Journal 452


Yes, it's been a long time since I've tended to this site. Suffice to say there have been very few photo opportunities in the past three months. Half the blame was Mother Nature for one of the wettest winters we have experienced in many years, and the other half was my preoccupation with some of the essentials of life. Now that the sun has been showing up occasionally, and it's getting close to herring season, I'm hoping for more opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and do a little photography.


Somehow the phrase "Publish or perish" has always stuck in my mind even though it really doesn't apply to me. I suppose it does in the sense that if I self-publish another book, I'll be aound for the next 10 years trying to market it. What doesn't make sense is that since I still have copies of my last 3 books to market, why should I be contemplating another book? However, it is easy to delude oneself and imagine that they'll all be sold someday. Anyway, the dark days of winter gave me cabin fever, and as a source of escapism I decided to work on the new book. My reasons are outlined in the prologue of the book.

I had no intention of producing another book, but somehow the planets or birds aligned, and I was inspired. First, I had always known that many people had been using my coffee table books as bird guides even though they were not designed as guides. Second, interest in my Eldercollege courses and group presentations on Vancouver Island birds was overwhelming. In 2018 I offered one Eldercollege course on Vancouver Island birds in Parksville. It was filled up on the first day of registration, and there was a waitlist of 69. In 2019 I offered 3 sessions, and there was still a waitlist of 82. Clearly, there was a lot of interest in birds, and the time seemed right to produce my version of A Beginner's Guide to Common Vancouver Island Birds .

I should also mention that attendance at my group presentations has always been excellent with capacity crowds at every event including recent gigs for the Qualicum Garden Club and the Nanaimo Naturalists. As well, invitations continue to arrive, and I have bookings for 2 more Eldercollege courses in Parksville, 2 courses at North Island College in Courtenay, Nanoose Bay Probus Club, Mill Bay Garden Club, and Nanaimo Garden Club.


The obvious peril of traditional publishing is getting stuck with a basement full of books. Although publishing has evolved to favor a print on demand format, the reality is that the only way to keep the price down is is to order a large quantity. Unfortunately, keeping the price down might mean very little return on investment. If your books are to be sold in bookstores, they require a 40% - 45% discount on the sale price. In other words, if your book is priced at $30, you have to sell it to the store for $18. Depending on the quantity you order, the book could cost up to $12 or more just to print. Factor in some of the other expenses and you'll wonder if it is worthwhile. The only viable way to get around the problem is direct sales. That means selling directly to the public. That's not easy. First you have to change your personna if you are the introverted type. Second, you have to find ways to access the public. That's where you have to sell yourself and hope you get a lot of invitations from clubs and interested groups for speak and sell sessions. Getting a book review from your local media (newspaper, radio, tv) is important. Social media is also great if you're into that, but I don't even own a smart phone and have never tried facebook, twitter, or any of those programs. Anyway, I'm sure you get my drift - getting to print is only half the problem. Marketing is the other half.

Now that I've dealt with the second half of the problem, let's look at some other obstacles. First, make sure you have a viable topic that is marketable. For example, would a book on spiders sell well? I don't think so. Second, check the market. How many books are already on the same topic? In my case there isn't a decent bird guide for Vancouver Island so I have the niche all to myself, and as mentioned in my prologue, I'm confident that there is enough interest to make it a desirable product.

Producing a book by yourself is not as difficult as you think. The technical aspects of it is familiar to any student who has worked on her/his school yearbook. The only programs I use are the outdated CS2 Adobe Photoshop and Indesign. They are still working (touch wood) and provide all the basics I require to produce the cover and all the pages of the book and format it in PDF ready for the printer. (I recommend Friesens Corporation for their excellent customer service, technical assistance, and high quality production.) I use InDesign to format my cover and all my pages. I start by coming up with a design based on my photos and allowing space to insert the text. Try to have a consistent design for the whole book if you want it to look professional. Next, the content. In my case I had to come up with over 250 photos of the common birds. All publishers do it by trying to get free photos from as many photgraphers as they can. For the the photos they can't get for free they buy from the stock photo companies. Luckily that wasn't my situation. Here's the quote from my book prologue.

The second obstacle was photos. Unlike most publishers my intent was to use mostly my own photos. If I could provide 90% of the photos, the book would be a go. After hours of scouring my photo collection that went back to 2004 I found about 95% of what I needed. Most of the shots were from the island, and some were from various off-island fieldtrips. I was only short 8 birds. Thanks to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (Errington), and Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (Merville) I was able to tick off 2 birds. An email to Melissa Hafting scored 4 more birds, and she referred me to Eric Ellingson for number 7. Finally, I knew I could rely on Steve Large (the Owl Man) for number 8, and he did not disappoint. (Thanks Melissa, Eric, & Steve.)

With all the photos available it will be a simple but tedious task to crop them at the right size and make sure they are all at 300 dpi or better. Next, I'll place all the photos on the correct pages and then research and write the text for 250 birds. When all the photos and text are in place there will be the arduous task of reviewing, revising, making design changes, proofreading, and editing. My plan is to have all the design changes and editing completed in late March and printing completed by late April. Here's my cover photo.

For the cover I always try to find an appealing or interesting bird photo and base my design to highlight the bird. This is one of my favorite Belted Kingfisher photos.


This is not the "kiss my butt" bird. Can you guess what it is? No fair. You looked at the next photo.

I was waiting for the ferry to Denman Island on Nov. 27 when I noticed some Red-breasted Mergansers diving beside the ferry wharf. It was very windy and cold, but that didn't bother the ducks, and they seemed to be having a lot of success with the fish. The wharf provided protection for the ducks, but I wondered if it also attracted the fish. This sculpin was a tasty snack for the merganser.

One of the most common forage fish for aquatic birds seems to be gunnel fish which look like eels. I've been told that we have no small eels in our near shore waters.

Sea Lions seem to be everywhere, and with the herring spawn on the horizon, there will be more sea lions than ever.

It wasn't so long ago (June) that I was looking for breeding plumaged Pacific Loons in Campbell River. By Nov. 20th they were back in winter plumage.

I hadn't seen Pacific Loons at French Creek in over 10 years. It was fun to see a pair cruising up the mouth of the creek at high tide. They came right in past the washroom then worked their way back out. They repeated the process three times while I was there.

I was happy to see the Black scoter flock back at Qualicum Beach this year. Last year they were AWOL 90% of the time I drove by. I spotted them close to the walkway on Nov. 20 and took a quick picture from the car before some pedestrians got too close. I managed two clicks before the pedestrians arrived, and the scoters exited stage north. It was too cold to sit an wait on the beach, and it was also too busy with pedestrian traffic for the scoters to return. As well, it was Nov. 20th and the window of opportunity for sunshine was only about an hour.

I told you there were a lot of sea lions around. There was a bunch of them at the end of the French Creek breakwater on Feb. 2. It's a favoritie roosting spot for them.

Parksville Park has hosted a small flock of Snow Geese all winter. I first saw them in November, and I hear they are still in town.

A lone Greater White-fronted goose has been keeping the snowies company. It has also been in town since November.

The geese seem to be very comfortable in the park. I don't know if there has been any problem with dogs chasing them.

On February 3 I was driving through Qualicum Beach when I noticed a flock of Common Goldeneye surfing on the giant waves. It was a brisk, sunny and bitterly cold, windy winter day, but I had a warm jacket, touque, and gloves. The scene was too good to resist.

Usually the Common Goldeneye are only around as scattered individuals or pairs. A flock was quite unusual. It was a challenge but fun trying to get some action shots.

The cold, crisp, winter air is excellent for photography. These ducks were over a hundred feet away, but the resolution was still good.

Further down the beach I disvovered some scoters diving in the frothy waters neart shore. A pair of male Surf Scoters gradually worked their way right in front of me. They were diving for varnish clams.

Black Scoters were also present. White-winged Scoters are uncommon in this location.

For some reason female Black Scoters have been difficult to photograph in isolation. They are usually surrounded by several males. However, today was different. There were several females foraging on their own.

It was fun watching the scoters ride up on the waves. The goldeneye preferred to dive into the wave.

Cute but messy. I watched a family of otters climb onto the wharf at French Creek. They did a bit of pooping and peeing before they slipped back into the water.

If you see a pair of American Kestrels spring can't be far away. I just made that up. However, it has been about 13 years since I have seen a pair of kestrels. Right now there is a pair on Coldwater Road in Parksville. The female has a streaked chest.

The kestrel is definitely our most photogenic bird. I was lucky when the male left the tree he was on. He did some hovering then flew in a large circle. I was reading just in case he came back to the tree. I won't try to fool you. It was a cloudy day so I had to change the sky to blue. I did it for the next shot too.

I wasn't quite ready when the wind blew the male off his perch so this picture is just slightly out of focus.

Here's the pair. Spring is coming. How close were they? 200 feet. Like I said, this cold, winter air is great for photos.

Here's a bonus for photographers. According to Dukie it has been in French Creek marina for about 5 days. It's the first male Long-tailed Duck I've ever seen there.

Notice the large bill on this goldeneye. That's a fieldmark for a Common Goldeneye.

Double-crested Cormorants are a common site around French Creek and every marina around the island.




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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