Eggs or chicks? My next chance to visit the eagles' nest was on Thur. April 19. It was just over 5 weeks since the first egg was laid. I was hoping the first egg had hatched. When I arrived at Boyle Point I wasn't surprised to see my eagle fanatic buddies Wayne and Pete. They gave me the thumb's up which I interpreted as "egg hatched." Wayne had been there there the day before and estimated that the chick had hatched on Tue. or early Wed. I set up and waited patiently for the mother eagle to move.
20 minutes later Mrs. Eagle began calling to her partner who was perched on a tree top across from the Chrome Island Lighthouse. I think she said, It's time to feed the baby and after that I need a break."
A minute later she got up and revealed a tiny, cute, and fluffy little chick and the other egg. Just as she announced, she began feeding the fuzzy little chick. I admired the gentle care of the mother as it tore off a small piece of fish from a carcass and carefully placed it at the bill of chick. The chick instinctively opened its bill and gobbled the treat.
After the feeding session it was quite a sight to see Mr. Eagle winging in from the east clutching a long tangle of dried up seaweed. The seaweed would provide extra cushioning for the nest.
The eagles exchanged greetings and Mrs. Eagle informed her partner that the chick had just been fed, and it was time for its 10:30 nap. ( Can you tell which eagle is the male? You're right. The male eagle on the right is smaller than the female on the left.)
After instructiong her partner to look after the chick, she headed off to the east for a little excercise and then some R & R on her favoritie tree. Meanwhile, the male gently shuffled into position and lay down on the chick and remaining egg.
That was my cue to pack up and leave. I had seen and photographed the first chick which was my objective. As a bonus the sky was lightly overcast which is the ideal condition for eagle photography. We had no problem catching the 11:45 ferry, but as expected there was a substantial line-up at Tidal Taco so we didn't get our much anticipated fish taco lunch.
On May 2 I had a phone call from Bruce who lived on Madrona Drive. He suspected that Peregrine Falcons were nesting in a large tree in his back yard. Madrona was only 5 km away so I packed the camera and headed out. I had my doubts about Pererines because I thought they nested on cliffs, but in search of the truth I had to go. As I pulled up to the home I noticed a bird on top of a tall fir. I parked, grabbed the camera a got a shot just as the bird launched itself. Just as I suspected, it was a Merlin.
One of the most difficult birds to photograph is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Not only is it minute, but it is also an example of perpetual motion as it skips and bounces around searching for insects. One afternoon I was parked at the end of Johnson Rd. watching for ducks and Brant foraging on the washed up herring spawn. To my disappointment there were only a few gulls, but in the blackberry and wild rose thicket beside me a pair of Ruby-crowneds were foraging. It took me a half hour, but the two birds continually worked a circuit from the back of the thicket to the front, and I finally got a couple of decent shots. As you might know, it only takes one good shot to make a day, and the Ruby-crowned made my day.
Whenever I have some spare time and the weather conditions offer filtered sunlight I can't resist watching and photographing the hummingbirds. If it's too bright the reflection off the male gorget and fremale neck feathers produce too much glare and that washes out the definition of the individual feathers.
While watching the hummers a few other birds occasionally venture by my field of vision. On one occasion there was a large movement of Varied Thrush through the yard. I counted a dozen in my field of view and there were many more around the yard and in the trees. Most were out of camera range, but a couple foraged towards me until they were in range like the male in the photo.
In my early years of photography I often checked out the Morningstar sewage ponds during the spring. It was a great place to find Yellow-rumped Warblers as well as a selection of ducks, but I hadn't been there for many years. On April 17 I decided it was time for a visit, and I wasn't disappointed. It was fun just to see the Yellow-rumpeds flitting about every tree and darting out over the pond to grab an insect. I picked out a strategic spot with the sun over my right shoulder and waited for a Yellow-rumped to land close by. It didn't take long before a white-throated Myrtle-like Yellow-rumped to land in the area and stop briefly for a photo. I've been told that most of the Myrtle-like birds we see are actually hybrids so I'm leaving it up to you to decide if this is a Myrtle or hybrid.
90% of the birds had white throats, but I finally found one that had a bright yellow throat which is typical of the western Audubon subspecies.
There were a number of ducks in the pond and most were the expected species like Mallards, Buffleheads, and Greater Scaup. The species I didn't expect based on past visits was the Wood Duck. I spotted one pair in the first pond then another 3 pairs in the second pond.
On the way to the second pond I saw a large turtle with yellow markings. A few people thought it was our native Western Painted Turtle, but it was finally correctly identified as an alien Red Slider. Apparently Red Sliders have dispplaced our native turtles in many regions of BC.
The Anna's is an uncommon visitor to my yard so it was a real treat to have one visit and actually sit for a second while I took the picture.
Meanwhile, the Rufous continuously entertained me with their antics especially with the bulrush fluff. Most gathered the fluff for their nests, but I think there were a few non-breeders that were just playing copycat. They would gather some fluff then try to drink some nectar with the fluff still on their bill which didn't work too well.
Another surprise yard visitor was a solitary Townsend's Solitaire. They are very uncommon around here, but last year I had a couple stay for a month. This one was only seen once before it disappeared.
On April 23 I returned to Denman with the hopes of seeing both eaglets. Assuming the first egg hatched on Apr. 17 the the second egg probably hatched on the 20th or 21st. Again it was no surprise to see Wayne and Pete at the point. As usual they caught the first ferry at 7:40 while I opted the 8:20. I was happy to get the thumbs up from Wayne which I interpreted as the successful hatching of the second chick, but I was disappointed when he said they had just been fed. However, it was beautiful, sunny day, and there was no better spot to spend a few hours with some fellow photographers. As a bonus it was a pleasure to meet Pam Mullins again. I met her last year while looking for Pygmy Owls, and she made the trip over again from Sechelt to visit the eagles' nest. Another bonus was meeting Bruce Moffat who is a relative new-comer to the island. We had actually met last fall at Fanny Bay where I was doing a presentation on birds. I must admit that I didn't recognize him at first, but I'm glad he remembered me as I enjoyed his company on the trek in and out from the nest.
Patience finally paid off as the 10 am feeding was right on schedule. It was a joy to see the two fuzzy chicks while the mother eagle gently offered them bite-sized pieces of fish. I was glad to see that the larger sibling was not aggressive like the older sibling two years ago. The younger sibling received its fair share of food which I hoped was a sign that the two chicks would grow up successfully together.
On our way home we stopped at Deep Bay hoping to find a Horned Grebe in breeding plumage. I was surprised to find a flock of about 50 Surf Scoters loitering off the spit. As usual, they would all dive in unison then pop up like corks. My guess was that they were feeding on herring smolts. Of course, being spring it was also time for the males to impress the females so there was a lot of posturing and showing off happening.
Another surprise was a late bunch of Long-tailed ducks. There weren't any mature males in the group so I assumed they were mostly non-breeding sub-adults.
There were a few Red-necked Grebes hanging around but no Horned Grebes until I was almost ready pack up. As usual it snuck up on me from the east side of the spit while I was facing west. I'm always amazed at the dramatic plumage change from March to April.
Once again we stopped at Morningstar pond on the way home. I was going to point out the Red Slider to my wife, but it changed its costume to a Western Painted.
It had been a week since I visited the eagles, and by coincidence Bruce was on the same ferry. This time we had the site to ourselves. It didn't take long we had some activity. After the feeding an interesting situation prevailed. The male eagle on its sentry tree across from the lighthouse sounded the alarm of an enemy intruder in the airspace. Immediately the female responded as if to say, "Let's take care of it."
There was no hesitation as the female joined the male escorting the intruding eagle to the west.
We were all concerned about the two eaglets left helplessly in the nest, but both parents returned in short order and no harm was done.
When the parents returned they compared notes and had a good laugh about the situation.
With everything back to normal the male parent headed back to it's sentry tree to watch for the next intruder.
The two eaglets weren't sure what all the commotion was about, but they didn't care as long as it didn't disrupt their feeding schedule.
A few minutes later it was nap time again.
On our way out of the park I asked Bruce if he wanted to check out Eagle Rock. Of course, he was game and willing to explore anything new. My hope was that we might spot some Pigeon Guillemots or Marbled Murrelets near the rock, but we didn't see anything in the water. However, we did enjoy a bountiful display of wildflowers like chocolate lilies, monkey flowers, and seablush. While I was focussing on some chocolate lilies I waited for a bumblebee to fly into the frame just for some added interest.
Surprisingly, the only bird we saw on Eagle Rock was a Violet Green Swallow. It landed on a snag close to use and rested conveniently while we took some pictures. With a little patience I was finally able to get a shot that revealed a little violet plumage.