A male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) sitting on a garden post. Photographed in late winter in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada.
Male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
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Almost a month ago I wrote about trying to photograph a male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) in my backyard. I had noticed him sitting at the top of many of my trees singing during most afternoons first song on this page. As of today he is still up there singing away, perhaps he is having some trouble getting noticed in the Hummingbird dating scene, I’m not sure. A week or so after I posted my Black-capped Chickadee photo as a sort of hummingbird consolation prize, I was able to photograph this male in the vegetable garden.
It is rare that I am able to spot wildlife in my backyard and still have time to get in the house and grab the camera, but this Anna’s Hummingbird is pretty predictable in the order of trees he chooses to sing his love ballads from. He is also probably used to me staring up at him by now. I first photographed him at the top of the Hazelnut where he sat for a long time. I actually found making a photo of him reasonably difficult as the magnitude of light reflection from his purple gorget (the neck/throat/head feathers) was so high it would throw off my exposure. The bottom photo here shows a happy medium between the full purple/red brightness of his gorget feathers and the rather subdued reddish/brown shown in the first image.
Male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) in Hazelnut Tree
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After singing at the top of the Hazelnut for a while this male headed further back into the property and sat on a Mountain Ash tree, but only for a second. He immediately took flight again and almost got right on my face. Perhaps this was a territory thing or he was just curious, I’m not sure. Either way I was glad to see him land on a metal post very near me, and posted for just 3 photos before taking off to another frequently utilized perch in a Walnut tree. The first photograph here is that image, though I’ve cheated somewhat and cropped it to nearly 100%. You can see the uncropped version here. While I would love to get a hummingbird in flight photo seeing them perched has been pretty rare for me so I am happy to have good results. You can see a cropped version of this second photograph here. Note the very small hazelnut flowers at the end of those buds – this was the first time I had noticed them.
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This is a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) I photographed in the backyard the other day. Recently I have figured out that one bird call I’ve been hearing outside is not the usual songs from Chickadees, Juncos and other common local birds, but of a male Annas Hummingbird. I have seen it every day for the last while, and now that I’ve learned the pattern of trees it seems to use, I am trying to photograph it. Naturally it is nowhere to be found when I have my camera out, but is almost in my face when I’m out with the dog (and no camera). While trying to find it and a Golden-crowned Kinglet I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, I couldn’t resist photographing the Black-capped Chickadees and Juncos anyway. This particular Chickadee seemed even more curious than they usually are, and wasn’t afraid of sitting near me in the rose bushes. I actually had to back up at one point to make this photo as it was within the minimum focusing distance of my lens (70-200). Hoping to have the same “problem” with that Hummingbird soon. If I do I’ll be sure to post it here.
I photographed this Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) singing along the boardwalk over the marsh at Elgin Heritabe Park in Surrey, BC earlier this spring. I visited this park several times to photograph the Red-winged Blackbirds and on this occasion had this Song Sparrow sit on a branch right in front of me and start singing. I was able to make several photographs, and record two videos (see below) before the inevitable foot traffic of other park visitors caused it to fly away. Still, having a sparrow land that close and start singing was a great opportunity, one that I was only able to capitalize on as I was walking around with my longer lens (70-200mm) on the camera at the time. Landscapes do not tend to catch me by surprise nearly as often as wildlife, so when walking around on trails I often have the long lens on my camera instead of my favorite landscape lens (17-55mm). This way I am not trying to change lenses in order to photograph a bird or other animal close to me which is an activity that usually results in a missed opportunity.
The video linked below was recorded with my Canon 7D and its internal microphone which leaves a bit to be desired as it picks up all sorts of background noise. In the video you can hear the Song Sparrow singing, but you’ll also likely notice other birds singing, the flock of geese flying overhead, frogs, and the sounds of a speed boat accelerating up the nearby Nicomekl River.
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelalus phoeniceus) in the marsh at Elgin Heritage Park in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelalus phoeniceus) in the marsh at Elgin Heritage Park in Crescent Beach
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I have made a few trips to Crescent Beach’s Elgin Heritage Park recently, usually on my way to Blackie Spit. On this trip I set aside some time specifically to try to photograph Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelalus phoeniceus) in the marshes along the Nicomekl River. The males were quite active, singing and jumping from stalk to stalk in the Bulrushes. There were even some territorial squabbles where they would chase each other through the foliage like jet fighters. The females were not nearly as noticeable, though I had a few that stayed near me long enough to photograph as well. As the female Red-winged Blackbirds are drab in comparison, the males were really the more vibrant photography subject.
Last week I made the trip up to the Mount Baker Ski area and Artist Point at the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State, USA. First I made the obligatory stop at the iconic Picture Lake (more on that soon) to eat my soup, then I photographed some of the fall colours in the Mountain Ash and Blueberry bushes in the Heather Meadows area. After arriving at Artist Point I photographed this Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus) on the trail to Table Mountain. As with most of my wildlife photography, this was an opportunity I happened upon rather than directly seeking it out. Wildlife was not on my mind but there were 3 of these Grouse foraging near the trail. Well camouflaged, I didn’t even see them until one of them flew out of my way from the edge of the trail. I switched lenses and got ahead of their direction of travel, and they walked right past me. There are a lot of visitors here, so they are likely used to people, but it is still always better to let wildlife approach your position than the other way around.
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 this year’s 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 (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 (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
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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.
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.
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.
Yaaaaaawwwwn! A Group of Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) -click to enlarge-
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.
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) Warming up for flight -click to enlarge-
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!
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) stretching -click to enlarge-
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.
I have put together some of my favourite images made in the last year into this 11"x17" (28cm x 43cm) calendar. Included are 12 photographs of landscape and nature scenes from British Columbia and Washington State. There are two versions of this calendar - one with Canadian holidays and one with US holidays.
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I am a landscape and nature photographer based in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Most of my subjects are in Southwestern British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest's Washington State. My photography is available for licensing as stock, fine art prints, and giclée canvas wraps.