Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sounds of spring and ~ swallows?!

A lovely day today....

not clear blue skies but nice regardless....and as I was walking, everywhere there were sounds of spring, 

and one of the sounds had me doing a double take.....see that whitish dot on the right side of the photo?  That was one of a number of Tree Swallows!  That young Bald Eagle was perched on one of the pilings that holds some swallow nesting boxes, when the swallows return they immediately  start checking out the boxes and they weren't happy about the eagle, and had been harassing him, hence his look of disgust!  Prior to today, the earliest record I have of the swallows returning was March 2 days earlier than ever before (at least as far as my records go)

the chattering of the swallows wasn't the only springtime song, the Red-wing Blackbirds are starting to stake out territories....

I've noticed European Starlings hanging around this particular piling for a while now, in fact it looked like this guy had some nesting material with him.

and of course there were American Robins, so nice to hear them calling from the tree tops!

The Black-cap Chickadees seem more paired up and were spending lots of time down low in the bushes....

Speaking of little birds....a flock of Bushtits moved through, going over the seed heads of the native Hardhack shrubs....I've mentioned before what an important role these native shrubs play in the habitat.

and then there were some Gold-crown Kinglets as well.

this female Hairy Woodpecker was one of several woodpeckers busy in the bushes.

and let's not forget those Varied Thrush's....they're still here too!  All in all it was a very 'birdy' day.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunshine and vanishing snow

Yesterday and today we have had brilliant blue skies and sunshine and the snow has been rapidly disappearing....

this is what the far end of the estuary looked like, that is the Nature Trust lands where the trees are.  There were a few ducks here....

including these female Hooded Merganser snoozing in the sunshine.

After that a run over to Kilby....

not often you see it looking like that...

the Bald Eagle pair haven't settled to nesting yet, this one was on look out along the beach while it's mate was out on one of the pilings....

and here, like everywhere else lately, there were Varied Thrush everywhere you looked!

there is another one....

and here a Gold-crowned Sparrow.  There were also Junco, Chickadees, Jays, Doves etc. etc.

should mention that I spotted the Rusty Blackbird again this morning, it was out in the yard early with some Red-wing Blackbirds.  Unfortunately we had to leave for the day so that glimpse was all I had. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

A rare 'Rusty'

We'll start off by saying that winter seems to have made a comeback with snow and below zero temperatures....when we drove to Chilliwack yesterday it was reminiscent of driving on the prairies with snow coming at you horizontally and drifts across the highways.  

It was after we were home again when I glanced out at one of the feeders and did a double take...

it was O.M.G. a Rusty Blackbird!  This is a species that it would be rare to see here at any time of the year, let alone in the winter.  They normally winter in the south eastern part of the states.  They are also a species that has had a dramatic decline with an estimate of 80% of the population being lost in the last 40 years.  

Here he is shown with his cousin, a Red-wing Blackbird.  Rusty's are quite a shy bird as blackbirds go and prefer wooded swamps.  It is thought that the loss of these in the northern boreal forests where it nests and the draining of marshes for urban development in its southern wintering grounds have led to it's decline.

Since posting photos on various bird sites I belong too I have found that someone in Kingston Ontario has had one over wintering, theirs seems to hang out with Mourning Doves, and someone else just outside Edmonton has a pair over wintering.  For us here, this sighting brings the number of species I've documented at this I.B.A. to 179.

Here is one more look at this rarity...this is a male in non-breeding plumage.  In summer they look almost identical to Brewer's Blackbirds - the ones you can see strutting around in the Abbotsford Costco parking lot.  Rusty's just aren't quite as shiny as the brewers.

Also seen yesterday....

this male Purple Finch.  Finch of every kind have been notable by their absence in these parts this winter, this guy is probably a sign that spring is on it's way although not for a few days yet judging by the snow drifting down and the temperature!

and Varied Thrush continue to be seen in high much so that when I enter a count I get questioned to make sure I haven't made a mistake.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Well, once again, we seem to have snow....

it was snowing when we got up and it has continued to snow all day although not really accumulating to any great depth.

and once again the most prominent species around, with the exception of the Red-wing Blackbirds, are the Varied Thrush.... they seem to be everywhere you look!

here is a closer look at one.....

there were other birds around, including several Killdeer (only one in photo)

not an eagle to be seen today, but this Red-tail Hawk was out there in the snow.

as were a couple of female Common Merganser (only one in photo), a dozen or so Mallard and a couple of Bufflehead rounded out the species.

Should mention that I had a male Purple Finch show up at my feeders today, unfortunately it didn't stay long enough to get a picture, but it was the first finch of any sort I've seen for probably 3 months.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Another strange weather day.....

woke to a skiff of snow on the ground, then it hailed, and hailed, and hailed, we've had more hail in the past week or so than we normally get in a year.  Also saw a bit of sunshine.  There was not one single bird in this area when I was there today although I could hear a robin calling in the distance...

Varied Thrush continue to be seen in large numbers.....although not during my walk - this was the only one I saw.  There was a pair of Black-capped Chickadees as well, obviously starting to check out potential nest sites, something they tend to do for quite a long time before finally making their decision.

the only other bird I actually saw today, at least on my walk, was this Fox Sparrow.

I actually took this picture of a Spotted Towhee a couple of days ago but hadn't down loaded it until now.  

They are talking about the possibility of snow again for this coming weekend, so we shall see what happens.  No one has ever mentioned anything about all this hail we've been getting!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Varied Thrush!

Certainly hasn't been ideal conditions in any way shape or form for bird watching the last few days but one thing that has everyone talking is the amazing number of Varied Thrush that have shown up the last few days.

this wasn't taken today but a few days ago although we continue to get bouts of wet sloppy snow from time to time, but back to the Varied Thrush, they are everywhere!  Counted 27 of them on our grass playing field alone.  Have also noticed them perched up in trees which is a bit unusual, they are usually so secretive, staying down low near underbrush.

So the bird count is over for another year.  The Red-breasted Sapsucker has been on the same tree every day, including this morning and we saw a couple of Anna's Hummingbirds one of the days as well.

The first 3 days of the count, not a robin was seen....yesterday we did a run of Nicomen again and guess what?  American Robins everywhere so if the weather ever clears I imagine our playing field will be covered with robins again, right on schedule as they usually show up mid February....and just think, another couple of weeks we should be looking skyward as the first of the Tree Swallows could be back and shortly after that the Rufous Hummingbirds....can hardly wait!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bird count half way done....

We're half way through the Back Yard bird count and it looks like this years count might break a record with counts coming in from all over the world.

Unfortunately my count isn't going quite as planned thanks to a chronic health issue deciding to flare up making walking apart from counting what is visible from my house, we have had to do most of our counting from the car.

Nicomen Island has been it's usual productive self with over 200 Trumpeter Swans counted and well over 300 Canada Geese in the same spot.

usually you can find all sorts of Great Blue Heron on Nicomen, but this year the most we've seen is 5. (one not in this shot)

Always lots of ducks of all species, this year American Wigeon seem to top the list, beating out even the Mallard numbers wise but what really surprised me were seeing over 70 Ring neck Ducks...and missing in action, at least so far, were Wood Ducks, haven't seen a single one, even in the spots we can nearly always find them.

it is hard to spot little birds from a car but we parked in one spot and while my husband took our dog for a run I saw Dark-eyed Junco, like the one above, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow, and since this was the spot where we'd seen it before, was lucky enough to pick up that Bewick's Wren again.

A species that is new to this area, at least on count days, was Eurasian Collared Doves, seems we've seen some every time we ventured out this year.

The Red-breasted Sapsucker has stayed around so has been counted each day and my husband just returned from a walk with pictures of an Anna's Hummingbird so there is another species we haven't been able to count in past years.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sapsucker and how low can it go?

We'll start off with that....

Red-breasted Sapsucker...who has been busy at the same tree for 3 days now....and as you can see, he/she seems to just be making feeding holes.  The tree he is on is a native Hemlock which he obviously prefers to the more prevalent native Cedar trees.

Now, today we made our weekly trip over to Kilby and the Harrison Bay area of the IBA.

and we are absolutely shocked at how low the level of the Harrison River is, much lower than it was even as recently as our last visit!

some Trumpeter Swans way out in a little strip of water, a few ducks as well, we noticed they seemed to all be diving ducks, Common Golden-eye,  Buffleheads and Common Merganser.

There were a couple of groups of American Coot....this lot seemed to be sticking by the shore, the sand was so mucky after the recent weather that we couldn't walk in it to get any closer.

the pair of Bald Eagles were at their nest.  One was right in the nest so not really visible in this shot.

there was also a pair of Northwestern Crow that looked like they had nest building on their minds as well.

heading back home we stopped at the bridge to take this shot of the Harrison River and how low it is....

and then from the other side...unbelievable!!!

what didn't show up in the two scenery photos...but there were hundreds of Canada Geese both along the western shore of the river and at the ends of the gravel bars.

Made a quick run along Morris Valley Road, which fortunately wasn't busy as we stopped in a rather hazardous spot to get these two photos....

first, a trio of Hooded Mergansers, 2 males and a female and..

this rather neat shot with a Bufflehead closest, then a Common Golden-eye and a Gadwall in the back, all males.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Got the snow....and the rain...

Seems the forecast was right.  We woke up to snow this morning, as predicted....

by the time I ventured out (was watching the Olympics), the snow had stopped and a bit of drizzle was coming down.

that one lone heron was over at the log bay, along with a few Mallard and some Red-wing Blackbirds.

here is a closer look at the Great Blue Heron.  Also saw a couple of eagles today, the first since the cold winds and I briefly spotted what I think was a Rough legged Hawk but it took off before I could even think of getting the camera out.

What really surprised me was as I was approaching home I could hear....

and then I spotted....a Red-breasted Sapsucker!  I could actually see him from my house and for the past hour and a half, at least, it has been working on the same spot on the same tree.  I don't know if it has found a wonderful nest of over wintering insects or if it is excavating out a potential nesting spot.  I just hope it hangs around to be counted when the Back Yard Bird Count starts on Friday.