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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Common Murre

Uria aalge

Medium-sized seabird
Charcoal black upperparts
White underparts
Long, straight, black bill
Dark head and neck
White lower face and nape
Dark line curving down behind eye

Listen to its call.

Leaving Sidney Spit last Saturday after my discovery of two new birds, I received an added bonus on the ferry trip home when we passed a flock of these birds.

These large auks are mainly found in open marine waters and gather in large flocks far offshore; they only stay on land to breed.  Hmm...It's a good thing I took a little trip on the water then.

Learn more about the Common Murre.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Calidris pusilla

Small sandpiper
Black legs
Short, blunted-tipped black bill
Pale, scaled grayish-brown upperparts 
White underparts
Fine streaks on breast and sides

Listen to its call.

I saw this bird amidst the other small peeps on the mudflats at Sidney Spit on the weekend. It was very similar in size and shape to the Lesser and Western Sandpipers, with only its straight, blunt bill to differentiate it from the others..... or so I thought. 
Check out the feet.

Semipalmated refers to the half-webbed toes


 Learn more about the Semipalmated Sandpiper.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Heermann's Gull

Larus heermanni

Medium-sized gull
Red bill with black tip
Dark eye
Black legs
Gray underparts
Dark gray back and wings
Black, unmarked wing tips - white trailing edge
Black tail with white tip
Breeding plumage: (not photographed)
    White head
    Mottled head

Listen to its call.

While kayaking today, I saw a large number of gulls (and seals) on some small islands near Oak Bay Marina.  As usual, I scanned the gulls looking for any interesting differences, however small, that might indicate a species I had yet to photograph. There was no need to look very far. This gull was fairly distinctive, with its gray underparts and bright red bill. 

Instead of perching on the ridge with the others, this one was sitting on the rocks right by the water. As I'm now able to bring my camera kayaking with me, thanks to my new deck pouch which keeps it handy and dry, I was able to get some nice photographs.  Unfortunately, I did manage to lose my sunglasses in the process but, all in all, I think it was worth it.

Learn more about the Heermann's Gull.

Additional photos:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Semipalmated Plover

Charadrius semipalmatus

  • Small plover
  • Grey-brown above
  • White below
  • Single, dark chest band
  • Black breast band, sides of head, and forecrown in breeding adults; brown in non-breeding adults and juveniles.
  • Yellowish-orange legs
  • Short, dark bill with orange base  (all black on juvenile)
Listen to its call.

Having no obligations for the day, I suggested to my husband that we take the ferry to Sidney Spit for a picnic. It was a lovely day for it; sunny, but not too hot, and lots of shorebirds to photograph.  Perfect! 

A number of flocks of these birds were around the beach, foraging for food on the tidal flats. All of the ones I saw had black bills, making me wonder if perhaps I'd made a mistake with their identity. Then I caught sight of their feet, which reassured me. Semipalmated is an adjective used to describe wading birds that have toes webbed for part of their length. Oddly enough, I only discovered this when I looked up the word in the dictionary. Why don't the bird books tell you these things? 

 Learn more about the Semipalmated Plover.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lesser Yellowlegs

Tringa flavipes

  • Medium sandpiper
  • Long, yellow legs
  • Long, straight, dark bill
  • Mottled brownish-black and white upperparts
  • White rump and underparts
  • Dark barring on tail, visible in flight  
Listen to its call.

Trying to distinguish between Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs has proven difficult for me.  I've been told that the bill is the key.  The length of the bill of the Lesser variety is about the size of its head width, while the bill of the Greater variety is noticeably longer.  However, because the angle of its head affects my perception, I still struggle to make this determination. The call, as usual, is also a key factor.  So, believe it or not, I actually paid attention to it this time.  The call of this bird was a short and fairly quiet tew-tew. Eureka!  I think I've finally found a Lesser Yellowlegs (or is it just wishful thinking on my part?).

Learn more about the Lesser Yellowlegs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Short-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus grieseus

  • Medium-sized shorebird
  • Long, straight bill
  • Long, greenish legs
  • Short neck
  • Dark crown and eyeline
  • White and black bars of equal width on tail feathers
  • Breeding plumage:
  •     Mottled brown upperparts
  •     Pale orange underparts
  •     Spotting on sides
  •     White belly
  • Overall grey in winter
Listen to its call.
White and black bars of equal width on tail feathers
By late summer, most of the water has dried up at Panama Flats. Only a few large puddles remain where shorebirds congregate ... when the gaggles of Canada Geese allow it. Seeing a number of different sized shorebirds towards the centre of the flats, I moved in for a closer look, attempting to make my way through the squishing mud without any creeping up my sandals. It was disgusting! The mucky, (and I'm sure) excrement-covered shoes are still sitting outside our front door, too foul to be allowed in the house. The things I do just to get a picture! 

Learn more about the Short-billed Dowitcher.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Empidonax Flycatcher

Small bird
Olive-gray upperparts
Yellowish-white underparts
Two pale wing-bars
White eye-ring

There are between eleven and fifteen different species of Empidonax Flycatchers (depending on which book you read), five of which are found in Victoria. They all look very much alike; apparently they are best identified by their voice. Unfortunately, not being up on my Flycatcher knowledge, I wasn't paying much attention to this bird's song while chasing it around with my camera. So, to be on the safe side, I'm going to following the recommendation of Kenn Kaufman and just call it an Empid.

Learn more about Empidonax Flycatchers.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Warbling Vireo

Vireo gilvus

Small songbird
Olive-gray upper parts
Yellowish-white lower parts
No wing-bars
Prominent, white eyebrow
Faint, dark eye-line

Listen to its song.

While walking along a logging road at the edge of a forested area, I first heard then saw this bird as it flitted about in the trees next to a small stream.  I had photographed one of these birds months ago at Blenkinsop Lake. Unfortunately, those pictures were poor as the bird was high up in a tree. So, although these ones were taken in the Shuswap where I've been on vacation for the last week (hence my lack of blog entries), I think this can legitimately be classified as a 'bird of Victoria'.

Here's a question for you. Why do the smallest birds always seem to be in the tops of trees?

Learn more about the Warbling Vireo.