One of the first orders of business for 2022 was to find the elusive pheasants on Hodges Road. Local birder, Greg Robertson, had seen them regularly during 2021. However, despite his money-back guarantee, I was zero for four in my first attempts to see and photograph the beautiful birds. I know they aren't native, but they are undisputedly one of the most beautiful birds you'll ever see, and they are one alien species that seems to have no negative effects on our native birds or environment. My first foray of the year down Hodges was on a sunny January 17 morning to search for raptors. As I watched a Red-tailed circling low over the field a brilliantly coloured cock pheasant strutted tentatively along the fenceline. I slowly pulled my car into position while the pheasant hesitated and grabbed a few record shots just before the skittish bird started to retreat down the field. I came, I saw, and I recorded - mission accomplished. Was it was an omen for a good year of birding?


One of the challenges for the first few months of every year is to successfully photograph the Long-tailed Ducks at Deep Bay which is 50 km northwest of Nanoose Bay. They can arrive back from their Arctic nesting grounds as early as mid-October and depart again in April shortly after the annual herring spawn giving me a window of 3 to 5 months to improve on my shots from previous years. Success depends on several factors. First, the ducks have to be present at the spit. Some years they are there in fairly good numbers ( 10 - 20) but other years there would be only a few (3 - 4). Second, they have to be obliging in the sense that they will occasionally come within 10 to 15 meters of shore. The closer the better to minimize cropping the photos. Yes, having more megapixels like the Sony a1 50 MP would help, but I'm still stuck with camera envy and the 20.9 MP Nikon D500. Some years I've had luck with close shots but on the average the ducks have kept their distance around 25 to 50 meters away from shore. Third, weather conditions are important and can make a difference between good results and no reults at all. It's a 50 km drive to Deep Bay, and I usually don't bother going to Deep Bay unless the weather looks decent. Unfortunately, the weather conditions can vary significantly and perfect conditions in Nanoose Bay don't always translate to good conditons in Deep Bay, but that's the chance one has to take.

Okay, if I have plenty of ducks present and obligingly close to shore; blue skies with the sun at my back; and glassy calm waters, what else do I need? Yes, the perfect pose. Each to their own, but my facorite shots are the front or back angle with the the tail curling up. I've come close with birds in the distance, but I'm still waiting for that full frame or almost full-frame shot.

Fortunately, if the Long-taileds weren't around there were generally a few other birds in the vicinity. In the past I've encountered a variety of species including Marbled Murrelets, Pigeon Guillemots, 3 species of grebes, 3 species of loons, three species of cormorants, many species, of ducks, and a variety od shorebirds and gulls. The most common has to be the the Red-necked Grebe in the above photo. At least one or two have been present in over 90% of my visits. Most of the time they stay just out of range for decent shots but occasionally one would venture closer to shore. My theory is that they like to forage at a specific depth which seems to be 30 to 50 m offshore.

Another common bird that frequents the spit is the Red-breasted Merganser. Most of the time it zips by in flight before you can raise your camera, but if you're lucky you might find one busily foraging along the shoreline. The best scenario is when you see one working its way towards you close to shore. If you stay still you might be rewarded with some close-up shots before it sees you. In the past I've scored several ful-frame shots before the duck was aware of my presence, but the best was when a posse of mergansers had a feeding frenzy of gunnel fish right in front of me.

Over years Surf Scoters have become more common around the spit. The colourful clown-like faces of the males always brings a smile to my face and they are fun to photograph.

Northern Pintails aren't common around the spit, and it's a bonus to see one fly by on its way to its favorite dabbling locations.

I bet you thought I would never get to the Long-taileds. 2022 was actually a good year for Long-tailed abundance at Deep Bay Spit. They were often present, but just a bit to distant for those full frame or slightly cropped shots. There were often up to 20 ducks present whereas last year it was only the same four ducks that frequented the location.

In all my trips I only encountered sunny skies and relatively calm waters once. This was a fairly decent day and the ducks were present, but most of the days were windy, cloudy, stormy or all of the above. You can tell this was a fairly distant shot with a substantial crop. How? Notice that both ducks are close to being in focus. If they were closer the female would be noticeably out of focus.

I encountered windy and stormy conditions at least 80% of the times I visited Deep Bay this year which was frustrating especially if it were sunny and calm when I left home. However, over the years I have learned the weather can vary significantly from Nanoose Bay to Deep Bay. While it didn't bother the birds, the choppy water made focussing difficult and often provided an undesirable background. (Photo - pair of female Long-taileds)

Flight shots are always a challenge, but the latest mirrorless cameras with 50 or 60 megapixel sensors and amazing auto-focussing and tracking capabilities have set a new standard. Many photographers with the new Sony and Canon gear now routinely capture superb flight photos of even the smallest songbirds. Yes, I have camera envy and hope my next lottery ticket will be a winner.

Many waterfowl use their webbed feet as water skis for their landings, but the Long-tailed prefered the belly landing like the old Gruman Goose airplane.

My last Long-tailed visit was on Feb. 21. It was sunny and calm in Nanoose Bay, but I was greeted by bone-chilling winds that cut through my jacket like a laser. Fortunately, I had an extra jacket, gloves, and rain pants in the car and decided to tough it out with the extra insulation. The wind never relented as it regularly gusted over 50 km/h; however, the Long-taileds were unfazed and seemed to be enjoying the stormy conditions as they bounced and tossed in the giant waves. It was difficult holding the camera steady with frozen hands in the blistering wind and hard to autofocus with the choppy conditions, but I did manage a few decent shots and this was one of my favorites.

Getting photos of the Long-taileds with their tails up is often a challenge, but with the whistling wind they couldn't keep their tails down. I love this back shoulder pose, but you guessed it, it was a large crop.

Tail up again for the front shoulder shot - I like it but not as much as the back shoulder view.

As it turned out, 2022 wasn't a banner year. The good news was the birds were generally present, but the bad news was they were rarely close and less than ideal weather conditions was the norm. However, that did not diminish the enjoyment I had with each visit: an abundance of Long-taileds, lovely scenery, fresh air, lots of photo opportunities, and just the joy of photography. (As of Dec. 28/22 the Long-taileds have not been frequenting the spit.)


February is the time to watch for amorous activities by Bald Eagles like this pair at Helliwell Park on Hornby Island. Eggs are often laid in early March and hatch by mid to late April.


Patience, perseverence, knowledge, and luck are often the ingredients of a good photo. In this case all of the above were checked. First, I knew that the tree on Coldwater was often the favorite perch of a variety of raptors. Two years ago I photographed an American Kestrel in that exact location. Today, I made the routine check of Coldwater as I often did when in the area and was rewarded by an immature Red-tailed sunning itself on top of the tree. I slowly eased my vehicle into position and readied my camera for a shot. The hawk showed no sign of flight while I clicked a few shots, then it was the waiting game as I decided to wait for a possible launch and/or flight shot. I waited and waited and waited ... you get the picture - the hawk showed no signs of flying, and I was determined to wait until it did. Finally, after an hour and 10 minutes it started to look down moving its head to and fro to get a better look at a possible meal. It dove, and I was ready. The hawk came up empty, but I got the shot I wanted.


For longer than I can remember (over 20 years) the eagle nest at Boyle Point on Denman Island was the go-to destination for Bald Eagle photography. Even photographers from south of the border made the trek just for the rare chance to look down into the nest and photograph the nesting activities of the eagles. Unfortunately, the original nest tree was rooted in the rocky shoreline which limited the health and growth potential of the tree, and it blew down some time in late 2015. Luckily, there was another suitable nest tree a short distant to the west where the eagles rebuilt and successfully raised a family in 2016. However, like the previous nest tree it wasn't a healthy tree and snapped in two during some gale force winds in late 2021. I made the trek in early 2022 to survey the scene and all that was left was the bottom half of the tree. The best eagle photography site on Vancouver Island was gone. Hopefully, the homeless adults we able to successfully relocate.

While I was there an eagle landed in a tree just to the west of where I was standing. It was only about 10 m away, but I only had a small window through the branches to see it. Of course, I couldn't be certain, but I did imagine it was one of the nesting adults. It gave me a knowing glance as if to say goodbye then flew to the west.


Aesop's fable of the golden goose was written almost 3,000 years ago, but there have been many who haven't learned or decided to ignore the lesson. You don't have to look far to find an example. The Atlantic cod was once the most abundant and important fish in the world, but fishers and governments ignored the scientific evidence and warnings. Fishers invested in bigger and more advanced technology and lobbied governments to increase quotas and continue fishing with reckless abandon. The money was flowing in and the economy was thriving until the inevitable happened. Cod populations crashed in 1992 and a moratorium on fishing was finally imposed in 1993. In Canada alone over 30, 000 jobs were lost and many fishing communities were devastated. The golden cod was dead and you didn't need an autopsy to see why and who was responsible.

Fast forward to 2022. Despite the failure many Canadian fisheriesand the Pacific coast herring stocks on the brink of oblivion and protests and warnings by scientists, environmentalists, naturalists, First Nations, and concerned citizens, DFO opened the Salish Sea herring fishery on March 3. By March 5 the fishers had caught 50% of their quota, but for the next 23 days of aerial and marine searches no other herring was found. The fishery was finally closed of March 28. Did the herring just elude discovery or was the golden herring dead? Only time will tell. Regardless, it's time to sober up and admit that there should be no commercial herring fishery in the first place. As a foundation species the traditional wisdom would be to let the herring flourish for the benefit of all the species up the food chain like cod, salmon, seals, sea lions, orcas, dolphins, sea birds, and shorebirds, and the general health of the coastal marine ecosystem. It doesn't take a genius to see that the declines of lucrative fisheries like salmon and cod were directly linked to the devastation of coast herring populations by industrial fishing. In the end we all benefit with the increase in abundance of all the species up the food chain and a healthy, diverse, and flourishing environment.

Once again it has been proven that the current set up with industrial fishing and DFO controlling the fishery doesn't work. The DFO is simply a pawn of the fishing industry and their mandate is to keep the money flowing right to the bitter end. Even after the massive failures of the Atlantic Cod and the Pacific herring and salmon, they are still allowing fishing to continue in 13% of other critically endangered stocks, and they have no idea of the status of 43% of the stocks in their jurisdiction.

The solution is simple - set up an independent body with the mandate to conserve and enhance natural resources and preserve the environment based on science and traditional knowledge. Any harvesting allocations would then be controlled by this body without political nterference.

While it is true that there are many other factors that have affected the sustainability of the herring stocks, there is only one facctor that we can immediately control, and that is the amount we harvest. Hopefully, it's not too late, and any remaining stocks will be sufficient to rebuild.

Despite the protests of many including Conservancy Hornby Island (CHI), the herring fishery was opened on March 3.

The last remaining herring population on the Pacific coast had beeen managed down a critical survival level, but DFO was still allowing the fishery to continue.

The fishers were out in numbers but only half the quota was caught. Intense aerial and marine searches for the next 23 days did not find any more herring and the fishery was finally closed on March 28. It is strange that there has been very little media attention paid to the collapse of herring fishery. Normally there would be many articles about the failure of the fishery, but the only article I could find on the internet was by Conservancy Hornby Island.

The decline of the herring fishery was felt by many species up the food chain. Many migrating ducks and seabirds were deprived of their final treat before continuing to their breeding grounds.

Without the bounty of herring roe the usual congregations of Brant along the coast were absent

A few flocks of Greater Scaup were seen around Fanny Bay but the usual huge rafts of Surf Scoters, Scaups, and other ducks did not materialize. The decline of ducks and seabirds associated with the herring spawn has been noted over the past few years. Is there a correlation between abundant herring resources and reproductive success of these avian species?


2022 featured one of the coldest and wettest springs I can recall. Garden crops like squash and cucumber had to be replanted in mid-June which was unprecedented. Bird migration was also affected. Many species were noticeably late, and our usual influx of bats never occured at all.

Yellow-rumped warblers normally show up in numbers by early March, but by March 19 only the occasional one was seen.

Normally, there would be a huge influx of Audubon Yellow-rumpeds in early March followed by the Myrtles by mid-March.

My first Rufous Hummingbird fianlly showed up on April 3rd, almost two weeks later than usual. Although the numbers were decent (2 cups/day), they never came close to the years when up to 14 cups of nectar per day was consumed. The decline in numbers is concerning as it is a sign of environmental degradation somewhere or everywhere along the migratory trail.
















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