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.



Friday, April 29, 2011

Savannah Sparrow

Passerculus sandwichensis
 
Appearance:
  • Grayish-brown upperparts with dark streaks
  • White underparts with dark streaks
  • Yellowish eyebrow stripe
  • Thin, white crown stripe
  • Short, forked tail
Listen to its call.
 
When I snapped this picture earlier today, I didn't even realize it was a new bird for me as it closely resembled a Song Sparrow. I was only when I got home and studied the photo that I saw the yellow lores, one of the distinguishing features of the Savannah Sparrow. This bird also lacks the Song Sparrow's prominent, central breast spot. Earlier this spring, a fellow birder told me that the song of this bird is often undetectable to people as they age because of its high pitch. Well, my hearing is just fine, thank you very much. The soft chips and trill made by this bird sound almost insect-like.
 
Learn more about the Savannah Sparrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Orange-crowned Warbler

Vermivora celata

Appearance:
Small bird
Yellow underparts
Yellow undertail coverts
Blurry streaks on chest
Grayish-olive back and wings
No wing bars
Orange crown patch rarely visible
Thin, pointed bill
Dark line through eye
Broken eye-ring

Listen to its song.

Finally, a new bird!  It seems like forever since I've seen one.  I'd just about given up hope. 


Taking advantage of the sunshine this afternoon, I went for a walk up Mount Tolmie. To add to my enjoyment, a large number of birds were out and about. I spotted this little fellow perched in a tree by the side of the path. Most field guides describe this bird as rather drab and non-descript. However, the bright yellow plumage on this one made it jump out at me. Well, not really; I was speaking figuratively. Actually, he just sat there checking things out before scooting into the shrubbery to hide. On further research, I discovered that there are actually four subspecies of the Orange-crowned Warbler. The Pacific Coast form, lutescens, is the brightest yellow.


Learn more about the Orange-crowned Warbler.

Additional photos:



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Violet-Green Swallow

Tachycineta thalassina


Appearance:
  • Small songbird
  • Coppery-green upperparts
  • White underparts
  • White throat, extending to side of head and above eyes
  • Violet rump with white patches on side
  • Forked tail  
  • Small bill
  • Long wings
Listen to its call.
I've seen lots of these birds around lately, both at Blenkinsop Lake and behind the Red Barn Market on West Saanich Road. There were large flocks of them flying over the water at both locations, foraging for insects. As this is their main diet and they catch their prey in midair, these birds' flight patterns are both erratic and acrobatic with rapid changes of directions. Talk about your moving target! I've taken shot after shot of them with very little to show for my efforts. I will continue in my quest for a decent shot, so be sure to keep an eye on my updated photos.

Learn more about the Violet-green Swallow.











Additional photos:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rhinoceros Auklet

Cerorhinca monocerata

Appearance:
Medium-sized seabird
Black upperparts
Dark gray underparts
White belly
Eyes have long white plumes above and below
Yellow-orange bill with whitish horn
Legs and feet are gray

Listen to its call.



After my shortage of bird sightings recently, I was very excited to see this trio off Ten Mile Point this morning. Unfortunately, they spent a very short time close to shore, preferring to be further out at sea. I guess that's why they are called seabirds.

These birds, which also go by the name Unicorn Puffin, have a bill that sheds its sheath every year. The horn-like projection on the bill that gives these birds their unique appearance only develops when they are ready to breed. 


Learn more about the Rhinoceros Auklet.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cattle Point

I love climbing around the rocks at Cattle Point, especially at low tide. I stop by most afternoons while I'm out looking for birds. In addition to a large assortment of ducks, cormorants can often be seen there as well as a variety of shore birds. Today, I even saw a seal and an otter ... but no cattle. So, what's with the name? Well, I discovered that Uplands Farm occupied the surrounding land between 1860 and 1910. Cattle shipped from the mainland to the farm would be dropped off in the bay. The cattle would then have to swim to the shore on the point.
 
Double-crested Cormorant
       

Surf Bird
    
   


Harlequin Ducks

 Black Turnstone


Monday, April 4, 2011

Rufous Hummingbird

Selasphorus rufus


 male
Appearance:
Small hummingbird
Long, straight, slender bill
Male:
    Rufous-brown overall 
    Iridescent orange-red throat
    White breast
    Green shoulders
Females:
    Green upperparts
    Rufous-washed flanks
    Rufous at base of tail
    White underparts
    White throat with red central spot

Listen to its call.
female
Last week I heard that these birds were just starting to return to Victoria, having migrated up the coast after wintering in Mexico. So, I wasn't surprised when I saw my first one on Sunday. I was however a little surprised to see half a dozen of them in close succession. They seemed to be everywhere, flitting around enjoying the spring blossoms.

Learn more about the Rufous Hummingbird.

Additional photos:



Sunday, April 3, 2011

Surf Scoter

Melanitta perspicillata 
 

Appearance:
Medium-sized diving duck
Sloping forehead
Base of bill unfeather
White eyes
Orange legs and feet
Female: (above)
   Dark, sooty brown
   Two whitish patches on face
Male: 
   Mostly black
   White patches on forehead and nape
   White and orange bill with black base
Listen to its call.

This duck was swimming close to the public dock at Saanichton Bay this afternoon. There are two levels to the dock and, to get a closer shot, I went to the lower one. That probably wasn't the best decision as it turned out to be a floating dock. Have you ever tried to focus on an object in the water while the ground beneath your feet is moving up and down? It's a bit tricky.

Learn more about the Surf Scoter.

Additional photos:
 
adult male

young male

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Snow Goose

Chen caerulescens

Appearance:
Medium-sized goose
Long neck
Pink-orange bill and legs
Black 'grin patch' on bill edges
White morph:
    Entirely white
    Black wing tips
Blue morph: (not photographed)
    White head and neck
    Blue-gray upperparts
    Gray-brown breast and sides
    White belly

Listen to its call.



Driving down Martindale Road this afternoon, the snowy white plumage of this bird made it stand out from its surroundings as it stood with a large flock of Canada Geese in a farmer's field. At first I thought it was a domesticated barnyard goose given its location. However, as I got closer I could see the black wing-tips, which domesticated geese don't have.


I'm curious as to why a single Snow Goose would be within a flock of Canada Geese, not only while feeding but in flight as well.  I guess it could be that it strayed from its own flock and joined this one for company. Like other animals, humans included, geese probably feel that there is safety in numbers.



Learn more about the Snow Goose.