Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) Adult and Fledgling

A Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) foraging in a Fraser Valley Wetland.

virginia rail rallus limicola adult wading

Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) Adult (Purchase)

Recently I was walking through a Fraser Valley park and saw a bird run across the trail – and it was unlike one I’d seen before. It struck me as the shape of bird that I’d normally see on the shoreline near the ocean, but this was well inland and in a fresh water marsh/wetland area and had interesting orange colours going on with its chicken like gait. New species are fun to discover! While I had no idea what kind of bird this was, I stopped and hoped that I could improve on the few, hurried, photos I made as it headed into the tall grass on the side of the trail. I knew it was still just a few feet into the grass as i could hear the occasional call here and there. A horse and rider ran by (a shared equestrian/pedestrian trail) but the calls didn’t stop, so I guess this particular bird wasn’t too bothered by traffic nearby. Soon it reappeared, not lingering anywhere but wading past with its attention to the water for invertebrates to eat, I presume. I consulted my phone app for bird identification (Merlin) at the time and it seemed likely this was a Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) which I have since confirmed.

virginia rail rallus limicola chick fledgling

Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) Chick (4-14 days old)

My app also indicated this bird was rare. Upon further research it seems they aren’t rare exactly, but rare to see, an important distinction. While its existence is not aided with the draining of wetlands, the population remains in sufficient abundance to not be currently “threatened” (listed by the IUCN as a species of Least Concern). At any rate, I hadn’t spotted a Virginia Rail before so this was quite interesting in itself. Even more interesting was what I saw next. I’d seen a small black shape scamper around in the water/grasses near the adult, but had initially dismissed it as small rodent of some kind. Once it crossed some water and struggled to get up a small incline, I saw it flapping tiny wings during the attempt (photo above). This was a Virginia Rail chick likely quite recently out of the nest. Evidently newly hatched chicks only remain in the nest for 3-4 days before they get out and start moving around. They also molt for the first time at around 2 weeks of age, with the black feathers giving way to new ones. So this chick was likely somewhere around 4-14 days old. Another thing I didn’t expect! When the Virginia Rail parent made another pass I made the first photograph above, and left the area as there were likely more chicks around and I didn’t want to draw any attention to them.

As I walked away from the Virginia Rail family, I noticed this male Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhyncho) swimming nearby. I am not sure if it was my presence alone, or some other event, but this Mallard seemed mad. I have not heard one of these ducks utter such a cacophony of sound before. It seemed really ticked off, and flew away shortly after I photographed it. I felt compelled to name this particular photograph “Beaking Off” as a result.

mallard duck calling

Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhyncho) uhm… Beaking Off (Purchase)

You can see more of my bird photographs in my Birds gallery.

Bird Photography at Tsawwassen’s Beach Grove Lagoon

An adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flies overhead at Tsawwassen’s Centennial Beach in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.

bald eagle in flight at boundary bay in delta

Bad Eagle in Flight at Centennial Beach on Boundary Bay (Purchase)

In yet another example of parks I’ve been to, but not fully explored – I ventured out into Boundary Bay Regional Park north of Centennial Beach in mid February. While I was watching some ducks forage along the edge of the tidal zone a woman who was walking by asked a question about my photography (a long lens and a tripod attracts conversation). She pointed out there was a heron just down the way and I said the words that would set the tone for the rest of the evening (and this blog post). I stated that I was mostly done photographing herons at this point as I have too many heron photos. I used Bald Eagles as another example of birds I don’t seek out intentionally unless there is something new and/or interesting about the potential photograph (there are tons of Bald Eagles around Boundary Bay). So naturally a few seconds later I made the photograph above as this adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew just overhead. I don’t think I have many Eagles in flight photos, so this was something new and also worked out quite well. I should have known what was coming next.

Shortly after the Eagle incident I found this curious American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) hopping along the driftwood logs on the beach. I know Crows aren’t exactly a big target of birders, with some exceptions, but they are often doing interesting things. Previously recognized as a separate species, the Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus) was recently renamed the American Crow. As it turned out, via some genetic studies, Northwestern Crows were usually found to be hybrids or actually C. brachyrhynchos anyway. I wish they could have renamed it the North American Crow. This individual did eventually spy a tasty morsel in the sand and flew off to enjoy it with a bit more privacy.

american crow perched on driftwood at boundary bay

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) Perched on Driftwood at Boundary Bay (Purchase)

Walking down the trail from Centennial Beach I approached the Beach Grove Lagoon and Spit area of Boundary Bay Regional Park and, as one might have predicted, found some Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) in interesting light. As I’ve often seen them do at Blackie Spit in Crescent Beach, there were a number of Herons hanging out in a grassy field near the shore. Some were sleeping and having a nap but others were slightly more active. The warmer sunlight of the evening with the backlighting on the bird attracted me to this particular composition. I photographed this individual Heron as the feathers on its head and neck were nicely lit by the sunlight versus others who were resting in the shade. I guess one attractive thing about photographing these birds is they often tend to sit still and don’t move around a lot unless they are actively hunting. Probably why I have more photos of Herons than Swallows, for example. Despite declaring them a subject I’m less interested, I published 7 Heron photos from this evening, bringing the total in my Image Library to 42. Maybe I should just change my logo to a heron?

great blue heron at beach grove lagoon tsawwassen

Great Blue Heron Resting in a Grassy Field in Tsawwassen (Purchase)

Also at the Beach Grove Lagoon and Spit was this Heron sitting on a piece of driftwood. It seemed to mostly be enjoying nap time like the Herons in the field. Occasionally it would keep a close eye on a Bald Eagle or other larger bird flying nearby. It may have been resting up for the hunt I saw it begin shortly thereafter.

great blue heron perched on driftwood at boundary bay regional park

Great Blue Heron Perched on Driftwood at Beach Grove Lagoon and Spit (Purchase)

Much of Boundary Bay Regional Park is often a great place to spot a variety of shorebirds depending on the time of year. On this day in mid February there were a number of Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) foraging along the shore. This one was focusing on this one area in the water, perhaps having spied something on its first pass and was hoping to snack on it this time around. When photographing this Yellowlegs I talked to a young man (~14) who was also trying to photograph the shorebirds. When I saw the Yellowlegs I got off the trail and sat down and waited for them to walk past. His tactic was to walk quickly back and forth on the top of the dike, looming in the sky (from the bird’s perspective) which often dictated their direction of movement. I mentioned this to him and that if he stood in one spot, the birds would wander past and be more relaxed while doing so. He agreed, but lamented that he just didn’t have the patience to do that. I probably wouldn’t have had it at 14 either, honestly, and I’ve see grown adults racing up and down the dike at boundary bay chasing birds too. Also of note for this 14 year old was the lens he was using. I’m pretty sure it was a Canon 800mm which retails for around $22,000 here in Canada. Must be nice (but heavy)! My car was cheaper than that when new in 2004!

greater yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca at boundary bay

Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) at Beach Grove Lagoon and Spit (Purchase)

After I chatted about wildlife photography and Yellowlegs the Heron I photographed sitting on the driftwood earlier had flown a short distance to the edge of the incoming tidal water from Boundary Bay. I watched it catch several small fish before it flew to the other side of the dike to join those napping in the grass.

great blue heron resting at boundary bay regional park

Great Blue Heron Hunting at Beach Grove Lagoon (Wildlife Area) (Purchase)

On my walk back to the car as the light became dim there were several Herons in various trees either individually or in groups. This particular Heron was perched on top of a dead Birch tree trunk that had clearly rotted to the point of breaking off at some point. There was a Flicker poking around in one of the lower parts of the old trunk, an intrusion the Heron didn’t seem to mind. Granted this was a bit less noisy than when Flickers engage in their favourite spring pastime and bang away on metal chimneys in the early morning.

great blue heron resting at boundary bay regional park

Great Blue Heron Perched in the Evening at Boundary Bay (Purchase)

For more photographs of the Tsawwassen and Boundary Bay area visit my Delta Gallery in the Image Library. I don’t have a dedicated Heron gallery. Yet.

My Top 10 Photographs from 2021

December brings the time of year where we look back on the previous year and reflect on what occurred. I was hoping 2021 would be less eventful than the situation in 2020. While it was different, and much improved in many ways, the weather decided to be a big force where I live and not in a fun way. On the plus side, I did get out a lot more this year (locally) for photography, and I think I improved on some things from the previous year, which is all one can ask for really. 2021 also brought some really good fall foliage which I was able to both enjoy and photograph.

As usual, I started working on this list when I collected images for my 2022 Nature Calendar. I’ve published new images since then, and had many others to consider as well. If you click on a photo you’ll be taken to my Image Archive. I’ve also linked to corresponding blog posts that contain these images (if available) to provide more information about the location or to see other photos from that area. As usual, choosing 10 images is rather difficult, even though these should be considered my favourites and not the “best” necessarily. These aren’t in any order really as that would be just too hard!

I hope you enjoy this years selections and am curious to hear if you have any particular favourites. What do you see in photo #5?

My Favourite Photos of 2021:

katzie marsh fall leaves colors
1. Black Poplar (Populus trichocarpa) and Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) in Katzie Marsh
(Pitt Meadows, British Columbia)
Blog post: Pitt Polder Dike Walk Part 2 – Pitt Lake Dike Trail

western tiger swallowtail on lavender
2. Western Tiger Swallowtail ((Papilio rutulus))
(Langley, British Columbia)
Blog post: Lavender Flowers, Bees, and a Western Tiger Swallowtail

mount maxwell in clouds salt spring island
3. Mount Maxwell (Hwmet’atsum) In the Clouds

(Salt Spring Island, British Columbia)

pacific tree frog juvenile
4. Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla)
(Langley, British Columbia)
Blog post: Juvenile Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla)

cloud formations - baby bird
5. Cloud Formations

(Langley, British Columbia)

western white trillium flower
6. Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) flower
(Langley, British Columbia)
Blog post: Western Trillium Flowers in the Fraser Valley Of BC

raven peak pitt marsh fall foliage
7. Raven Peak and Fall Foliage
(Pitt Meadows, British Columbia)
Blog post: Pitt Polder Dike Trail Walk Part 1

bracken fern frond
8. Backlit Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum)
(Langley, British Columbia)
Blog post: An Evening Walk in Campbell Valley Regional Park

water plants in katzie marsh
9. Water Plants in Katzie Marsh

(Pitt Meadows, British Columbia)

barrel-roof shed in burgoyne bay
10. Barrel-Roof Shed at Burgoyne Bay

(Salt Spring Island, British Columbia)

You can view my favourite photographs from 2020 here: My Top 10 Photos of 2020.

2022 Nature Calendar Now Available!

My 2022 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, wildlife, and nature scenes from British Columbia and Washingon State. As the purchase website no longer has a preview available, take a look at the index below for a small preview of the images contained in the calendar.

cover for 2022 british columbia nature calendar

2021 Nature Calendar Cover – Juvenile Barred Owls

index for 2022 british columbia nature calendar

2022 Calendar Index

An Evening Walk in Campbell Valley Regional Park

Common Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) flowers blooming at Campbell Valley Park in Langley, British Columbia, Canada.

birds-foot trefoil flowers - lotus corniculatus

Common Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) at Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)

Campbell Valley Regional Park is a 548 hectare park I live fairly close to, and so I visit it quite often. It can be fairly quiet in the evenings there, so it is a good destination for a spur of the moment visit. The photos here are from a walk I did through north side of the park back in mid July. The trails through the fields and forests there can be a good spot to look for wildflowers both native and invasive. Of the invasive variety is the Common Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) above which is a species I’ve not noticed in the park before. The flowers remind me a bit of Scotch Broom and Toadflax, both of which are also invasive species here in British Columbia.

sunlight shines through bracken fern leaves in campbell valley park

Backlit Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) at Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)

-click to enlarge-

I hadn’t intended to photograph this backlit Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) as a panorama of sorts, but it wasn’t a subject I could approach as I wished. The fern was growing well off the trail so I cropped the photo I made (always from the trail!) as the top and bottom were intruded upon by tree branches in the forest. The back lighting was attractive though, so I worked with a longer lens to get as many fern fronds in as possible.

columbian black-tailed deer Foraging in a Field

Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus ssp. columbianus) (Purchase)

I have photographed Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus ssp. columbianus) in Campbell Valley Park before, but this one stuck around a lot longer than previous Deer I’ve seen. This was in one of the corners of the park I haven’t visited very often. I’d previously been very close to a Coyote hunting in the same field, and the only reason I don’t have a good photo of it is that this encounter occurred when I had my widest lens on the camera. The Coyote did not stick around for a lens change. I was already using my longer lens when I came across this Deer, and instead of bounding away at first sight, it kept a slightly wary eye on me as it grazed in the field.

common yellowthroat - geothylpis trichas on hanging grass stem

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) (Purchase)

Have you ever had some disappointment in getting home after photographing or seeing a “new to you” species only to find the name starts with “Common“? Such was the case twice with photographs from this evening, first with the Common Birds-foot Trefoil above and then again with the Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) I photographed foraging in the tall grasses. I also photographed a mustard-like flower species that I preliminarily identified as one with the word common at the beginning, but as I’m not sure of that ID I haven’t published it here.

This particular Common Yellowthroat was a bird I could hear far more than it was a bird I could see. I stuck around on the edge of the patch of tall grass and waited to see if the bird would emerge and I could make a photograph. Eventually, it moved further down the trail, and I was able to see it after maybe 5-10 minutes of just hearing its call. As you may see in the photograph this individual has caught some sort of caterpillar or grub for dinner – but was still making its call frequently. I guess birds don’t worry about talking with their mouth full.

Unfortunately there seem to be a lot of invasive species growing in Campbell Valley Regional Park. Along with the Birds-foot Trefoil and unidentified mustard, the Iris plants around McLean Pond appears to be an invasive species as well. I don’t recall having seen it flower recently, so I could be incorrect, but this appears to be Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus). I’ve photographed Yellow Flag Iris in a few locations before (Nanaimo, Pitt Meadows) but hadn’t seen it here in Langley before. Despite the species’ ecological malfeasance (it can create large colonies in wetlands, out competing native species and creating an environment that few native species can utilize for food or habitat.) I liked the patterns made by the sword-like leaves. I also experimented and made a black and white version.

yellow flag iris campbell valley park

Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) on the edge of McLean Pond at Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)

For more photographs in the park visit my Campbell Valley Regional Park Gallery.

Lavender Flowers, Bees, and a Western Tiger Swallowtail

A Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilo rutulus) feeding on nectar from Lavender flowers in a Fraser Valley garden.

western tiger swallowtail papilo rutulus on lavender flowers

Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilo rutulus) on Lavender Flowers (Purchase)

It has been a few years since I’ve had both vibrant lavender in the backyard and the right timing to photograph them during their peak. Luckily lavender seem to enjoy a hot and dry summer like the one we have been having. So over a few days earlier this summer I set out to make a number of lavender photographs because these subjects were easy to find – about 10′ out the back door. The highlight of all this was being able to photograph a Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilo rutulus) as it flew from flower to flower looking for nectar.

The photograph above is a bit of a different angle on a butterfly than what you might be used to. This perspective, found as the butterfly went from flower to flower sipping nectar, shows it as much more of a big, leggy insect than just a pretty pair of flying wings (below). Adult Western Tiger Swallowtails are Nectarivores, feeding on nectar from flowers as their only source of food. The immature caterpillars feed on plant leaves. For the Western Tiger Swallowtail these are mostly cottonwood and birches, but also include willows and wild cherry amoung their favourites.

western tiger swallowtail lavender flowers

Western Tiger Swallowtail (P. rutulus) Foraging Lavender Flowers (Purchase)

Bees are also favourite subjects in the garden but like the butterflies, they never sit still for a moment and require some patience. This small Bumblebee took a bit more time with this lavender flower gathering pollen and nectar which gave me an opportunity to make the photograph below. Honeybees and the native bees tend to be pretty relaxed, so I can get close with a macro lens and they don’t seem concerned with me at all.

bumblebee on lavender flowers

A small Bumblebee foraging on Lavender Flowers (Purchase)

As anyone who has photographed wildflowers will attest, a small amount of wind can be a big problem! I had to make a few attempts to make the photograph of lavender flowers and stems below as there seemed to be a lot of wind on the first occasions I tried it. The tall stems with the weight of the flowers on the ends sway in the breeze quite easily, and I even saw a few bees that botched their initial landing attempts so it was clearly giving everyone some problems. Lavender flowers are popular with nectar eating insects such as a wide variety of bee species and butterflies.

lavender flowers and stems

Lavender Flowers and Stems (Purchase)

The photograph below is a bundle of freshly cut lavender flowers in a small bouquet on a white background. This photograph didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped, and I’ll likely make another attempt next summer. The bouquet is a bit small, and the shadows are a bit harsh. I was using a longer focal length here to keep my camera gear from casting shadows, and made a few photos to focus stack so everything would be in focus. What I didn’t count on was how quickly the lavender flowers would wilt, and I had to do a lot more processing than I’d have liked to pick exposures that lined up well without too much flower sag in between. The shots I made look like a wilting timelapse if you scroll through them fast enough! Anyway, I include this here not as a victory but as a monument to the effort if nothing else. Next year I’d photograph this again on an overcast and cooler day (if such a thing exists anymore in our summers) and a larger bouquet. Stay tuned!

bouquet lavender flowers white background

Bouquet of Lavender on a White Background (Purchase)

You can see more of my bee and butterfly photos in my Animals and Wildlife Gallery and plants in the garden in my Garden Plants gallery in the image library.

Juvenile Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla)

A juvenile Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla) resting on a Rose bush leaf.

juvenile pacific tree frog pseudacris regilla on a leaf

Juvenile Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla) (Purchase)

I was in the garden yesterday and noticed this small Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla) resting on a leaf in a rose bush. The backyard pond still has some tadpoles in it, but clearly a lot of them have transitioned into juvenile frogs as I see them in the vegetable garden and on the edges of the lawn quite frequently. When I first spotted this one it was balled up and quite compact while sitting on a leaf. I made one photograph of it there, and then went to photograph a flower elsewhere in the garden before changing to a macro lens. When I came back the juvenile tree frog had jumped to another leaf and was in much more photogenic position. The tree frog did not seem perturbed by the potential intrusion of my camera lens looming nearby. It soon started to crouch down a bit as seen in this second photograph below before resuming the really compact resting position.

Pacific Tree Frogs are native here in British Columbia and their range extends from Northern California through to southern Alaska. The adults are typically terrestrial, living under leaves, logs, and other cool, sheltered places. They return to ponds for mating and spawning, with the eggs hatching tadpoles in a few weeks. The tadpoles eat a variety of foods while in the pond including scraping algae off of plants and consuming pollen from the surface of the water. After 2-3 months as tadpoles they transform into fully formed (albeit small) frogs and move mostly onto land. Their adult diet consists of mostly of insects, arachnids, and small arthropods.

juvenile pacific tree frog pseudacris regilla on a rose leaf

Juvenile Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla) on a Rose Leaf (Purchase)

This juvenile Pacific Tree frog was about 2.5cm (1 inch) long while the largest adults are near 5cm (2 inches) – so the ones I’ve been seeing have a lot of growing left to do! Most of the small tree frogs I see in the backyard are brown or grey/tan like this one, but they can also be green, and sometimes almost black in color.

You can see more of my wildlife and animal photos (including frogs) in my Animals & Wildlife Gallery.

Ladner Harbour Park in Delta

A Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) perched on a branch at Ladner Harbour Park in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.

bewicks wren in ladner harbour park

Bewick’s Wren (T. bewickii) at Ladner Harbour Park in Delta (Purchase)

Earlier this year I stopped for a walk around Ladner Harbour Park (map) in Delta, BC. I’ve been making an attempt to visit some smaller parks around here either as a full destination or as a stop along the way to other locations. Ladner Harbour Park has a few kilometers of trails, and I thought it was worth checking it out. This was a day of my least favourite kind of light – lots of high clouds gave a bright day but with lots of glare which meant I was unlikely to be shooting any larger landscape scenes. With my longer 100-400mm zoom lens birds are always an option, and I wound up using it for all of these photographs. The first photograph here shows a Bewick’s Wren (T. bewickii) which is not a species I think I have photographed before. I see them quite often, but they like the brush and shrubs in the understory of the forest, and are not a bird species that seems to sit still. They do seem to be rather noisy though, and often are making calls that help me know when to look for a small, darting, little brown bird that is too far away. Getting a clear shot of them is not easy due to their habitat, but I sat down on the edge of the trail and this one gave me a few chances to make photographs of it while it scampered around and foraged in the leaves.

The next photograph of patterns in the sand is something I might not normally have noticed, but I’m glad I did. This is a small spring or perhaps water draining out of this hole from higher ground in the tidal area. Either way, it made these interesting patterns in the sand which looks a bit like an alluvial fan. There is water coming vertically out of the ground on the left hand side of the formation which flows down into the stream of water on the right. In some ways it reminds me of this photograph of the Chilliwack River only in that it has the feeling of an aerial photograph. This view was from Mcneelys Trail and one of the new bridges in that section of trail.

sand patterns along the fraser river in delta

Patterns in the sand along the Fraser River (Purchase)

I am almost at the point where I need to stop photographing Herons. I like these birds a lot, and watching them hunt in fields or in the water like very tiny dinosaurs is always interesting. This particular Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was wading in one of the ditches (for lack of a better word) running out from the park to the edge of the Fraser River. Since it was a bright but not a clear day, the light was harsh, but it did allow me to make a photo of a Heron unlike my others. I like the contour of the muddy shoreline behind it and the reflection as well. Herons, unlike Wrens and other birds, are a bit easier to photograph as they wade slowly or stay still hoping prey wanders near. One of the reasons I have so many photographs of them!

great blue heron along the fraser river in ladner

Great Blue Heron hunting along the Fraser River in Ladner (Purchase)

For birds that are relatively shy, it seems relatively easy to notice Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus) when they are near me on the trail. Perhaps that is one reason they changed the name from “Rufous Sided Towhee” to Spotted Towhee? 😉 They are larger birds and easier to spot than the Wren in the first photograph, and are often scratching in the leaves and twigs on the forest floor in hopes of finding worthwhile morsels. They are shy though, so usually when I’ve attempted to photograph them I just see what direction they seem to be working in, and get ahead of them and just sit. This one didn’t seem to be too wary of me (it is next to the dog park and a busy trail to the southern viewpoint) and seemed to find some seeds in this particular spot.

spotted towhee foraging in the leaves at ladner harbour park

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) foraging at Ladner Harbour Park (Purchase)

For more photographs from this area visit my Delta Gallery.