Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) foraging as the tide comes in at the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area in Crescent Beach, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) foraging at Blackie Spit (Purchase)
Earlier this year I visited two areas around Boundary Bay to try to photograph some wildlife. I made several landscape photographs as well, but I brought my 100-400 lens with me this time to try to see if I could photograph shorebirds, Bald Eagles, hawks and harriers, or any other subject I could find. When I visited Blackie Spit in Crescent Beach (Surrey) I found a small flock of Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) foraging in the wetlands of Blackie Spit as the tide came back in. I am not sure exactly what the tasty morsels they were finding were, but they did seem to find quite a bit to eat as they waded back and forth in the shallow water. They certainly don’t sit still and pose for a photograph!
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) flying at Boundary Bay Regional Park (Purchase)
Another species I’ve been trying to photograph for a while along Boundary Bay are the Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) which can often be found hunting in the grass between the dykes and the intertidal zone. They often follow the same looping hunting flight routes, and you can anticipate where they are going to be next. Chasing them up and down the dyke, as I’ve seen birding groups do, is something I’ll charitably label as “counterproductive”. Occasionally you will see them dive down into the grass and then fly away (a miss), but sometimes they disappear and you don’t see them again for a while (meal time).
This Short-eared Owl perched in a tree next to Boundary Bay after a few failed hunting attempts. Soon after it seemed to have a bit of a territorial spat with a passing Northern Harrier. The Harrier moved on and this owl seemed to have a successful hunt on its next lap of the area. While there are not many trees in this kind of habitat along Boundary Bay Regional Park, the scattered tree trunks and driftwood, along with the grass and shrubs in this photo are pretty typical of the habitat here.
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) Perched in a Tree at Boundary Bay (Purchase)
A few areas along the dyke trail at Boundary Bay Regional Park have thickets of the invasive species Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus). They can be problematic in many ways but small birds such as this White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) can use it for cover, and many eat (and unfortunately distribute) the berries in the summer. This White-crowned Sparrow was with a flock of around 10-20 individuals, but they were quite active at that moment and group photos were a bit chaotic. They aren’t quite as exuberant and curious as Chickadees, but were not apparently bothered by my presence along the trail.
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) at Boundary Bay (Purchase)
Barred Owl (Strix varia) fledglings perched in a tree at Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley, British Columbia, Canada.
Barred Owl (Strix varia) Owlet Begging Call while Sibling Looks on (Purchase)
I recently went for a walk with my Mom in Campbell Valley Regional Park. At the bottom of a hill there was a man standing in the path with his fingers to his lips, and he then pointed up into the tree canopy. These two Barred Owl owlets (Strix varia) were perched on a Cedar tree branch close to the trail. I had brought my camera, but only had my 24-70mm lens with me just in case some wildflowers or other small scene was too interesting to pass up. Unfortunately – a lens that wide (even at 70mm) is not something you can really use to photograph juvenile owls up in a tree (that are 21m / 70ft away). When I got home I immediately packed my 100-400mm lens and went right back to the park. I had no idea if the young owls would still be there, but I was lucky and they were! I was completely prepared for them to have moved on but I was back there in under an hour which helped. I’ve not seen young Barred Owls like this in the wild before, so seeing them this close (and with a clear view) was a great opportunity. I have photographed adult Barred Owls before, both in my front yard and in Campbell Valley Park. Now that I know the sound of the begging calls (watch the video at the end of this post) they make I might be able to spot other young owls in the future. They certainly aren’t songbirds!
When I returned the two owlets were still sitting a few feet apart on the branch. The first photograph above shows the one on the left in mid “begging call” which it repeated very frequently during the time I watched it. It seems likely the owlet on the left is a bit younger, or at least has a lot more of the fluffy baby feathers compared to the one on the right. I wasn’t too sure at the time of the way things work with baby owls, how quickly they leave the nest, and if they are fed by parents at all or for how long so I had to do some research.
Barred Owls are generalists – they have a wide variety of prey that includes mostly small mammals and rabbits, but they also eat other birds, amphibians, and invertebrates. While the female is sitting on the nest (for 28-33 days) the male occasionally brings prey to the nest, and the female may leave to hunt while incubating the eggs as well. After the chicks hatch both male and female owls will feed the chicks, though the male sometimes brings the prey to the female to give to the chicks. After about six weeks of being fed in the nest, the owlets leave by climbing up or down a tree (if nesting in one) or flying to other branches. For 4-5 months after leaving the nest, the young owls are fed by parents while they learn to hunt. After this period they disperse and find their own territories.
After I observed these owls for a while the older one on the right moved across the branch and snugged up with the younger one. The younger owlet continued very frequent begging calls. Perhaps it had not fed as recently as the other, or was just a bit less patient. My presence, and those of other people passing by in the park didn’t seem to be of any interest to these owls. As they have such good eyesight and hearing though, it wasn’t as though they weren’t aware of everything happening around them. At one point (photograph below) they were both looking intently at the hillside behind me. I didn’t hear anything, and turned around a few times and didn’t see anything. When they got really interested again I turned around and there was a deer in the bush about 15m (50 ft) behind me. The deer hadn’t seen me and ran back up the hill, crashing through the bush and making lots of noise. The owls didn’t move or care that much about this occurrence.
At the time I hadn’t remembered at what point baby owls leave the nest so there was some speculation with passersby regarding their flying abilities. Sometimes young Barred Owls leave the nest without flying, and climb up and down trees and hang out on the branches before flying around. Eventually the smaller owlet on the left answered the question for this pair and switched trees. The flight looked quite smooth and the landing was relatively elegant. They seemed to have moved beyond the crash landing stage.
Barred Owl Owlet Stretching on a branch (Purchase)
The remaining fledgling remained on the branch itself for a while after that, and sometimes rested its head on the branch (photo above) while stretching out its wings. It really sort of looked like it was bored waiting for an adult to show up with some food. C’mon Mom – I’m hungry!
Barred Owl Fledglings perched in a Bigleaf Maple Tree (Purchase)
Eventually the older fledgling joined the younger on the nearby Bigleaf Maple tree, though not initially on the same branch. After a few minutes it hopped around onto a few different branches and then jumped up and rejoined its sibling. I noticed in this new location that both owlets were doing an almost equal amount of begging calls (and simultaneously at times as in the photo above), so perhaps it was getting closer to the time when free food might usually arrive.
The video below is about 2.5 minutes of the ~10min of footage I recorded while viewing these fledglings. My favourite part is probably the first 20 seconds or so. The younger owlet suddenly looks at the older one, does a loud begging call, and the older one looks away. It reads a bit like a bit of a rebuke of sorts! Near the 1 minute mark a Crow can be heard cawing overhead. Crows and a few other species of birds don’t exactly get along with owls, and will harass or mob them when they can. The young owls here didn’t seem perturbed by the overhead cawing, and even let out a few begging calls while the crows were nearby. I would think crows would be smart enough to know what that sound means. Apparently the owls didn’t draw a connection between the cawing and any potential for harassment. Perhaps they haven’t learned or experienced that yet, or the crows don’t often mob fledglings.
Video of Barred Owl Fledglings in Campbell Valley Park
For more photographs of these (and other) owls visit my Bird Photos Gallery.
A juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a fence post near Boundary Bay in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.
Juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a fence post near Boundary Bay (Purchase)
In early January I made a few visits to the dyke trail along Boundary Bay in Delta, BC. These Boundary Bay trails are a great spot for a short (or very long) walk while taking in the views and the wildlife. I’ve previously photographed a number of species here, most notably Snowy Owls back in 2012. Certain spots can be crowded with birders and photographers, so I tend to avoid those locations. I always photograph from the trails, and if I can’t “reach” a subject from there, well, maybe it will sit closer next time. The juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the above photograph was a very easy subject to work with. It was relatively still, had some personality, and I happened upon it in fairly decent light. During January I don’t think the breeding has really started to get going so there are a lot of eagles loitering around on various trees and posts in the area making for good viewing.
Adult Bald Eagle (H. leucocephalus) perched on a tree branch at Boundary Bay (Purchase)
Further along the trail I came upon this adult Bald Eagle perched in a tree. So often when I find eagles in trees there are branches in front of them which makes for a difficult photograph. This one was reasonably close and was also not very high up in the tree. There were two other things that made photographing this eagle interesting. The first can be seen in the photograph below. There are a lot of Bald Eagles in the area, and they would occasionally fly over and land in nearby, taller Cottonwood trees. There were a number of times this eagle stretched its wings and preened itself, but it was also not quiet when the other eagles were nearby. The photo below shows this eagle while it was making a fair bit of noise while also stretching. I presume this was some level of warning that this was its tree or something similar. Maybe this was just a particularly cantankerous eagle? This video shows the full sequence of 20 images I made put together of the eagle stretching: https://vimeo.com/396230790.
An adult Bald Eagle (H. leucocephalus) stretches while on a tree branch near Boundary Bay (Purchase)
The other interesting thing I noticed when photographing this eagle was the large number of small insects flying around it. I could see these on my camera’s LCD screen and zoomed in as I was initially alarmed this might be a lot of dirt on my camera sensor. The eagle didn’t seem at all bothered by this, even though they were buzzing quite close to its head much of the time. I don’t know what attracted the insects, but considering what eagles often eat in the area, this may have been a particularly smelly individual.
An adult Bald Eagle (H. leucocephalus) perched on a tree branch (with a small cloud of insects)
While I almost always see and photograph a variety of wildlife on a trip to Boundary Bay – the scenic surroundings are well worth the trip too. On a clear day Mount Baker (3286 m / 10780 ft) in Washington State offers a great view along with Lummi Peak on Lummi Island that can be seen from the bay. This photograph has both a juvenile Bald Eagle as well as Mount Baker all in one photograph – something I’ve been looking for from any of the larger bird species in the area on the clear days I’ve visited.
A juvenile Bald Eagle on a piece of driftwood next to Boundary Bay. Mount Baker (Washington) in the background. (Purchase)
For more of my photographs of birds visit my Bird Photos Gallery.
Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens) were one species I was interested in photographing with my new Canon 100-400mm lens, and so I made 3 day trips to photograph them. The first one was to Ladner and Tsawwassen in Delta, BC. I didn’t really have a good idea as to where to find them, so I drove around Westham Island first, and saw zero Snow Geese. I then drove around Ladner looking at the various fields and saw zero Snow Geese. I decided to head to Tsawwassen, and when I was on my way down there I didn’t see Snow Geese – I heard them. I got out of the car and a large flock flew out of a field, likely stirred up by a passing bird of prey. They circled their field for a minute and then flew off. This was not a photo opportunity but at least I’d seen some at last! When I reached Tsawwassen I found another field with geese in it, and this time they stayed put for a moment. I made the second photo here at that time. The geese were feeding on the various roots and seeds of the cover crop in the field, and there were many comings and goings. Eventually a Hawk passed by and the entire flock took to the sky – and I made the first photograph above. It seems fairly clear that most of the opportunity to photograph these birds will be either a bunch of fairly relaxed birds in a field, or a bedlam of cacophony as they all vocalize their displeasure at having to leave the same field. They are not quiet when doing so!
Snow Geese breed on the Arctic tundra – and many of these migrating down west coast of North America will have come from breeding grounds such as Wrangel Island in Russia. Over 100,000 pairs breed on that island alone – one indicator the Snow Goose population is doing very well. The Fraser River Delta and the farm fields in Delta and Richmond, as well as local wetlands, are a good source of food for the geese as they migrate south. They will also make a stop here on the way back north to breed in the spring.
On my second trip to photograph Snow Geese I had little success and saw zero Snow Geese. I drove all around the south Delta area and what was really odd was I didn’t even spot a Great Blue Heron – a fairly common species to see in the farm fields and along the roadside ditches. Just not a good day for birding I guess! The next trip I made I headed to Richmond to visit Iona Beach Regional Park – a place I had never been. There were several hundred Snow Geese along the shoreline of Iona Beach, and they were not disturbed by a human nearby. The photograph above shows a flock of geese resting along the shore. Most of the geese were in a flock, a few looked to be broken off into small family groups of 3-6 geese (like the pair in the photo below), and there were a few that seemed to be relatively independent.
From Iona Beach Regional Park I drove south and visited Terra Nova Rural Park and walked along the West Dyke Trail – both places I had not been before. I’d heard there were a lot of geese here, and there were, but not really close enough to photograph. There was a lot of wildlife around though, so I think this will be another good spot to revisit in the future. When I last visited Steveston in Richmond I noticed these odd, wooden contraptions placed periodically along the shoreline. There were more near the north end of the dyke trail, and so I decided to look them up later. Turns out they are old radar reflectors – though I’m not sure if they have any use at this time, or were used by ships or aircraft. Richmond doesn’t really have much in the way of topography to bounce a radar signal off of, so I guess this was a method of getting around that. This one did add a bit of interest to the photograph below as a large flock of geese flew in from the fields nearby (I could hear them coming for many minutes) and landed in the water.
I thought I’d share another batch of photographs here that don’t have enough of a story involved justify their own blog post.
Baby Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Baby Eastern Cottontail (S. floridanus) Eating hawksbeard Flowers (Purchase)
I was testing out a new zoom lens in the backyard and had seen this baby Eastern Cottontail eating Hawkesbeard stems on the lawn. I sat down and waited for it to come back which it did after a few minutes. This was a rather small rabbit – the adults can be approximately 44 cm (17 in) long, but this little one was only about 15 cm (6 in)!
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Blackie Spit Park
Blackie Spit Park (Surrey, BC) is a favourite photography location of mine, and now that I’ll be occasionally photographing more birds I suspect I’ll be there even more. In July I photographed this Heron wading in one of the small canals in the park while searching for small fish and invertebrates. It was looking around a lot, so I was able to make photos of it facing both ways. I also made the photo below with a longer exposure, to try to get it looking both ways at once. I didn’t expect it to work out quite this well, but I like the result. I was also unable to really come to a conclusion as to whether I liked the Heron facing right or left, so I ultimately just published all three photos.
Great Blue Heron (A. herodias) foraging at Blackie Spit Park
Look both ways before you cross the marsh (Purchase)
I also photographed this decorated rock sitting atop a fence post at Blackie Spit. I take it this sort of thing is not rare in the area, but it was the first time I’d seen one. The large yellow flowers next to the post are Fernleaf Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina).
Decorative Rock on a Crescent Beach Fence Post (Purchase)
Also at Blackie Spit I photographed this Hawksbeard (Crepis sp.) plant with some seed heads on it that were nicely backlit by late day sunlight. I’ve photographed a number of interesting small plant scenes in this particular meadow – which you can find in my Surrey gallery.
Hawksbeard (Crepis sp.) Seeds at Blackie Spit (Purchase)
Water Lily Reflection
I’ve photographed these pond lily (Nymphaeacea) plants in the backyard before, but this time I was attracted to the reflection from this particular flower. I like finding subjects that are only a few steps from the back door!
Water Lily (Nymphaeacea) Flower Reflection (Purchase)
More of my newer images can be found in my New Images Gallery.
Evening reflections on the pond at Godwin Farm Biodiversity Preserve in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
The pond at Godwin Farm Biodiversity Preserve (Purchase)
A few weeks ago I visited the Godwin Farm Biodiversity Preserve in Surrey for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect from this spot at all – only knowing that this was a farm the owners gifted to the City of Surrey for a park, there was a pond, and I’d seen a photograph of a row of Redwood trees. I drove out there on a weekday evening, expecting to the park to be busier than it was as it is right next to a large number of houses. There were few people there, but many seemed to be walking in from the neighborhood, not driving to the parking lot. It was nice to be in this serene spot with relatively few people.
The park was given to Surrey by the Godwin Family in 2015 through the Federal Eco-gifting program. Tom and Elaine Godwin purchased the land in 1969 and at one time it was a 120 acre farming operation. Tom Godwin planted a wide variety of tree species on the property, and dug the pond in 1975. Many of the tree species are labelled, and there are information signs indicating the history of various parts of the farm.
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) at Godwin Farm (Purchase)
The park is 26 acres, so walking all the trails available is not a difficult task. The trails meander through old farm fields, and orchard, around the pond, and through groves of trees. When I was there many bird species were nearby, including these Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) that flew back and forth across the pond. At one point they clustered around a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) who seemed a bit bothered as it was probably trying to fish in peace. I’d attempted to photograph Cedar Waxwings recently at Elgin Heritage Park, but they never landed close enough for a decent photograph. This flock were greater in number (probably about 10-15 individuals) and seemed a bit curious about me. I was fortunate to get these two photographs. While they came by quite often and perched near me, they never really sat still for all that long, so photo opportunities were frequent, but rather brief.
Adult Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) (Purchase)
For me, the pond was the most interesting part of the park, though all of it is worth walking through. There were obviously some species of small fish in the pond, as the Kingfishers kept catching them. The shore also had some small frogs, and one of the signs indicates there are turtles there as well. I photographed this Narrow-leaved Bur Reed (Sparganium angustifolium) plant along the shoreline with its interesting flowers. This was not a species I’d noticed before in the other ponds I’ve been around, though this species is native to British Columbia.
Bur Reed flowers in the Godwin Farm pond (Purchase)
For more of my photographs from the area visit my City of Surrey Gallery.
A park bench overlooking McLean Pond on a summer evening at Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley, British Columbia, Canada
A Park Bench with a View of McLean Pond (Purchase)
McLean Pond is one of the areas of Campbell Valley Regional Park that seems “new” to me. I don’t believe it was part of the park when I first started visiting it in the early 1980’s. I first explored this area starting about 8 years ago as I’d seen people parking there and decided to check it out myself. The majority of the area is a grassy field, but after a short walk through the grass McLean Pond comes into view. There is a small dock on the south end and one can reserve the pond for canoeing. At the north end of the pond there is a park bench (above) which offers a good spot to view the wildlife in the area.
I visited McLean Pond a few weeks ago mostly in order to try out a new lens I’d purchased (Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM) – mostly to try to get used to the new focal lengths. The wildlife I’d hoped to find at the pond was a good place to start getting acquainted with the new lens, as well as some smaller landscape scenes I was hoping to find. This particular evening had very little breeze, so I was able to get a nice reflection for the photograph below, a scene one can view from the park bench I mentioned above.
The pond (closed to fishing, btw) is home to muskrats and beavers – both of which I saw that evening. Turtles and a few frog species also live in the pond, but I didn’t happen to spot any on this visit. I did see the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) in the photo below, as well as what I presume were this year’s crop of goslings. They were swimming around in the pond, happily picking pond weeds from beneath the surface. This particular individual had a watchful eye on me much of the time. I presume this was either the designated lookout or a parent still wary of its young’s ability to avoid dangers such as photographers with long lenses.
A Wary Canada Goose (B. canadensis) at McLean Pond (Purchase)
The photograph below of two fallen, dead trees along the shore of McLean Pond was one I’d wanted to make on a previous visit, but the conditions were never quite right. The reflection was nice this time and the water plants in the foreground (Watershield – Brasenia schreberi) added a bit to the scene – and they aren’t present in the spring when I’ve visited here the most.
On my way back to my car I heard this Dwarf Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis brooksi) singing in the bushes. I couldn’t find it, and didn’t want to move around too much, but it made it easy on me by landing on this branch within range of my longer lens. This usually happens when I have a wide angle on, but I was lucky this time, and was walking with my new lens. This was a new species for me, I’ve not knowingly seen Savannah Sparrows before, but now I’ll be on the lookout for more. The species name of this bird is interesting – sandwichensis. Was someone hungry?
A Great Egret (Ardea alba) catching a small fish in a marsh along St. Lawrence Lake in Ontario, Canada.
Great Egret Hunting at Lake St. Lawrence in South Eastern Ontario (Purchase)
When I visited Ontario in October of last year I photographed this Great Egret (Ardea alba) searching for fish in a shallow area of Lake St. Lawrence. This area had a large number of Great Egrets foraging along the shores. They are very easy to spot in comparison to the other Heron species I am familiar with in British Columbia – the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Great Egrets mainly eat fish, but will also ingest amphibians, small birds, small mammals, invertebrates, and insects. The Lake St. Lawrence area appears to be a migratory location for the Egrets – they do not commonly breed in that area.
This particular Great Egret has a small fish in its bill which is hard to see in the image above. I photographed this with a fairly fast shutter speed, and made a burst of photographs just as the Egret appeared to be about to strike at something in the water. The image above was the result, but I also pieced together a “video” of the sequence of images that you can find on Vimeo: A Great Egret (Ardea alba) Catching Fish.
Great Egret Hunting for Earthworms in a Fraser Valley Field (Purchase)
The second photograph here also shows a Great Egret – but in a location far from Ontario. This is a field in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. The birding community was excited about this particular Egret. While not unheard of in this area, it is not a usual migration route or breeding area (especially in January). I drove by after buying some groceries to see what kind of circus it might be. Nobody was there, and the Egret was hunting in the field fairly close to the road. I stopped to take a look, and it was unbothered by my presence. So I drove home, got the camera and my longest lens and returned. Luckily the Egret was still there after coming back – how often does that happen?
A few people stopped to take a look at this Egret, but 2/3 stopped to ask me why myself and a lot of other people they’d seen (a bit of a circus on the weekend, apparently) were stopping. I’m not a birder really, and I tend to avoid the rare birds that people, uhm, flock to view. I avoided another species of rare bird in Abbotsford at around the same time to avoid adding to the stress it might potentially face with a lot of visitors in an area where it had little food available. This Egret was eating a lot of large earthworms in this field, in contrast, and so I suspect it was in a fairly good situation. It certainly seemed unbothered that I was photographing it only 16 meters (52 feet) away.
More of my Bird photos can be found in my Bird Photos Gallery.