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.
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.
Earier this year I was able to photograph a male Calypte anna in my backyard. Once I learned the calls of these birds I was able to find them much more often. Turned out there were at least 3-4 males in my backyard at various times. I was happy to get that photograph of one sitting on a fence post in my vegetable garden (they don’t tend to sit still for long). Since then I’d been able to watch some mating display dives as well as a lot of small skirmishes over territory, but none came close enough for me to get a good photo.
A few days ago I was walking the dog in the backyard when this hummingbird landed next to me in an Apple tree. I quickly put the dog back in the house and went back outside with my camera – and I was fortunate that the hummingbird was still around. She landed in the tree next to me and started preening which seemed like a decent indication I wasn’t considered much of a threat. I made these two photos during the 90 seconds or so she sat there, and was quite happy with how close I was and the tongue flicking I was able to photograph.
Female Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Flicking Her Tongue (Purchase)
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I had looked at a lot of photos trying to determine if this was fact a female Anna’s Hummingbird or a juvenile male. Turns out it is a juvenile female, as indicated by James Pike in the comments below. He goes into the reasons why it is a juvenile female, and clearly has a lot more experience identifying these birds than I do!
A male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) sitting on a garden post. Photographed in late winter in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada.
Male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
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Almost a month ago I wrote about trying to photograph a male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) in my backyard. I had noticed him sitting at the top of many of my trees singing during most afternoons first song on this page. As of today he is still up there singing away, perhaps he is having some trouble getting noticed in the Hummingbird dating scene, I’m not sure. A week or so after I posted my Black-capped Chickadee photo as a sort of hummingbird consolation prize, I was able to photograph this male in the vegetable garden.
It is rare that I am able to spot wildlife in my backyard and still have time to get in the house and grab the camera, but this Anna’s Hummingbird is pretty predictable in the order of trees he chooses to sing his love ballads from. He is also probably used to me staring up at him by now. I first photographed him at the top of the Hazelnut where he sat for a long time. I actually found making a photo of him reasonably difficult as the magnitude of light reflection from his purple gorget (the neck/throat/head feathers) was so high it would throw off my exposure. The bottom photo here shows a happy medium between the full purple/red brightness of his gorget feathers and the rather subdued reddish/brown shown in the first image.
Male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) in Hazelnut Tree
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After singing at the top of the Hazelnut for a while this male headed further back into the property and sat on a Mountain Ash tree, but only for a second. He immediately took flight again and almost got right on my face. Perhaps this was a territory thing or he was just curious, I’m not sure. Either way I was glad to see him land on a metal post very near me, and posted for just 3 photos before taking off to another frequently utilized perch in a Walnut tree. The first photograph here is that image, though I’ve cheated somewhat and cropped it to nearly 100%. You can see the uncropped version here. While I would love to get a hummingbird in flight photo seeing them perched has been pretty rare for me so I am happy to have good results. You can see a cropped version of this second photograph here. Note the very small hazelnut flowers at the end of those buds – this was the first time I had noticed them.
For more bird photographs please visit my Bird Photos Gallery.
This is a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) I photographed in the backyard the other day. Recently I have figured out that one bird call I’ve been hearing outside is not the usual songs from Chickadees, Juncos and other common local birds, but of a male Annas Hummingbird. I have seen it every day for the last while, and now that I’ve learned the pattern of trees it seems to use, I am trying to photograph it. Naturally it is nowhere to be found when I have my camera out, but is almost in my face when I’m out with the dog (and no camera). While trying to find it and a Golden-crowned Kinglet I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, I couldn’t resist photographing the Black-capped Chickadees and Juncos anyway. This particular Chickadee seemed even more curious than they usually are, and wasn’t afraid of sitting near me in the rose bushes. I actually had to back up at one point to make this photo as it was within the minimum focusing distance of my lens (70-200). Hoping to have the same “problem” with that Hummingbird soon. If I do I’ll be sure to post it here.
I photographed this Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) singing along the boardwalk over the marsh at Elgin Heritabe Park in Surrey, BC earlier this spring. I visited this park several times to photograph the Red-winged Blackbirds and on this occasion had this Song Sparrow sit on a branch right in front of me and start singing. I was able to make several photographs, and record two videos (see below) before the inevitable foot traffic of other park visitors caused it to fly away. Still, having a sparrow land that close and start singing was a great opportunity, one that I was only able to capitalize on as I was walking around with my longer lens (70-200mm) on the camera at the time. Landscapes do not tend to catch me by surprise nearly as often as wildlife, so when walking around on trails I often have the long lens on my camera instead of my favorite landscape lens (17-55mm). This way I am not trying to change lenses in order to photograph a bird or other animal close to me which is an activity that usually results in a missed opportunity.
The video linked below was recorded with my Canon 7D and its internal microphone which leaves a bit to be desired as it picks up all sorts of background noise. In the video you can hear the Song Sparrow singing, but you’ll also likely notice other birds singing, the flock of geese flying overhead, frogs, and the sounds of a speed boat accelerating up the nearby Nicomekl River.
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelalus phoeniceus) in the marsh at Elgin Heritage Park in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelalus phoeniceus) in the marsh at Elgin Heritage Park in Crescent Beach
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I have made a few trips to Crescent Beach’s Elgin Heritage Park recently, usually on my way to Blackie Spit. On this trip I set aside some time specifically to try to photograph Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelalus phoeniceus) in the marshes along the Nicomekl River. The males were quite active, singing and jumping from stalk to stalk in the Bulrushes. There were even some territorial squabbles where they would chase each other through the foliage like jet fighters. The females were not nearly as noticeable, though I had a few that stayed near me long enough to photograph as well. As the female Red-winged Blackbirds are drab in comparison, the males were really the more vibrant photography subject.
Last week I made the trip up to the Mount Baker Ski area and Artist Point at the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State, USA. First I made the obligatory stop at the iconic Picture Lake (more on that soon) to eat my soup, then I photographed some of the fall colours in the Mountain Ash and Blueberry bushes in the Heather Meadows area. After arriving at Artist Point I photographed this Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus) on the trail to Table Mountain. As with most of my wildlife photography, this was an opportunity I happened upon rather than directly seeking it out. Wildlife was not on my mind but there were 3 of these Grouse foraging near the trail. Well camouflaged, I didn’t even see them until one of them flew out of my way from the edge of the trail. I switched lenses and got ahead of their direction of travel, and they walked right past me. There are a lot of visitors here, so they are likely used to people, but it is still always better to let wildlife approach your position than the other way around.
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.