Sunday, February 1, 2009

January Birding

Ugh...I haven't updated this blog in quite some time, even though ive gone out birding quite a bit. Well January is now over and I will just combine all the Highlights of the last few weeks instead of separating them.

Jan 21st.

After the cosmic letdown of not being able to photograph the little Saw-Whet Owl I found in Chilliwack, I was lucky enough to find another one. This time at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver. It started out as a chase to find a Great Gray Owl that had been reported from Lighthouse Park. Lighthouse park is a large park of Second Growth forest and rocky shoreline. There really is no good habitat for a Great Gray Owl. I wasn't expecting to find it, and I didnt. I spent about an hour or so searching around the point where it was seen and photographed.

There was nothing of interest, and I wondered how that Owl ended up here in the first place. I moved on to Whytecliff park, hoping for atleast a Black Oystercatcher or some sort of Rock shorebird. Again, nothing of real interest.

it was already noon and I was getting tired of birding North Vancouver. It was only the Owl that brought me out there in the first place. I had planned on going to Delta to see a Golden Eagle that had been seen for the last few days. On a side note, the Golden Eagle was found undearneath a power pole suffering from Electrocution. Last I heard it was still at a Wildlife Rescue facility for Raptors. Hopefully it survives.

Even after 3 hours of lackluster birding, I was not about go give up. I went to Maplewood Flats in hope I could find something decent. The feeders were busy with birds, at one point a Towhee, House Finch, and Song Sparrow shared the feeder, only to be replaced by a Red-winged Blackbird. Junco's, Chickadees, and Pine Siskin were also plentiful.

From Finished

From Finished

From Finished

Leaving the feeders I walked through the silent forests, I checked the evergreens for signs of Owls. I found whitewash under a few trees, but no Owls. I was about ready to give up, when I heard a commotion about 500 feet off the trail. Some Chickadees were raising quite a racket, even an American Robin had gotten involved. I bushwacked my way to where all the noise was coming from. And I found this little guy.

From Birds

My day turned out not to be a waste afterall.

Jan 25tth

Jan 25th was the day I went after the Golden Eagle, at this point I handn't found out about the electrocution. There seemed to be alot of birders out after the owl. They were pulled over all over the streets of Delta scanning distant trees for the Golden Eagle. I had a few moments where I thought I had found the bird, only to be staring at Juvenile Bald Eagles. I picked up a few good birds, an American Kestrel on 41B St, I found our resident Willet fairly easy. And I got a few good photo's of a couple birds at Reifel. At the end of they day I was at 95 species for the month, with only one more day of birding in January to go.

From Finished Product

From Finished Product

From Finished Product

From Finished Product

Jan 31st.

Jan 31st I set out to make it to a hundred species for the month. I started off at the White Rock Pier. Probably the best place to get Long-tailed Duck, and if you're lucky all 3 scoters at once. It was very windy, and I only got the 2 common scoter species, and I also couldn't locate any Long-tails.

My next location was Redwood Park to pick up a Pileated Woodpecker, and any forest species I had missed over the month. I easily found the Pileated, and added a Stellers Jay as well.

From Finished

It was already getting late, and because of the weather I knew most places would be crowded with joggers and dog walkers. I arrived at Blackie spit, and quickly scanned the tidal inlet. I was lucky and the resident Long-billed Curlew and his 6 man Marbled Godwit posse were easily viewable.

My next stop was Elgin Heritage park for Long-billed Dowitchers. I found them quite easily, a couple Dunlin had joined them.

From Finished

The dowitchers were my 100th species for the month, but i still had some time to kill so I decided to drive over to Boundary Bay for a few more species. Along 72nd Street is a Transfer station that attracts alot of Gulls. There is a field right beside it that usually floods and the Gulls come over to bathe after feeding at the dump. Its probably the best place to hone ID skills as you can get pretty close to them and theres always new gulls coming and going.

I managed to spot a first year Glaucous Gull, as well as one pure Western Gull. I saw an interesting looking gull that I tried to turn into a Kumliens Iceland Gull. It didn't have the right features really, but the wingtip had long streaks of white on it, unlike a Thayer's. I wish I could've got a picture, sadly I don't have a digiscoping set up. My guess is it was just a Thayer's with an abberant plumage or something.

My last stop was 96th Street for the Gyr Falcon that sits atop a radio tower. I was lucky and scoped him out right away. My month list total was now 105. Not bad for January. My final species list is as follows. My only lifer was the Slaty-backed. Hopefully in February I can make it to the interior for the Lesser Black-backed Gull.

January 2009 List

1 Snow Goose
2 Brant
3 Canada Goose
4 Mute Swan
5 Trumpeter Swan
6 Gadwall
7 Eurasian Wigeon
8 American Wigeon
9 Mallard
10 Northern Shoveler
11 Northern Pintail
12 Green-winged Teal
13 Ring-necked Duck
14 Greater Scaup
15 Lesser Scaup
16 Harlequin Duck
17 Surf Scoter
18 White-winged Scoter
19 Bufflehead
20 Common Goldeneye
21 Barrow's Goldeneye
22 Hooded Merganser
23 Common Merganser
24 Red-breasted Merganser
25 Ruffed Grouse
26 Common Loon
27 Pied-billed Grebe
28 Horned Grebe
29 Double-crested Cormorant
30 Pelagic Cormorant
31 Great Blue Heron
32 Black-crowned Night-Heron
33 Bald Eagle
34 Sharp-shinned Hawk
35 Cooper's Hawk Reifel Refuge BC
36 Northern Goshawk
37 Red-tailed Hawk
38 Rough-legged Hawk
39 American Kestrel
40 Gyrfalcon
41 American Coot
42 Sandhill Crane
43 Black-bellied Plover
44 Killdeer
45 Black Oystercatcher
46 Spotted Sandpiper
47 Greater Yellowlegs
48 Willet
49 Lesser Yellowlegs
50 Long-billed Curlew
51 Marbled Godwit
52 Black Turnstone
53 Sanderling
54 Dunlin
55 Long-billed Dowitcher
56 Wilson's Snipe
57 Mew Gull
58 Ring-billed Gull
59 Western Gull
60 California Gull
61 Herring Gull
62 Thayer's Gull
63 Slaty-backed Gull
64 Glaucous-winged Gull
65 Glaucous Gull
66 Rock Pigeon
67 Great Horned Owl
69 Belted Kingfisher
70 Downy Woodpecker
71 Hairy Woodpecker
72 Northern Flicker
73 Pileated Woodpecker
74 Northern Shrike
75 Steller's Jay
76 Northwestern Crow
77 Common Raven
78 Black-capped Chickadee
79 Chestnut-backed Chickadee
80 Bushtit
81 Red-breasted Nuthatch
82 Brown Creeper
83 Bewick's Wren
84 Winter Wren
85 Marsh Wren
86 Golden-crowned Kinglet
87 American Robin
88 Varied Thrush Stanley
89 European Starling
90 Bohemian Waxwing
91 Cedar Waxwing Stanley
92 Spotted Towhee
93 Fox Sparrow
94 Song Sparrow
95 White-crowned Sparrow
96 Golden-crowned Sparrow
97 Dark-eyed Junco
98 Red-winged Blackbird
99 Brewer's Blackbird
100 Purple Finch
101 House Finch
102 Red Crossbill
103 Pine Siskin
104 American Goldfinch
105 House Sparrow

105 Species
1 New Species

Monday, January 19, 2009


So Sunday I went out to Island 22 in hopes of my first Western Screech Owl. Gord from the Fraser Valley Birds posted a picture on the Fraser Valley rare birding forum. The Screech Owl is a pretty rare bird nowadays in Greater Vancouver area. The habitat they used to reside in has been overthrown by the larger, Barred Owl.

A recent study by one Ornithologist, found Screech Owls absent from over 75% of locations where they were once known to breed. In the Fraser Valley, Screech Owls are still relatively common, for Owls atleast.

So when I got to Island 22, I started methodically checking each evergreen tree. After about an hour, I saw a large Hemlock that was very Isolated in a forest of Decidious Brush. I had to bushwack myself towards the tree, I still have scratches from the Thorns. When I made it to the tree, I was startled to find a pair of gorgeous eyes staring down at me. It wasn't the Screech Owl, but a Saw Whet Owl.

Here's where there should be a really good picture of a Saw Whet Owl. Unfortunately, im an idiot, and I forgot to put the battery back in my camera before I left in the morning. It was till back at home, sitting on the charger! Cosmic Letdown...

Anyways, after seeing this Owl, and realizing I had no camera, I was dreading what other wonders I would find. I didn't find anything to match the Saw Whet, but I did find a Great Horned, roosting at eye level, another photo opportunity wasted by my absent mindedness. I flusehd two Ruffed Grouse, a pleasant suprise, as these are almost extirpated from the Greater Vancouver area. On the way home I spotted an American Kestrel on the wires along Highway one.


Canadian Waterbird Survey

I did the CWS survey on Thursday, for the first time. My route is from the Bridge to Brockton Point in Stanley Park. Doing the count I realized why I rarely bird the seawall, even early in the morning, its still very popular for Joggers/Bikers/Dog Walkers, and the rest of the ilk that birders usually try to avoid at all costs.

There was dense fog, that did not dissapate for the 2 hours and some I spent walking the seawall. I was a little dissapointed in the birding, I thought there would be more species of waterbird. Gone were the Rafts of Scoters, I have seen over the years in winter. I only saw one Common Loon, and since the tide was in, there was no chance of any rock shorebirds.

The only highlight of the day, was a non waterbird Cedar Waxwing.

From Finished Product

There were lots of Barrow's Goldeney and Buffleheads, nothing else really. It was a nice walk, though cold. Hopefully the birding gets better..cause I have to do this route every second Sunday of the Month.

Barrow's Goldeneye

From Finished Product

After finishing the Watercount, my lust for birds was still not satiated. I decided to try my luck at Maplewood. Maplewood was pretty quiet, I spent most of my time at the garden by the nature hut entrance, trying to photograph feeder birds. I managed to get a few of a nice looking House Finch. Also a lone Pine Siskin feeding on the ground.

House Finch

From Finished Product

Pine Siskin

From Finished Product


Monday, January 12, 2009

Search for the Slaty Back

One or two Slaty-backed Gulls usually show up each winter on the Lower Mainland, Sadly most of the time they reside in the Greater Vancouver Landfill. A zone with restricted access, though every winter a few birders gain access for the Christmas Bird Count. Sometimes they are found in the farm fields surrounding the dump. And I’ve spent a good many hours with my scope seeking one out. So when I heard that a Birder in the Fraser valley had found on at a Transfer station in Abbotsford about a week ago while on the Christmas bird count. Gord, operator of the Fraser Valley Birding website( the gull on top of a roof that holds trash waiting to be transferred to the dump.

Now I’ve yet to post my top ten species to see in 2009, but I can tell you that Slaty-backed Gull was on it. So when I found out about the sighting, I made sure this Saturday I would go out there to do my darndest to find the bird.

I arrived at the Transfer station without too much difficulty, the directions I got from Gord were spot on. I had my hot cup of coffee, my scope, my camera, binoculars, Superdrag on the stereo, I was ready for my first lifer of the year. I wasn’t exactly sure what a Transfer station was, or how I would even see the Gull. I knew it was off limits, but apparently all the gulls sat on the roof of a large garbage warehouse. I pulled my car to the side of the road and started scanning the gulls on the roof, here’s what I was looking at.

From Jan10th

I was dismayed as I finished scoping the gulls to come up with nothing. There were the standard Glaucous-winged Gulls, the Glaucous-winged hybrids, I did pick out one Herring Gull, and there were also a few Thayer’s. But nothing stood out with a dark-back. I tried getting a look in through the door of the warehouse. Gulls were inside ruffling through the trash, and bursting into flight when a tractor came roaring in. This bird could be anywhere.

I have terrible luck with chasing rare birds. The birds I’ve missed would add up to an impressive life list. But one thing I’ve learned over the years, is when you get there and the birds not there, don’t give up. In my earlier years when a bird wasn’t there I would usually head off on my merry way, only to learn later that the bird came back later on. No if you want the rewards of rarity, you sometimes gotta tough it out. So by now after an hour of waiting, my coffee was almost done and I was getting a little impatient. I decided I needed a refill, and maybe I could check around the recycling depot, as Gord said Gulls also hung around there.

No luck at the Depot, but after about half an hour I returned with hot coffee, and renewed energy. I got out my scope and started again, to go over the 50-60 gulls sitting on the roof. I was starting to think I was not going to see this bird, when one of the Gulls right on the edge of the roof caught my eye. It had a finely streaked head, with a dusky yellow eye. Not the startling, almost evil yellow eye I was expecting, but definitely not a dark eye like Glaucous-winged. My initial thought was maybe Herring? I was almost going to train the scope away from the Gull when he turned just slightly, revealing a dark, very dark wing…I exclaimed out loud, not worrying weather any of the people at the dump my hear me. I started getting excited, but still, at this angle, it would be impossible to really judge the darkness of the wing, as lighting is very manipulative, instead of waiting for the Gull to show me, I quickly drove to a better angle and hopped out, feverishly setting up the scope.


From Jan10th

From Jan10th

I just got my first lifer of 2009, and my 328th on my life list.
Sadly with my camera, the light, and my digital zoom, the pictures aren’t the best. I really need to also get a dig scoping set up, oh I don’t know how these birders afford all this stuff.
But yes, Success, what a nice feeling.

By now 3 hours had slipped away, but I didn’t feel like going home. Even though the rain was a constant, I toured the Fraser valley, turning up very little in bird life, but enjoying the drive. I will leave this with a few pictures of the rest of my day.

From Jan10th

From My Pictures

From My Pictures


Saturday, January 3, 2009

2008 Year List

my goal for 2008 was 250 species, and I made exactly that. Thanks in part to a small trip to Las Vegas, that was for the most part non birding related. 16 lifers this year, almost half coming from the vegas trip, the rest were rarities, or birds that have been nemesis' for me, like Long-eared Owl.
Then there was the Cackling Goose which I hadn't realized was a separate species until this year.

1. Greater White-fronted Goose
2. Snow Goose
* 3. Ross's Goose
4. Brant
* 5. Cackling Goose
6. Canada Goose
7. Mute Swan
8. Trumpeter Swan
9. Wood Duck
10. Gadwall
11. Eurasian Wigeon
12. American Wigeon
13. Mallard
14. Blue-winged Teal
15. Cinnamon Teal
16. Northern Shoveler
17. Northern Pintail
18. Green-winged Teal
19. Canvasback
20. Redhead
21. Ring-necked Duck
* 22. Tufted Duck
23. Greater Scaup
24. Lesser Scaup
25. Harlequin Duck
26. Surf Scoter
27. White-winged Scoter
28. Black Scoter
29. Bufflehead
30. Common Goldeneye
31. Barrow's Goldeneye
32. Hooded Merganser
33. Common Merganser
34. Red-breasted Merganser
35. Ruddy Duck
36. Chukar
37. Ring-necked Pheasant
38. Ruffed Grouse
39. Sooty Grouse
40. Dusky Grouse
41. Wild Turkey
42. California Quail
* 43. Gambel's Quail
44. Pacific Loon
45. Common Loon
46. Red-throated Loon
47. Pied-billed Grebe
48. Horned Grebe
49. Red-necked Grebe
50. Eared Grebe
51. Western Grebe
* 52. Clark's Grebe
53. American White Pelican
54. Brandt's Cormorant
55. Double-crested Cormorant
56. Pelagic Cormorant
57. American Bittern
58. Great Blue Heron
59. Green Heron
60. Black-crowned Night-Heron
61. Turkey Vulture
62. Osprey
63. Bald Eagle
64. Northern Harrier
65. Sharp-shinned Hawk
66. Cooper's Hawk
67. Red-tailed Hawk
68. Rough-legged Hawk
69. American Kestrel
70. Merlin
71. Gyrfalcon
72. Peregrine Falcon
73. Prairie Falcon
74. Virginia Rail
75. Sora
76. American Coot
77. Sandhill Crane
78. Black-bellied Plover
79. American Golden-Plover
80. Pacific Golden-Plover
81. Semipalmated Plover
82. Killdeer
83 Black Oystercatcher
84. Spotted Sandpiper
85. Greater Yellowlegs
86. Willet
87. Lesser Yellowlegs
89. Whimbrel
90. Long-billed Curlew
91. Marbled Godwit
92. Ruddy Turnstone
93. Black Turnstone
94. Red Knot
95. Sanderling
96. Semipalmated Sandpiper
97. Western Sandpiper
98. Least Sandpiper
99. Baird's Sandpiper
100. Pectoral Sandpiper
101. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
102. Dunlin
103. Short-billed Dowitcher
104. Long-billed Dowitcher
105. Wilson's Snipe
106. Wilson's Phalarope
107. Red-necked Phalarope
108. Mew Gull
109. Ring-billed Gull
110. Western Gull
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)
111. California Gull
112. Herring Gull
113. Thayer's Gull
114. Glaucous-winged Gull
115. Glaucous Gull
116. Caspian Tern
*117. Forster's Tern
118. Rock Pigeon
119. Band-tailed Pigeon
*120. Eurasian Collared-Dove
121. Mourning Dove
122. Barn Owl
123. Great Horned Owl
*124. Northern Hawk Owl
125. Barred Owl
*126. Long-eared Owl
127. Short-eared Owl
128. Common Nighthawk
129. Common Poorwill
130. Black Swift
131. Vaux's Swift
132. White-throated Swift
133. Anna's Hummingbird
134. Calliope Hummingbird
135. Rufous Hummingbird
136. Belted Kingfisher
137. Lewis's Woodpecker
138. Red-breasted Sapsucker
139. Downy Woodpecker
140. Hairy Woodpecker
141. Northern Flicker
142. Pileated Woodpecker
143. Olive-sided Flycatcher
144. Western Wood-Pewee
145. Willow Flycatcher
146. Least Flycatcher
147. Hammond's Flycatcher
148. Gray Flycatcher
149. Dusky Flycatcher
150. Pacific-slope Flycatcher
151. Say's Phoebe
*152. Tropical Kingbird
153. Western Kingbird
154. Eastern Kingbird
155. Northern Shrike
156. Cassin's Vireo
157. Warbling Vireo
158. Red-eyed Vireo
159. Gray Jay
160. Steller's Jay
161. Blue Jay
162. Clark's Nutcracker
163. Black-billed Magpie
164. American Crow
165. Northwestern Crow
166. Common Raven
167. Horned Lark
168. Purple Martin
169. Tree Swallow
170. Violet-green Swallow
171. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
172. Bank Swallow
173. Cliff Swallow
174. Barn Swallow
175. Black-capped Chickadee
176. Mountain Chickadee
177. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
*178. Verdin
179. Bushtit
180. Red-breasted Nuthatch
181. Brown Creeper
182. Rock Wren
183. Canyon Wren
184. Bewick's Wren
185. House Wren
186. Winter Wren
187. Marsh Wren
188. American Dipper
189. Golden-crowned Kinglet
190. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
*191. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
192. Western Bluebird
193. Mountain Bluebird
194. Townsend's Solitaire
195. Swainson's Thrush
196. Hermit Thrush
197. American Robin
198. Varied Thrush
199. Northern Mockingbird
*200. Crissal Thrasher
201. European Starling
202. American Pipit
203. Cedar Waxwing
204. Bohemian Waxwing
205. Orange-crowned Warbler
206. Nashville Warbler
207. Yellow Warbler
208. Yellow-rumped Warbler
209. Black-throated Gray Warbler
210. Townsend's Warbler
211. MacGillivray's Warbler
212. Common Yellowthroat
213. Wilson's Warbler
214. Western Tanager
215. Spotted Towhee
*216. Abert's Towhee
217. American Tree Sparrow
218. Chipping Sparrow
219. Clay-colored Sparrow
220. Brewer's Sparrow
221. Vesper Sparrow
222. Lark Sparrow
223. Savannah Sparrow
224. Fox Sparrow
225. Song Sparrow
226. Lincoln's Sparrow
227. White-crowned Sparrow
228. Golden-crowned Sparrow
229. Dark-eyed Junco
230. Black-headed Grosbeak
231. Lazuli Bunting
232. Bobolink
233. Red-winged Blackbird
234. Western Meadowlark
235. Yellow-headed Blackbird
236. Brewer's Blackbird
*237. Great-tailed Grackle
238. Brown-headed Cowbird
239. Bullock's Oriole
240. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
241. Purple Finch
242. Cassin's Finch
243. House Finch
244. Pine Grosbeak
245. Red Crossbill
246. Pine Siskin
*247. Lesser Goldfinch
248. American Goldfinch
249. Evening Grosbeak
250. House Sparrow

Total Species: 250
New Species: 16

And the year begins

While everyone else was still hungover in their beds, or their gutters. I was trudging through a fresh five centimeters of snow, on top of another foot or so, feet already soaked, looking for my first rarity of the year.

A few days ago, a Northern Goshawk was reported from the ponds at Jericho beach. Last year an immature had spent the winter, and it was believed to be the same individual. To make things more interesting, another Goshawk, an immature was also seen. Some speculated it was the returning adult, with its offspring.

From the parking lot I quickly spotted 2 Bohemian Waxwings up at the top of a willow tree. My first for the winter!

Walking towards the ponds, I passed through some low shrubbery, I paused when I noticed a couple of bunnies, I was surprised when 3 more came out of the dense brush, they were all very curious of me. Obviously these were all at one time pets, and it was sort of heartbreaking to see these guys out in the snow, I’m pretty sure they were hungry, especially in the snow.

From jan1st

From jan1st

Birds were active everywhere in the snow. I counted at least ten Spotted Towhees, lots of Fox and Song Sparrows, and a few White-crowns as well.

Halfway to the ponds I spotted the shape of a raptor sitting in a willow tree, I got a look at it just before it took off, I only saw it from the back, but it was obviously the adult Goshawk. It was being harassed by crows, but by the time I had walked around the pond, it had flown back into the willows, above the only open water, which was teaming with ducks. The Goshawk has adopted a simple feeding plan, it waits above the open water, and picks off Widgeons one by one. This has probably been made a lot easier with the freezing of Jericho ponds, as all the ducks are crowded together and really have no option of escape when a Goshawk comes barreling down on them. For whatever reason he seems to always pick off Widgeon, even though the Mallards outnumber them 2:1.

Northern Goshawk

From jan1st

I followed the beach on my way back, there wasn’t much out on Georgia straight, but I did see a single Sanderling.


From jan1st

After Jericho, I hit up Stanley Park. Lost Lagoon was also mostly frozen over. Where there was open water, I found a Common Goldeneye, eight Ring-necked Duck, and the resident pair of Mute Swans.

Common Goldeneye

From jan1st

From jan1st

Ring-necked Duck

From jan1st

Mute Swan

From jan1st

After Stanley Park I headed out to Maplewood Flats. I met Illya(again) as well as Rob Lyske, who is the resident Maplewood birder. I birded Maplewood with them, it was really quiet through the forests. I did however find a Lesser Yellowlegs on the shoreline, along with Greater Yellowlegs and California Gull. They had seen a Spotted Sandpiper there earlier, I was not as lucky. John Reynolds, another North shore birder met up with us. I was introduced as Ryan aka “Tropical Kingbird Ryan”. I think its pretty funny that that’s how I am now known amongst the birders, which is actually pretty cool. I think I’ve gone relatively unknown since I’ve been in Vancouver. It’s nice to be recognized for once as being a decent birder who knows what he’s doing.

After Maplewood I probably should’ve called it in, but instead of going home and drying off my feet, I drove out to Iona. I thought maybe I could find something interesting in the sewage lagoons. When I arrived I saw that no birder had set foot in there for quite some time, with good reason, the Lagoons were frozen over, and I didn’t really find anything special. One pond was open and I got Gadwall and Shoveler, birds I hadn’t seen on the day.

I had a good chuckle walking back to my car. Here it was New Years Day, everyone had gone out and partied last night, and I had gone to bed early, and now was walking through the snow around the Sewage Ponds. And yet I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The only birder to bother

From jan1st