Photojournal - 2 January 2006

Back to Bobs Bank


The second of January was a somewhat calmer day than the first, but it was still quite grey. I headed back to the Roberts Bank jetty to look for the Rock Sandpipers. The jetty has a road that goes out along it, next to several rail lines. The easy way to get to the road involves going on an overpass that crosses the rail lines. While I was driving up this overpass, I spotted a Bald Eagle perched in a tree straight in front of me. As no other cars were nearby, I pulled my favorite car-photography maneuver and got some shots of the eagle out of the driver's side window.  
I wasn't able to get many shots, though, as soon a truck was coming up towards the overpass behind me. I drove on over to the jetty, and pulled off onto the gravel area beside the road. The rocks along the shore next to the gravel area is where the turnstones and sandpipers were to be found. I got out of my car, and it wasn't long before I found some Black Turnstones making their way along the shore. Here's one of them.  
After about five or ten minutes walking along, I noticed another bird on the shoreline. It clearly wasn't a Black Turnstone. At first I was a little excited, thinking it might be a Rock Sandpiper, but soon enough I recognized that it was a Dunlin, a related but more common bird. Here's the little Dunlin.  
I continued along, and found several more little flocks of Black Turnstones. Here are a couple of shots of some turnstones that had ventured about a meter or two from the shore.  
   
I went the length of the "public" part of the jetty without finding any Rock Sandpipers, and as I was walking back, I split my attention between the shore and the birds just offshore. Out on the water, I found a few different birds, like this pair of Surf Scoters—female on left and male on the right.  
Closer in, a Common Loon floated past me.  
Back near my car at the base of the jetty, I found this male Common Goldeneye.  
And there were also gulls all up and down the jetty. This one is a Herring Gull.  
Further offshore, there was a medium-sized flock of American Wigeon. In the background of this shot is the Tsawassen Ferry terminal.  
I got back in my car and drove a very short ways, parking underneath the rail overpass. I had noticed a dyke trail that led away from this spot towards the ferry jetty. As I went out along this path, I noticed a Downy Woodpecker on a tree by a small shed, but it flew away before I was able to get a photo. On the water side of the dyke, a Northern Harrier was hunting.  
The harrier didn't seem to disturbed by my presence and came fairly close to me. I took the opportunity to take a lot of photos of him.  
Here the harrier is settling on a stump, with the ducks in the bay behind him.  
And here's a later flight shot, which shows the underwing more clearly.  
As I walked a little further down the dyke, I met a fellow with his daughter coming the other way. They told me that there were a pair of eagles down on the mud by the water a short distance in front of me. We chatted a while and then I continued down towards the eagles. As I neared their location, one of them took off. The speckled head and smooth trailing wing edge indicates that this bird is most probably a three-year-old.  
The other eagle was still down on the mud, and after a few tentative muddy steps of my own, I found a good vantage point where I wouldn't spook the bird. This one is either a two- or three-year-old; I lean towards two-year-old because he had a fairly smudgy bill rather than mainly orange bill. If he is a two-year-old, there should be some raggedness to the trailing edge of his wing, and more white on the underwing than the bird above.  
After walking a little further along the dyke, I saw a group of birds a little ways out on the water. At first I thought they were ducks, but something seemed odd about them...they seemed a little too large. I got suspicious and checked them out with my binoculars. With the bins it was evident that these were geese. This variety of goose is called a Brant, and they have really neat black-and-white plumage. For Brant in the bay, they were fairly close in. Normally I see them farther out, where it is harder to get recognizable photos of them.  
I continued along the dyke and eventually reached a gate that marked the start of private property, and so I retraced my route by to the car. On the way, I noticed a few pointy-billed birds along the path and in the trees beside it. These were Red-winged Blackbirds, all of them female.  
On the landward side, in a tangle of vines, there was a sparrow flitting about. I watched and waited until he perched where I had a clear view of him: he was a fresh and dapper White-crowned Sparrow.  
One of the more amusing sights of the day was this odd ship, crewed by two Double-crested Cormorants. They kept watch as their ship floated by, carried by the currents.  

Once back at the car, since there was a little bit of light left, I decided to head over to Boundary Bay to check on the Snowy Owls. When I got there, one was out standing in the middle of a fairway on the golf course.

As I watched, two crows came by to dive-bomb the owl. The owl didn't really seem to take too kindly to this, and he up and took off after the crows.

 

Oftentimes owls will just sit there and do nothing as crows and other birds mob them. Only a few times have I seen any of them react like this. It was nice to catch with the camera.

There was one Snowy Owl perched out on a log relatively near the parking lot, and as the light was giving out, I took some photos of him.

 

That was it for my day. Sadly, I didn't find my target Rock Sandpipers, but I did get some decent shots of some interesting species. I was happy to have been out in the field, because I knew that soon, work and weather would be preventing me from doing that.

Your intrepid bay-watcher,
Tom

 

Return to 2006 Winter index

Return to Photojournal Main