Another outing

I found this poor critter on the sidewalk outside my house today. It had been stepped on and was still alive, but I doubted it had long to live. I picked it up and took a couple of photos of it before putting it on a outdoor plant pot, where it will be safe and be able rest in peace.

Unknown dying insect
Unknown insect

Right now, male Red-winged Blackbirds are claiming territories and chasing off Marsh Wrens, sparrows, and European Starlings that they do not like.

I think the shoulder patch is getting larger? Although it looks quite dull in color on this male.

Ball of Future Dandelions
Potential Dandelions ready to take-off.

Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus)
I don't usually take pictures of crows, but this one sat patiently in this position that I decided to reward it with a couple of shots.

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Tree Swallow on the wire. Taken with my TCON.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
I saw four Bald Eagles again today. This adult was inside the (abandoned) nest feeding on something while three others watched from above, as well as a couple of crows. The arrival of one particular eagle caused some calls of annoyance and warning from the one inside the nest.


Seeing a "white" Goldfinch, and other questions?

Well, today was certainly an interesting day. I saw a few things that are certainly worth posting.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
American Robin staring at the direction of an eagle call. Photo taken with the TCON again.

I am usually not good with insect identification. But I was watching the TV program "The Secret World of Gardens", and it was taking about flies today. That how I know this is a Hoverfly that I saw this afternoon.


Great Horned Owl again (on a farther tree) concentrating on napping despite the annoying crows around it.

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
The first thing that boggled my mind today. American Goldfinches that I saw (so far) this year are all canary bright yellow colors. But this one I saw today is pale yellow and almost whitish. Could it be a Leucistic American Goldfinch? It can't be an albino because then it would have to be all white. A quick search on Google and one of the results slightly confirms my prediction. Any help, please?

Gadwall (Anas strepera)
In the pond in Terra Nova, a pair of Gadwall arrived and was splashing and preening their feathers. What a handsome male!

Then I spotted this weird looking duck (the one closer to me). It has a dark reddish-brown head and is a diving duck. But what species? Again, help please?

Tilt your head slightly to the right as I photographed at an angle to get all four eagles.

Lastly, as I was heading back home, I saw four Bald Eagles perched on the tree (with the abandoned eagle nest). I think they are all related as there were two adults and two immature eagles. I am guessing no one is in the nest incubating the eggs or raising the nestings? I guess no new chicks this year? Sad.


Why do "Great" Birds have yellow eyes?

Thought I keep today's post nice and short - mainly because not much wildlife was observed today.

View of Terra Nova Slough

Nevertheless, some questions popped into my head when I am looking through the photos on the computer - why do different bird species have different eye colors, and what role does it play (in predating)?

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Great Horned Owl - big, round, yellow eyes.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Another "Great". Great Blue Heron - small(er), round, yellow eyes.

I couldn't find any scientific explanation about why top predators like most owls and raptors all have yellow/orange/reddish eyes. But Ecobirder posted some interesting facts about the eyes of raptors on his earlier post.
- Raptors have excellent distance vision and outstanding visual acuity (due to the thicker retina).
A raptor's eyes can make up to 15% (or higher) of their body.
- Large eyes mean not much room for eye muscle attachment in the socket (and less room in the skull for brain), so the eyes are fixed in place (therefore, they need to turn their heads to see).

Personally, I think having yellow eyes make you look more threatening and intimidating, which works well if you are a ferocious predator.

Testing the new lens

After a rewarding morning, my afternoon bike ride turned out pretty good too. Getting the teleconverter made me feel like a child all over again, receiving new toy and wanting to play with it all the time.

Another beautiful day.

Lesser Yellowlegs in flight.

Two Canada Geese were spotted feeding and staying guard in Terra Nova Rural Park, and since the guard goose was standing still, I decided to play with the teleconverter again by holding the lens in one hand and the camera in another. It's hard work since both hands are slightly shaky, leading to some fuzzy photos. Can't wait until I have the adapter to join the two together. Nevertheless, I am quite pleased with the results.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

A Spotted Towhee was singing loudly on the treetop, so I took this photo with the TCON again. The details are good when the focus is spotted on and hands are not shaky.

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

I finally had the chance today to photograph and observe Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) today. Usually, they are either in fast flight or there are cars on the roadside preventing me from taking photos, but not today.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Barn Swallows are blue-black swallow with a tan belly and a deeply forked tail. They build cup-shaped mud nest under eaves, structures, and even the entrance of caves or mineshafts.

While heading home, I saw one Bald Eagle just beside its nest. Soon after, another adult inside the nest flew out and landed next to the other one. Then they were just looking at the golfers undernath them shouting and hitting golf balls.

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Such magnificent birds. I wonder if they have eggs or offsprings at all inside the nest.


My new addition & Birding in Steveston

This is a rare mid-day post, but I want to show off my newest addition to my camera (Panasonic DMC-FZ18). I just purchased a SONY VCL-DH1758 Tele Converter Lens (seen on the left) and it gives me a 1.7x magnification to allow me to shoot from 856mm at 8 megapixels!

There are a other (better) teleconverters out there usable with this camera, but this is a relatively cheap purchase at $60CDN, and I can't wait to try it out. Sadly, I will need a special lens adapter ring at 58mm (about $10CDN) that can be bought from Asia so I will ask my mother to buy it for me. But I will have to wait for another few weeks or so before I can properly join them together. Nevertheless, here're what the whole thing will look like if combined (use your imagination to imagine an adapter between the camera and the teleconverter). Nice, eh?

I met the seller in Steveston this morning and we did a quick exchange, and I was on my way birding along Steveston again. Even though I don't have the proper set-up yet, I did a little experiment. These photos are straight off the camera (other than resizing and framing). The top left photo is 8 MP at 504mm, and the bottom left photo is the 100% cropped picture of the seagull. The top right photo is hand-helding the lens in front the camera, so 8MP at 856mm, and the photo below it is the 100% cropped. Not too bad, but it will get better.

Along the shores, I saw many shorebirds.

Lesser Yellowleg (Tringa flavipes)
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
I think this is a Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla). I am not too good with Family Scolopacidae, so any help is welcomed here (and everywhere). This is a lifer for me.

There were many of them around, poking and feeding in the mud.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Occasionally, there were a few Killdeers among them too.

I'll make another post today if I do go out biking in the afternoon. Cheers!

All About Little Birds

I saw and photographed quite a variety of small birds, so I thought I'd share these hard-to-see, easily-missed, but pretty-looking birds.

Of course, it was another beautiful day.

Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
This is a Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris).

The Marsh Wrens are quite difficult to see and photograph because they hide within the reeds of the cattails when people approaches them, but you know they are there because of the machine gun-like songs.

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
A medium-sized dark bird. At first, I was not certain what species this is because it is definitely not a Red-winged Blackbird (lacking the red "badge"). Looking closer, I noticed a hint of brown-color on the head, which means it could be a Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater). Then I heard its song that sounds like water droplets falling slowly into a pond, so I was quite certain that it was a M. ater. Awesome, another lifer for me.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)

Photographing these Yellow-rumped Warblers (Dendroica coronata) is a huge pain in the neck because they like to hop from branches to branches and never staying still for more than one second.

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) resting.

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Taking off!

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is one of the easiest birds to spot right now because they like to sing loudly for a long time, and plus they are one of the brighestest birds to spot in these leafless shrubs.

Have a good weekend, everyone!


Lucky day - Osprey sighting!

It was a great day today. Beautiful weather and saw two first birds of the year. Hope it continues throughout the weekend.

Another day with (almost) cloudless blue sky.

I couldn't find the Great Horned Owl yesterday. But it was back to its usual spot again today! Hoot!

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Wing stretching.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Giving me the annoyed cold stare. Okay, one more shot, then I'm leaving.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Back to sleeping.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
A Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula). They can be identified by their "large" eyes, yellowish hues on wings and tails, and a single wing-bar.

I got lucky when I spotted this Black-capped Chickadee picking this caterpillar off the branch and was fortunate enough to snap a shot of it. The bird then pecked the caterpillar into almost a ball of mush before eating it.

Yellowlegs (Tringa spp)
Near the slough, a group of Yellowlegs (Tringa spp.) were observed. I think distinguishing two different species by their relative size is one of the difficult things to identify them. What if there is only one species present (in the field)? Then how do we know who's the Greater and who's the Lesser? Anyways, I think they are Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) because of the straighter and pointy-looking bills. First of the year!

Dare I say it? It feels almost like summertime the last couple of days.

Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata)
I saw five pairs of Northern Shovelers feeding on the riverbanks (and one pair in the slough).

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Turns out that the bird that I missed photographing yesterday was not a Peregrine Falcon by an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Today I got lucky and it was there again! A few crows gave (weak) chases, so it flew over the field a couple of times, including once hovering in the air and diving it the ditch catching fish. It came up empty. I didn't get a good photograph of it because I was too excited seeing this bird (clearly) for the first time ever! What a day!

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
An old friend greeted me as I headed back home just as I was thinking not having seen a heron this last couple of days. Same with the Snow Geese. I guess all of them are on Wrangel Island now.
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