Birds at the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area

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 foraging at blackie spit

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

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 at boundary bay

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 at boundary bay regional park

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) at Boundary Bay (Purchase)

You can view more of my animal and bird photography in theAnimals and Wildlife Gallery.

Viewing Bald Eagles at Boundary Bay

A juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a fence post near Boundary Bay in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.

juvenile bald eagle perched on a post at boundary bay

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 perched in a tree at boundary bay

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.

adult bald eagle stretching in a tree

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.

small insects flying around an adult bald eagle

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.

juvenile bald eagle sitting on driftwood with mount baker

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.

Blackie Spit Sunset in Crescent Beach

Late evening light from the nature trails at Blackie Spit in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

sunset at blackie spit showing boundary bay and the coast range mountains

Sunset at Crescent Beach’s Blackie Spit (Purchase)

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   Earlier this year I spent a fair bit of time exploring Crescent Beach and photographing the various views to be found there – many of them from Blackie Spit. The majority of these photographs included urban views such as Burnaby and the Northshore Mountains but the area does have a lot more natural scenes as well. I thought I would post this photograph made from Blackie Spit but this time with more of the natural view. There is an old dock or bridge in this scene but I liked that this composition had the lush grasses (or sedges, perhaps) in the foreground along with the mountains in the background. Some warm sunlight at the end of the day helped too.

For more photographs from this area visit my Vancouver Coast & Mountains Gallery.

Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - keeps an eye out for a dive bombing harrier at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Snowy Owl
(Bubo scandiacus)
-click to enlarge-

   Back in mid February I went to the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area to photograph the Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus). The Snowy Owls are not normally in this location during Winter. This is an “irruption” year, where the Snowy Owls venture further south than they normally would. There are various opinions as to why this occurs, though most often I see it being related to food supply in the Arctic. As this happens only about once every 5-6 years I made sure I went down to take a look. I figured even if I could not photograph the Snowy Owls as they were too far out in the marsh I would be able to at least see them from afar. I was not disappointed.

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - yawning at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Yaaaaaawwwwn!
A Group of Snowy Owls
(Bubo scandiacus)
-click to enlarge-

   The first photo here shows an Owl that was like many of the others sitting on the driftwood – it had to occasionally keep a wary eye on a passing hawk or Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus). The Harriers especially seemed to like to dive bomb some of the Snowy Owls – though I don’t know if they ever make contact. One flew over the head of this owl and it kept an eye on it as it passed. The second photo shows one of the first signs of the Snowy Owls “waking up” from their earlier positions of just sitting on the logs with their eyes closed. There was lots of yawning, though I didn’t see it go through the group in any sort of contagious manner like it does in humans.

a group of snowy owls - bubo scandiacus - warm up for flight on a piece of driftwood at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
Warming up for flight
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   The last two images here show the Snowy Owls stretching and fluffing up their feathers in preparation for flight. I had seen a few other groups of Snowy Owls further down the trail do this, before they ultimately took off towards the marsh. I presume this was to go look for food, as they were not being harassed by photographers at the time. The group I was following did not take off during the day, so I will have to wait until the next irruption to get some flight photos. Of all the photos I made of this group of Snowy Owls, I do not think I ever had one where they were preening and fluffing up their feathers where all three were facing the same direction. This is part of the fun and challenge though. Two out of three ain’t bad!

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - stretching before flight at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
stretching
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   I wrote in my last Snowy Owl post that I was easily able to photograph these Snowy Owls from the trail at Boundary Bay. The individual Owls pictured here were all within about 40-50 feet of the trail. I was going to make this post a bit more about the ethics of wildlife and landscape photography as I see it – but I think that is a topic that I need to mull over just a bit more and probably deserves its own post anyway. As I’ve said before though, I do not see trampling the marsh habitat or approaching the Snowy Owls and spooking them to be something anyone should be doing just to “get the shot”. On this day there were maybe a dozen plus “Big Lenses” wandering around in the marsh no doubt causing much damage – especially as a cumulative effect.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) at Boundary Bay

a northern flicker - colaptes auratus - on a piece of driftwood at boundary bay - british columbia - canada
Northern Flicker
(Colaptes auratus)
-click to enlarge-

   Here is a photo I made a few weeks ago while looking for Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay in Delta, British Columbia. The Owls were the exciting part of my trip there, but I also viewed a lot of other bird species that will have me going back soon to photograph them specifically. There are other owls, various hawks, Northern Harriers, Great Blue Herons etc. I didn’t expect to see a Northern Flicker here, but this one jumped up onto this stump just as I walked past on the trail. I was lucky enough that he sat there for a few minutes while I managed to make a decent photo before he spied something on the ground and jumped down again. I suspect he was popping up for a better vantage point because he heard me coming and wanted to make sure I wasn’t looking for a snack.

   I used to ID bird species in my backyard when I was growing up – and at that time there was the Yellow Shafted Flicker, and the Red Shafted Flicker. Science has since determined these to be the same species, just different colour morphs, so they both fall under the category of Northern Flicker now. Confirming this gave me an excuse to read a paper in the Canadian Journal of Zoology related to this, something I don’t do as often as I used to. I kind of miss them. Much more fun reading them casually than having to write a paper on it all after!

A Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

A Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) hops onto a piece of driftwood at Boundary Bay in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - hops to a different piece of driftwood at boundary bay british columbia canada

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (Purchase)

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   I will do a more thorough writeup of my trip yesterday to Boundary Bay, but for now I wanted to quickly share this image of a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). Of the over 600 photographs I made yesterday, this one stood out as one that showed the best action of the day. The Owls hunt sporadically, so there is a lot of sleep and relaxing in between. Sometimes they just sit there and barely open their eyes. This one started to warm up for the hunt and hopped around a little before taking off towards the water.

   I should point out that I made this photograph from the path at Boundary Bay. Many photographers have behaved badly in this location in the last few months, a fact I will document and speak to in a later post. I was able to hang out for hours within 30-40 feet of a dozen Snowy Owls right next to the path, I have no idea why trampling the marsh and chasing the Owls is necessary for a good photograph. More about that later (and more Snowy Owl photos too!).