Tuesday, 29 December 2020

December 29, 2020 - Yellow-billed Loon at Elgin Park

The last post of 2020 features a rare Yellow-billed  Loon, a bird typically seen farther north towards the Yukon and Alaska. This is the third time I've seen this species. The first was in 1998 and was one of my first rare-bird experiences.

Although I was lucky to get a dry day, the skies were quite gray, which was not good for photos. The bird was on the far side of the Nicomekl River. I did get a few acceptable shots.

Yellow-billed Loon - Elgin Park, Surrey BC - 2020 Bird #132

One of the distinguishing marks for this bird is the up-turned bill, which shows a bit in this shot.

Much closer and easier to photograph were a couple of common Duck species.

Mallards - Elgin Park, Surrey BC

Lesser Scaup- Elgin Park, Surrey BC

There was also a Common Loon in the area, which shows a darker bill and head.

Common Loon- Elgin Park, Surrey BC

And one last look at the Yellow-billed. Note that the Bill shows more Yellow when the bird is in breeding plumage.

This wraps up the 2020 Birding Blog. I was going to do a Best of 2020 post, but decided it would just be repeating the content already in the blog.  My species count for 2020 was 132, much less than the 180 seen in 2019. This is primarily due to the US border closure and travel restrictions related to COVID. Hopefully 2021 gets us back to normal.

I will be launching a 2021 Blog shortly, which will feature the Yellow-billed Loon again in the new year.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

December 20, 2020 - Brant at Boundary Bay

 I made a quick stop at Boundary Bay on this Sunday to see if there were any shorebirds close to shore. The tide was already going out, so the shorebirds were too far away. But there was a large collection of Brant Geese that were close enough to photograph. 

These birds are often seen in Fall/Winter here. The prefer salt water, so Boundary Bay is a good location to see them. This was my first sighting of this species in 2020 and may be the last one I get for the year. This shot was the first I took for the record.

Brant - Boundary Bay 104 St. Delta BC - 2020 Bird #131

This is a crop that shows a little more detail.

Brant - Boundary Bay 104 St. Delta BC

With all these birds offshore, there are Bald Eagles among them looking for an easy meal. They must have spooked the flock, as many birds suddenly took flight.

Brant - Boundary Bay 104 St. Delta BC

This shot was taken in Point Roberts in 2019 and shows more detail of this attractive goose species.

Brant - Point Roberts WA - 2019

Saturday, 12 December 2020

December 12, 2020 - Blackie Spit Park and Ladner Harbour Park

I'm combining these into one post because the Ladner Harbour Park visit was very unproductive and not worth a separate post.

Blackie Spit 

Once again this weekend, Mary-Jean drove in from Chilliwack. Our primary goal was to see the reported Snow Buntings at Blackie Spit Park in Surrey. We parked and headed out on the main spit to find the buntings. 

Our luck was good as we soon spotted a man who was photographing something just off the trail in an  area with long grass and scrub bushes. It didn't take me long to locate a bunting and point it out to Mary-Jean, another lifer on her list. The birds were cautious and always behind cover.

Snow Bunting - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC - 2020 Bird #130

We spoke to the gentleman who had spotted the birds. He was there looking for close-up shots of Eagles and accidentally discovered the Snow Buntings.

I kept on trying to get a better shot of the birds, I think we saw at least four individuals.

I think this last shot is the best one. It looks like it has a seed or something to eat.

Snow Bunting - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

We left the buntings and wandered around the spit looking for other birds of interest. 

Of course there are always Herons at this location.

Great Blue Heron - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

I had hoped to see an Eurasian Wigeon on this visit as Mary-Jean had missed it on our previous visit. But it was low tide and most of the ducks were far off in the distance. I did get this shot of a pair of Pintails.

Northern Pintail - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

We were now in an area with some trees and there were some songbirds on the ground and in the trees. I'm quite sure this is a female Purple Finch, we'd seen some in the same area on our last visit. 

Purple Finch (F) - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

No question about this bird, a Golden-crowned Sparrow. These birds are quite common in the Lower Mainland in Fall/Winter.

Golden-crowned Sparrow - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

Here's a close-up taken a bit later of another one. We don't get to see these birds in their breeding plumage too often. They leave the lower mainland in early spring to go north to their breeding grounds.

Golden-crowned Sparrow - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

Here's a topsy-turvy shot of another Purple Finch.

Purple Finch (F)  - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

And back to normal:

Purple Finch (F) - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

Although I was hoping for Eurasian Wigeon, I only saw those of the American variety.

American Wigeon - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

As we were leaving the area, we came across a smsll collection of shorebirds. I'm quite sure these are Greater Yellowlegs, based on the the bill length relative to the width of the head.

Greater Yellowlegs - Blackie Spit Park, Surrey BC

This shot shows it better...

We left Blackie Spit and headed to Ladner Harbour Park, hoping to get May-jean her lifer Blue Jay.

Ladner Harbour Park

It was a bad omen when we arrived in the mid-afternoon and met a person who had been at the location since 9:30 AM and never saw the Blue Jay or any other Jays. After he left, we were the only birders there for quite a while. It was very still and we never heard or saw any of the Jays. I did get a few photos of the usual suspects.

When I looked at tis shot at home I had a brief thought that it could be a Lincoln's Sparrow, but I'm quite sure it's a Song Sparrow.

Song Sparrow - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

We did had some fly-overs by a group of Bald Eagles.

Bald Eagles - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

I've been having good luck this fall and winter with Kinglets, and today was no exception.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

And finally we did see a Common Merganser in the harbour, but at quite a distance. This photo is good for ID only, no artistic merit. I believe the other bird was a Mallard.

Common Merganser - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

This ended our day. It was a great start with the Snow Bunting.

As a final note, the Blue Jay has been reported again at Ladner Harbour Park since our visit, so we'll probably be back there again in the coming weeks.

Friday, 4 December 2020

December 4, 2020 - Part 2 - Blackie Spit Park

 We made the short drive from Ladner to Crescent Beach, parked and walked along the shoreline path to Blackie Spit Park. As soon as we were out of the car, we saw some birds on the water. The first was this Common Goldeneye, which I believe was a lifer for Mary-Jean. This is likely an adult female.

Common Goldeneye (F) - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

Another "Common" bird was close to shore and hunting for lunch.

Common Loon - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

It submerged for a period and resurfaced with a catch.

We watched this drama for a while, and then made our way into the park.

I took this next shot of an Eurasian Wigeon, a bird I had hoped to see here. I should have brought it to Mary-Jean's attention as it would have been a lifer for her. I just assumed she had seen it. She'll have to wait for this one, as a subsequent visit the next week did not produce any sightings.

The male Eurasian Wigeon is the one with the reddish head and yellow stripe. 

Eurasian Wigeon - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

As compensation for Mary-Jean, another lifer appears in the next shot, a White-winged Scoter. I think this is probably a first year male that was just beginning to change into adult plumage.

White-winged Scoter - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

This shot didn't turn out as well as I hoped.  It features a pair of American Wigeon swimming in the reflection of a piling.

American Wigeon - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

Similar to the Common Loon shot earlier, this one features a Gull that had managed to trap a crab out of the water. The crab was putting up a fight, but I don't think it escaped.

Glaucous-winged Gull (Imm)  - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

Our next bird was another predator of ocean creatures. In this case we didn't see it catch anything. These birds are always photogenic.

Black Oystercatcher - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

I love the eye colour of this bird.

We weren't done with Mary-Jean lifers yet. We ventured into an environmentally sensitive, but not restricted, area where we spotted a pair of red finches. I took the shots below and assumed they were House Finches. When I looked at the photos at home, I changed my ID to Purple Finches. This was yet another life bird for Mary-Jean.

Purple Finch - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

The male above has a larger head than a House Finch and the red/purple colour is more spread over the sides of the bird. The female below has the white eyebrow, not seen on the female House Finch.

Mary-Jean confirmed the ID with the experts on the Birding in BC website.

Purple Finch (F) - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

The diversity just kept on coming with this Northern Pintail just offshore.

Northern Pintail - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

Our last bird of the day was a "new" one for Mary-Jean, but I won't get into the specifics.

Horned Grebe - Blackie Spit, Surrey BC

It had been a long day of birding at Ladner Harbour Park and then Blackie Spit. Mary-Jean still had to drive back to Chilliwack once we got back to my home in North Delta.

But she had a good collection of lifers to ponder on here trip back.

December 4, 2020 - Part 1 - Ladner Harbour Park

Back on November 11th I visited this location hoping to see a Blue Jay that had been reported there. I was successful that day, as can be seen in this post: Three Jay Day .

It was Mary-Jean's turn to come into the city this weekend and she was keen to see the Blue Jay, it would be a lifer for her. I'll spoil the plot by saying we did not see the Jay. But we had a good visit and saw a variety of birds.

When Mary-Jean arrived at our place I looked out the front door and saw a Brown Creeper on the large Fir tree in our front yard. I signaled to her and she got here camera out, while I scrambled for mine. This was my best shot of the bird.

Brown Creeper - Front Yard, North Delta BC

Here's a shot of Ladner Harbour Park, this is a beautiful location near the George Massey Tunnel. 

Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

After parking we surveyed the situation. There were no Jays present along the entrance road where I'd seen them last time. We waited for a bit and then followed a loop trail around the park. The first bird we saw was a good one, a Bewick's Wren. My first photo was terrible, but confirmed the ID.

Bewick's Wren - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

Then I got lucky as it came into sight briefly.

There was another hard to photograph bird in the trees, one of a number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets we saw on this day. I got several good shots of them.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

This one might have been the best:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

There were also some Flickers in the park, much easier to photograph than the smaller birds.

Northern Flicker - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

Another woodpecker we encountered was this downy, either a female or immature bird.

Downy Woodpecker - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

We were now in a Marshy area where I got this shot of a Heron.

Great Blue Heron - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

We had circled around back to the entrance road, and walked back towards the Harbour. Pine Siskins are common at this time of year and there were a few around in the trees along the road.

Pine Siskin - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

Finally we heard some Jay sounds and located a Blue and White bird. We took some photos and briefly believed it was the Blue Jay. One of the local experts took a look at a photo and identified it as a California Scrub-Jay. It was an ABA lifer for Mary-Jean as she'd only seen them in Mexico.

These photos were taken a bit later and the bird is easily identifiable.

California Scrub-Jay - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

It is definitely a beautiful bird.

For good measure, a Steller's Jay popped in for a visit.

Steller's Jay - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

Another bird perching in a tree was this Immature Red-tailed Hawk. I call it immature due to the tail colour.

Red-tailed Hawk - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

We walked back to where we'd parked by the harbour and saw a lone Cormorant perched on a rocky outcrop. The light colouring suggests an immature bird.

Double-crested Cormorant - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

The birds just kept on coming. First was another Downy, this time a male.

Downy Woodpecker - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

And then my last Kinglet of the day.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

Overhead a pair of Swans flew over.

Trumpeter Swans - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

The next bird was one I'm not sure I identified when I took the photo, I may have thought it was the Red-tail we'd seen earlier. The photo clearly shows it was a Peregrine Falcon.

Peregrine Falcon - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

And lastly, a nice shot of a House Finch.

House Finch - Ladner Harbour Park, Delta BC

We were done here, our next stop would be Blackie Spit in South Surrey.