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, September 30, 2011

Horned Grebe

Podiceps auritus

Small grebe
Red eyes
Small black bill, often with pale tip
Summer: (not photographed)
Black head
Buffy-gold tufts along sides of  face
Reddish neck and flanks
Dark back
White belly
Black cap, hindneck, and back
White cheeks, foreneck, flanks, and belly

Listen to its call.

To anyone who read the above description and thought, "but what the heck is a grebe?", you are not alone.  When I initially read this definition on a number of websites, I was perplexed. I didn't know what a grebe was in the first place so ...  Yet, it is surprising how often people will define a word using the same term.  Very annoying!  Anyway, for those of you, like me, who don't already know, a grebe is a diving waterbird with a long neck, lobed toes and almost no tail. It is a small, compact-bodied, almost completely aquatic bird that builds floating nests.  Who knew?

Learn more about the Horned Grebe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sandhill Crane

Grus canadensis

Large wading bird with long neck
Long, black legs
Gray body
Red forehead
White cheeks
Dark bill
Yellow eyes
Tufted feathers over rump

Listen to its call.

While driving down Puckle Road today, my husband suddenly slammed on the brakes and yelled (very loudly) for me to "get out of the car". I must admit I was a little taken aback at first until I spotted these birds flying overhead. 

Later in the afternoon, I answered the telephone at home to hear an excited voice (my husband's, again) telling me that a large group of cranes were flying over our house. "I'm serious. Hurry".  What surprised me even more was that he was right. I counted twenty of them. 

So, to the farmers in the Martindale area who may have witnessed the earlier incident, I just want to assure you that my husband is really a very nice man. He's just becoming a birding enthusiast. 

mating dance (photo taken on Haida Gwaii)
Learn more about the Sandhill Crane.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Accipiter striatus

Small hawk
Relatively small head
Long, square-tipped tail
Pencil-thin yellow legs
    Blue-gray upperparts
    Barred, reddish-brown underparts
    Gray and black barred tail,
         with very narrow, white tip
    Dark red eyes
   Brown back and wings
   Brown-streaked underparts
   Thin, white eyestripe
   White underwing with dark brown barring
   Yellow eyes

Listen to its call.

I caught a glimpse of this bird as it flew over Tuesday Pond at Swan Lake last week. I quickly rushed over to the area where I thought it had landed. After walking back and forth along the path a number of times, I finally noticed it sitting silently in a tree watching me. Its ability to be inconspicuous must be useful for hunting but it felt a bit eerie when I was the one in its sights.

Learn more about the Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

Very small falcon
Long tail
Long, narrow, pointed wings
White head with bluish-gray crown
Two distinct black facial stripes
Red-brown nap and back
Two black spots on each side of nape
   Red-brown patch on crown  
   Red-brown breast 
   Red-brown tail with black tip
   Blue-gray wings with black spots
   Pale belly with black spots
Female: (not photographed)
   Red-brown wings
   Back and wing barred with black
   Red-brown tail with multiple dark bands
   Pale buff breast streaked with brown

Listen to its call.

While driving down Welch Road this morning, I saw this bird perched in the top of a tree by the side of the road. Initially, I thought it was a Mourning Dove due to its size and shape. However, as soon as it took off, I realized my mistake.

It seemed to hover gracefully in the air, almost like a toy kite. Apparently, it manages to stay in place by flapping its wings and adjusting its long tail.  

Learn more about the American Kestrel.