Photojournal - 11 March 2006

All over the place

The 11th of March was a Saturday and I headed south with my camera but with no particular destination or target birds in mind. After crossing the Alex Fraser bridge, I decided to take River Road towards Ladner, and stop on the way to see if the swans were near the road. As I was driving, a goose on a sheltered part of the river caught my attention; something wasn't right about this goose. I pulled over and on investigation found that my goose was a partial albino. Partial albinism is common in our nonmigratory Canada Geese, so it's likely this goose was a local.  

After just a few minutes with the geese, I continued on to 68th Street to check on the swans. I was in luck this day; they were quite near the road. I slowed down my car and pulled over to the side of the road as gently as I could, as unusual or quick motion would scare the birds away. I took many unbraced shots from the driver's seat before ever-so-slowly pulling out my tripod and mounting my camera on it.

I got a few shots that I was happy with. This one, while not the most interesting visually, shows two Trumpeter Swans and a Snow Goose. I guess the goose thought he would blend in with all the other white birds around. Or maybe he's just hangin' with his swan buddies.

There were a few Tundra Swans in the flock, and I got my best-ever photos of Tundras. This one clearly shows the smaller bill and yellow patch that are characteristics of this species.  
But soon I was on my way again, heading out to near Roberts Bank to loof for a Gyrfalcon. The Gyr had been reported from this area several times recently. On the way over, I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk up on an electric tower.  

But the Gyrfalcon wasn't anywhere to be found.

Since I was now nearby, I went to Brunswick Point to look for a golden-plover that had been seen there. I walked out along the dyke, looking for birds in the empty field on the landward side. It took some searching, but finally I found some shorebirds there; their grey, white, and brown colors made for good camouflage. Sadly, though, I found no golden-plover.

This photo shows some of the shorebirds I did find: the small ones are Dunlin and the two large ones are Black-bellied Plovers.

A little closer in was this Killdeer.  
And eventually I found a Black-bellied Plover at about the same distance.  

When I had left my car, I thought that I would go further along the dyke to check on the local Snowy Owls, but the wind was making it quite cold up there and I wasn't feeling particularly adventuresome. So after missing on the golden-plover, I decided to go someplace less exposed to the elements.

The obvious place to go was Reifel, which was only a few minutes' drive away. On arriving at the refuge, I checked the big conifer at the entrance for the Golden Eagle that sometimes perches there, and then drove on in. As I got out of my car, I noticed a male Wood Duck doing some preventative maintenance on his feathers down in the slough.

As I took photos of him, he headed across the water and flew up onto a fallen tree, where he was joined by his missus. On that sunny perch, they both engaged in their feather-maintenance routines.  

As I'm headed towards the park entrance, I saw John, the caretaker at Reifel, coming down the road on his bicycle. John stopped and told me that the Golden Eagle was now out there on his usual perch. Either I had missed the bird on my way in, or he had flown in in the last few minutes.

Regardless, it was a good opportunity for me to get good photos of a Golden Eagle. I'd seen a Golden only once before, at a fair range, and not gotten any good photos. So I jumped back in my car and went to the gate. The eagle was right there in the tree, and I was able to get a fair number of shots of him before he flew off towards a hedgerow to the south.

The lighting wasn't ideal, but I did get photos that show the bird's "golden" mane and other plumage details. Here's two of them.

After the eagle flew away, I drove back to the parking lot and talked with John, telling him that the eagle had flown. As I went in the refuge, I spoke with someone coming out who said that there was a Black-crowned Night-Heron in quite close in just a short ways up the path. I moseyed in that direction and found the bird; indeed it was the closest I've ever been to one. He was in direct sunlight and afforded great photos, even though he was behind some branches. (I don't think I've ever seen this species without a lot of branches in the way.)  

One thing that is interesting about that bird is that it's mid-march and he's still in juvenile plumage. My favorite guide book says that this plumage lasts only until around January. But Vancouver is pretty far north for this species, so it's likely that that's what affecting his molt cycle.

Nearby in the slough, I spotted this goose, who seemed a bit odd to me. This bird's neck and bill seem shorter than our typical Canada Goose, but I'm not certain if it's a Cackling Goose or not. The brown coloration seems odd, too: most Canadas and Cacklings have a darker (near black) neck and face, and my leucistic friend Lulu is much lighter. I wonder if partial leucism is possible...

Still wondering about the goose, I made a short walk along the east edge of the refuge. On the path, I found a few Golden-crowned Sparrows. This one stopped for a short while with his face in the sunlight.  
At the north end of the east path, I found a few ducks sitting in the intersection. One of them was this very photogenic Domestic Mallard drake.  
But on this day, I had a travellin' jones, and so I went back to my car without making a full circuit through the refuge. Once back in my car, I headed again towards Roberts Bank to look for the Gyrfalcon, again striking out. I did find a yellow House Finch in a tree on the other side of the road, though.  
My next plan was to head down Ladner Trunk Road to try to find the other Gyrfalcon that had been reported recently. I didn't end up finding that one, either. However, along the way I did find a few Red-tailed Hawks over the highway. Here's one that was just cruising along, looking for food.  
Here's another, perched in a tree across the highway.  

And here's a final one, also perched. This guy, though, was discovered by a couple of crows, who felt obligated to perform their crowly duty: they were taking dives at the hawk, harassing him.


Those three Red-tails (and the attendant crows) were my last subjects of the day. I had been all over the place south of the river, and gotten in a few good photos, so I ended my day quite content.

Performing my photogly duty,


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