Wednesday, March 7, 2018

NAWA and More

March 1-6 Waterfront Park

Metro Vancouver District BC Canada.

I returned from sunny Mexico to snow. I know this sounds crazy but it was a relief. The scorching temperatures and 80% humidity of Southern Mexico was something else, the birding however was simply amazing. I hope to cobble together a few words and pix later.
Back home the number one priority was finding the Nashville Warbler (NAWA) that had been located at Waterfront Park adjacent to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. I had only ever seen one NAWA in Metro Vancouver and that was at Brydon Lagoon so a second sighting would be a treat and a really good year bird. I am not too sure who originally found the bird but it always amazes me how such rarities are found, either by design or accident. I'll put it down to enterprise and good birding.

The previous evening a cunning plan to find the NAWA was hatched with my neighbour and esteemed birding companion Carlo G. To help save the planet we would carpool. An added bonus was the chance to add a few more birds from nearby Lonsdale Quay to bolster my Metro Vancouver year list. 
Arriving at the park Carlo heard the chip, chip of the Nashville and bingo, there it was sitting atop the flowers of a Mahonia or Berberry. The plant is native to eastern Asia, the Himalaya, North and Central America and flowers early in the year. The NAWA was beautifully perched and I took seven frames while it fed on the protein rich nectar of the yellow flowers. The Japanese garden offers plenty of flowing plants at his time of year as well shelter from the elements.

Nashville Warbler
We spent all of ten minutes enjoying the bird before walking over to the quay. The target birds for the year list were Pigeon Guillemot and Pelagic Cormorant. Both were present.

Pelagic Cormorants

A Few Days Later

On our first visit we had missed the Orange-crowned Warbler that had been keeping the Nashville company all winter. This time we waited less than a few minutes before the Orange-crowned Warbler appeared on the very same flowerhead. 

Our second visit was combined with a visit to Maplewood Flats and Klootchman Park. We needed scopes to view a Surfbird and pair of Ancient Murrelets.
Klootchman Park

Orange-crowned Warbler.
So many birding opportunities lie ahead especially as the days warm and the soon to arrive migrants flood in through the valleys, shorelines and forests. I can't wait!

"It's never too late
 start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Metro Vancouver January Birding

January Birding

 Metro Vancouver

One bird that led me a merry chase during 2016 was the Whimbrel. I must have been down to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal at least five times without the slightest bit of luck.
Eventually, one cold January morning I eventually found one foraging along the cobble strewn shoreline. Accompanying it was a small flock of Black Turnstones. I can now relax and concentrate on ticking the other 200 plus Metro Vancouver species.

Recently I ventured down to Boundary Bay to look for owls. There are less this year but the ones which are there are sure putting on a show. I had a visitor from France so I took him to see the what we could find. He had never seen so many eagles in one place. We were especially fortunate to photograph this Barn Owl hunting in the daytime, neither had he ever seen Northern Harriers approach so closely and when 'Barnie' flew past he was speechless. It was almost dark before I could drag him away and get him back to his hotel.

Barn Owl carrying a Townsend's Vole

This winter there has been an eruption of northern species including plenty of Common Redpolls and White-winged Crossbills. We have even had Gray-crowned Rosy Finches in downtown Vancouver.
Common Redpoll

I went to photograph the Blue Jay a few weeks ago. Blue Jays in Vancouver are few and far between, probably ten in the last decade. When I arrived the bird was behind a chain-linked fence so I had to shoot through the mesh. To be successful the aperture has to be wide open so the fence won't show up. This means and depending on the lens shooting at F2.8 or F4 or on the Nikon 200-500 F5.6.
Note the out of focus background or 
Blue Jay

What's not to love about the Wood Duck? This one at Reifel has become so bold it will eat grain out of the hand. The visitors love it and what an introduction to all the young children who visit the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Wood Duck
My patch or local birding spot is Brydon Lagoon in the City of Langley. Most days the pond and forest area gives up the usual suspects. Mallards, Pied Grebe's, Red-winged Blackbirds, Great-blue Herons can all be found on most visits. Some birds stop off for just a few hours, some stay for a few days or more. The Canvasback stayed for a few days. A Green Heron has stayed throughout the winter, drawing birders from Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
Canvasback (female)

The Yellow-headed Blackbird can be found throughout the province and across Canada. The Metro Vancouver area birds breed in just a few spots. The most reliable location is Iona-beach-regional-park
Several birds return in April to breed around the outer ponds.
To find one in January is a bonus. The bird below was photographed high up in a tree at Westham Island Bridge and was hanging around with a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds.
Yellow-headed Blackbird

A few Fridays back I had an hour to kill so I visited Blackie Spit. 
As usual for the spit there were the Long-billed Curlew and a few Marbled Godwits. There were  a good number of Eurasian wigeon and a lone Sanderling. 
What caught my eye mostly were a small flock of Black Oystercatchers. They were dancing around , picking up objects and dropping them in front of each other. It looked like a courtship ritual. I wish now I had spent more time with the birds but the light was terrible and the rain unbearable. The next morning the birds were gone. 

Black Oystercatcher
Nikon P900

I know that the European Starling is a most unwelcome pest, occupying nest holes of native species. Introduced to New York in 1890-91 the starling has spread across the continent. Despite all the negatives, when caught in the right light, the iridescent plumage is quite spectacular. I have tried a number of times to capture the colours but until this shot I had always fallen short. As the bird is often found in urban environments I have no problem with the barbed wire, the background is the ocean. I photographed it while waiting for the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches to fly back to the shoreline in downtown Vancouver.
European opportunityStarling

The Hutton's Vireo is the kind of bird that can be easily overlooked. A secretive bird and easily confused by the neophyte birder for a kinglet. I would never have had the opportunity to photograph this bird had it not been for the fine-tuned ears of my birding buddy and neighbour Carlo G. who made me aware of the bird's presence.

Hutton's Vireo

Thank you for taking a look. I hope to see you all in the field.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Kenya Presentation White Rock Library

Join John Gordon on a photo-travel expedition in the Aberdare Mountain range outside Nairobi, across the semi-arid sands of the Samburu Reserve then on to Lake Nakuru and across the Rift Valley. Visit the Masai Mara National Reserve, the most famous wildlife destination in Kenya.

               Kenya Presentation

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Join the Derby Reach Bird Count

DRBIPA Bird Count

Over there years I have taken part in the DRBIPA count and believe me it's a lot of fun. All comers are welcome, see below for more information. Dress warmly and bring a snack. See you there.

DRBIPA stands for Derby Reach Brae Island Parks Association. It consists of a bunch of swell people providing input, guidance, volunteer hours and passion to Metro Vancouver on behalf of Derby Reach – Brae Island parks.

The count was established initially for DRBIPA members to explore and learn about the bird life in their parks. It is of course open to everyone, young and old, and is a great way to get to know birds in new areas and to become more familiar with birds in areas you think you know. No matter how well you know a place you can always know it better.

Below are the basics of how to participate; details are provided in the attachment. For those who have read in past years the “pretty much the same” attachment (maps, site details, etc.), you can ignore it.

We hope to see you there.

I guess I didn’t mention that coffee, hot chocolate and donuts or similarly delicious but unwholesome treats will be available. You can’t have any if you’re not there.

Please pass this along to anyone you think may be interested or anyone I may have missed.


February 17, 2018 (Saturday)*


Derby Reach and Brae Island Metro Vancouver Regional Parks, Fort Langley area.

Meet at St. George's Church, 9160 Church St., Fort Langley
Across the street from the Post Office. Downstairs Lounge: Enter from Mary Street.


08:00 to 12:00
Please arrive between 07:30 and 08:00. We depart at 08:00. Plan to be back at the church at 12:00.


Dress for rain, snow, cold, whatever.


Binoculars, notepad (optional), bird book (optional), camera (optional), water, tea (thermos), snacks, etc.

Equipment Supplied:

Clip board and pencil for recorder; route maps

 * Note that a local publication (What's On, Langley) available in libraries and online recently published events and erroneously listed (not their fault) the date of the count as January 27th. February 17 is the correct date. Please let others know.


1. Choose from six routes along different sections of the parks.

1. Houston Trail

2. Brae Island

3. Fort to Fort Trail, West: Heritage Area cairn west to Edgewater Bar (dog off-leash park)

4. Fort to Fort Trail, East: Heritage Area cairn east to Fort Langley

5. Derby Bog/Langley Peatlands

6. Edgewater Bar off-leash area to 208th St.

2. Experienced bird watchers will be present in each group for each area.

3. We try to cover as many routes as possible.

4. For the bog/peatland we require that at least one participant is familiar with the area and its hazards. We enter by permit and require that all participants abide by the rules set out by Metro Vancouver.

5. When observing birds on the Fraser River, only count those that occur in the half closest to you (south half).

6. Remember that we are counting birds in the park and while it is tempting to include those seen outside or between parks, they should be excluded from the official list. Be mindful of the approximate boundaries that define your area.

7. Each group will be provided with a clipboard, pencil and a checklist for recording observations.

8. You can record birds seen or heard. The only requirement is that you know what kind of bird it is. If you don’t know it, you can record details, thoughts, etc.

9. Fun is not mandatory and you won’t be kicked out of the group for not having it, but it is pretty much unavoidable. If you can’t handle fun, stay home.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Some Winter Birds

Metro Vancouver.
Dec 2017

West-coast birders are so fortunate to live and bird around the Vancouver area.
The mountains, the rivers, the farmland, forests and of course the ocean are all magnets for wintering birds.  We are really blessed with phenomenal birding year round, winter birding unparalleled in Canada.

 I have been making the most of my time, getting out and around, sometimes with camera, sometimes with just a scope and bins. One Wednesday an arctic outflow enveloped the Fraser Valley resulting in cobalt blue skies and mountaintops dusted in fresh snow. It also meant the falcons were back in Pitt Meadows staking out their winter territory and terrorizing wintering flocks of ducks.

After several hours of searching I was lucky enough to find this Prairie Falcon flying across its territory on Sharp and Old Dewdney Trunk Rd in Pitt Meadows. 

Prairie Falcon

Eventually I had a four falcon morning with a Gyrfalcon, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel and Prairie Falcon, my only miss was the Merlin.


Boundary Bay still has few areas left where owls can hunt. The development of cranberry and blueberry farms has shrunk their traditional hunting grounds. The image looks like I've used stealth and expertise to make this photograph, however this owl has become so habituated to humans that it frequently hunts close to the dyke pathway putting on a show to all who are present. I had been drawn to the spot by accident when coming back from fruitless search for American Tree Sparrows. The bird is a regular visitor to the same fence line where it catches numerous Townsend's vole, stashing its catch for later consumption. I'll never take an easier shot.
Short-eared Owl with a Townsend's vole.
It was a foggy day on the bay and I intended looking for the Willet. I had no idea that the the fog was so thick. Looking for a single Willet amongst two thousand Dunlin and Black-bellied Plover would have been a fruitless endeavour. Rather than return home I began looking along the dyke hedgerows, within seconds my eye was draw to a bright object, it turned out to be a long-eared owl sitting out in the open, not a branch in the way and with its eyes wide open. I took five shots, two vertical and three horizontal and left. 

Long-eared Owl.

Since I took this picture a few weeks ago the word has got out and many photographers, have descended on the location. Many are not even birders, while drawn by the owls presence they may not understand or simply ignore that their behavoir, the waving of hands, stomping of feet, approaching too closely or the tossing of sticks to may endanger birds well being. When I intervened I was met will a volley of abuse, sadly there was no conservation officer around. It was time to leave.
Below is a guide to ethical birding.

Pine Grosbeak (female)

Another species I was hoping to add to my Metro Vancouver year list was a Pine Grosbeak. This bird was part of a flock of five that have been visiting Burnaby Mountain since early December. Eventually and on my third visit and a three hour wait my patience was finally rewarded. The birds were feeding on cherry buds, a piece of which can be seen falling from the bird's bill.

Another elusive species is the White-winged Crossbill. A really difficult bird to find. When a flock were seen and photographed at Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary I went next day. I was never really close enough for a quality image and the flock were always against an ugly grey sky, the best I could do was the shot below.

White-winged Crossbill

What better way to round out 2017 than with a rarity. On December 23 a Blue Jay was found in Richmond during the annual Christmas Bird Count. A Metro Vancouver rarity, the species has been seen only dozen times in as many years. It was a welcome addition to many birders Metro Vancouver  list. 

Blue Jay

As the year closes I like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and birdy 2018. Hopefully we'll see each other in the field


"It's never to late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada

Friday, December 22, 2017

WhiteRock/Langley Christmas Bird Count

Dec 21/2017

Come out and join us.

See link at bottom to newspaper article and previous counts

On Dec. 30, the public is invited to participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The CBC is organized by the White Rock and Langley Naturalist Clubs, along with other conservation groups in the area.
Novice or an experienced enthusiast — the bird count is for everyone.
Whether you like exploring forests, fields, and waterways in search of lingering migrants, or prefer counting feeder birds from your window with a warm mug in hand, the Christmas Bird Count offers a range of opportunities for participants.
The counts are used to study the health of local winter bird populations. People with garden feeders are encouraged to phone in their sightings as soon as possible so their numbers can be added to the count.

Belted Kingfisher/Brydon Lagoon Nikon P900 

White Rock and Surrey are divided into many sections. Data collected during the Langley/White Rock count includes details on the number of birds of each species seen or heard within a local 24-km diametre circle. Surveying this circle year-after-year contributes valuable long-term information on how winter birds are faring, both locally and across the country.

Varied Thrush.

During last year’s count in Canada, over 3 million birds and 278 species were counted by 14,000 participants in 447 counts across the country. Last year was the coldest, snowiest count in recent history here in Langley.
There were 21 people who braved the minus six degree Celsius weather to count birds, resulting in more than 4,000 birds counted and 61 species found. Those numbers were down significantly from the year before but were likely due to the wild weather.
For more information or to participate in this year’s count call Gareth Pugh, 604-576-6813 for the White Rock area or John Gordon, 604-533-7171 or Mike Klotz, 604-861-1677 for the Langley area.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Privileged Encounter/Northern Goshawk

Maplewood Flats December 2017 Lower Mainland BC

When I arrived at Maplewood Flats my spirits were high. As I made my way to the salt marsh I kept passing birder after birder heading back to their cars. There were lots of smiles which meant only one thing... they had seen "the bird"  The bird in question was of course a Northern Goshawk that had been well reported and first found by Perry Edwards a week previously. The Northern Goshawk is a bird I had only seen once before so that chance to view another was high on my 2017 year list.

Northern Goshawk
Arriving at the salt marsh I met another birder who motioned that the bird had just flown, he pointed to a tree way off in the distance, I couldn't see anything.
Any birder will know it's a sinking feeling, abject disappointment when the seeker, brimming in anticipation just misses the quarry.

I spent ten minutes at the salt march but with nothing happening I decided search elsewhere. After walking along the trail to the big pond I had the bird high up in a popular. (Pic1) The view was obstructed but shooting through a tiny opening allowed me to get a decent 'keeper' shot.

(Below) However, the bird was soon on the move, flying a great speed through the forest about twenty feet above the ground, an amazing experience, it moved so fast that I lost contact within seconds. It reminded me of one of those Robert Bateman paintings where a special moment in time is frozen. I don't think i'll ever forget that scene, something a camera would never be able to capture.
I continued my way back to the bridge and the car park thinking about my experience when just above me I noticed a dark shape, it was the goshawk again just above the trail with its back to me. I watched and admired and then walked slowly walked under the bird to get a frontal view.


I spent five minutes with the bird as it bobbed its head back and forth and sideways surveying the forest floor for prey. Suddenly it was off again at high speed where it perched again within the confines of the forest and off trail. Again I left for my car, crossed the bridge when I see the goshawk yet again (see below) by this time a crowd of onlookers had gathered to find out what I all the fuss was about. I pointed to the trees across the creek... to the Northern Goshawk.

I left one more time for the beach behind the environmental offices but not before posing one more time.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada