Posts Tagged ‘birds’

The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus with mount woodside in the background near the harrison river in british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

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   Last weekend I headed out to the Harrison and Chehalis River area to photograph Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) with Seattle area photographer Steve Cole. This was the last weekend of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. There were not that many tourists or photographers around, though I tend to avoid photographing areas that might contain crowds of onlookers. I was pleased to be able to view some very nice looking adult Bald Eagles from a vantage point closer than I usually find them. Views of large trees full of Eagles are easy to come by in the Fraser Valley this time of year, ones that are in good range of my 70-200mm lens (even with the 1.4x extender attached) are few and far between. So I am happier with my results this year compared to previous attempts.

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus at the harrison river in british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

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   The first photo above of an Eagle sitting in a snag works quite well for me because of the snowy backdrop. A Bald Eagle photograph with a snowy mountain behind it just seems more authentic than the backgrounds I am usually able to find. The mountain here is Mount Woodside which sits between Harrison Mills, Aggasiz and Harrison Hot Springs. The Eagle was photographed along Morris Valley Road in Harrison Mills.

   The second Bald Eagle photo here was made along side the Harrison River near Highway 7. A stop at Kilby Provincial Park had not yielded any eagles that were close, so we backtracked to this spot as Steve’s girlfriend had noticed some Eagles feeding near the Harrison River Bridge. It is always good to bring a spotter! Luckily this one adult was still sitting on the pilings and hung out long enough for us to make some photographs before flying away.

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus in harrison mills british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

-click to enlarge-

   The third and last Bald Eagle featured here is perhaps not quite as photogenic as the first two, but I always appreciate it when wildlife is perfectly happy being near me when I have my camera ready. This eagle sat up on these rocks above the road for quite some time, then flew away, circled back and selected a new spot – and repeated this a few times. Maybe he/she was just too full of salmon and was looking for a better vantage point over the valley while digesting the last meal.

   Steve has also posted an account of this trip on his blog including a bit of uncomfortableness with another photographer who thought he was just too special to be friendly to others.

A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

great blue heron - ardea herodias - at the capilano river

Great Blue Heron
(Ardea herodias)

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   Late last year I published a post on this blog called “Creating Drama with Shutter Speed“. While at the Capilano River in North Vancouver, British Columbia I had made a few photographs of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). By utilizing different shutter speeds I found that (in this case) a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds brought a lot of drama to the scene by blurring the river in the background.

   This photo is another photo I made that day of the same Heron, again with a slower than normal shutter speed ( 1/6th of a second in this case). While I think my favourite of the day is the slow shutter speed Heron photo from that other post, this one comes in a close second for me.

Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - keeps an eye out for a dive bombing harrier at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Snowy Owl
(Bubo scandiacus)
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   Back in mid February I went to the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area to photograph the Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus). The Snowy Owls are not normally in this location during Winter. This is an “irruption” year, where the Snowy Owls venture further south than they normally would. There are various opinions as to why this occurs, though most often I see it being related to food supply in the Arctic. As this happens only about once every 5-6 years I made sure I went down to take a look. I figured even if I could not photograph the Snowy Owls as they were too far out in the marsh I would be able to at least see them from afar. I was not disappointed.

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - yawning at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Yaaaaaawwwwn!
A Group of Snowy Owls
(Bubo scandiacus)
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   The first photo here shows an Owl that was like many of the others sitting on the driftwood – it had to occasionally keep a wary eye on a passing hawk or Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus). The Harriers especially seemed to like to dive bomb some of the Snowy Owls – though I don’t know if they ever make contact. One flew over the head of this owl and it kept an eye on it as it passed. The second photo shows one of the first signs of the Snowy Owls “waking up” from their earlier positions of just sitting on the logs with their eyes closed. There was lots of yawning, though I didn’t see it go through the group in any sort of contagious manner like it does in humans.

a group of snowy owls - bubo scandiacus - warm up for flight on a piece of driftwood at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
Warming up for flight
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   The last two images here show the Snowy Owls stretching and fluffing up their feathers in preparation for flight. I had seen a few other groups of Snowy Owls further down the trail do this, before they ultimately took off towards the marsh. I presume this was to go look for food, as they were not being harassed by photographers at the time. The group I was following did not take off during the day, so I will have to wait until the next irruption to get some flight photos. Of all the photos I made of this group of Snowy Owls, I do not think I ever had one where they were preening and fluffing up their feathers where all three were facing the same direction. This is part of the fun and challenge though. Two out of three ain’t bad!

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - stretching before flight at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
stretching
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   I wrote in my last Snowy Owl post that I was easily able to photograph these Snowy Owls from the trail at Boundary Bay. The individual Owls pictured here were all within about 40-50 feet of the trail. I was going to make this post a bit more about the ethics of wildlife and landscape photography as I see it – but I think that is a topic that I need to mull over just a bit more and probably deserves its own post anyway. As I’ve said before though, I do not see trampling the marsh habitat or approaching the Snowy Owls and spooking them to be something anyone should be doing just to “get the shot”. On this day there were maybe a dozen plus “Big Lenses” wandering around in the marsh no doubt causing much damage – especially as a cumulative effect.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) at Boundary Bay

a northern flicker - colaptes auratus - on a piece of driftwood at boundary bay - british columbia - canada
Northern Flicker
(Colaptes auratus)
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   Here is a photo I made a few weeks ago while looking for Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay in Delta, British Columbia. The Owls were the exciting part of my trip there, but I also viewed a lot of other bird species that will have me going back soon to photograph them specifically. There are other owls, various hawks, Northern Harriers, Great Blue Herons etc. I didn’t expect to see a Northern Flicker here, but this one jumped up onto this stump just as I walked past on the trail. I was lucky enough that he sat there for a few minutes while I managed to make a decent photo before he spied something on the ground and jumped down again. I suspect he was popping up for a better vantage point because he heard me coming and wanted to make sure I wasn’t looking for a snack.

   I used to ID bird species in my backyard when I was growing up – and at that time there was the Yellow Shafted Flicker, and the Red Shafted Flicker. Science has since determined these to be the same species, just different colour morphs, so they both fall under the category of Northern Flicker now. Confirming this gave me an excuse to read a paper in the Canadian Journal of Zoology related to this, something I don’t do as often as I used to. I kind of miss them. Much more fun reading them casually than having to write a paper on it all after!

A Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - hops to a different piece of driftwood at boundary bay - british columbia - canada
Snowy Owl
(Bubo scandiacus)
-click to enlarge-

   I will do a more thorough writeup of my trip yesterday to Boundary Bay, but for now I wanted to quickly share this image of a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). Of the over 600 photographs I made yesterday, this one stood out as one that showed the best action of the day. The Owls hunt sporadically, so there is a lot of sleep and relaxing in between. Sometimes they just sit there and barely open their eyes. This one started to warm up for the hunt and hopped around a little before taking off towards the water.

   I should point out that I made this photograph from the path at Boundary Bay. Many photographers have behaved badly in this location in the last few months, a fact I will document and speak to in a later post. I was able to hang out for hours within 30-40 feet of a dozen Snowy Owls right next to the path, I have no idea why trampling the marsh and chasing the Owls is necessary for a good photograph. More about that later (and more Snowy Owl photos too!).

Great Blue Heron at Pitt Lake

A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at the marshes near Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia

great blue heron in the marshes near pitt lake

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

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   A few weeks ago I visited the Pitt-Addington Marsh Wildlife Management Area near Pitt Lake. Shot a lot of landscapes, but this area is always a good place to spot a lot of birds and general wildlife. I walked along the dike for a while, then down into the marsh along a trail. What I should have done was look at the marsh before I came down off the dike into it – as there was a Great Blue Heron standing about 5 feet in front of me looking a bit startled. He took off immediately and landed at a distance just near enough for me to see him and just far enough away that my longest lens wasn’t quite going to cut it.

   I must not have looked like too much of a threat because once I got the wide angle lens back on and started shooting the landscape he flew close again. Not as close as our original encounter but close enough for me to be happy with the photographic opportunity. Was hoping for some hunting shots like I had at Stanley Park recently but today this one seemed much more intent on cleaning and preening itself.

Great Blue Heron in Stanley Park

a great blue heron - ardea herodias hunts-  along the seawall of stanley park

   About a month ago I was on the seawall in Stanley Park taking some shots of downtown Vancouver at night. Last time I attempted this my relatively cheap tripod was not up to the task of holding my camera steady (in portrait position) for 30 seconds at a time. The result was some decent shots, but others had a 30 second long vertical light streak through them due to tripod malfunction. Did I mention how much I like my Gitzo tripod?

   I had not expected that I was to be stalking any sort of birds at night. Thankfully though it was a Great Blue Heron ((Ardea herodias) which luckily tend to stand still for lengthy periods of time (or until you trigger the shutter). I guess this lulls the prey into a sense of complacency, at least temporarily. This is probably one of the few species that I would be able to find at night and that would stand still long enough for me to get a clear shot with shutter speeds of 1-2 seconds. That being said, this is one of the few clear shots of the 40 that I took. I like it – not my usual sort of photograph.

Steller’s Jay in Mt. Rainier National Park

stellers jay - cyanocitta stelleri - in mount rainier national park

I had only parked my car at a pullout for a few minutes when this Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) and a flock of Gray Jays (Perisoreus canadensis) came begging. There is ample literature and signs telling visitors to not feed the wildlife but clearly this is being ignored. Photography wasn’t really the action they were looking for so they fled fairly quickly.