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Feb 28, 2015

More west coast early migrants by Dave Kemp

All photos by Dave Kemp
Northern Pintail
Anas acuta
For me, the male Northern Pintail is the Fred Astaire of ducks.   He looks elegantly sophisticated as though he were wearing a tuxedo, and his long tail resembles the tails of a gentleman's evening coat   He never seems to have a single feather out of place (great capture, Dave).    While absent from Eastern Canada in winter, many Pintails over-winter in coastal lower British Columbia and north-west U.S.A.   Below, Dave has captured the image of a first-year/juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, a fairly common visitor to the B.C. coast.
Black-crowned Night Heron
Nycticorax nycticorax
Anas strepera
Pied-billed Grebe
Podilymbus podiceps
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Feb 27, 2015

Some Lower mainland BC birds showing up two months early

All photos by by Dave Kemp
Hooded Merganser
(Lophodytes cucullatus)
British Columbia birder and photographer Dave Kemp reports that many migrating bird species are arriving in the lower mainland two months earlier than normal.   He sent along several great photos of some of the early-birds a couple of days ago and I am very pleased to show some in this spot.   I'll blog some more of his pictures over the next day or so and hope readers enjoy them as much as I do.   I'm especially fond of the photo above of a male Hooded Merganser.   This duck has a splendid profile when it raises its unmistakable crowning crest and rises up out of the water, wings spread, and often with its tail cocked up at an angle.   Immediately below, a male Northern Shoveller, with a open bill longer than its head, gives a glimpse of the comb-like teeth along the sides of its long, expanded beak.   It eats tiny aquatic animals by straining water through those teeth.
Northern Shoveller
(Anas clypeata)
European Widgeon
(Anas penelope)
Immediately above are a male and female Eurasian Widgeon which are still fairly uncommon visitors to North American but occurring on the east and west coasts.   Below is a Black Oystercatcher, one of two species which breed in North America, with the 'Black' usually along the Pacific seacoast.
Black Oystercatcher
Haematopus bachmani
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Feb 26, 2015

3-hour wait for perfect photos

The offering

The handover

Photos by Julian Ghahreman-Rad / Cater News Agency
The acceptance
It took a 3-hour wait to capture the scene, but wildlife photographer, Julian Ghahreman-Rad was rewarded with a charming set of photos of a male Kingfisher wooing a potential mate by handing over a small fish to a female Kingfisher.   The photograph was taken near a Vienna, Austria, nature reserve. during the height of the mating season. 
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Feb 25, 2015

Video of Lyrebird's amazing vocabulary

Photo: Jouan & Ruis/naturepl.com1

Click on the link below to experience an encounter 
by Sir David Attenborough with a Lyrebird...

Feb 24, 2015

A picture I wish I had taken...

Photo by P. Vaudry / National Geographic Your Shot
Above is a photo by P. Vaudry which appeared in National Geographic's "Your Shot" online photo gallery.   To me it's picture-perfect.   During a recent mild February day in Alberta, Mr. Vaudrey hiked along the Bow River, in Fish Creek Provincial Park, just south of Calgary.   He noticed this flicker in a tree, while walking through Hull's Woods.   The flicker remained in the spot as it was approached by the photographer.   Vaudry said: " was thoroughly enjoying the warmth of the sun, so much so that it didn't seem to notice that I was there".   What a perfect encounter.
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Feb 23, 2015

1,903 bird species in Columbia

                                                                                      Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images
(Aulacorhyncus prasinus)
The Emerald Toucanet, above, was photographed by Luis Robayo in a rural area of Cali, western Columbia. Columbia possesses a large biodiversity of species, with 1,903 species, of which over 72 are endemic and almost 200 are migratory.   There are 116 areas in Columbia designated as official conservation areas for birds, covering 11% of the country's territory.   While Columbia has just 0.8% of the earth's surface,  19% of the world's bird species of 10,507 are found in this south american country, bordering the Pacific Ocean.   Peru ranks second in the world with 1,838 species, and Brazil is third with 1,798 species.
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Feb 22, 2015

Prize-winning photo

Photo by Dr. Matt Doggett
Feeding gannets
Dr. Mathew Doggett, marine biologist and photographer based in Southampton, has been named British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2015, for his photo of gannets feeding in the waters of Shetland.   This same photo, titled "Gannets Feast", also was declared the winner for best British Water Wide Angle photo.   
Dr. Doggett offered the following comments on his winning photograph.   "With my good friend Richard Shucksmith, I hatched the plan of trying to photograph gannetts diving underwater.   It was early in the season and their main food source, mackeral, was close inshore.   To attract them close enough to my lens, we threw in some dead mackeral from a local supplier, which is commonly done on birding trips to get diving photos above the surface.
The gannetts went crazy and we were surrounded within minutes.   They hit the water at 50-60 mph and I had to be fast to get the shots. I was shooting from the hip and rarely looked through the viewfinder.   Sometimes the gannetts were right on the front of the lens.   It was utterly amazing.   Your could hear them hitting the surface one after another.
This shot shows three birds, just as the race to reach the fish was over.   The lucky bird with the fish would have swallowed it whilst still underwater to avoid be harassed by hungry skuas waiting at the surface." 
JUDGE'S COMMENTS, Peter Rowlands: "There are some images which are, quite literally, breathtaking and this is up there with the best.   Timed to perfection and precisely focussed, it captures the peak of the action, which must have been extremely frantic.   I think I'd have worn a crash helmet with such fast-moving and sharp beaks plunging down so fast!   Stunning."
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Feb 21, 2015

Bitterns and Stealth Bombers

 Photo by BarrytheBirder
Bear with me for a minute while I try to explain why Bitterns remind me of Stealth Bombers. The bittern has that long streamlined shape in flight and it has a sleek relaxed wing beat that hardly looks like flying at all, sometimes.   I took the photo above at Luther Marsh of a silent, stealthy Bittern relocating itself to a more comfortable distance away from me.   Below is another photo of a Bittern taken by Tony McLean at also showing the bird's streamlined aerodynamic in-flight profile.   I always thought my proclivity for imagining a bittern as nature's stealth bomber was a somewhat singular fascination.   Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the composite-image photo, at bottom, of a falcon and a Northrop Grumann B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, taken by David Cenciotti/The Aviationist.   The bird species are different but the speculative likenesses to the jet aircraft are strong, in my mind.   Well, maybe the falcon's snub beak is more like the Stealth nose.   Okay, I think this is enough dubious conjecture for one day.   Have a good one.     

Photo by Tony McLean/

Composite image compiled by David Cenciotti/The Aviationist - Image sources: and Reddit

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Feb 20, 2015

The colours of bird feed shortages

 Photos by BarrytheBirder 


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Feb 19, 2015

Orange Snow Goose

Photo by Dave Kemp
Here's another photo sent to me by Dave Kemp from British Columbia, that caught my eye. It's a neat close-up of a Snow Goose, which is normally pure white.   What this photo emphatically shows is what happens when a Snow Goose is feeding routinely in waters that contain high concentrations of iron oxide.   The iron oxide reveals itself in the mineral's orange colouring which is passed into the goose's feathers.   The other very noticeable item in this photo is the black "grin patch" on the lower part of the goose's bill.   This close-up photo makes for a striking image.
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Feb 18, 2015

Owl stuck in roof rack for 10 miles

Photo by Peter Corns
This young owl went for a 10-mile car ride stuck in the roof rack of a vehicle, before being discovered by the surprised driver who had been driving to work at a car showroom, south of Birmingham.   The driver of the vehicle had left for work work before dawn and upon arriving at his destination and exiting the car he noticed a fluttering.   He and a colleague had to force the stunned owl from under a roof rack bar.   A wildlife sanctuary took the owl and described the owl a being very lucky to survive the ordeal.   The owl has been named Birch for the business park he ended up.   Birch suffered a concussion and a swollen and closed eye, but is expected to make a speedy and complete recovery, after which he will be released back into the wild.   I can only add that "owls well that ends well".
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Feb 17, 2015

The subtleness of beautiful feathers

Photo by Dave Kemp
Male Gadwall in British Columbia
My friend Dave Kemp, whose photos I have featured in this blogsite many times, has just sent me a new group of shots from Canada's west coast.   This photo caught my eye for the bird's subtle beauty.   The male Gadwall's colouring and patterning I find pleasingly distinctive, in an understated fashion.   I also find the golden colouring of the water a pleasing complement to the head and back feathers of the Gadwall.
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Feb 16, 2015

Cooper's Hawk dines on pigeons

The flock of pigeons above is to be found at Hwy. 400 and the North Canal Rd. in the Holland Marsh.   They are always in a flock and seem to safe under most circumstances.   When not on the hydro wires soaking up the sun, they are found huddled in the shadows under the massive highway over-pass hidden from prying eyes.   Occasionally one makes a mistake and ends up as meal for a raptor, such as the Cooper's Hawk, seen here under that same bridge devouring its catch. 

Photos by BarrytheBirder

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Feb 15, 2015

Should Common Loon be Canada's national bird?

Carving by Ron Sadler / Photo by BarrytheBirder
Canadian Geographic's National Bird Project
(as of  Feb. 11, 2015)
         Common Loon                        -  6,535
         Snowy Owl                              -  4,918
         Gray Jay                                  -  4,219
         Canada Goose                        -  1,967
         Black-capped Chickadee       -  1,603
Canadian Geographic Magazine and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society are inviting Canadians to be part of a project to designate an official bird for Canada by 2017, our country's sesquicentennial.   Anyone can vote for their favourite bird species by going online and choosing from the candidate list of 40 birds or contribute another preferred personal choice from the 450 species of birds across Canada.   You can only vote once.   To vote, go to Google and type in canadian geographic national bird project.   As for the Common Loon, it is my personal pick and I have already voted.   The photo above shows a wood carving of a loon by Ron Sadler, which I purchased 33 years ago.   Instead of painting the loon to look like a decoy, Ron finished the carving with wood stains.   It's one of my favourites.
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Feb 14, 2015

500 Snow Buntings at Temperanceville

 Photos by BarrytheBirder
Winter is never quite winter for me until I see a flock of Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis).   I'd spotted a few earlier this winter, once or twice, but it wasn't until today, February 11th, that I spotted a big flock of them near Temperanceville.   On this occasion, it was a flock of approximately 500 birds; the most I've ever seen at one time.   When they swoop and swirl about in flight one can see them clearly one moment and then, when they turn, they almost disappear as their mostly white colouring blends into the snowy background.

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Feb 13, 2015

Kingbird takes on hawk

All photos by Geraldo Grassi
Here's an impressive series of photos taken by Geraldo Grassi in El Salvador.   Senor Grassi was training his hawk when a Western Kingbird arrived on the scene to drive off the hawk, which was too close to the kingbird's nest.   The smaller bird's bravery (or recklessness) was wasted on the hawk, which ignored the kingbird and kept its eyes on the training dummy on the ground.   The hawk's strike was successful, despite appearing somewhat awkward.
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Feb 12, 2015

Bearded Vulture: a.k.a. the 'bone breaker'

 Painting by Robert Bateman
 Photo by Anthony Migeon
Gypaetus barbatus
Photo by Chris Schenk 

Satellite tracking technology has solved the mystery of the gradual disappearance  of one of Africa's most famous birds: the Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture).   Once widespread in southern Africa, the Lammergeier is now critically endangered, with nesting sites declining almost 50% since the 1960s. The remaining birds are now limited to the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa and Lesotho and continue to decline there as well.   Now satellite tracking attached to 18 of the big birds has confirmed the worst fears.   Human beings are largely to blame, with power line collisions and poisons being the major hazards that killed half of the birds in the tracking survey. Climate change appeared not to be a factor.   Recent findings show the most detailed picture yet of the challenges facing the Lammengeier, also known as the 'bone breaker' due to its habit of dropping bones from a height and feeding on the marrow inside.   The tracking is hoped to become a key factor in determining survival strategies for Bearded Vultures, across the entire African continent.

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Feb 11, 2015

Preserving ancient laws...

All photos by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
An eagle-hunting festival in Western China was photographed by Getty Images photographer Kevin Frayer in early February of this year.   The festival promotes traditional hunting practices in the border areas of Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia.   The training of the eagles follows a set of ancient laws that Kazakh hunters are preserving for future generations.

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Feb 10, 2015

From Bird Studies Canada's latest e-news...

Here are two charming photos that appeared today as part of Bird Studies Canada latest e-news.   The first photo (below), appeared in support of the 2015 Nocturnal  Owl Survey and was taken by Dick Cannings.   The second photo is in support of the 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count and was taken by Rejean Turgeon.

 Northern Pygmy-Owl

Gray Jays 
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Feb 9, 2015


Photo by BarrytheBirder
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Feb 8, 2015

Starling murmuration

Photo by Abir Sultan/EPA
This photograph of a starling flock (or murmuration of starlings) flying in a mesmerizing, ever-changing formation was taken in southern Israel.   The same flock of starlings was captured on video also.   To view the video, go to Google and type in starling murmuration in israel.   Whenever I see a murmuration of starlings, either on video, or in the air above my head, I always feel I am receiving a message.   The message is a subdued, continuous sound and I am free to translate it in any way I choose.   The message, for me, is often about a natural world of creature inclusiveness.
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Feb 7, 2015

A stand-off...

Photo: Greatstock/Barcroft Media
Here's a great photo from Kruger National Park, in South Africa.   A juvenile Fish Eagle (also known as the African Sea Eagle) spreads its wings as it confronts a young deer in the park.   This strikingly marked eagle is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and it is the national bird of Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Sudan.   Adults birds are similar in appearance to the American Bald Eagle.
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Feb 6, 2015

Snowy Owls: here, there and everywhere in the Holland Marsh

Nyctea scandiaca
Above are three photos of a female Snowy Owl taken on Woodchoppers Lane, just east of Hwy. 400 in the Holland Marsh, on Thursday of this week.   This was just one of five Snowy Owls seen in the Marsh during the sunny afternoon by my friend Gerry Binsfeld and me.   I'd been looking for Snowy Owls in the Marsh all winter, but these were my first.   Gerry had spotted four of them earlier in the day and together we found them again in the afternoon, plus a fifth bird.   It was a bitterly cold day but the sun was shining brightly.   None of the owls flew off as we approached them.   They seemed content to soak up the afternoon sunshine.   In total there were four females and one stunning all-white male.   As we wandered along the snowy roads of the Marsh, we also spotted several Red-tailed Hawks, two Coopers Hawks and one Rough-legged Hawk, plus several Common Redpolls.   There may have been a Hoary Redpoll in with the Commons, but neither Gerry of I felt sure about it.   All in all, we enjoyed a couple of fulfilling hours despite the chilly temperatures.
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