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 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.
Common Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) flowers blooming at Campbell Valley Park in Langley, British Columbia, Canada.
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.
Backlit Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) at Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)
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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.
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 (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 (Iris pseudacorus) on the edge of McLean Pond at Campbell Valley Park (Purchase)
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 (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 (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.
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.
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 of Lavender on a White Background (Purchase)
A juvenile Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla) resting on a Rose bush 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 (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.
A Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) perched on a branch at Ladner Harbour Park in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.
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.
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 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 (Pipilo maculatus) foraging at Ladner Harbour Park (Purchase)
For more photographs from this area visit my Delta Gallery.
While pondering locations to find and photograph fall foliage last autumn I visited a number of locations that were new to me, and Richmond Nature Park was among them. Fall foliage was rather hit and miss last year, and I thought that perhaps a raised bog ecosystem might offer some birch and blueberry foliage that would be a bit different than the usual Maples etc. Having no experience with Richmond Nature Park I didn’t know which trails to take, and opted for The Time Trail and Bog Forest Trail that looped around the edge of the park, mostly. Some parts of the Bog Forest Trail are raised on a wooden boardwalk as you see above. This first photograph also shows how the Salal (Gaultheria shallon) and Blueberry Bushes (Vaccinium sp.) make walking parts of these trails a bit like a journey through a colourful tunnel, with some wildlife mixed in a long the way.
Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) eating tree seeds at Richmond Nature Park (Purchase)
The Time Trail was the first trail I walked in the park and went through a portion of forest without much bog species evident. I photographed this Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) eating tree seeds in what was a popular feeding spot. I counted over 6 Douglas Squirrels in the same area at once which was nice to see as they are frequently pushed out by the larger, invasive Eastern Grey Squirrels. Seeds of coniferous trees such as the Douglas Fir (which were common along this part of the trail) are a large part of the Douglas Squirrel’s diet as well as occasional berries and mushrooms. There was some squabbling over the food in this location but it was relatively civilized banquet overall.
Salal and Blueberry bushes line the Bog Forest Trail at Richmond Nature Park (Purchase)
The photograph above shows the Bog Forest Trail on the western side of Richmond Nature Park with a few more open areas giving views of Birch and other tree species. There is also more Salal in these areas, giving a nice green edge to the trail.
A Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) foraging on a tree trunk (Purchase)
Immediately after I photographed the squirrel above I saw this Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) looking for insects and arthropods up and down the tree trunks along the Time Trail. I’ve read about Brown Creepers before, but never had seen one (they are well camouflaged against the tree bark). They don’t show up in the forest like a lot of the other birds I see often – they are climbing up tree trunks for the most part, searching for insects in the bark. Once I saw how this Creeper behaved, I moved a few trees ahead of where it was, and it eventually worked its way up the tree in front of me, and I was able to make this photo. They remind me a bit of trying to photograph Nuthatches – they never seem to sit still and are always on the move up each tree.
You can see more of my photos from Richmond Nature Park and the City of Richmond in my Richmond Gallery.
A male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) perched in a tree over Eagle Creek near Piper Spit in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) perched in a tree at Burnaby Lake Regional Park (Purchase)
I’m not a “Bird Photographer”, I just seem to photograph a lot of birds! I visited Burnaby Lake Regional Park on three occasions this past fall, and wound up photographing birds (along with other subjects) every time. Owning a longer telephoto lens has not only been great for my landscape photography, but has made some bird photography more successful than it was before. On my first visit to Burnaby Lake last year I went to Piper Spit. I’d driven to this location about 25 years ago but never actually visited when I lived in Burnaby and Coquitlam around that time. So when I was finished photographing at Deer Lake Park one evening, I headed to Burnaby Lake to check out this location at last. It is a nice spot to just be in but it is also a spot with good bird photography potential. There are a lot of bird species at Piper Spit! The fanciest is the “off course” or escaped Mandarin Duck, but I think the native Wood Ducks like the one in the top photo are my favourite. They are one of the few ducks that will perch in trees, and I was lucky enough to come across a few doing just that just above Eagle Creek where it flows out to Piper Spit.
Long-Billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus-scolopaceus) at Burnaby Lake (Purchase)
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I also made this panorama of a group of Long-Billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus-scolopaceus) resting around a dead tree trunk and branches in Burnaby Lake. I counted 146 Dowitchers in this photograph, but many others were foraging nearby and running around in the shallow water. This flock of Dowitchers is most likely overwintering at Burnaby Lake before departing to breeding grounds in the spring. The photo below is an individual Long-Billed Dowitcher that was foraging for various foodstuffs (mostly insects and aquatic invertebrates) nearby.
A Long-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus-scolopaceus) foraging at Burnaby Lake (Purchase)
This Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) was amoung about 5 individuals that stopped to perch for a few minutes in a shrub next to the boardwalk at the spit. There was lots of squaking and they weren’t certainly not quiet, though they made a lot less noise than the 100’s of Mallard Ducks that were also there. The whole place descended into a bit of an unfortunate circus when someone showed up with a box of birdseed and dumped it into the water – just a few feet from a “don’t feed the birds” sign, of course. The ducks went crazy, many different species crowded into the small area, and the blackbirds decided none of this was worthy of their presence and departed.
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) perched in a tree at Burnaby Lake (Purchase)
This Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) was done with the bird seed bedlam and was walking around on the boardwalk seemingly interested in jumping off the other side. When it stopped in front of me briefly, I made this photograph of just its head. You can see me crouched down in the reflection in its eye. This time of the year Canada Geese are pretty relaxed so there was no hissing or honking at me, it just passed by, posed for a headshot, and carried on. I didn’t crop this photograph – this is the size the camera recorded it at, so the detail at 100% is interesting as I was only 1.24 meters (4 feet) away!
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) Up Close! (Purchase)
This Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) also seemed uninterested in the bird seed junk food buffet being offered nearby and just continued wading and foraging in the mud like nothing was happening.
Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) foraging at Burnaby Lake (Purchase)
There are a lot of Great Blue Herons around Burnaby Lake. I saw this individual hunting (and catching!) small fish and other prey in the lily pads along the shore of the lake. I’ve learned that Herons aren’t that particular as to what animals they eat. If it will fit down the esophagus – down it goes! Which reminds me of the one time I saw a Heron take on a bit more than its esophagus could handle – a photo featured at the end of this post: Hogs Back Falls on Ottawa’s Rideau River. I think this moment was a learning experience!
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) hunting in the Lily Pads at Burnaby Lake Regional Park (Purchase)