seeing unprecedented numbers of the handsome bird. The next day while I was golfing at Fairwinds, the trend continued. Every blackberry thicket was covered with the sparrows. So was the past year a great year for Golden-crowned reproduction, or did their migration path just happen to favor our part of the world?


Apr. 27 - A shorebird day - Yesterday a Great Egret was reported at the Little Qualicum Estuary. Very few have been reported on the Island for the past ten years. I saw my first in 2004 at the Englishman Estuary, and my second last year at the Tofino mudflats. It is a magnificent bird and I couldn't resist seeing another, especially since it was so close to home.

On the way I stopped at the San Malo Mudflats to see if there were any peeps. It was my first chance to look for the migrants this spring. I was in luck. The tide was half in and a medium-sized flock of peeps were swirling around the edge of the water. They finally landed in the distance near some Green-winged Teals. Eventually, the rising tide pushed them closer to me, and I finally got my FOY (first of year) visit with the Least and Western Sandpipers. There were also migrating Dunlin, but we have wintering populations locally so I see them all winter.

Migrating shorebirds - There are three species of shorebirds in this photo. The largest are Dunlin and can be identified by their black bellies. The smallest are Least Sandpipers. They are the only ones with yellow legs. The most numerous are the Western Sandpipers which have rufous crowns and spotted chests.

The Green-winged Teal wasn't the least bit bothered by the invasion of the sandpipers.

Sandpipers are wonderful photo subjects. When they are preoccupied by feeding they often forage right into optimum photo range.

Blue sky, sun at my back and no wind - the perfect recipe for reflection pool photos. Oops, forgot to mention a very cooperative Least sandpiper.

The Dunlin were also cooperative photo subjects.

I was having so much fun with the sandpipers that I almost forgot about the egret. One more shot before I hit the road.

Since the Green-winged Teal were so cooperative, I had to take a few pics of them as well.

There's the green speculum. The green-wingeds are one of the last ducks to migrate.


After the peeps it was off to the egret. As I neared the estuary I slowed to scan the sloughs at the Marshall-Stevenson conservation area. Right away I saw a white head in the distance. I stopped and climbed onto the fence. It was the Great Egret busily foraging in a distant slough. I took a few distant shots just for the record as it flew from one slough to another. I'm glad I did because these were my best shots of the day.



May 2 - Bottle Beach - For years I've read about the shorebird migration at Gray's Harbour. It is one of the major staging areas along the Pacific flyway for shorebirds. I couldn't let another year pass without visiting, so this was the year. The experience met all expectations. The shorebirds were there, and despite the less than ideal weather conditions, the rain relented and the clouds parted on several occasions to allow some photography.

Bottle Beach was my first target and we timed our visit to catch the morning high tide. As I exited the boardwalk trail to the beach, I was greeted by a large carpet of sleeping shorebirds on the beach. Most of them were Western Sandpipers and Dunlin huddled tightly together. I imagined the shorebirds were enjoying cosy feeling of a down duvet, and I was envious as I stood in the cool Pacific breeze.

A dowitcher duvet covered the northern section of the beach.

The Western Sandpiper and Dunlin duvet covered the southern portion of the beach.

At the edge of the water a large flock of dowitchers and a few other species like Black-bellied Plovers were also resting peacefully.

A few Ruddy Turnstones hid shyly behind the dowitchers but were exposed when the other birds moved.

Among the thousands of shorebirds, I only saw one least sandpiper.

Western Sandpipers were by far the most abundant species in this cluster.

The species I was hoping to see was the Red Knot. I had to work hard but finally located one mixed in with the Westerns and Dunlin.

Eventually a nother flock of birds landed on the beach and started foraging. They were Semipalmated Plovers. They had no intention of sleeping as the methodically worked their way up the beach. I had to dash in front of them and wait until they came closer for some pics.


Ocean Shores Surprise

After visiting Bottle Beach and a few other locations we returned to ocean Shores where we were staying. I decided to check the beach down from the motel and was delighted to see the beach covered with shorebirds. The shorebirds were busy foraging in the sand despite the regular passage of vehicles driving up and down the beach. Needless to say, I was in bird heaven as I was surrounded by shorebirds and busily snapping off pictures.

I was surprised at the number of vehicles that were driving on the beach. The shorebirds viewed them as a minor annoyance. They just moved over and continued foraging. Most of the vehicles had no trouble on the beach, but an average of 5 a day get stuck and require towing.

The most noticeable birds were the Marbled Godwits because of their size. I'm always amazed at how proficient they are at finding prey just by feeling with their long bills and tongues.

There were great photo opportunities everywhere I looked. I tried for some group pictures, but that was with the big lens.

Flight shots are always fun, but I made the mistake of not increasing my ISO setting from to 800. It was early evening and slightly overcast. Even though there seemed to be a lot of light, it was an illusion. Many of my flight shots failed because the shutter speed was too slow.

Size comparison - that's a Western Sandpiper in the foreground.

Most of the birds were Marbled Godwits, dowitchers, peeps, and Sanderlings and the occasional Black-bellied Plover. Just for fun I decided to take a photo of a Black-bellied Plover. To my surprise and delight, it turned out to be an American Golden-Plover.

The distinctive golden markings on the back and the short primary wing feathers are reliable field marks for identification of an adult.

The adult was accompanied by another bird. It was a juvenile. I'm not sure if it was just a friend or was it an offspring?

I spent about two hours with the shorebirds until the clouds thickened and the light faded. I hated to leave, but it was cold, and it was also time for some nourishment.

I returned a little later for one last look at the birds and a possible sunset shot. The clouds were too thick for a great west coast sunset. I was hoping for sun the next morning, but that never materialized. The morning was greeted with rain that followed us all the way to Oregon.

I was hoping to visit Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach to visit the Puffins, Murres, and other seabirds, but the dull, overcast skies and threatening rain frustrated those intentions.

Forgot to mention the Caspian Terns. Just past Astoria we checked out the mouth of the Columbia River at Fort Stevens State Park. As expected, Caspian terns were abundant. Apparently the area is or was host to the largest Caspian tern colony in the world.

The Caspian terns used to nest on Rice Island up the Columbia River where they fed mainly on salmon smolts. To reduce the impact on the endangered salmon stocks, the colony was relocated to the Columbia estuary where the terns fed mainly on other species of fish. The relocation seemed to be successful for both the salmon and the terns until the past couple of years when the eagle and gull predation completely wiped out the reproduction efforts of the terns. If you want more details, you can find it on the internet.


Searching for summer - With the forecast of several more days of rain on the coast, plan B was to head east until we found the sun. Our first hope was Summer Lake where conditions improved to light overcast and warmer temperatures. It wasn't the best for photography, but it also wasn't the worst.

A quick tour of the Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge was in order, and we were greeted by a host of Great Egrets near the beginning of the auto route. We counted 23 egrets from our vantage point. despite seeing many close to the road, they were difficult to photograph. They all flushed just before they were in ideal photo range.

The egrets weren't seen at the refuge on our last visit. Neither were the American White Pelicans.

Overall, the abundance of birds was down considerably from our previous visit. In particular we were disappointed not to see the large numbers American Avocets that we saw last time. I didn't like the proximity of the artificial gull island to the avocet nesting area. Perhaps, that spelled the doom for the Avocets and any other nesting shorebird.

As we were leaving the refuge a Northern Harrier landed on the sagebrush about 20 m from the road. That provided one of the few photo ops for this visit.

Sunshine, finally!

Our next destination was Malheur in the high desert country of southeastern Oregon. We arrived in Hines in the therapeutic late afternoon sun, and had time to check out one our favorite streets, Hotchkiss Lane. Hotchkiss just happens to run right through a series of flooded fields and is generally loaded with waterfowl and waders. Today was no exception.

Iridescent White-faced Ibis were everywhere and by far the most abundant species around.

Elegant long-legged American Avocets foraged graciously through the shallow waters.

Hyperactive black-necked Stilts danced their way through the tall aquatic weeds.

Wilson's Phalaropes were not as abundant as usual, but there was no difficulty in finding a few good photo targets.

As usual the occasional Long-billed Curlew was busily foraging in the dry fields.

Although the curlew was moving towards the road, it changed directions when I stopped. Typically, it maintained a distance just out of full-framed shooting range.

There goes another ibis. I told you they were abundant.

The common gull in the area is usually the Franklin's. Sorry the red bill is blocked out so you'll just have to trust me. The full black hood is characteristic of the Franklin's. The occasional Franklin's makes it to Vancouver Island, but not very often.

Eureka! Notice the half hood??? Rats, I thought I had a new bird but Russell Cannings just burst my bubble of euphoria. Apparently it's just a half-hooded Franklin's.

The Malheur visitor's centre is always an interesting place to check out. The grove tall deciduous trees is a migrant trap for songbirds. Many of the trees are huge and any unusual migrants are generally out of photo range. However, even if there were no birds for me, there's always the ground squirrels.

After giving up on tree-top migrants, I focussed my attention on the feeder birds. One sure thing was the Yellow-headed Blackbird. We had seen many on the trip without too many photo ops. The best situation was at the feeders where a few were visiting regularly.

The Bullock's Oriole was also addicted to the feeder, but its preference was the half orange in the fruit feeder.

Finally, an non-feeder migrant showed up. I think it was a female Lesser Goldfinch.

We're on a roll. The Yellow Warbler wasn't interested in the feeders either. It was just happy to forage for insects.

Predictably (sometimes) the warbler was working its way towards me. I stayed motionless until it was in optimum range. It was worth the wait to see it up close.

One of the tips we got at the visitor's centre was the Horned Owl nest under the bridge over the neck of Malheur Lake. It was interesting to see the nest on the girders under the bridge, but it was too dark for a photo. Meanwhile, a few Clark's and Western Grebes were in the water close by. The Clark's grebes were quite cooperative for photos, but the Westerns were a little more evasive and missed out on the press coverage.

Sage for a Swainson's - A pair of birders I ran into told me about a Swainson's Hawk nest on a electrical pole down Weaver Spring Road. We checked every pole on the road and there was nothing. Baffled, we looked at a few utility poles across the road and saw a small bundle of coloured string. It was an American Kestrel nest, nor a Swainson's. We had a good laugh and no photos, but on the way out a Sage Thrasher was working its way along the fenceline. We drove ahead and waited. Right on cue it popped up on a fence post right in front of me.

A second tip from the visitor's centre sent us down Ruh-red Road. We drove for about 10 miles with nothing but desert and had our doubts. We persevered and were rewarded by a long stretch of flooded fields that provided some close-up views of many birds. The Eared Grebe was one we hadn't seen earlier in the trip.

The Shoveler Duck was a species we had seen at Summer Lake but only in the distance. I couldn't neglect the species that got me into bird photography 9 years ago.

The jocular-looking Ruddy Duck is a species I seldom see although there is a large wintering population in Duncan. It's always a treat to see one in its breeding colours.

It would have been fun to traverse Ruh-red a second time, but we decided to carry on to Boise where we spent the night.

Bear River Disappointment

Bear River NWR is one of my favorite bird photography venues. It is the estuary of the Bear River where it flows into the Great Salt Lake. I have enjoyed many hours of bird photography there in the past, but this year was a drought year and water levels were at very low levels. The impact on birds was substantial as the foraging areas on flooded land was non-existent. My disappointment was nothing compared to the drstic effect on the birds. Not only was much of their foraging area reduced, a lot of nesting habitat was also lost.

The numbers of most bird species was down significantly on our first tour of the autoroute compared to what we've experienced in the past. We were lucky to find only a handful of Snowy Egrets.

Snowy Egrets have always been one of my favorite targets. Do you know why they have yellow toes? Apparently, they wiggle their toes in the water to simulate worms or other aquatic creatures and that attracts the fish.

While most waders and water birds were scarce, the swallow populations appear to be thriving. I love watching the Cliff Swallows collecting mud for their nests.

Observing is one thing but photography is another. The task wasn't as easy as you might imagine. I wanted to be about 6 meters form the mud site. The swallows made it difficult by keeping their distance even if it meant abandoning their mud bank. Finally we reached a compromise at about 12 m. That wasn't as close as wanted, but that was all I was going to get.

The Cliff Swallows were extremely industrious. They had to be. For the amount of mud they could carry on their bills, it would take many trips to gather enough mud for their gourde-shaped creations.

I always think of Sage Grouse when I think of Jennifer. Just up the mountains east of Bear River is the small town of Henifer, and there just happens to be a Sage Grouse lek not far from town. Jennifer, Henifer, Sage Grouse - get it? We were able to time our schedule to pass through Henifer in the early morning, but we were almost too late.

We were at Henifer just after 8 am and true to form, the grouse were displaying in a field about 5 km out of town. I set my camera out the car window and took a few shots. Good thing I did because a minute later the flock took off to the foothills. Memo for next time: Be there before 8 am.

Three years ago I stopped at a small brushy area about a kilometer past the lek and found a Green-tailed Towhee. Just for fun I stopped there again.

Yes, the Green-tailed Towhee was still in residence. That just goes to show how important site fidelity is for birds. I also heard a Vesper Sparrow and Lazuli Bunting, neither of them showed their feathers.

Return to the river - It just happened that our itinerary allowed us to revisit Bear River, and we didn't hesitate. We knew the water conditions wouldn't have improved, but no two days are ever the same. There would always be a few new photo opportunities. Now, isn't it delightful to see a common coot engrossed in its domestic duties.

Snowy Egrets were still scarce, but the first one we saw put on a fishing clinic.

I'm not sure what all the raised plumage was all about but it seemed to do the trick.

The egret was unerring in its strike. The prey was small, but there was more from where it came from.

Bear River is the domain of the Yellow-headed Blackbird. They seemed to be hanging from every bulrush and reed.

"Cruising up the lazy river on a lazy afternoon." These two Western Grebes didn't seem to have a care in the world as they leisurely navigated the waterway.

Prelude to the dance? Once again I was psyched out by the synchronized swimming of the Western Grebes. I was hoping that the next step would be the courting dance but it never happened. One of these days ...

Just another Long-billed Curlew. We've rarely seen more than one together. Are they generally loners or are these the ones who were unable to pair up? I guess I'll have to enroll in curlew 101 to find out.

Hiding in the reeds - Black-crowned Night-Herons have to be classified as one of the most wary birds out there. Only once have I ever been able to approach one undetected.

Most of the time they see or hear me before I realize they are there. I usually just get the rear-end view as they fly off to another secluded spot - another "kiss-my-butt bird ...

Antelope Island Where the Buffalo Roam

Antelope Island is the largest of ten islands in the Great Salt Lake and a Utah State Park. It is a wildlife and birding location that I have grown very fond of despite the occasional and intolerable gnat-attack. It is linked to the mainland by a 7 mile long causeway and requires a day fee of $9 per vehicle. However, it's worth it and a small price to pay to help maintain it as a wildlife sanctuary. It was originally named after the Pronghorn which is not really an antelope, but common usuage has dictated its acceptance as an antelope even if it isn't one. My reference to the buffalo is in deference to the largest wild herd in the country which is maintained at a static level between 500 and 700. The herd has a very successful reproduction rate, but the island can only sustain a limited number of animals.

Have you ever seen 500,000 Eared Grebes at one time? By far the greatest bird spectacle that I have ever seen was huge congregation of Eared Grebes just off the causeway on May 12. The following picture can't do it any justice as it only shows a fraction of the flock that stretched for about 5 miles. They were so dense in one spot that as they swam in unison away from me there was a swoosh like jet engine.

Coyotes are among the many mammals living on the island.

Besides the coyotes I've seen mule deer, jack rabbits, snowshoe rabbits, bison, and pronghorn.

Red-tailed Hawks were the most common hawk seen in our travels. It was no surprise to see on on the island even though I was hoping it would be another species.

Sagebrush covers much of the island. It was no surprise to see the occasional Sage Thrasher perching on top of the plant.

Another common southern bird was the Say's Phoebe. In many cases the Say's was busy preparing for the nesting season.

Antelope Island is also a great for Loggerhead Shrikes. There's probably a nest beside the road on the way to the visitor's centre. I've seen them there every visit.

On this occasion there were two shrikes hanging in the same vicinty and frequently visiting the same bush.

Chukars are a distinctive members of the partridge family widely introduced from Asia. There are even a few on Vancouver Island where they have been introduced as a game bird on private game farms.

Lark Sparrows are fairly common on Antelope. I found this one singing in the morning sun. I was surprised at how approachable this bird was. It never moved while I moved in to optimum camera range and back out again.

I classified pronghorn as quite wary because we never got close to any. However, I had to change my tune when a group of females passed right beside our vehicle. I think we were parked right on their usual travel route, and they weren't about to change their route just because we were in the way.

Heading Home - Bear With Me

I always like to take a different route when we're heading home. This year it was Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Montana, Idaho, Washington, then B.C.

Most people go to Jackson Hole to visit Grand Tetons National Park. Admittedly, the Tetons were grand, but after seeing the rockies, they didn't seem much different. I was more interested in the wildlife I was hoping to see in the National Elk Refuge.

We struck out looking for the elk in the refuge, but we did find a couple of bison herds. Despite the lack of sightings, the potential is great with the miles of fertile habitat. It would be worth several visits.

The bison are always impressive to see. There are only a few herds left in the U.S. It's hard to believe that the prairies used to be covered with bison.

We did see a few birds but no new species. The best was a couple of Sage Thrashers. The only picture I took was a Barn Swallow at the Jackson Hole visitor's centre.

Yellowstone was next. I was surprised that the snow on the roadside for the southern half was still higher than the car. I was even more surprised when we saw a mother grizzly with her three cubs. They were obscured by bushes to prevent any decent pictures. We found a consolation grizzly about 10 minutes later.

The grizzly was about 200 m away in a field but eventually grazed its way towards the road. I have virtually no experience with grizzlies, but from its slight build, I assumed it was a yearling.

The grizzly was within 20 m of the road when it decided to head south. A few cars turned around to get more pictures, but I felt I had the best I could get. The bear seemed content on grazing so I didn't expect any kind of action. We decided to continue north.

Five minutes later I spotted a Sandhill Crane in another field. For some reason I didn't expect a Sandhill in Yellowstone. I guess it was a case of proactive inhibition because of the Grizzlies, Bison, and Elk.

Bison were common and we drove by several small herds, but we had to stop when we saw a calf close to the roadside. Just when I was ready to shoot, it decided to lie down. It wasn't a very exciting shot, but it was full-frame in good light. The parent also decided to lie down. So much for any interesting shot of the two together.

My next photo op was at Anaconda, a former copper mining town just west of Butte, Montana. We checked out the Old Works Golf Course and were excited to encounter a den of foxes. There were two adults and three or four adorable kits. It was my first experience with live foxes. Unfortunately, I only had my small lens with me, otherwise I could have gotten some great portraits. I should revise my previous statement. I was lucky to have my small lens and camera with me. (The glass is half full.)

The den was located in a rocky mound adjacent to the fifth fairway. The kits were playing on the fairway as we approached and were wary but stayed in sight as we slowly passed by.

Part of my travelling routine was to study the local travel guides for potential birding areas. Blue Mountain Road seemed to be a favorable location especially for Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers. However, the guides also warned of a plague of wood ticks which curtailed the idea of a trail hike. Consequently, we just settled on some roadside birding. The first bird that stayed around was a Western Bluebird because it was close to its nest box.

Although I've seen a few bluebirds in my day, this was my first opportunity for a close-up in the sunshine which really accentuated the beauty of the colours.

According to Sibley, female bluebirds could be pale or bright. This looks like a pale female. Bright females have an orangey wash on their chests.

Western Bluebirds once nested on Vancouver Island, but have been extirpated for about thirty years. There is currently an attempt to reintroduce the bluebirds to the island. Habitat loss from human activity and nest competition from Starlings and House Sparrows a speculated to be contributing factors for their demise.

While I was photographing the bluebirds another bird landed close by. It was a Vesper Sparrow which was one of the more common grassland birds that we saw on the trip. On more than one occasion we stopped for a bird foraging on the roadside, and on all occasions it turned out to be a Vesper.

Another day, another state - in fact two states. We were now back in Washington and checking out Turnbull NWR which was a mixture of pothole, pine forest, and grassland habitat. The area was quite birdy and several flycatchers and warblers were seen but not photographed. The first opportunity was several wild Turkeys. Unfortunately, the Turkeys were having no part of the photo shoot. Before I could get the camera out the window, most of them were long gone. All I got was a single fleeting shot through the tall grass.

My next bird was a woodpecker. I was hoping for a new species, but it was not to be. After tracking the bird for about five minutes I finally got a couple of open shots. From the photos it appears to be 100% Hairy.

There were many Western Bluebirds in the area and it soon became obvious why. There were nest boxes posted in many places. I tried my best for a shot in the natural setting, but the bluebirds were were extremely wary. The best I got was a distant shot from about 20 m.

My final bird at Turnbull was a flycatcher. I believe it is a Western Wood Peewee, a bird that has eluded close up views for years. I managed to get get within reasonable proximity for my best ever shot.

Welcome Back to B.C.

My travel plans called for re-entry to B.C. just south of Osoyoos so I could check out a few birding areas like Road 22 and White Lake Road. Murphy must have known and just like two years ago we were welcomed by a steady drizzle of rain. That warranted a disappointing two minute birdless drive through Road 22 and then a quick trip to Penticton where I was planning on checking with Dick or Russell Cannings for some local birding tips. Unfortunately, Murphy was still on the job with his rain ,and we had to settle for Starbucks at a shopping centre before being the rain chased us to Kelowna.

In Kelowna I cashed in my Best Western points for a comfortable stay in Best Western Waterside. We had stayed at many BW's on the trip and were very satisfied with their service. My plans next day were to check out Big White and Beaver Lake Road. I was tempted to look for the White-faced Ibis reported at Mission Creek but without knowing my way around, I decided it could be a waste of time. I stuck to my Big White trip and was disappointed to see only a few common birds like robins and juncos, and to top it off, a snow squall at the village. However, our luck improved on the way down when we encountered a sleepy black bear. I had never bothered twitching black bears, but I would never turn down an invitation.

The brown black bear was busy munching on horsetails at the side of the road. Fortunately, there was no traffic and we had exclusive access for pictures from across the road.

The bear was very cooperative and continued feast on the vegetation until it ran out. I thought I got all the pictures I wanted, but I found out later only a few turned out. I didn't realize that with spot exposure my shutter speed was down to about 1/30 of a second. Despite bright filtered light I still lost most of my shots because I hadn't checked the shutter speed.

Beaver Lake Road was next on the itinerary, and my first bird was one on the side of the road. Remember my comment about roadside birds? Yes, it was indeed a Vesper Sparrow. It's interesting that the four roadside Vespers were all very cooperative. They were so engrossed in their foraging that they had an extreme tolerance for close up traffic and drive-by photographers. As long as I stayed in the car I was able to approach within the optimum distance of about 6.5 m.

A common bird we saw everywhere from southern Utah to Kelowna was the Mourning Dove. I generally avoid pictures on the wire, but as my old buddy who is named Buddy used to say, "Beggars can't be choosy." Just in case I didn't find any more birds, I took the picture.

Another bird on the wire - Western kingbirds weren't the most common bird on our trip, but we were still on the kingbird highway and they were common enough. No, I don't have any intentions of publishing Blackbird Highway.

West is west and east is east and they were right next to each other. Our next fence bird was an Eastern Kingbird. I was grateful that it wasn't on the wire, but that would soon change.

The kingbird proceeded to hop onto the wire where it eventually relieved itself of an undigestible blackberry.

My final bird was another blue only this time it was a Mountain Bluebird. I had seen quite a few on our trip, but none for cooperative for photo ops. This one was almost out of range but I wanted the photo to see what it was having for lunch. Actually, it was probably for someone else's lunch as it flew off with the caterpillar.

The Best for the Last

Our final birding destination was Scout Island at Williams Lake. With the variable weather conditions we were undecided as to whether it would be worth the 200 k detour. However, Murphy must have been sleeping because we were greeted by sunny skies when we woke, and we were able to enjoy Scout Island in the sunshine.

I had no recollection of Williams Lake. It had been over 40 years since I had driven through there to my first ever job at Sinclair Mills. After visiting Scout Island I still have no idea about the town. My main interest was to check out Scout Island which just happened to be at the southern edge of the town. With Whistler our scheduled destination for the day, we never had a chance to check out the town. However, Scout Island definitely got the thumbs up. It was loaded with birds including numerous warblers like this gorgeous male Yellow-rumped.

Scout Island offers a variety of habitats from marshland to mixed conifer and deciduous forest. I spotted a couple of sparrows on a pile of branches in a field. They turned out to be Lincoln's, and it appeared that they were setting up house under the branches.

Warblers were flitting everywhere, and I focussed on a Wilson's. The bird never quit moving and I spent way too much time trying to get the picture. Finally, I decided it was time to move on. This was my best result for the half hour invested.

After the frustrating episode with the warbler, I found an easier target.

There were goslings of several sizes in the group, obviously from different families.

Evening Grosbeaks are always a treat to see. They were foraging near the base of a huge tree close to the visitors centre. With the regular traffic of visitors the birds didn't stay long.

The best sighting was an American White Pelican sleeping in the marsh. I wasn't entirely surprised to see it as the species does breed in the Chilcotin. I believe the location is Stum Lake which is a protected conservation area.

Red-necked Grebes were a common sight in the lake. I mentioned to my wife that they probably nested in the area and build floating nests.

The information about the nests piqued her curiosity. Not only did she find a close up grebe for me to photography, she also found a pair of grebes in the process of building their floating nest.

It was fun watching the two grebes gathering reeds and other material for the nest.

With the teamwork and industriousness, it probably didn't take long to complete the nest.

Did I mention there were a lot of Yellow-rumpeds? Just kidding, I know I did. Just before leaving, I was trudging through the muddy Willow Trail when I spotted a Yellow-rumped fly-catching. I stopped to watch the action then took a few pictures.

Obviously, it was a productive spot as the warbler continued it's routine for over ten minutes. It was still there when I left.

Scout Island was the final photo destination of the trip. It was time to put away the camera and enjoy the trip through Lillooet to Whistler and then home. However, you'll have to BEAR with me as I did take the camera out during a slight diversion to the Olympic cross-country area near Whistler. Sorry for ending so abruptly, but as you probably noticed, this is an unedited rush job that is long overdue.


Bird Poster

My poster is on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House. (Note: This poster has been produced in a more manageable size and is now available for $20 unlaminated and $32 laminated.)
























Port Hardy - MUSEUM


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