Sunday, March 7, 2010

Richmond River Road

On Saturday, we drove to Richmond, a new location for me, but one Bill had known well in a former life. He navigated the now much more built up surroundings beautifully and gave me a fine introduction to one of his favourite haunts. I do not remember the name of the road where I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk from the truck, but this link will take you to the general area.

A second hawk flew in, perhaps the male, with food in tow. I'm guessing it may have been a vole or mouse. Click on the picture to see it in the large version. If you are like me, you'll be torn between feeling sad for the rodent, but happy for the hawk. Such is the way of the wild, a fact I'm slowly learning to accept. The prey couldn't be seen at all until I got home and loaded the pictures. The hawks were high in the tree, and quite a distance away. My camera never ceases to amaze me. It, along with the 150-500 mm lens, has changed how I see the world.

It first appeared to us that the two hawks were sitting side by side, but once we moved a short distance to the right, we could see that the male was on a different branch. It left right after this photo, taking the rodent with it. So much for sharing.

The female (I think) waited for a few more moments, and then flew after the male.

What a great way to start the day! I was already very impressed with Richmond, but there was more to come. The rest of our journey was along the Richmond River Road. We stopped many times, and at each viewpoint, photo ops seemed to present themselves. This goose walked right up to us, I guess expecting a handout.

A lady was gardening in front of one of the lovely little homes across from the river, on what was quickly developing into the most perfect Spring day you could ever imagine. Her cat was socializing with the neighbours, but took a moment to stare at us, or perhaps more accurately, at Black Jack, who was doing her "I see a cat" happy dance.

Just one of the many flowers we saw.

This CNR bridge is a swing bridge and I found it fascinating. I had never seen one before. You can see how they work in a moving picture at that second link.

Another of those cases when I saw more after loading the pictures. There seems to be a little house at the top of the bridge, perhaps for workers to take a break, or maybe designed as a lookout. I wonder if someone still spends time in it.

Logs and pylons along the river provided perches for herons, seagulls and ducks.
These geese, one on each pylon, made me smile. I'm not sure what they were saying to each other, but maybe it was something like, "Stay on your own pylon!"

Growing up in Quebec, I had never seen cranberry fields. Bill helped me climb up a somewhat steep roadside bank, to get a better view. The geese seemed to be enjoying the crop. I didn't do justice with these photos, but this link will give you more information. It even describes how 30,000 pounds of cranberries were used in a floating olympic installation.

The perfect spot for a little siesta on a sunny afternoon.

After Bill helped me navigate the bank, he waited with Black Jack at the side of the road. I love this picture of them. Bill was lifting her up so that she could get a look at my view. He then climbed, with her in one hand, about half way up, where he braced himself against the telephone pole (you can just see a sliver of the pole at the right of the picture), while I continued to take pictures. Black Jack takes for granted that Bill is so aware of her desires, but I don't. His kindness always warms my heart.

An awe-inspiring Red-tailed Hawk dance, viewed from the side of the road, was a highlight of the day for both of us. I am thinking these may be the same two hawks we had seen earlier. I have done a bit of a search to find out more about their mating behaviour, and came up with this link, and a quote from it (in case you don't have time to check out the link) that will stay with me:
Courtship.--I believe that this and other large hawks remain mated for life, but, if one of the pair is killed, the survivor soon secures a new mate. The birds are apparently in pairs when they arrive on their breeding grounds, but they indulge in nuptial demonstrations more or less all through the nesting season. I have seen a pair of these hawks, in May when there were young in the nest, indulging in their joint flight maneuvers high above the woods where the nest was located; they soared in great circles, crossing and recrossing each other's paths, sometimes almost touching, and mounting higher and higher until almost out of sight; finally one partially closed its wings and made a thrilling dive from a dizzy height, checking its speed just before it reached the woods. E. L. Sumner, Jr., refers in his notes to such a flight: "About ten times, while they were circling near together, the male would lower his legs and adjust his circles so that he came above his mate, and about four times he actually touched her back, or so it seemed." M. P. Skinner says in his notes: "These hawks at times performed wonderful evolutions high in the air, either one bird alone or several at a time. Such hawks would mount up to a high altitude, then half close the wings and drop down on an invisible incline at great speed only to open the wings again and shoot up at an equal angle. This was repeated again and again while the hawk described a series of deep V's and gradually passed out of sight in the distance."
The male (I believe) circled over and over, very high up, and in blinding sunlight, with this stick.

I was dizzy from trying to follow its path with my huge lens balanced on my nose. Bill tugged occasionally on my jacket, making sure I didn't step onto the road, where there was a steady stream of cyclists and cars.

It was only after some time that I realized I was actually seeing two hawks, although I never managed to get them both in one photo. The one below, without the stick, I'm thinking, was the female. We saw them do amazing dives, along with the ever mesmerizing circles.

We felt we had been honoured to witness a mating dance extraordinaire. What a day!

There were other fun stops. This Green-winged Teal pair was an unusual sighting for me. Here, the male,
and very close by, his mate.

I wasn't too excited about these Sea Doos, but perhaps they're a guy thing.

I was struck yet again with the beauty to be found in common birds, so common they are often considered pests.

Starling in sunlight.

We headed back to Vancouver for great JJBeans lattes and sandwiches, and then continued on to Jericho Park for yet another walk, this one designed to give Black Jack a little more exercise. I of course, couldn't stop taking pictures. A Ring-necked duck,

a robin,

a Red-winged Blackbird, looking fiercely beautiful,

and a little Chick-a-dee rounded up my day's bird viewings.
It was another of those to go into my "happy memory" book. Thank you, thank you, Bill!

And, as always, thank you for taking time to read my blog.


  1. You have had a bird-full weekend! I have just manufactured a compound adjective for you! I particularly loved the hawks with the sun shining through their wings!! Magical!

  2. Every time I see your amazing closeups of birds, I am so tempted to get a more powerful zoom. It opens up a whole new world of beauty!

  3. Great new compound adjective, Phyllis:) Thanks for taking time to comment, in the midst of packing and organizing for your move. I hope all is going well!

    Jean, if we ever do manage to get together, you could try out my big lens. I love the benefit of a view my eyes cannot give me, but it is quite heavy and cumbersome. I wonder how many more years until someone invents the same power in a smaller package.