Birding, May 17, 2024: Follow the blackbird

Where: Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Boundary Bay Dyke Trail (Delta), Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)
Weather: Sunny, 12-16°C

The Outing

After The Burning™ of last week, I made sure to cover myself all over with sunblock and reapplied it midday. As it turned out, it was also so windy (14-20 km/h with gusts up to 35 km/h) that I ended up wearing a long-sleeved shirt, so most of my body was covered, anyway. My legs did not burn again.

We started out with our old standby of Reifel and this time we saw a few black-capped chickadees come out from hiding. Yay. Weirdly, though it was a Friday, there were many kids around. They were relatively well-behaved, but I’m assuming the schools must have closed early for the Victoria Day weekend, or home-schooling has suddenly gotten very popular. The geese were also relatively well-behaved, and I have no explanation for that. One approached me with its mouth open, but it wasn’t hissing or being aggressive, I think it just wanted whatever yummy seed I had in my pockets (I had none). It seemed sad at the loss.

We started along the usual east dyke trail and when a family went to bird blind B, we opted to go to bird blind A next door. After we were done (the return of purple martins to the bird boxes in the marsh flats confirmed), Nic wanted to skip bird blind B (see above: children), insisting we would see nothing (to be fair, most of the time we just see the slough and no birds, whales or anything else). But just as I pressed to go back, a blackbird suddenly appeared and landed on a branch directly above us. It screeched chirped insistently at us and was very loud, then flew off in the direction of the bird blind. It was A Sign.

We went to the bird blind and lo, there was a heron perched on a branch just on the other side of the blind. Granted, herons are not exactly uncommon (though this was the only one we saw on the ground), but still, it was something! Thanks, screechy chirping blackbird!

Reifel was otherwise pretty light on both song birds and waterfowl, with many ponds empty or sparsely populated. It gives the mallards more room to roam, though. We spied no Northern shovellers again, though maybe they’re just hiding. A few pintails were lurking, and the massive turtles at the entrance slough were still hanging out on their favourite logs.

We got more shots of marsh wrens. I guess this is the time of year when they just let it all hang out. Such is the way of love and seeking the same.

We next took a trip to the Boundary Bay Dyke Trail, which we haven’t been to for a while. Again, it was very windy, but we did see Savannah sparrows a-plenty–on logs, on fence posts, on the golf course. They never got very close, as is their way, and I had to use manual focus for all of my shots to prevent them from appearing as bird-shaped blobs, but we got some respectable shots. I opted not to shoot a distant robin.

I shot a lot of planes as we passed under the flight path of nearby Boundary Bay Airport. They’re like giant birds, but a lot more predictable. If I could shoot swallows the way I shoot planes, I’d be an award-winning photographer. In my mind, at least.

We rounded off the day at Piper Spit, which was pleasantly unpopulated by people. Here we saw a lifer: a semipalmated plover, which looks similar to a killdeer, but is somehow more adorable. We also saw (and Nic shot) a cliff swallow, which is a darker, non-shiny swallow uncommon to the area. Surprisingly, a lone wigeon and The Last Coot, which I’d thought had already left, were present.

Goslings a-plenty were being shepherded around, but off the main trails. It seems the adults have learned to keep their babbies away from people. And kids.

In all, a fine day of mid-spring birbing, once again being boosted by some unexpected visitors.

The Shots

Soon™

The Birds (and other critters). Rare or rarely-seen birds highlighted in bold.

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Barn swallow
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Cliff swallow
  • Marsh wren
  • Northern flicker
  • Purple martin
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Rufous hummingbird
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Tree swallow

Waterfowl and shorebirds:

  • American coot (one!)
  • American wigeon (one!)
  • Blue-winged teal
  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Long-billed dowitcher
  • Mallard
  • Northern pintail
  • Sandhill crane
  • Semipalmated plover
  • Western seagull
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • European starling
  • Rock pigeon

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle

Non-birds:

  • Several squirrels
  • Butterflies!

Birding, May 11, 2024: It burns

Where: Tsawwassen Beach Trail (Tsawwassen), Iona Beach (Richmond), Tlahutum Regional Park (Coquitlam), Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)
Weather: Sunny, 15-25°C

The Outing

Today was kind of a weird birding day, with maybe the greatest number of steps to the smallest number of birds seen. Part of that is due to migrants having left for the warmer months, but we also didn’t see a number of the usual birbs, like black-capped chickadees. Also, the last coot at Piper spit has apparently finally joined its brethren to make more freaky-footed offspring elsewhere.

I logged just over 30,000 steps and despite putting on sunblock (twice!), still managed to get a bit burned in a few spots. Not too bad, really, and the second application was too late to help (I kind of knew this as I put it on, but put it on, anyway). As you might suspect, it was sunny and quite warm, rising to at least 25C by mid-afternoon. We started out at Tsawwassen Beach Trail, or more accurately, the gargantuan Tsawwassen Mills mall, where we parked. We walked to the beach trail from there (only a few blocks) and covered probably around 11 km there alone, looking for shorebirds or any birds. And we did see some, including killdeer, some gulls, barn swallows and some smaller shorebirds that were too far off to positively ID (I did not get shots). And that was the main issue I had with Tsawwassen–we didn’t see much, and what we did see tended to be well off the shore (the tide was extremely low). Nic did get multiple chances to shoot Savannah sparrows, but they regularly foiled him by having their backs turned, or the lighting was bad and whatnot. Also, the kelp was really stinky.

I got some good shots of tires, though. And also some nice pics of a couple of cute marmots and a juvenile heron who wasn’t fully-developed yet, but already had perfect stabbyface eyes. And I would be remiss to not mention a trio of female buffleheads in a pond that apparently decided migrating isn’t for them. They were diving and swimming and having a good ol’ time without any pesky men ducks around.

We next went to Iona Beach, hoping to find a yellow-headed blackbird that has been seen in the area. We did not see it. We did see more swallows and regular blackbirds, but again, not much in the way of shorebirds. The tide was so low that the first cut in the north jetty (so the fishies can swim through) was passable by just walking across it. The most abundant creature was probably crabs and, well, they were all dismembered and dead.

Undaunted, we moved on to Tlahutum and its community gardens. We were teased by one crow, who almost let us shoot it up close, then flew off, probably doing the crow equivalent of a Nelson “Ha ha1”, but other than that it was mostly swallows again. I’m not complaining. Swallows are pretty and fabulous, but a little more variety would have been nice. We only went as far as the bridge over the Coquitlam River, as by this time we had walked about 5,000 km.

We made our last stop at Piper Spit and got a nice treat there–a Wilson’s pharalope, which could have been a bit closer, but gave us plenty of time to capture it on virtual film as it waded through the shallows, often with a smaller shorebird in tow (a least sandpiper, apparently). We’re outside the pharalope’s breeding range, so they are considered rare here. Neat! There was also goose drama, of course, but even fewer bird species than the last time. The remaining coot decided to scoot, I didn’t see any Northern pintails, even though they allegedly don’t migrate, but the one Sandhill crane was still hanging around. And several geese families had their new broods in a fenced off area adjacent to the park, which is a pretty smart way to keep the goslings clear of twerpy little kids (and adults).

In all, it wasn’t a bad day of birding, but the variety and quality of my shots were both a bit lacking. At least I know the extra spots to apply sunblock for next time.

The Shots

Soon™

The Birds (and other critters). Rare or rarely-seen birds highlighted in bold.

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Barn swallow
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Marsh wren
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Tree swallow

Waterfowl and shorebirds:

  • Bufflehead duck
  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Killdeer
  • Least sandpiper
  • Mallard
  • Sandhill crane
  • Wilson’s pharalope
  • Western seagull
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • Rock pigeon

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle

Non-birds:

  • Several squirrels
  • Two marmots or one teleporting marmot
  • Butterflies!
  • A fat bumblebee
  • Those weird beetles again at Iona Beach
  • Tires (more than you’d think)

May 2, 2024 birb gallery is up!

I both indulged (30 photos!) and culled somewhat ruthlessly, as there were a lot of decent shots that I just skipped because 30 is enough to wrangle. Hopefully I picked the right thirty. I mean, yes, I did. Totally. You can’t prove otherwise!

Some random photos from May 4, 2024

And no Star Wars references.

Various pictures taken around the neighbourhood with my iPhone 12.

Birding, May 2, 2024: A wren in the works

Where: Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Centennial Beach (Delta), Blackie Spit (Surrey), Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)
Weather: Sunny, 8-17°C

The Outing

It was forecast to be sunny and mild, so we wore shorts! It was a bit brisk at Reifel in the morning, with a strong breeze blowing off the strait. An older man intoned to us, “It isn’t summer yet” but did not actually call the fashion police on us. I didn’t wear sunblock, so got some more mid-spring burning around my ears and neck. Next time I’ll wear sunblock, I swear.

Apart from being brisk in the morning, it was more like Reifel Bird Scarcity, ho ho. The overall bird population was down due to migrants heading off and the locals being busy in the bushes making babies (or so I assume). We didn’t see any American wigeons, though, oddly, there was a single Eurasian wigeon present. There were no coots at all, though we did see a single coot at Piper Spit. Likewise, there were no scaups, buffleheads or ring-necked ducks to be seen. We saw what appeared to be one snoozing merganser sleeping on a small island next to some geese, though they apparently don’t migrate, they just hide or something.

And speaking of geese, we finally saw goslings and plenty of them. More on them in a bit.

While many bird species were absent at Reifel, the ever-elusive marsh wren was actually seemingly ever-present. We saw and shot at least four of them, with varying degrees of success. A volunteer teased us with an alleged sighting of a pair of cedar waxwings in the area, but we did not see any. Boo. We did, however, see a few shorebirds on the inner ponds, the tiny and adorable least sandpiper, so that was neat.

The geese were taking notes from the blackbirds with regard to their table manners, proudly wearing their food all over their faces.

The wood ducks near the entrance were displaying their iridescent mullets along the railing. I swear they actually pose for people because they know how pretty they are. We did not see any ducklings, though.

After Reifel, we went to Centennial Beach. Here, I doffed my hoodie, opting for sunburn. The pond was largely empty, but we did spot a few Savannah sparrows on logs, and raptors above, the latter both in the sky and in trees. We then forged on to Blackie Spit because of reports of shorebirds. The tide here, as elsewhere, was extremely low. There were no shorebirds, unless you stretch to count seagulls. Which we do not. We did see some green-winged teals and various birbs, including more Savannah sparrows, a distant goldfinch and a train, which is not a bird at all. We also saw a bunny, also not a bird. It was hungry, so we watched it eat various wildflowers and things. Rabbits have an automatic “so damn cute” mode when eating.

We ended at Piper Spit, which, perhaps due to it being after 6 p.m., was quite busy. The number of waterfowl here is also down, through all the regulars were accounted for. The geese were out with their babbies, some of which are already showing their first growth spurt. There were many goslings, most of them huddled together in one mega-group. Amazingly, none of the small children present were unwise enough to try to go after them, so goose drama/murder did not occur. Or at least I didn’t directly witness any.

The Shots

The Birds (and other critters). Rare or rarely-seen birds highlighted in bold.

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Barn swallow
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Marsh wren
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Rufous hummingbird
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Tree swallow
  • White-crowned sparrow
  • Yellow-rumped warbler

Waterfowl and shorebirds:

  • American coot (one!)
  • Canada goose
  • Cormorant
  • Eurasian wigeon
  • Green-winged teal
  • Great blue heron
  • Least sandpiper
  • Mallard
  • Northern pintail
  • Northern shoveller
  • Sandhill crane
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • European starling
  • Rock pigeon
  • Seagull

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle
  • Northern harrier

Non-birds:

  • Bunnies!
  • Several squirrels
  • A sweat bee

Aquatic art

Some public art at the new and just-about-to-open t?m?sew?tx?1Yes, they have a pronunciation guide for the name, you can check it out here. Also, I realize my blog is mangling the non-English letters. My blog is old and dumb, sorry! Aquatic and Community Centre here in New Westminster.

I am excited about trying the lazy river, because it speaks to me.

Hydrants!

Two hydrants1Photographing hydrants has become a thing in the gaming group Discord channel, don’t ask me why or how, but I somehow started it I saw yesterday, one with a handsome yellow/red/black colour scheme, the other out of order for unknown reasons. Plus bonus scenery.

And the Brunette River, looking ever more lush as we head toward the midway point of spring:

A pretty river, April 22, 2024

Shots of the Brunette River, taken on a pleasant April afternoon.

All photos taken on my iPhone 12. I actually had my camera with me in case I saw a bird of paradise, but I was too lazy to actually take it out of the bag. I am a bad photographer.