Oct. 20/04, 2004 - WINTER DOLDRUMS? - If there's any part of the year that is slow for photo-birding, it's late fall and winter. Less daylight, less sunshine, fewer birds, and maybe less enthusiasm (serotonin deprivation), but let's not harp on the negatives. Think of the opportunities. It's the time to reacquaint ourselves to our permanent and winter residents like the ducks, grebes, and loons. As the winter progresses, the ducks get bolder, more accustomed to people, and easier to photograph. The Qualicum seawall, French Creek Harbour, Deep Bay Spit, Courtenay Airpark, and Comox's Goose Spit are some of my favorite spots for winter photo-birding. Don't be surprised at my theme for the next few months, "New photos, same birds."
NEGLECTED ROYALTY - One of the most common questions people ask when they see me with my camera is, "Did you get that eagle?" My most frequent answer is, "No, I'm looking for some shorebirds or seabirds." I must admit that I sometimes take the majestic Bald Eagle for granted, but just to show my respect, I clicked a few shots in Qualicum last week. (Oct. 14/04)
WINTER BEAUTY - One of the prettiest ducks is the Harlequin which is common along the shorelines of Vancouver Island during the winter. There are always a few relaxing near the viewing platform at Qualicum Beach. They love to sun themselves on the rocks at low tide. (Qualicum - Oct. 14/04)
SCOTER QUIZ - Now's the chance for you beginners to learn your Scoters - at least the males.
SCOTER #1 - My distinguishing features are a white "comma" under my eye and white wing patches that are prominent when I am flying. (Qualicum - Oct. 18/04)
SCOTER #2 - I have a bright yellow knob on my upper bill, but the rest of me is black. (Qualicum - Oct. 18/04)
SCOTER #3 - You can't mistake me with my technicolor bill and fore and aft white head patches. Rumor has it that I love to surf! (Qualicum - Oct. 20)
Answers: White-winged, Black, & Surf.
FEEDER FREELOADER - The sunflower seeds in my feeders and suet blocks have been disappearing at an exponential rate since the Steller Jays arrived for the winter. (Nanoose - Oct. 14/04)
CLASS CLOWNS - No disrespect intended, but the Black oystercatchers are always fun to watch. (The Black Turnstone agrees.)(Qualicum - Oct. 20/04)
Oct. 21/04 - With the weatherman promising rain for the next few days, I couldn't pass up the only sunny day left of the week. I decided to do the REDTAIL RUN from Nanoose to Deep Bay along the Island Highway. The sun had just barely risen by 8:30 as I passed the Nanoose Estuary. I quickly glanced at the eagle tree in the estuary and was elated to see the Nanoose Creek Redtail silhouetted against the wild rose sky. It was too far for a photo so I carried on. (I'll get it sometime when the light is better.) After gassing up at the Petrocan, I proceeded north, not minding the slow loaded logging truck crawling in front of me. As I crossed the overpass to the Alberni Highway, I peered closely at the trees and was rewarded by Forest Bus Redtail. It's usually on the other side of the highway - in fact this was the first time I had ever seen it on this side. I pulled on to the shoulder and drove as close as I dared. (It doesn't take much to scare it off.) I stuck my 800 mm lens out the window and clicked a few shots. 2 out of 2! Today was already a good day. I continued north, slowing at French Creek to look for the Pygmy Owl Guy had spotted a few days ago, but no luck. Back to the Redtail watch as I neared the Port Alberni overpass. BINGO! The Qualicum Redtail was home. A few kilometers up the road, I was able to turn around and head back south. The Redtail was still there as I passed it going south. Luckily it was still there when I finally got turned around. I pulled over and got my clicks. 3 out of 3! "That was unheard of," I thought as I proceeded north in the beautiful sunshine. I didn't expect any more. In the distance I spotted a black shape on a medium-sized fir. Slowing to get a view, I confirmed that it was a Raven, but a movement about 6 branches down caught my eye. I pulled over and stuck my camera out the window. It was another Redtail - the Crocker Creek Redtail! Just as I clicked, it flew into the shade of another tree. It was playing some kind of game with the Raven. A few minutes later, it flew back at the Raven and chased it off before landing on the next tree down the road. I drove as close as I thought I could before pulling over for a few shots. 4 out of 4! Incredible. I couldn't believe my luck - not just to see them but to get a few pictures as well. (I hope I remember to buy a lottery ticket just in case this is truly MY DAY.) On my way again, I did think of the Nile Creek Redtail, but I wasn't disappointed as I made the turn for Deep Bay without having to stop again.
THE FOREST BUS REDTAIL had been eluding my camera for over a year, but finally, everything fell in place - location on the east side of the road; in the morning sunlight; and very little traffic.
REDTAIL LUCK - The Qualicum Redtail and the Crocker Creek Redtail were my 3rd and 4th Redtails in less than an hour.
DEEP BAY SURPRISE
Deep Bay was once again in it's splendor of glassy calm waters and peaceful isolation as I scanned the waters for Long-tailed Ducks. A few Red-necked Grebes paddled lazily by, but there was nothing else close by. Peering along the shoreline, I spotted a couple of Savannah Sparrows - at least that's what I thought they would be until I got closer. Unlike Savannahs, they did not spook. Zooming in, they were a pair of Lapland Longspurs! I had looked for them in Victoria last week without any luck, and here they were at Deep Bay. (Remind me to get the lottery ticket.)
COOPERATIVE BIRDS - It didn't take me long to shoot about 50 pictures of the Lapland Longspurs as they were not the least bit camera shy. I think the bird above is the female and the one below is the male.