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.
Located in Central Saanich, just off the Pat Bay Highway by Michell's Market, this farming region is a great place for birdwatching. Earlier this year, Tundra and Trumpeter Swans were regularly seen in the fields along Island View Road. I've photographed birds of prey there: an immature Bald Eagle and a Cooper's Hawk. I've seen Mourning Doves and Belted Kingfisher on Dooley Road and singing Meadowlark on Lochside Drive. It is almost always mentioned in the weekly Rare Bird Alert Transcript. In fact, I'm hoping the rain holds off this weekend as some good birds have been reported in the area recently.
Mostly brown plumage
Orange or pink bill
White band around base of bill
Irregular black spots on belly
White line separating belly from wings
White under and uppertail coverts
Orange legs and feet
Thanks to a kind gentleman who pointed me in the right direction, I saw these geese in a field off Lochside Trail just north of Blenkinsop Lake earlier today. Their size made them stand out from the larger Canada Geese, which are plentiful in the area. The irregular black spots on the belly, noticable in flight, and the white patch at the base of the bill are the field markings that distinguish them from other geese.
To the immediate north of the Oak Bay Marina, there is a little park. A rocky outcrop connects this park to the adjacent beach. This is a great place to see shorebirds: Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Black-oystercatcher. There always seems to be something interesting there.
Located on the north side of Cedar Hill golf course, this fresh-water pond is remarkable for the sheer volume of ducks present. Mallards are by far the largest group, but you'll also regularly see Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads and Woodducks there, as well as the occasional Northern Shoveler.
People frequently scatter seed for the hordes, which invariably causes a small stampede.
This male Ring-necked was having trouble holding his own against the larger ducks during this feeding frenzy.
A number of times in the past, I have taken photos of a House Finch
thinking it was a Purple Finch. Someone told me that the bill was the
key field marker; the upper mandible of the former curves downward while
the latter has a conical bill. Apparently, it isn't that difficult to
tell them apart. Well, I'm not sure if that is entirely true (at least
not for me) but, when I saw this bird at my feeder this morning, I was
pretty sure I had a winner. The head and foreparts are more uniformly
washed with red than the ones I've seen in the past anyway.
As you've probably guessed, I've been having a little difficulty finding new birds to photograph lately. So, instead of giving up on my blogging altogether, I've decided to start highlighting some of the good birding locations around Victoria.
Great Blue Heron
Although I've only been there a few times, I opted to start with Esquimalt Lagoon because of the large number of birds you can see in a relatively small area.
You will find it close to Fort Rodd Park and Fisgard Lighthouse in Colwood. It is a migratory bird sanctuary that is frequented by a variety of gulls,ducks, swans, herons and much more.
I took this photograph at few weeks ago at Viaduct Flats. Unfortunately, although there were a fair number of these ducks in the pond, none of them seemed to favour the shore line. As the signage in the area asks visitors to stay on the designated trails and much of the area was flooded at the time of my visit, it wasn't possible for me to get close enough to take a decent photo. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it!
I saw a number of these birds in the reeds at Swan Lake this afternoon. They appeared to be building their nests in the marshy area at the side of the lake. Flitting in and out of the reeds, they surreptitiously collected bits of grass and fluff for their homes. Then, suddenly, one would burst into song, which seemed at odds with their furtive behaviour.
Here's a question for you -- what is the difference between a bulrush and a cattail?
This little bird was playing hide-and-seek with me on the grounds of Goward House. I initially saw it out of the corner of my eye as it darted about on the forest floor. I would have lost sight of it had it not started singing energetically. (Their songs have about 36 notes per second on average). Having caught my attention, the bird immediately hid under a pile of brush leading me to search about for it. I was about to give up hope of finding it and was moving down the path when the bird darted out of its hiding place and began singing again. As before, I approached with my camera raised only to have it dart back into hiding. This went on for quite some time. I swear it was playing some sort of game with me.
Sometimes a bird's behaviour is more important than its appearance when it comes to identification. That was certainly the case in this instance. I saw this rather plain, drab looking bird at Goldstream Provincial Park this afternoon. I probably wouldn't have paid it much attention except that it was standing in the fast moving, but shallow, water. I was watching it stick its head in and out of the water when suddenly it went under. I thought it was drowning, being swept away by the rushing water. I was trying to decide what action to take to save the poor thing when it suddenly popped up again. The bird showed no distress and proceded to repeat this behaviour numerous times, which led me to conclude that it was in no danger afterall. Apparently, it catches its food underwater by walking on the stream bottom.
Whenever I visit Cattle Point, one of these birds always seems to be roosting on top of the large navigational marker in the channel. They appear to be solitary birds, unlike the majority of the others around the area who can be quite gregarious. Sometimes I have seen them in a small group though, perched on the bottom of the marker.
Small, active bird
Thin, pointed bill (sturdier than most warblers)
Broken eye ring
Yellow rump patch
Small yellow patch at side of chest
White spots in tail Myrtle: White throat (may be dull buff in some young birds)
Audubon's: Yellow throat Male:
Dark gray head and back
Small, yellow, crown patch
Black patches on upper breast extend as streaks onto flanks
White wing patch Female:
Brownish-gray back with black streaks
Indistinct to absent yellow patch on side of breast
Blurry dark streaking on breast and flanks
White wing bars
My avian quest took me to Blenkinsop Lake today just as a storm rolled in. Fortunately, I was able to get a couple of photos of this bird before the rain really hit. Although the pictures are pretty blurry due to the poor lighting, the brilliant yellow throat and sides are striking. I didn't notice a yellow rump, but it was probably obscured by the wings in its perched position.
Ducks hybridise readily, both in captivity and in the wild. Sometimes wild ducks even crossbreed with escaped domestic ducks. Identifying hybrids is challenging because of the wide variations in colour and markings. Here are a few hybrid ducks I photographed in Beacon Hill Park. Each of them appears to be a cross between a Mallard and a different species.
There had been numerous sightings of these birds on Dooley Road and Lochside Drive recently. After a number of misses, our visits to the area finally coincided. I found these two birds perched on a telephone wire by the side of the road.
All my life, I thought these birds were Morning Doves. Maybe they like to come out in the early part of the day. Apparently, it gets its name from its mournful song. Boy, do I feel silly. Stupid homonyms!
I saw a group of these birds on the rocks at Clover Point yesterday afternoon. They were bigger than the Dunlin feeding close by. The tide was low and they were having quite a feast until three Black Oystercatchers came along and frightened them all away.
No wonder I had difficulty identifying this bird. There wasn't a black-belly to be seen. However, in breeding plumage (pictured below), it is black from the face to the belly.