Cranefly and Seal all in one day

A cranefly was discovered in our kitchen wall this morning. I am not sure what species it is but it sure looks cool up-close, especially the interesting looking antenna. I'm quite surprised that this individual is still surviving past the harsh winter conditions.

Needing to return some library books, I went to the Steveston branch. While I was there, I walked along the Fraser River and to the wharf to see what I could find.

It was a quiet day. Not many people and animals, and the sidewalks were icy and slippery. But I did encounter this pair of Great Scaups, or so I think according to this comparison between Grater and Lesser Scaups.

I think I also saw one female Common Merganser and one Bufflehead along the Fraser River, but both were too far away for me to take a picture proof.

Another bird I saw today was Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula). The males can be distinguished from the Barrow's Goldeneye because of a white round spot on each side of its face (compare to the white crescent in Barrow's).

I saw the above species in the wharf, where all the fishing boats usually sell their catches. There was also this seagull that kept circling around in the sky and diving down on this particular spot in the water. At first, I didn't pay much attention thinking it was hunting for small fishes or something. But then I saw a dark shape appear and dive down into the water again! Could there be a Steveston Monster!?

Nope. It was a lone seal! It poked its head up a couple of times before the gull attacked (or played) the seal again. Such a cute-looking animal but I wonder why it was so close near these fishing boats. Perhaps, they threw out some of their unsold fishes and that attracted the animals? Otherwise, it is terribly dangerous for it to be so close to frequent-running boats.

As you can tell from the pictures, it was getting late, so I headed back home. But not before I took these interesting pictures of neon-light reflections on the water surface.


Visited by Bald Eagles again

I visited the dyke again today. It's a place (in this type of weather condition) where I can easily walk to to enjoy nature. Plus I have been seeing some excellent sightings, so why stop now?

The weather dramatically improved today, where the blue sky was definitely visible. However, it rained a little bit in the late afternoon as I was heading back home. Nevertheless, great weather condition that wasn't too cold or too windy.


The American Bittern was still here. In fact, as I was leaving I actually saw two bitterns fighting over something, and I even heard their calls and saw one flying. Neat!

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)

One animal I saw a lot of today was the Northern Harriers. Two harriers kept flying back and forth trying to catch some preys. They must be really hungry. And I still didn't manage to get some good pictures. Such a shame.

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier


As I approached the Quilchena Golf Course at Blundell Road, I heard eagle calls!


Looking ahead with my binocular, a Bald Eagle was visibly next to the large (but empty) eagle's nest.

There were two eagles instead of one. However, one doesn't have the white head so it's a juvenile, and it flew off as I approached. So all I got of it were shots of it flying away, too bad. It looked very large (wingspan-wise) as it flew above me.

The other eagle is an adult, and interestingly, it didn't flew off with the other eagle. It was patiently looking into the horizon, which gave plenty of time for all these photos.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Then, I continued on with my walk.



Along the ditch was a winterberry (I think) and there were many birds hiding in the thick branches and feeding on its red berries, such as towhee, robin, Varied Thrush (on the left), and Northern Flicker (on the right).

I saw the same Muskrat again today. It was near the same spot munching on some vegetation. This time I went further down the ditch to get better pictures. Didn't realize that the view looks very different from down there.


If we keep meeting like this, I think I'll be very sad if I don't run into the muskrat next I come here.

Up above, I heard some strange sounds. Looking up, there were four birds flying above me. They seemed like Snow Geese, very much larger and the call was different. So I know I was looking at swans, or more specifically Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator). Such magnificent animals!

Trumpet Swan

Since my feet weren't freezing today (because I wore two pairs of socks), I decided to continue walking.




Reaching the Terra Nova Rural Area, the lake seemed to be frozen and so was the ditch, hence no waterfowls for me to see. So I decided to head back as a little bit of rain was falling down and the sun was setting soon.

The views walking back.




Saw this spider on top of the snow surface. I took this picture, but then wondering if it was dead, I took a stick and poked it. It rolled down the snow surface, so I assumed it was dead. But when I looked at it again moments later, I saw it moving. Ha, fooled by a spider.

Snow are interesting in its ability to emphasize outlines of objects by covering a soft white blanket over it.

Fallen logs.

Dimpled snow.

Snowy lookout.

High speed chase of a Northern Harrier.

Eurepean Starlings
Love today, love everything I saw, even these European Starlings.

American Bittern & Northern Shrike (?) on West Dyke Trail

Well, this last couple of days was fun. Not. The weather wasn't too good for me to trek out to the dyke or to other not-yet-explored places. And I don't have enough money to buy the things I wanted this Boxing Day (which is still a big question mark between buying a DSLR or a ultrazoom "bridge" camera). Anyways, all I did this holiday were: going online, watching the televsison, and birdwatching (of gulls, crows, and starlings) from my windows. Bottom line: not exciting.

Today was great. No snow or rain (although some snow is starting to turn into slush, which is the only consequence of snow that I cannot stand), in fact, the sky even cleared a bit this afternoon for me to see some blue skies. The good weather gave me the chance to hike to the dyke. I saw many different waterfowls there today, such as Mallards, American Wigeons, Snow Geese, Coots, Green-winged Teals, Northern Pintails, and even an American Bittern!!

American Wigeon

American Coot

Northern Pintail

I was very excited to see the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) because it was my second time seeing it on Sturgeon Bank and first time able to photograph it. I didn't even know the bittern was in the marshes until it started to hastily walk away from me. It is an amazing master of disguise. It kept its head held high at all times, not allowing the brownish neck streaks to break form and blending with the cattails. It was quite cooperative to allow me to take these pictures, but I wish I can hear its call just once.

Have fun trying to spot the bittern in these pictures.

Passing the golf course on Blundell road, the skies above the gulf islands were clearing up to give a beautiful glow on the snowy mountains over there.

On that little patch of trees across from the golf course, I was surprised to see some insects still alive and resting on top of the snow. I believe the one on the left is a gnat, while the one on the right looks like a fruit fly.

Last time I was here, I came across a Muskrat, and it was here this time too! I was able to get a little closer this time to take pictures. The picture on the left is me trying the method of digiscoping. It was quite unafraid of me as I inched closer. It only paused (from eating) for a while whenever I get closer, but then it continued on munching the vegetations.

Far away, I spotted this solitary Great Blue Heron all alone.

As I was heading back because my socks were wet and my feet were getting freezing, I saw this medium-sized bird resting on top of a birch tree. Using my binocular (10x25), I could see that it was a blue bird with black eye lines. I could not tell what it was at the time, so I took these pictures. But now that I compared the photos with my field guide, I still could not find what species it is.

The bird flew away when I got closer. But later on, I came across the same (?) bird again right on top of me. Hope I can get some help identifying it. [Edit: Helps from WhatBird Forums and Hugh of Rock Paper Lizard came up with Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor), which seems to fit the bird in the picture. Thank you.]

Northern Shrike is a raptorial passerine, and the males impale preys on thorns or barbed wires as a courtship display. The Latin species name means "Butcher watchman". A suitable name for such an aggressive bird.

Near that tree, there were feathers scattered everywhere. I saw flesh still attached at the base of the feathers, meaning it was a fresh kill, probably by the hungry Northern Harriers I saw flying around (or the Northern Shrike that I saw perching on the nearby trees just moments ago).

The views heading back home.

Another Great Blue Heron

Suddenly, I saw these European Starlings flying from the marshes.

Turning around, a Northern Harrier just flew by me. That must be why the blackbirds suddenly took off.

At the pond near where I get off the trail, the Northern Harrier tried again at snatching some Mallards and/or Wigeons. Once again, unsuccessful.

I feel bad for everybody - the hungry harriers and the innocent waterfowls, but this is the way of life in order to survive.

I wish the need for food can be slept away.

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