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.
I may be dating myself but for some reason this bird made me think of the classic line from the old children's reader Fun with Dick and Jane -- "See Spot. See Spot run". It had a distinct and constant teetering motion when it walked. "Funny, funny Spot".
As we were driving down Charlton Road today on our way to Hastings Flats, two of these birds crossed in front of our car before ducking under a decorative hedge.
I love the head plumes on these birds - they looks so regal - but did you know that what actually looks like a single feather is really a group of six feathers? Just another little bit of trivia for you.
I initially thought these were small shorebirds when I saw them walking along the bank at Panama Flats. Their size and behaviour were similiar to the Western and Least Sandpipers I had seen in the same area the previous week. However, as I got closer, I noticed that they looked more sparrow-like but without the conical bill. They also had a habit of bobbing their tails up and down as they pecked at the ground, while at the same time running along in a haphazard manner. Sort of like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time!
I saw this bird hanging out with a flock of barn swallows at Panama Flats yesterday. There don't seem to be any cliffs in the area but there's definitely a lot of mud around for these birds to use for building nests. Apparently, they gather mud from the flood plains and carry it back to their nests in their bills.
What better way to spend a cloudy Saturday morning than probing in the mud with half a dozen friends? Okay, so that might not appeal to everyone but these birds seemed to be having a great time bobbing their heads up and down in the shallow waters of Panama Flats.
Cathartes aura Appearance:
Very large bird
Small, unfeathered, red head
Hooked, ivory-colored bill
Long wings with gray flight feathers underneath
Long, rounded tail
Pink legs and feet
Leaving Island View beach this afternoon, I noticed two of these
birds roosting in a dead tree by the side of the road. I was surprised
at their rather comical appearance; the head is extremely small in
relation to the body. After watching them for several minutes they took
off over the fields. A little while later I caught sight of them soaring
overhead without seeming to flap their wings at all. They just seemed
to float on the air currents. It was quite beautiful to watch. I have
trouble relating these birds to the dirty, unscrupulous scavengers that
their reputation affords them.
I heard this bird long before I saw it perched at the top of a tree near Blenkinsop Lake last evening. The weather was ideal for a stroll after dinner and the vocal performance given by this bird was enjoyed by many along the boardwalk.
Medium-length, straight, dark bill
White wingstripe bordered in black Breeding plumage: (no photo)
Rufous head and neck
Rufous wash extending onto back Non-breeding plumage:
Pale gray head and upperparts
Faint, partial gray breast band
I saw this bird running along the tide line at Esquimalt Lagoon beach with a couple of Dunlins last week. The three of them would run up the beach to avoid the waves, then turn and run back down as the waves receded. They were probably just looking for food but they reminded me of playful children enjoying a day at the shore.
Sanderling (left) / Dunlin (right)
Being a student of linguistics, the origin of words always interests me. So, what about Sanderling? Although I really have no idea of its origin, I have a theory. Sandpiper has been truncated in the middle and the suffix -ling, which is a diminutive modifier, has been added to the noun. So, in essence, its name means that it's a small sandpiper. Isn't linguistics fun?!
Before today, my knowledge of terns consisted of crossword puzzle definitions like 'sea eagle' or 'gull-like seabird'. However, I now know there are ten genera of terns, which were once considered a subfamily of the gull family. This bird, the only one in its genus, is the world's largest tern. I saw a number of them at Esquimalt Lagoon earlier this week. They are almost the size of a large gull, which is probably why I've never noticed them before, but they have a distinct way of flying that sets them apart from the gulls.
This one was flying over the water with its bill pointing down, when it suddenly plunged in to catch a fish.
On a visit to Esquimalt Lagoon this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of interesting birds on the beach to the south. This group of six were using their long, curved bills to probe in the sand, probably in search of invertebrates for dinner.
Western Sandpipers (back) / Least Sandpiper (front)
This bird is very similar in appearance to yesterday's bird of the day. However, when seen together, the Western Sandpiper is slightly larger than the Least Sandpiper. The longer bill and dark legs also set these birds apart.
Dozen of these birds were foraging at the upper edge of the mudflats when I visited Panama Flats last week. These birds may be the smallest shorebirds in the world, but what they lack in size they certainly make up for in number.
Short, conical bill
Dark eyes Male: (above)
Iridescent black body, wings and tail
Brown head and neck Female:
Greyish-brown plumage, lightest on the head and underparts
Fine streaking on belly
If you believe all of the greeting cards, Mother's Day should be spend taking it easy, perhaps sleeping late and enjoying a relaxing breakfast in bed. So, why then was I already out at Michell's Farm Market by 7:30 this morning? Generally, the best time for bird watching is early in the morning when most birds are wide awake and active. Since early morning isn't the best time to find teenagers awake and active (at least not in my house), I decided to join the birds. I saw a group of these birds on Dooley Road foraging for seeds under a bird feeder.
At the end of Gladiola Avenue, there is a short path that takes you to the south end of Panama Flats. Three of these birds were perched in a tree along that path when I visited the area earlier this week. I originally thought they were young Tree Swallows but later discovered that it is too early in the year to be seeing juvenile swallows. Although there were a lot of swallows flying over the flooded land, I didn't see any more of this type.
Named for the tiny hooks found on the outer feathers of the wings, the Greek/Latin name of this bird literally means 'scraper wing saw feather'. It reminds me of something out of one of Dave Pilkey's books (for those of you who have children of the Captain Underpants' era).
According to the Webster's New World College Dictionary, the word 'solitary' is from the Latin sōlitārius meaning alone orbyitself. Hmmm.... just as I thought! Why then did I see three of these birds together at Panama Flats yesterday afternoon? Apparently they are not truly solitary. However, unlike other shore birds, they do not migrate in large flocks.
Having had difficulty photographing swallows in the past, I was delighted to find a group of these birds sitting on the ground at Panana Flats this afternoon.
Unfortunately, it wasn't until I had walked all around the area trying to get photos of them in the air that I noticed these ones. Luckily, they don't flit around as much as some of the other types of swallows I've seen, so it wasn't a complete loss.
If you happen to be driving past the University of Victoria in the near future, take a look at the lights over the playing fields off Sinclair Road. This bird has built a nest on the top of one of them. Pretty strange place to build a nest, if you ask me, right out in the open like that. Apparently, this is quite common though; Osprey readily build their nests on man-made structures. Since their diet consists almost entirely of fish, I guess the lack of rabbits on campus this spring didn't discourage these birds from moving into the neighbourhood.
I saw a pair of these birds perched side by side on a wire on Martindale Road this afternoon. At the time, it didn't occur to me to get a photograph of them from the back as well as from the front. However, in spite of that as well as the poor lighting, I'm pretty sure that I've identified this bird correctly. Of course, it helps that sightings of a pair of Eurasian Collared-Dove have been reported in the Martindale area recently. Okay, so I might not be a bird expert yet, but at least I'm honest.