There are a number of reasons why I decided to take on this project. My first reason has to do with my interest in birds. This began shortly after moving to Victoria ten and a half years ago. With our house backing onto a wooded area, the chirping of birds is a familiar sound all year long. I often glance out the window to see birds of all forms in the yard throughout the day. Frequently I will pull out the Birds of Victoria or Birds of North America reference guides we have on hand. Unfortunately, the drawings in the first aren’t overly helpful for identification and the number of entries in the second is overwhelming. My second reason has to do with a photography course I took a number of years ago. Since that time I have been trying to think of a practical reason to buy a new camera. Taking pictures of birds requires a powerful zoom lens which my previous point-and-shoot camera could not accommodate. Perfect! My final reason was my desire to take on a new project to welcome in 2011. Hence, bird of the day was born.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Contopus cooperi 

Appearance:
Bulky flycatcher
Short tail
Large head
Dark olive face, upperparts and flanks
Light underparts
Dark bill

Listen to its call

This flycatcher was perched at the top of a tall tree waiting to catch insects as they flew by.  Its distinctive "quick-three-beers" song made identification easy for a change.

Learn more about the Olive-sided Flycatcher. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Townsend's Solitaire

Myadestes townsendi

Appearance:
Slim, medium-sized songbird
Short bill
Small, round head
Long tail
Grey overall
Prominent white eye-ring
White outer tail feathers
Buff wing patches 

Listen to its call.

We spotted this bird in the Garry oak meadow in Mount Tolmie Park this morning. Cleverly camouflaged, its plain grey plumage blended so well with the trees that it was difficult to keep in our sights. 

Learn more about the Townsend's Solitaire.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Black Phoebe

Sayornis nigricans
Appearance:
Medium-sized flycatcher
Large head
Medium-long, squared tail
Slight peak at rear of crown
Straight, thin bill
Dark charcoal gray upperparts and chest
Darker black head
White belly
Pale grey edges on wing feathers

Listen to its call. 

A rarity for Victoria, one of these birds has been hanging around Maber Flats lately. Unfortunately, I needed a scope to see that bird making it impossible to take a decent photo. Luckily, I did have this one in my photo library taken a few years ago in San Diego. 

Learn more about the Black Phoebe.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Brandt's Cormorant

Phalacrocorax penicillatus 


Appearance:
Large cormorant
Long black body
Long, slender neck
Short black legs
Dark bill with blunt or hooked tip
Pale patch at base of bill
Breeding:
     Blue throat patch
     White plumes on sides of head, neck and back
     Turquoise eyes
Immature: (photographed)
     Brownish-black upperparts
     Tan on underparts
     Pale "V" at the border of breast and neck

Listen to its call.

There are three species of cormorant commonly seen along the coast in Victoria: Double-crested, Brandt's and Pelagic. I frequently have difficulty identifying the two larger species at a distance. At this year's Christmas Bird Count, one of the more experienced birders gave me a pointer which I'm happy to pass along. Although the Brandt's Cormorant is approximately the same length as the Double-crested Cormorant, the latter holds its neck slightly crooked whereas the Brandt's Cormorant's neck is almost always fully extended in flight. 


Learn more about the Brandt's Cormorant.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Tropical Kingbird

Tyrannus melancholicus 


Appearance:
Large flycatcher
Heavy gray bill
Gray head
Darker eye mask
Grayish-green back
Brown wings and  tail
Pale throat
Bright yellow underparts

Listen to its call.

This photogenic bird was hanging out in Ten Mile Point last weekend. Although a rarity to the area, records of Tropical Kingbird sightings occur annually in southwestern BC.


Learn more about the Tropical Kingbird.

Red-throated Loon

Gavia stellata

Appearance:
Small, slender loon
Thin bill, tilted upward slightly
Red eyes
White underparts
Breeding plumage: 
     Black bill
     Triangular red throat-patch    
     Dark grey-brown back, head and neck
     Narrow black and white stripes on the back of the neck
Non-breeding plumage: (photographed)
     Pale grey bill
     Pale grey-brown back, speckled with white
     White throat and face, extending above the eyes
     Dark grey head cap and neck
Juveniles:
     Pale grey bill 
     Brownish-grey plumage, with no pattern on back
     Pale neck

Listen to its call.

The lone call of a loon is haunting: similar to a wolf howling but more delicate somehow. This sorrowful sound is not, however, a sign of unhappiness at being alone. It is actually used to contact or attract the attention of a mate. 

Learn more about the Red-throated Loon.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Red Phalarope

Phalaropus fulicarius


non-breeding
Appearance:
Smaller wader
Straight bill
Short legs
Lobed toes
Adults:
     Distinct white stripe down the wing
     Dark stripe down the tail
     Contrasting color on sides of rump
     Breeding plumage:    
         Rufous neck and underparts
         Dark brown and black above
         White cheek patches
         Yellow bill
         Black cap (female) / Brown cap (male)
     Non-breeding plumage: (photographed)
         Light grey above, unstreaked
         White below
         White head
         Black ear patch behind the eye
         Black bill with lighter base
Juveniles:
     Black backs edged in buff
     Buff underparts and head
     Dark patch through the eye  

Listen to its call
 
Although phalaropes are sandpipers, which are typically shorebirds, these birds spend most of the year out at sea. They are also one of the few birds where the female of the species is more colourful and larger than the male. This is because the females are polyandrous. They have to look good to attracted the attention of multiple males. In contrast, the males need to be duller to avoid detection of predators while providing most of the parental care.

Learn more about the Red Phalarope.