Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some catch-up photos and time by the river

This first catch-up photo is of the Boston Terrier, Seville, featured in my previous post. Somehow, I forgot to post my favorite picture of her. It's the victory attitude in her pose that stays with me and makes me smile.
The second is a photograph taken by my friend, Jock. His keen eye and skill with the camera caught one of nature's little gifts, and portrayed it beautifully.

And now, a few moments recorded by the river next to the school where I teach in North Vancouver.

Wednesday, a cloudy day.

The exciting thing about the picture below is not its photographic merit, but rather, that I think I've identified the bird correctly. To my inexperienced eye, so many of the little birds look similar. It takes time and self-discipline to look them up in my book. As I've enjoyed looking at the sites of a few experienced birders and photographers (Ship Rock, IPutts, Nilsson), I've realized they never post a picture without an identification. I've promised myself to try to do this a little bit more.

Song Sparrow

Hooded Mergansers
Although I've seen quite a few Common Mergansers (In my opinion, no bird should be labeled "common"), I don't think I've ever seen hooded ones before yesterday. They dart around, sometimes skimming on top of the water, and sometimes diving. I'm not sure if I interpreted their behaviour correctly, but they seemed to be aggressive about their territory, chasing the mallards away when they could. That didn't seem quite fair, since the mallards have been around that river for quite some time. I wasn't able to distinguish males from females. In the above picture, it appeared to me to be an adult pair with three young ones (There's a little one way over on the right). However, according to my book, the females are supposed to have a brown head and crest. I hope I will have some more opportunities to observe them, and to figure out the family relationships. Below, the same "family", but missing the third young one. That one always seemed to keep a distance.
They have an amusing habit of stretching their necks up.
I'm sorry I couldn't get closer to them, but they stayed on the far side of the river. This picture shows one adult leaning back, perhaps preparing for a dive? Or maybe, expressing concern that the little one is heading away? Lots of questions.

Tuesday, a sunny day.

On the left, I think, is a Green-winged Teal. It was too far away to be sure, but the green flash under the wing was really eye-catching. On the right, my guess is an American Wigeon.
American Wigeon?

They came up to my side of the river. I always find them striking, but they were especially so against the clear reflection of a very blue sky.

While I was watching the ducks, a crow perched about two feet away from me. I always feel honored when any wild animal or bird is willing to spend a moment or two near me. From Ship Rock, I have learned that there are two kinds of crows, American and Northwestern. Apparently, the American is larger, while the Northwestern has a slightly purplish tinge. My guess for this one might be American, but without seeing them side by side, I can't be at all sure. I was certain, though, that this one was taking a good look at me. I wonder what it was thinking.
I also watched two crows at the edge of the river. Like the mallards, I found them striking against the blue background. They interacted in a most entertaining way.

First, a close-up of one of them. Could that be a purplish tinge? No, I think not.
The one on the left checks out the other.
Then, I think it decides to join in the feast.
Then, the one on the right perhaps thinks it is missing something? Maybe a "grass is greener" reaction?
I think, here, they both hear what I guessed to be a Kingfisher off to their left.
And there it was. A lucky shot for me - I just happened to catch it as it flew toward the crows. It's not perfectly in focus, but I think it was possibly a Belted Kingfisher. Whatever it was, it was the perfect conclusion to a relaxing few minutes by the river.


  1. That picture of a tree taken by Jock looks either like a large elephant or a small snail, depending on what drugs you are on at the moment.

    Thanks for naming the birds. Can we have the Latin names too? Just kidding of course, although I heard that Corvus brachyrhynchos = American Crow and Corvus caurinus = Northwestern Crow.

  2. All nice pictures CC, especially the Belted Kingfisher.

    The first four are as you say, Hooded Mergansers - male and female. The two males are pretending to show their hoods to each other, and in bird-talk are saying, "Mine hair-do is nicer than yours." You have to tune in to their language a little more and then for sure you will understand them.

    One of them is actually saying, "My neck is longer than yours..." thinking perhpas that the other's hood is a pretty fine one.

    You have noticed that the females are pretending too - hanging around close to the guys, feigning indifference with their eyes closed and all.

    All of this is of course courtship ritual displays of these mergansers. Some of the most interesting rituals to watch for are displays put on by the Goldeneye - Common and Barrow's - they haven't returned from their migration just yet, but they will be back soon. I think the Bufflehead will be back at about the same time.

    You must take a little time out and study up on these rituals!

    Cheers, Shiprock

  3. All lovely shots. I especially like the way you managed to capture the Kingfisher's underside in the reflection!
    I'll be up your way on Monday, to drop miss Amy off at the border. Unfortunately, I don't have a passport, so I'll just have to wave your direction from the US side. I'd ask you to bring me down one of those *wicked* lattes, for the trip home, but, alas, you'll be in school, I'm sure...

  4. Your Kingfisher is brilliant.
    Well done!

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Fred the Dog, maybe I'll leave it to you to figure out the Latin names:)

    Ship Rock, you give me way too much credit. I didn't even realize the brown-headed birds were females. I thought they were young birds and the two males were the parents. As you can see, I have even more to learn than previously recognized. Whatever help you can offer is much appreciated:)

    EvenSong, I also do not have a passport. Let's both work on it, and then we can meet one day:) I hope Amy will have a good life. Sending her the best.

    Thanks, Jock:)