Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 2015 Lapland Longspurs, Killdeer Nest, Least Sandpipers, Mountain Bluebird, Bullfrog.

The blog starts off this month with a few common birds.  Birding was slow and then in the last week the migrants started to arrive.  All the pictures were taken in the area covered by the following map.

Not a remarkable bird but I noticed this female Brewers Blackbird has a light coloured eye.  They usually have dark eyes while the male has a bright yellow eye.  Apparently this anomaly occurs infrequently.
A Great Blue Heron was standing on a beaver dam at Wilband ponds in Abbotsford.
And now for something completely different....The American Robin seems to be everywhere but did you know the entire Robin population turns over approximately every 6 years?
This Pygmy Owl has captured what appears to be an enormous Shrew.  Not much bigger than a sparrow these birds can take prey up to 3 times their own weight and have been known to take Flickers, Bobwhites and even chickens.  I once witnessed one dissect a big rat.  The first thing it ate was the brains which apparently is quite normal as the brains contain fat and is very nutritious.  I am not sure what it did with the rest of the rat because I left.  I did return about 30 minutes later.   The owl was still there but there was no sign of the rest of the rat, up or under the tree where I searched.  What happened to the rest of that rat has always been a mystery to me.  The owl couldn't have eaten the entire rat-or could he?  The bird above flew off before I could see what it did to its prey.
Mountain Bluebird male at the Hope, B.C. Airport.  Although this one is a stunner, a female picks her mate on his ability to find a good nesting site and not on appearance or singing ability.
The Bluebird landed on a blue pipe.
A House Sparrow was collecting building material in Blaine Washington.  The larger the black spot on the throat the more dominant the male sparrow is.
A Killdeer reveals one egg at Drayton Harbour in Blaine Washington.  Killdeer lay their eggs in an empty scrape but may add material as the eggs incubate.  Killdeer chicks are precocial meaning as soon as they hatch, they are out of there.
Sandhill Cranes have been frequenting the Grant Narrows area for a few years now.  Apparently the cranberry fields are providing enough insects to keep them happy.
I was happy to get this Least Sandpiper on a log and not the usual sewage at the Iona Ponds in Richmond.  This is the smallest shorebird in the world weighing about an ounce with males being smaller than the female.  They have been known to live 15 years.
Another Least Sandpiper taken at Harrison Hotsprings a few days later.  To get this perspective I was lying on my stomach which must have been quite entertaining for the the strollers passing by.
A pair of Lapland Longspurs took some time out on their migration to the Arctic to spend a few days on the Iona Jetty in Richmond.
Even though the Longspurs breed on the Arctic Tundra where there is sunlight 24 hours a day, they still  sing in the morning like most other birds.
This female Lapland Longspur was with the male.
Looks like an iceberg floating by.  Actually a serendipitous white rock backdrop provided a realistic tundra background.
An introduced species, the Bullfrog is highly predatory.  A favourite prey of Bullfrogs are smaller native frogs and they are declining rapidly.  Those legs look like there is a lot of meat on them which was the reason they were introduced here in the early 1900's.  It wouldn't take much persuasion for me to try eating one of these pests.  I will have to grow a beard and buy a duck call.  (Fans of  Duck Dynasty may relate to this feeble reference). 
This shot of a Caspian Tern at Iona reminds me of Easter for some reason.
This blog allows me to track where my viewers are and I find it interesting that the Ukraine, Russia and China are consistently visiting in good numbers.  Thanks to every one for your patronage and I hope you are clicking the translation button.  Canada and the United States are still tops of course.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

March 2015 Birds And A Trip To Washington State For Greater Sage Grouse and Sagebrush Sparrows

This blog showcases some birds we found in March.  March was not a busy month for birds so I am including a rundown of a trip we made April 7-9 to central Washington.  The focus of the trip was to find Greater Sage Grouse, Sagebrush Sparrow and Tricoloured Blackbird.

Followers of the blog may remember my February blog featured a ringed Snowy Plover.  I sent a picture to the  appropriate people and they explained the bird was tagged last summer as a fledging at Salinas NWR.  See map.
Here is the bird which we found at Bodega Bay.  Apparently not many survive their first year so the banders were pleased to receive the information.
A Pacific Wren was standing at attention on Elk Mountain-close to Chilliwack.
Pacific Wren singing.
I didn't think I would get a good picture of this Pygmy Owl because it was backlit but I think it came out quite well.
Chestnut-backed Chickadee at Campbell Valley Park.
On April 3 a report of a Loggerhead Shrike sent us out to the Hope Airport.
Striking pattern of the Shrike from the rear. 
This was our first sighting of a Loggerhead Shrike in British Columbia.
One of our target birds on a whirlwind tour to Washington State was the Greater Sage Grouse.  We awoke 3 AM in Grand Coulee City, to reach a lek indicated on the above map. (Left side).  We were on the side of the road observing the lek and listening at 5:30AM but heard nothing.  As the lighting increased we scanned the area with binoculars, and Dian said "I think I see one.  No, it's just a piece of garbage.  No, wait.  It moved."  I then saw where she was looking and saw a white object-the breast of a male Grouse.  It melted into the shrubbery.  The distance was about 200 meters.  Another Grouse appeared a few minutes later.  No pictures were obtained because of the distance.  We didn't want to enter the land as it was private property and we heard the land owner does not take kindly to trespassers.  No longer feeling tired and cold, we headed to Moses Coulee.
Mose's Coulee (indicated on the map) was reputed to have Sagebrush Sparrows.  About a mile up the road to Jameson Lake (which is at the end of the road) we stopped for lunch.  As we were eating, a bird popped up and it was a Sagebrush Sparrow.  I jumped out of the car and starting taking pictures.
The Sage Sparrow as we first saw it.
Cropped image of the Sage Sparrow.
Moses Coulee where we saw the Sage Sparrow.  
In the same area we saw a few Loggerhead Shrikes.
A Sage Thrasher appeared in almost the same place as the Sage Sparrow.
Cropped version of above Sage Thrasher.
Mountain Bluebird. 
Jameson Lake at the end of the road.
Another view of Jameson Lake.  The lake contained a lot of waterfowl such as Redheads, Ringnecks, Coots, and Common Goldeneye.

 We searched 2 areas (Wilson's Creek and Para Ponds in Othello) for Tricoloured Blackbirds but we had no luck.  We saw lots of Red-winged Blackbirds.  However we were quite happy with the Grouse and Sage Sparrow.  As Meatloaf sang- "2 out of 3 ain't bad".

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