A male Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) singing in a flowering Kanzan (or Kwanzan) Cherry tree during a spring day.
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) Singing in a Flowering Cherry Tree (Purchase)
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One of the more elusive bird species found in my backyard is the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus). They are easy to find, and are around frequently, but are also rather shy and tend to forage on the ground, scratching beneath shrubs, trees, and vines. It seems that they are easier to photograph in the spring – perhaps building nests and finding mates requires a bit more boldness than usual. Both of these male Spotted Towhees were fairly easy to photograph as they sat higher up in the trees than they would normally be found. The first photo here shows a male singing (in the rain) up in a flowering cherry tree in full bloom (Kanzan or Kwanzan variety). The second Towhee is a bit more cautious and seems to be feeling a bit vulnerable in a relatively open area of the forest.
When I was learning about local birds many years ago this Spotted Towhee species was referred to as the “Rufous sided Towhee”. The Spotted Towhee and the similar Eastern Towhee were once considered the same species (and probably were, long ago), but now are known to be separate. One male Spotted Towhee in my neighborhood seems to love to stand on window ledges and jump up and attack his reflection. This results in noise that causes the dog to bark, and the smearing of bird poop all over the windows. He has since expanded this behaviour to my car’s side view mirrors with similar, messy results. It could be worse though, my neighbor reports that one attacks their bedroom window at dawn (likely the same bird). At least he is letting me sleep!
For more of my bird photographs visit my Bird Photos Gallery.
Ice on the Fraser River with the Golden Ears Mountains in the background – photographed from Brae Island Regional Park in Fort Langley, British Columbia, Canada.
Ice on the Fraser River with the Golden Ears Mountains in the background (Purchase)
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Winter is usually a fleeting concept for much of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. We get the odd snowfall, a few cold spells below zero, and it doesn’t always have a lot of impact (easy for me to say, usually working at home). Sometimes we have extended cold snaps with snow that lead to interesting conditions we don’t see all the time. In late December and early January we had almost a foot of snow on the ground and temperatures were getting down to -12°C at night, which is more winter than we are used to! I headed to the Fraser River in early January to see if I could get some good photographs of the ice on the river and the snow on the mountains – not conditions I get to see all that often.
Brae Island Regional Park is a location I have photographed before for its good views of the Fraser and the mountains to the north. The best view is often from Tavistock Point though there are other northern facing spots as well. Unfortunately, most of those had fallen trees and brush from the winter storms blocking them. In the few spots I could get down to the water without going off the trail the river ice had ridden up the bank making venturing further a bit too risky not knowing if there was sand or water below. The above photograph was made at Tavistock Point after sunset. As this was facing north, there was only a slight “Belt of Venus” effect in the sky which isn’t really noticeable here. The approximately 2.5 km of trails to get to this point normally takes me about 25 minutes to walk, but as there was snow this trip took me about 50 minutes. Many people had walked the trails in the previous days since the last snowfall, and we had one above zero day in between, so the trail was sheer ice or very slippery. The frozen river conditions made this well worthwhile but if you have similar conditions and aren’t up to falling on your butt a number of times on the way I’d skip it for warmer days!
The photograph above was made slightly earlier in the evening than the panorama. This was photographed near one of the spots I mentioned with fallen trees, but I was able to get near the water enough to make this photo, though I had to edit out a small tree branch I just couldn’t get out of the way. The frozen Fraser River was enough of a subject to keep me busy, though I do wish that I had been able to find more spots with mountain reflections in the water. The Golden Ears Mountains (Mount Blandshard) themselves are a great subject, and consist of McPhaden Peak, Edge Peak and Blandshard Peak. The mountain that is reflected in the Fraser on the right hand side (in the first photograph) is Mount Robbie Reid.
View of Glen Valley farmland, the Fraser River, and Coquitlam/Burnaby Mountain from Bradner Road in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.
View of Glen Valley Farmland in Langley and Abbotsford (Purchase)
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This view of Glen Valley’s farmland is one that I had forgotten about for many years. I remember looking out the car window and seeing this view as a kid from the backseat of my parents’ car. On a rare, non rainy day last fall I remembered the viewpoint when I was nearby, and decided to drive up to Bradner Road to see if it was still there. I was happy to find it hadn’t been overgrown by trees and still offered good views of Glen Valley below. It wasn’t the clearest day but I think I will be back there in the spring to see if sunset offers any interesting light from this vantage point.
One of the common crops farmed in Glen Valley are cranberries and blueberries. The bottom left of the above photograph shows one of the many partially flooded cranberry field after harvest. The fields are flooded in the fall so that the berries float to the surface (after a bit of a beating) for easy collection.
Glen Valley Farmland and the Fraser River (Purchase)
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The third photo here shows Glen Valley, The Fraser River, Macmillan Island, Coquitlam, and Burnaby Mountain beyond. I was a bit surprised how far I could see from this elevation. The top of the Port Mann Bridge and many taller buildings in Surrey were also visible.
For more photos of Glen Valley and the surrounding region please visit my Fraser Valley Gallery.
Langley Bog from the new viewing platform at Derby Reach Regional Park (Houston Trail) in Langley, British Columbia, Canada.
Langley Bog from Derby Reach Park Viewing Platform (Purchase)
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A few weeks ago I went to the Langley Bog for the first time as there was a new viewing platform off of the Houston Trail in Derby Reach Regional Park. I had never walked on the Houston Trail but was aware of it and the bog (which is generally closed to the public) on my many drives past the trailhead. While the Langley Bog is a very interesting place biologically, I didn’t find all that much insight into that via the viewing platform (built by the Derby Reach Brae Island Parks Association). Granted, everything was frozen solid at the time and spring/summer may yield more wildlife viewing and other interesting things. This may be a good spot for birding in the future. I also hope that this is not the end of construction. Burns Bog has a lot of trails and boardwalks (via the Delta Nature Reserve) where you can walk, with relatively low disturbance of the bog itself. It would be nice if this kind of thing could be incorporated into Langley Bog in the future.
I have visited Mill Pond on Dewdney Trunk Road in Mission, BC a number of times, but not usually for photographs. Fall is one of my favourite times of year to photograph and so I try to get out as much as possible during the fleeting time fall foliage is available. Last year had nearly constant fall rain (600 mm/23.6 in during October/November) and was dubbed the “dreariest on record” by Environment Canada’s weather forecasters. 2016 had relatively poor fall foliage colours too, so I didn’t always find what I was looking for in spots I’d targeted. I was heading back from a “failed” trip one afternoon and stopped at Mill Pond to see if there were any interesting reflections on its surface. I was not disappointed – there were a few trees and shrubs that had some decent foliage colors and the lack of wind made for some good reflections. The first photograph here of the pond is actually the last one I put together from 4 separate exposures. These had to be a bit longer in duration (15 seconds) than those earlier as it was almost dark when I made this photograph. I am not sure what species make up most of the colours in the first photo but the second is primarily from Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) leaves.
In late April I was mowing the grass growing between the raised vegetable garden beds and discovered this Dark-eyed Junco nest, complete with eggs, on the ground underneath a small overhang. This is a common place for Juncos to place their nests, I’ve come across a few others on the ground in tall grass in previous years. I try not to disturb these junco nests when mowing, but I did flush out the female that was sitting on the it at the time. She did sit on the nest again about 5 minutes later, however. A week later I did take a look at the nest (from afar, at first) and the eggs were gone. We have a lot of Black Squirrels (invasive species) that love to snack on bird eggs, so that might have been the fate of this particular clutch. Crows are another likely candidate, though they are not the only other bird species that would look at these as lunch.
For more photographs of birds visit my Bird Photos Gallery.
Once again it is time to post my 10 favourite photographs from the past year. I do this yearly as it is a worthwhile exercise, and to take part in Jim Goldstein’s annual Your Best Photos project. His collection of these posts is a great place to view photographs and find some new photographers to follow.
I hope you enjoy my selections here and am curious to hear if you have a favourite. If you click on each photograph you’ll be taken to my Image Archive. Many of these photographs have corresponding blog posts that I’ve linked to underneath the thumbnails here. These aren’t in any specific order, but I did place the photograph “Rainbow over Hatzic Lake” at the beginning as I think this is the first time I’ve photographed a rainbow (successfully at least) outside of my backyard. I was also shielding the camera from a rainstorm with my body, so the photo deserves extra points for that. 😉
2017 Calendar Cover – Rainbow over Hatzic Lake and Hatzic Island
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My 2017 Nature Calendars are now available! I have put together some of my favourite recent photographs into a 11″x17″ (28cm x 43cm) calendar. Included are 12 photographs of landscape and nature scenes from British Columbia and Washington State. Most of these photographs were made in 2016, though a few are from earlier years but previously unpublished in my calendars.
30% OFF! Use the code 10THDAY20 (case sensitive) for 30% OFF at checkout through Dec 16, 2016.
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I have put together some of my favourite images made in the last year into this 11"x17" (28cm x 43cm) nature calendar. Included are 12 photographs of landscape and nature scenes from British Columbia and Washington State.
I am a landscape and nature photographer based in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Most of my subjects are in Southwestern British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest's Washington State. My photography is available for licensing as stock, fine art prints, and giclée canvas wraps.