Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Just Birds

Hello, dear readers.  Today, I offer you 12 stories about birds.  
1. Tupper
This is Tupper, a Yaletown (Vancouver) seagull.  His/her tail feathers stand straight up..  all the time.  

I don't know if that could be considered a handicap.
Tupper seems to have established ownership of the streetlamp in front of my apartment.  I've been watching him/her for about two years.  S/he seems to fly just fine.
I guess Tupper qualifies as a survivor.  Have you figured out how I chose his/her name?
2. A Cormorant Enjoys a Rare Sunny Day
There are quite a few families of Double-crested Cormorants living under the bridges of False Creek.  This one was seen recently flying low to the water on a rare sunny day.

3. A Bathing Barrow's Goldeneye
The Barrow's Goldeneyes return to Vancouver (possibly from William's Lake, according to this article) around the beginning of December.  This one was enthusiastic about bath time.

4. Mrs. Mallard
Mrs. Mallard, at Granville Island, looked like she was thinking about setting up a nest. Did you know that mallards pair up in the fall and court throughout most of the winter?  I learned several interesting facts about mallards at this site.  Who knew that their flying speed has been estimated at 55 mph (88.5 kph!) and the longest living one on record died at 27 years and 7 months of age?  One other fact really surprised me.  They lose all their flight feathers every year at the end of breeding season and are unable to fly for 3 to 4 weeks.  I knew this about geese, but in fact, it holds true for all ducks as well.  I really hope you will spread the word to anyone you know who might think it's okay to let their dogs chase waterfowl.  That causes terrible stress at any time, but during this very vulnerable period when they can't fly, it is particularly cruel.     

5. Feeding Finches
I think this is a male American Finch.

He was enjoying that same sunny day and raved about the food in David Lam Park.
Mr. House Finch enjoyed eating at the same diner.
6. Mr. and Mrs. Gadwall
I was surprised when I saw this duck in David Lam Park.  I think he is a Gadwall, the first one I have ever seen in the area.  It was a heavy-mist-almost-raining day but my camera did a good job of capturing the waterproofing details in his beautiful feathers.

At first, I thought Mrs. Gadwall was a mallard, but then I realized she was sticking very close to her mate and there was no blue patch under her wing. 

Birds seen during our 2nd visit (this year) to Boundary Bay
7. Bald Eagles
We stopped along a quiet road just before reaching the park.  I don't think I have ever seen so many Bald Eagles in one tree.  There are 13 that you can see here, but there were at least 4 more on the other side of the tree.

I watched this pair doing the sky-dance mating ritual.  When they landed here, I thought they didn't look all that happy but perhaps, that's just the eagle way :)
We watched this eagle for a few minutes.  I've never seen such dark eagle-eyes.  
 I worried that his/her vision might be compromised, but.. 
like Tupper, s/he flew just fine.  Maybe, the feathers around the eyes were just stained.

Watching a bird fly is never routine for me.  The different angles and tilts and wing speeds..  

are fascinating.  Each species has a distinctive style, but perhaps the eagles..

stand out..

for their remarkable aura of power, especially when they fly directly toward the camera.

8. Northern Harriers and Eagle Lessons
This Northern Harrier took a moment to teach a young eagle..

that smaller does not mean weaker.

I have been slow to pick up bird-identifcation skills but thought I could recognize Northern Harriers by the patch of white at the base of their tail feathers.

No white in this one that I can see, but I am fairly sure it is a Harrier.  I think that white patch is only on top, although it usually flashes pretty clearly.  Perhaps the one below is a juvenile.  My book says that juveniles are "cinnamon below fading to creamy buff by spring" and that sounds about right. As always, corrections and suggestions are appreciated.
9. The Small to Medium Birds were Active Too
There were Nuthatches..

and really cute Chick-a-dees doing the side-step..

and posing White-crowned Sparrows..

and a Fox Sparrow..
slurping up dee-licious berry juice.
There were Flickers as well.  I'm fairly sure this is the Red-shafted one most commonly seen, 

but there was even one that flashed golden rather than red under its feathers when flying.  Could that have been a Yellow-shafted Flicker?  If so, it would be my first.  Some bird watchers talked about a Gilded Flicker as well.  Definitely could use help here :)
10. Snowy Owls, Alliteration and Photography Frustration 
As mentioned in other posts, there is concern for the welfare of the Snowy Owls.  It took a while to see the six here.  It is surprising to me that they appear to be seeking out heat from the vents of the greenhouse roof.

One of my hopes for the day was to capture a Snowy Owl in flight (from the dyke and not by harassing them in their space).  This one was sitting on a piece of driftwood and looking towards the three or four of us with cameras set up.  I do not use a tripod, and only rarely a monopod, but paid for that laziness this time.  The eagle gave one, and only one, opportunity for a flight capture when it flew just a few feet to the left.
Ah, the frustration..
of a fuzzy flight shot!  But nice opportunity for alliteration :)   By the way, does the alliterative "f" sound count when it starts with "ph" as in the title of this section?

I did make a decent capture of the landing, but s/he only looked at me..

after the landing, and then, only to wink knowingly.  

"Use a tripod, lady.  I'm worth it."

11. Immature Cooper's, Too Far To Tell, Peregrine Falcon and a Mystery
This bright-eyed juvenile caught us by surprise.  I wasn't quick enough to catch a flight shot, but s/he took pity on me and settled for a moment.  A passer-by who seemed to know what he was talking about told us we were looking at an Immature Cooper's Hawk.

Bill spotted this bird minutes later by the side of the dyke.  Perhaps the same Cooper's?
Wa-a-ay off in the distance, I spotted this unlikely pair.  My big lens and an even bigger crop brings them to you.  The heron was unmistakeable, but as for the hawk..  not at all sure.

There were lots of distant sightings.  I've left one un-zoomed to give you the bigger picture.

We missed this one entirely.  This is after cropping, so with the naked eye, was barely a speck.  A man who has lived in the area for many years and knows all of the bird life intimately told us he was certain this is a Peregrine Falcon.

As for the mystery bird, I can't seem to find any hawk that has that striped bib.

We watched each other for quite a while.  Then the hawk pooped (my indicator that helps me recognize when they are about to take off)..

and I managed to get.. 

some open-winged shots.

12. A Long Tale about Short Ears and a Short Tale about Long Ears
This is Short-Eared Owl, but, I think it should be called Absent-eared Owl.  I've looked closely at every one of my shots and see no sign of ears at all.

All of these shots were taken within about a five-minute time period.
Clearly, the warning sign was a deterrent - not!

Considering it was around mid-day, I was surprised to see such action.

It was so much fun to watch..

the flight patterns..

that included swerves ( I missed all of them but they were so neat), landing-gear-down..

quick checks and then off again..

and finally, success (although not for whatever was being mantled).

I was on the dyke and using the long lens.  That is to say, I'm not sure I deserved that pointed stare in my direction, but I did get the hint.
Lots of swoops later, and this one appeared destined for a direct hit.  Thank you, Mr. or Mrs. Short-eared for entertaining this most admiring birder.  Hm..  that's the first time I've applied that term to myself.  Maybe a tad presumptuous until I improve my i.d. skills :)

And the short tale?  Well :) We were in the truck and on the little road that leaves the park when Bill slowed down.  He had noticed a crowd of photographers all staring towards the fence by a little stream.  I would have missed it because I was already going through my 700 photos :)  We had heard about a  Long-Eared Owl (now those are ears you can see!) and had searched for it, but to no avail.  So you can imagine!  Right?  I jumped out and then stood directly in front of the truck (so nobody could get by..  Sorry, Bill!) and started snapping quickly, quite sure I was about to miss the shot of.. well, maybe not a lifetime..  but close :)  Isn't s/he a beauty?  Thanks, Bill, for another stellar day!
And..  thank you, readers for stopping by.  Sharing these stories is a good part of the fun.  I am linking up to two memes today.  Our World Tuesday (thank you, Sandy!), because birds really are a big part of my world, and Wild Bird Wednesday (thank you, Stewart!), because I'm so late with the post, a whole week has gone by, and now I can say I'm early.  Hope that makes sense :)  Until the next time!


  1. Wow, what a great post and so many beautiful birds. I do have to say the owls are my favorite. I loved them all. Happy Birding!

  2. That last picture really is spectacular and I can understand your excitement at suddenly having an opportunity to get the shot. I was also drawn to Mrs. Mallard in her private living quarters it seemed and how the light filtered through the grasses onto her feet and the stones. This is such an inclusive collection of birds, Carol. Thanks as always for sharing the diversity in your world. :)

  3. could you PLEASE pack just a little bit more into your posts?! they're a little light! i really can't find a thing to comment on... sheesh!

    i'm on total overload!!!

  4. tried to i.d. your unknown hawk. my best guess is a rough-legged hawk in a light morph. sure is pretty!

  5. You are so brilliant, TexWis! Thank you. I'm looking at the female hawks in flight page, and the Rough-legged Hawk i.d. fits perfectly.

  6. What wonderful photographs. I am a bit of a birder, but you get birds we never see down here. Haven't seen an owl in goodness knows how long, tho' occasionally we hear them. The white crowned sparrow visits us in the winter, but then disappears in April. How can you distinguish the fox sparrow? We get quite a few different kinds of sparrows but I have great difficulty identifying them. We have a Coopers hawk who visits frequently when the goldfinches are visiting. He once flew right past the kitchen patio doors and under the patio roof. Love your posts. They are always so interesting and Black Jack's little face always makes me smile when ever I visit.

  7. Wonderful pictures—and story! The shots of the eagle are magnificent and my favorite of them all. They're such regal birds.

    Have a great week!

  8. That is an amazing series of bird photos! The in-flight eagles are my favorites but the snowy owls are so beautiful!

  9. About that seagull named Tupper. Could the name be inspired by Tupperware? Just kidding. Maybe a contraction of Tail Upper? Ok, I give up.

  10. Fred the Dog.. You're so smart! (No, not Tupperware :) I didn't like the sound of Tup (short for tail up) so I made it Tupper and thought it had a nice ring to it.

  11. Wow, some amazing shots. The snowy owl, the bald eagle, hawks, Tupper--such a wide variety of birds. I'm impressed. These are all marvelous!

  12. Wow this post has excellent photos of birds on it...even a snowy owl...great shots...Thanks so much for your kind comments on my blog cheers.

  13. What a super post! So much to see! Thank you for sharing your incredible variety!
    Great shots all, but especially the Short-eared Owl!
    Nice work!

  14. You may not get parrots - but I dont get trees full of eagles!!

    What a great post.

    The owls are wonderful.

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. Fantastic!
    Really beautiful!
    Have a wonderful day!
    Lea's Menagerie

  16. So many excellent photos and cute stories! The last owl shot is amazing!!! Alliteration depends on the sound not the letter so "famous, fearless, funny Phyllis" works for me! :) Hugs!

  17. Great shots of som many birds. I love the owls.

  18. Carol, I can just imagine the 'rush' you must get when you are able to capture these beautiful birds! Must be a great feeling!
    I was listening to CBC Information Morning today and they had a discussion about the owl. Here is a link to the program, I think you may enjoy it:

  19. Carol this is a wonderful series of birds, all amazing pictures, I especially like the short and long eared owls which I have never spotted here myself.