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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wandering Tattler

Heteroscelus incanum

Medium-sized sandpiper
Short, thick, yellow legs
Solid gray upperparts
Finely streaked face
Dark eye line
White eye ring
Longish, straight, black bill
   Heavily barred underparts
   Gray breast
   White belly

Listen to its call.

After enjoying a cup of tea at the Ogden Point Cafe this afternoon, I went for a short stroll along the breakwater. Being a long weekend, the area was bustling with activity: people on the walkway, divers in the water and shorebirds at the water's edge. I was taking pictures of a group of Black Turnstones on the rocks below when my husband drew my attention to this bird.  It was bobbing along the ledge on the outside of the breakwater, moving surprisingly quickly. If it hadn't stopped at regular intervals to probe for food, I would have had to take up jogging just to keep up with it. Thankfully, I didn't have to go to those extremes to get these pictures.

Learn more about the Wandering Tattler.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

California Gull

Larus californicus

Medium-sized gull
Dark eye
Greenish-yellow legs
Yellow bill with black and red spot near tip
White head, underparts and tail
Slate-grey back
Black wingtips with white near tip

Listen to its call.

According to experts, the most important basic keys to identifying gulls are size, shape, and color pattern.  However, there are so many variations between adult and immature gulls, as well as breeding and non-breeding plumage, that I find this an almost impossible task. 

Unlike most of the gulls I've seen around Victoria, many of the ones in the Broken Group Islands had yellow legs. They also had both a red and black spot near the tip of their lower mandibles. As the California Gull is the only gull in southwestern British Columbia with both of these features, I had a relatively easy time with this identification ... thankfully. 

Difference in size between California Gull (left) and Ring-Billed Gull (right)
Learn more about the California Gull.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Common Loon

Gavia immer

Large loon
Thick bill
Steep forehead
White underparts

  • Black bill
  • Black head
  • White collar
  • White breast
  • Dark back checkered white

Non-breeding / Juveniles:
  • Pale bill with dark ridge on top
  • Brownish-gray head and back
  • White throat and breast
  • Pale around eye
  • Partially white collar
Listen to its call.

My husband and I spent this past week kayaking in the Broken Group Islands. This archipelago is located on the west side of Vancouver Island, between Ucluelet and Bamfield. In addition to some stunning scenery and awesome kayaking, I did manage to see a few birds including this adult loon and a group of what I can only assume were juveniles. They were chasing each other and splashing around in a most humorous manner. Watching them gave me new insight into the term 'loony' . 

Learn more about the Common Loon.

Additional photos:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yellow Warbler

Dendroica petechia

Small songbird
Bright yellow underparts
Yellow-green upperparts
Plain yellow face
Prominent, dark eye
Yellow eye-ring
Thin, pointed bill
Yellow tail spots
Male: (not photographed)
   Reddish-brown breast streaks
   Duller, no breast streaks
Listen to its call.

This is just one of the many birds I saw at Rithet's Bog last weekend. Although its yellow plumage is similar to many female and immature warblers, there are a number of features on this bird that I was able to use for identification. The large, dark eye and yellow in the tail feathers are characteristics unique to Yellow Warblers. However, I'm not sure whether it's a female or a young bird (or perhaps a young female). Although the slate-coloured bill in the photo above is typical of the adult Yellow Warbler, the pale bill in the photo below suggests a young bird.  This is an example of how the wrong light angle can result in problems with identification.

Learn more about the Yellow Warbler.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tree Swallow

Tachycineta bicolor

Dark upperparts   
    Adults: Glossy blue
       (females duller than males)
    Juveniles: Dusky brown
Dark cap down to level of eye
Clean white underparts
Juveniles have gray breast band
Forked tail
Tiny bill

Listen to its call.

I seem to have gotten into a rut lately, always looking for new birds in the same old places. So, I decided to switch things up a bit this morning and try my luck at Rithet's Bog. Not having had much success there in the past, I was surprised at the hubbub when we arrived. There was a plethora of birds, more than I had seen in one place in a long time. Swallows were in abundance, included the ones in these photos. 

These young birds may lack the striking iridescent blue of the adults that have swiftly flown by me on previous occasions, but they are certainly much more cooperative as models.
Learn more about the Tree Swallow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hutton's Vireo

Vireo buttoni

Appearance:Small songbird
Green-grey upperparts
Buff to yellow underparts
White wing-bars
White eye-ring, broken at top
Dark eye
Short, thick bill
Bluish-grey legs and feet

Listen to its call.

Summer having finally arrived, I have been enjoying lazy afternoons this week lying in the hammock in our backyard. In the shade of a couple of fruit trees with a good book in hand is where you will find me most days. Every once in a while a deer or rabbit will wander into the yard or a couple of squirrels chasing each other will intrude upon my solitude, but it is the birds that are the most disruptive. Flocks of Chickadees and Bushtits will frequently invade the trees above me, knocking small bits of debris onto my head.

Yesterday, I noticed this little bird perched on the branch above me. I was able to determine it was a vireo but the fact that it is a juvenile (it seems it's just molting into a recognizable plumage) made further identification difficult. So, as is frequently the case, I consulted an expert for assistance and, as usual, she came through for me. Thanks Ann. 

Learn more about the Hutton's Vireo.