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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Brown Pelican

Pelecanus occidentalis

Very large aerial waterbird
Smallest of the pelicans
Large, grayish bill with an expandable pouch on the bottom
Gray-brown back, rump and tail
Long, broad wings
Short tail
Immature: (above)
   Gray-brown head and neck
   White underparts
Adult:  (right)
   White head and neck
   Blackish-brown breast and belly
   Chestnet on back of neck during breeding
   Reddish on underside of throat during breeding

Listen to its call.

Brown Pelicans are not commonly seen in Victoria. You hear of the odd report now and then but nothing like this year. Sightings of these birds are being reported daily in the vicinity of the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria. As many as twenty-one were seen by one observer, according to the Rare Bird Alert. I spotted a group of eight of them today between Fisherman's Wharf and Laurel Point. 

Talk of pelicans always reminds me of my mother saying "A funny old bird is a pelican. His beak can hold more than his bellican. Food for a week he can hold in his beak but I don't know how the hellican".

Learn more about the Brown Pelican.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Snow Bunting

Plectrophenax nivalis

Size of a large sparrow
Non-breeding (pictured):
   White underparts
   Pale brown and white upperparts
   Rust-brown band across top of chest
   Pale brown tipped feathers on forehead, crown, nape, and face 
   Black wingtips
   White wing patches and outer tail feathers
   Black inner tail feathers
   Yellowish-orange bill with black tip
Breeding male:
   Mostly white plumage 
   Black back and wingtips
   Black bill
Breeding female:
   White plumage
   Blackish-gray back and wingtips
   White head streaked with gray
   Black bill

Listen to its call.

I photographed this little fellow while enjoying an afternoon at Clover Point last Thursday. It was a lovely fall day, with very little wind or no rain for a change. Not that cold weather would bother this bird. Winter is the time to see Snow Buntings in our area. In the spring, they head north to spend their summers in the Arctic. 

Learn more about the Snow Bunting.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Clark's Grebe

Aechmophorus clarkii

Medium-sized waterbird
Long neck
Dark gray upperparts
White underparts, lower face and throat
Black back of neck
Black cap extends above eye
Red eye
Long, thin, bright yellow to orange-yellow bill

Listen to its call.

This bird was swimming with yesterday's bird of the day, the Western Grebe. Apparently, these birds are often found together and even nest side by side.  They were once considered a single species with different colour morphs, until it was discovered that they do not interbreed.

Western Grebe (back) / Clark's Grebe (front)
Learn more about the Clark's Grebe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Western Grebe

Aechmophorus occidentalis

Medium-sized waterbird
Long neck
Dark gray upperparts
White underparts, lower face and throat
Black back of neck
Black cap extends below eye
Red eye
Long, thin, dull olive-yellow bill
White stripes on wing, visible in flight.

Listen to its call.

I photographed this bird at the marina near Kelowna's Water Park this past weekend. Nevertheless, as these grebes winter off the BC coast and harbours around Victoria from October to April, I think I am justified in including it here.

Learn more about the Western Grebe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Green Heron

Butorides virescens

Small, stocky wading bird
Long neck and legs but shorter than most herons
Dark crown
Long, sharply pointed bill
Adult: (not photographed)
   Glossy, greenish-black cap
   Chestnut neck with white line down front
   Greenish back and wings
   Gray underparts
   Yellow legs
   Dark bill
   Duller than adult
   Neck and underparts streaked brown and white
   Brown back and wings with buff spotting
   Greenish-yellow legs and bill
   Yellow markings around eye, extend to the bridge of the bill

Listen to its call.

Taking advantage of another gorgeous fall day, I took a walk around Swan Lake this afternoon. This young heron, spotted near the dock on the east side of the lake, was enjoying some time in the sun as well. With its streaked neck, I initially mistook it for an American Bittern. However, even at a distance, its dark crown stood out, distinguishing it from the larger bird. 

Learn more about the Green Heron.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Western Tanager

Piranga ludoviciana

Medium-sized songbird
Two wingbars
Male: (not photographed)
   Orange-red head
   Bright yellow body
   Black wings
   One white and one yellow wingbar
Female and young:
   Dull yellow
   Grey back and wings
   White or pale yellow wingbars

Listen to its call.

As a volunteer at a wild animal rehabilitation centre, I get to see a lot of birds up-close while feeding them and cleaning their cages.  Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for the animals), there is a very strict 'no picture' rule.  When I encountered this beauty, I asked if they could make an exception. Although they wouldn't bend the rules for me, one of the rehabilitators very kindly took these great photos for me. The bird had already been banded and was released back into the wild the next day. 

Learn more about the Western Tanager.

Additional photos:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hammond's Flycatcher

Empidonax hammondii

Greyish-green with wing-bars
Yellowish wash on belly
Dusky grey chest
Grey head
Distinct, white eye-ring
Short, dark bill
Short tail
Long wings

Listen to its call.

While staying with family at a cottage on the Shuswap last week, one of the children heard a sharp 'peek'ing sound and spotted a baby bird on the ground. It was probably only a week or two old. Its feathers were not yet fully formed and its tail was just beginning to grow, so it was not yet able to fly. We noticed the parents flitting around the area keeping an eye on the little one. After determining that the juvenile wasn't hurt or in danger, we left them in peace. The next time we checked on the birds, a second baby had appeared and the parents were leading the two of them to a new location ... on foot.  So cute!

Learn more about the Hammond's Flycatcher.

Additional photos:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Black-necked Stilt

Himantopus mexicanus

Large /medium-sized shorebird
Black upperparts
White underparts
White spot above each eye
Red eyes
Long, black, needle-like bill
Long neck
Very long, thin red-pink legs

Listen to its call.

Having read reports of sightings of these birds at Maber Flats recently, I decided to venture out to Brentwood Bay in search of a new entry for my collection. With our trusty road map in hand, we followed the directions posted on the Victoria rare bird alert transcript. After driving around in circles for what seemed like forever, we discovered that our inability to find a road leading to the area was not due to our navigational skills afterall. The roads weren't there; they only existed on paper. Talk about misplaced trust. I thought those kinds of things only happened when you used a GPS.

Learn more about the Black-necked Stilt.