Archive For The “BC” Category
For the Christmas Bird Count in Kitimat, there’s usually a lot of ground to cover in a very short period of time–that’s because here in the northwest daylight hours are limited as we get closer to the Winter Solstice. So we started before dawn, which is OK for those who are counting but not so good for photography.
The highlight of my day came at what is known as the Maggie Point trail to a gazebo overlooking Kitmat harbour built by members of the Haisla Nation. The problem is as you get older, hiking a trail in icy weather can be quite dicey, especially for me who has had minor hip problems since I was a kid. So with ice on the trail, I decided to stay by the cars and wait while the rest of the gang went to see what they could see from the gazebo. Then a swift flying bird landed on the branch not far from the parking area. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I began shooting with my SonyRX10iii which is 24 to 600 mm 35mm equivalent.
I wasn’t sure what the bird was, but I guessed it was a raptor since it sat there for almost ten minutes, surveying the area. At one point a crow flew by and the raptor didn’t budge. Then it swooped down over my head and into the bush. It was only then I checked the display to see the yellow rimmed eyes. The birders debated whether the raptor was a merlin or a sharp-shinned hawk and then came to the conclusion looking at the eyes that it was a dark red-tailed hawk.
And here are some other views from the Christmas Bird Count 2019.
All the images were taken in the morning up until about 11 a.m. I went home for lunch, ingested the morning images and then we went out again. But with heavy cloud cover, fading light and fewer birds, the afternoon session was a bust. No photos worth posting.
A crow mobs a bald eagle at the mouth of Wahtl Creek, MK Bay marina, Kitimat, BC. I was out shooting for fun along the Kitimat/Kitamaat Village waterfront when I captured the story of a fiesty crow that demanded a bald eagle get off an old log in the Wahtl Creek estuary. The crow apparently thought it was its perch, not the eagle’s.
Cameras, Sony RX10iii and Sony Alpha 77 with Minolta 500mm mirror lens.
Today is the first day the snow has melted enough that I could go for a walk in the play bush near my home. An American robin was on a tree branch and kept stretching its neck to try to get berries that were just beyond reach. After numerous tries, it finally realized it was a futile effort and flew off another branch where the picking was easier.
…or in the air along the shore line.
Suddenly all the crows took to the air….that murder of crows (or as one of the other birders said “it looks like two murders”).
It was soon clear that they were mobbing a juvenile bald eagle.
The eagle escaped the crows. And we saw it about 20 minutes later, a little further away over the mouth of Whatl Creek at MK Bay, flying over some gulls skimming the water.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by the magnificent steller’s jay. A group of them live in a tall conifer across a small park from my house. (Unfortunately BC Hydro contractors opened up one part of the tree while rewiring the neighbourhood so the steller’s jays in that tree may be vulnerable.) Others frequently visit (and may be living–I am not sure) in the cedar trees that mark the boundary with my neighbour’s house. So the steller’s jays are frequent visitors to the feeder on my back deck.
I’ve been photographing steller’s jays on my deck, in my backyard and in the bush around Kitimat for the past eight years. So I must have thousands of steller’s jays photos spring, summer, fall and winter for those eight years.
Friday night was a beautiful summer evening. I spotted three steller’s jays in the grass of my backyard. I grabbed a camera, stepped out and saw–and heard–something I hadn’t seen in eight years.
For my feeder I used a wildbird mixture that it is mostly sunflower seeds, maize and shelled peanuts. Although steller’s jays love peanuts I have never left out peanuts in the shell. But one of my neighbors does and I have seen from time to time a steller’s jay with a peanut in its mouth, usually on the ground before flying off into the trees.
What I saw Friday night (again Monday night) was entirely different. One steller’s jay had found a way to crack the nut case in my old rotten fence. Tonight there were two at it.
First about the fence, it’s old, probably original to the house when it was built in 1960, with parts rotting away and falling apart. I had planned to replace it this summer but then I had to pay for major car repairs. Before that it was a new roof and a new furnace.
Steller’s jays, like all corvids, are highly intelligent birds. It seems that scientists studying corvid intelligence, when they are not studying ravens and crows, concentrate on the scrub jay, which means British Columbia’s beautiful official bird doesn’t get much scientific respect with only a few university researchers looking at the bird (at least that is what I could find out in an online search.)
On Friday evening, that one steller’s jay found the perfect place to anchor a peanut in the shell. My rotten old fence.
I asked Professor Jeffrey M. Black who does study steller’s jays at Humboldt University in Arcata, California what the jays were doing:
All three jays in these photos are of juveniles; note the fluffy grey chests and behind legs, and the yellow skin at the corner of the mouth. You may have noticed them giving odd raspy juvenile type calls too. Sometimes the young jays at this age, which come to feeders with peanuts, ignore peanuts and sample the seeds instead. It seems they get ‘turned on’ to peanuts through ‘social learning’ – meaning they observer others and learn there’s food inside. Seems like the young jay in the photos was new to the task. Experienced jays seem to extract the nuts from peanut shells quite quickly with deft strikes and prying movements (unlike the young bird in the photos). I agree, the youngster seems quite clever to have pushed the nut against a crack to hold it in place before aiming blows. As for the hammering sound. I suspect that was the beak coming into contact with the wooden fence. Incidentally, hammering on wood (knock, knock, knock) seems to be a behavior used in frustration or perhaps to signal a threat during aggressive encounter.
So here is the complete sequence from 18:47:53 Friday, July 13, 2018 to 18:49:39. All images copyright Robin Rowland 2018.
The steller’s jay is wrestling with the shelled peanut.
It seems to have done quite well demolishing the shell, in a gap against the old fence post. But apparently half the peanut shell was a hard nut to crack.
The steller’s jay takes a look….
I turned away for just a few seconds, and took a shot of the jays on the grass, with corn in their beaks. While shooting the jays on the grass I heard a “knock, knock, knock” sound, looked up and saw the steller’s jay working with its beak to crack that shell which was now anchored against the fence post. Smart!
With the peanut shell firmly anchored against the wood and held tight in its feet, the steller’s jay repeatedly taps with its beak against the shell.
It keeps trying. You can see part of the shell (or perhaps the peanut) on the beak.
A bee flies by…
… as the steller’s jay pauses for a second or two.
Finally success! It has the peanut out of the shell.
It enjoys its meal.
Looks like it’s finished because…
The steller’s jay discards the peanut shell.
And flies away.
A long shot of my fence taken the next morning.
A closer view of the area that the steller’s jay used to crack the nut.
And an even closer shot showing all the possibilities for an intelligent bird to anchor a peanut.
I just happened to look tonight (Monday July 16) and the steller’s jays were back at the rotten part of the fence.
This steller’s jay was back close to the spot where the peanut was cracked on Friday night.
No sign of peanuts tonight, so it was probably looking for bugs.
This is the tree where I’ve seen the steller’s jay living for the past eight years. You can see how BC Hydro contractors cleared a whole section of the tree to install new power lines that you can also see in the image.