Cackling Geese at Whatl Creek and more

Cackling geese skim over the mouth of Whatl Creek, MK Bay, Kitimat, BC (Robin Rowland)

Cackling geese (Branta hutchnisi) make look like Canada Geese, but they’re a separate species, smaller (close to the size of a mallard duck) with a shorter neck, rounder head and a stubbier bill. The west coast species often spend summers in the Aleutian Islands and then fly south to the Central Valley of  California, so these probably stopped in Kitimat on their way south.

 

A cackling goose. smaller than a Canada goose, hides in the grass along Whatl Creek. (Robin Rowland)

 

A bald eagle keeps an eye on the flock of cackling geese at Whatl Creek (Robin Rowland)

The bald eagle at Whatl Creek. (Robin Rowland)

 

A raven flies over Kitimat harbour (Robin Rowland)

A flock of about 50 mallards along the waterfront of Kitamaat Village. (Robin Rowland)

A murder of crows along the Kitamaat Village waterfront

A murder of crows flies along the Kitamaat Village waterfront, Sunday, August 13, 2017, during the North West Photo Fest photo walk on the village seawall. Sony A77 with Minolta 500mm f/8 RF mirror lens(Robin Rowland)

Swallows at Whatl Creek

A violet-green swallow skims over Whatl Creek, Kitimat, BC, Wednesday July 12, 2017. (Robin Rowland)

Went out to Whatl Creek on Wednesday morning as the Kitimat Valley Naturalists conducted the monthly bird count.  At Whatl Creek swallows were darting from tree to tree, skimming the surface of the creek and hunting insects across the estuary since it was low tide.

Normally swallows are very difficult to capture, as I have tried a few times both this year and last with little success. At Whatl Creek, however, the photography gods were smiling.   With the swallows skimming over the water, it was easier to follow them (than against the sky) and the autofocus was able to keep tracking the birds. Sony Alpha711,  Sony 70-300mm G lens, ISO 2000, shutter priority 1/1250.

A swallow over the Whatl Creek estuary at low tide looking out over Douglas Channel. (Robin Rowland)

 

A swallow over the Whatl Creek estuary. (Robin Rowland)

 

Two swallows over Whatl Creek estuary and Kitimat harbour. One seen against the mountains and a second smaller (further away actually)  one over the ocean on the far right. (Robin Rowland)

 

A violet-green swallow over Whatl Creek. (Robin Rowland)

 

Another shot of a swallow over Whatl Creek. (Robin Rowland)

The feral parakeets of Kensington Gardens

This (female?) ring-necked parakeet is a survivor, hanging upside from a branch with just one leg and huge scar on the chest. (Robin Rowland)

 

A feral ring-necked parakeet in a tree in London’s Kensington Gardens. (Robin Rowland)

Walking through London’s Kensington Gardens I saw a crowd of people around some trees and a loud screeching of birds.  Then I saw flashes of green as the birds flew between the trees and often landed on people’s hands and even heads, as they were (sometimes) fed.

This was a flock of what is called in Great Britain the ring-necked parakeet and in North America the rose-ringed parakeet. The species originates from both central Africa and India and has long been popular in the pet trade.   A population of feral parakeets was first noticed in England in 1969 and there are now thousands in parts of the country.  While in most places the feral parakeets thrive in city parks, their range is increasing in rural and wilderness areas. Because their diet includes cultivated fruit they are considered a pest by farmers. It appears that in England, the parakeets have rapidly evolved to survive the winters.  As you can see at least in the summer, they are perfectly camouflaged among green leaves. As well as England, there are large numbers  of feral parakeets in Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, with smaller populations in southern California and Florida.

A ring-necked parakeet. (Robin Rowland)

A male ring-necked parakeet. The males have a faint blue and pink  “ring” around their head (Robin Rowland)

A ring-necked parakeet. (Robin Rowland)

 

Birds and water: shots from my trip to England

So what did I do on my summer “vacation”?  I you’re (semi) retired it isn’t a formal vacation, but I did have some relaxing down time on my trip to England in June. After attending a conference in Liverpool, I went to Stratford-upon-Avon to see the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Julius Caesar, then spent some time with cousins in Oxfordshire and finally went to London to see some shows and some friends.  I didn’t set out to concentrate on bird photography but that was what  the photographic gods provided,

Stratford-upon-Avon

The River Avon (the famous one in Warwickshire) with its swans and the town of Stratford-upon-Avon. (Robin Rowland)

 

A raven perching in a weeping willow on the banks of the River Avon. (Robin Rowland)

 

A pair of rooks perch on a bare branch overlooking the River Avon. (Robin Rowland)

 

A great blue heron in a park on the banks of the River Avon. I usually photograph great blues in our much wilder Kitimat River estuary, (Robin Rowland)

 

A moorhen among the reeds of the River Avon. (Robin Rowland)

Oxfordshire  Upper Thames River

The upper Thames River near King’s Lock, Oxfordshire, one of the 45 locks on the Thames from London to the river mouth. (Robin Rowland)

 

A common tern flies over the Thames. (Robin Rowland)

A wood pigeon in flight in one of the upper Thames’ locks. (Robin Rowland)

 

A pied wagtail (also known as a white wagtail) looking for opportunities at one of the Thames’ locks. (Robin Rowland)

 

A flock of greylag geese on the Thames. (Robin Rowland)

 

A greylag goose looks out from the shore grass. (Robin Rowland)

 

A narrow boat moored on the banks of the Thames–they have to fit through the narrowest locks. (Robin Rowland)

 

A hooded crow flies over the Thames. (Robin Rowland)

A red kite high above the fields of Oxfordshire. (Robin Rowland)

 

A magnificent crested grebe. (Robin Rowland)

 

A black-necked grebe on the River Thames. (Robin Rowland)

 

A family of greylag geese. (Robin Rowland)

 

A coot in Farmoor  Reservoir. (Robin Rowland)

 

A carrion crow flying over Farmoor reservoir. (Robin Rowland)

 

Our route in the Miss Moffat II along the Upper Thames River.  King’s Lock is at the beginning of the line following the route of the river and the Farmoor Reservoir is the large body of water in the lower left (where we stopped for lunch). Wytham Woods are the wooded area roughly to the right of the river.

Wytham Woods – Oxfordshire

Wytham Woods are an area of ancient semi-natural woodland to the west of Oxford, UK, owned by the University of Oxford and used for environmental research for the past sixty years, including climate change research for the past eighteen. Hiking is permitted by special permit.

Tangled trunks in Wythams Wood, Oxfordshire (Robin Rowland)

 

My namesake, an English robin, perches on a branch in Wytham Wood, Oxfordshire. (Robin Rowland)

 

The Serpentine –  London

The Serpentine is a small lake between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in London.

A moorhen on a take off run in London’s Serpentine pond. (Robin Rowland)

Aerial combat II: Crow versus buzzard

I was able to photograph my second sequence of aerial bird combat in a few weeks on June 15, on a boat trip on the upper Thames River in Oxfordshire, in England, above me a carrion crow (Corvus Corone) was taking on what in Britain is called a buzzard and internationally the common buzzard (Buteo buteo)

The buzzard is a hunting raptor, and although it does eat carrion, its main diet consists of rabbits, voles, other small mammals, small birds, including young pigeons and crows. It may be that the crow was defending its young. (Robin Rowland)

 

I first spotted the two high up over the fields of the English countryside along the Thames. (Robin Rowland)

It was just a couple of weeks earlier that I photographed a red winged blackbird taking on a hawk over Topley, British Columbia.

Here’s the approximate route we took on the Thames River, with the track from my Garmin Extrex 20x uploaded to Google Earth. (The straight line is where the GPS jumped from where I was staying to when we began the boat trip). Oxford is in the lower right corner.

 

The persistent crow mobs the buzzard over this and the next few images. (Robin Rowland)

(Robin Rowland)

 

(Robin Rowland)

(Robin Rowland)

(Robin Rowland)

 

All images were taken from my cousin Bob Timm’s boat, the Miss Moffatt II, with my Sony Alpha6000 and the Sony G 70-300mm lens with ISO 1250 and shutter priority at 1/2500 at f8/

A red-winged blackbird takes on a “dogfight” with a hawk

A red-winged blackbird chasing a hawk over Topley B.C. (Robin Rowland)

Driving back to Kitimat from Prince George on May 20, i stopped at the Topley rest area. Not only is Topley a good place to break up the drive, there is a small marsh that if the time and season is correct provides an opportunity for great bird and landscape photography. Moments after I got out of the car, out of my eye I saw something high above, tiny in fact,  a small bird chasing a larger one, probably a raptor of some kind, in a weaving dancing movement, reminiscent of a aerial fighter dogfight (or if you prefer, since today is the 40th anniversary of Star Wars A New Hope, a chase between an X-wing and a Tie fighter.)

No time to get back to the car to get my 500mm, just point at the sky and shoot using my Sony Alpha 7ii with the 70-300mm zoom G lens.

The first shot above is from the full frame from the 711, below it is cropped and enlarged and but for this shot I still couldn’t identify the smaller  bird that appeared to be the aggressor and the much bigger raptor,  the bird  that was being pursued. Actually the G zoom performed quite well as I followed as the small bird chased the bigger hawk across the sky.

 

The two birds wheeled, the smaller one pushing at the larger hawk.

It was only with the second shot that I could identify the unique red and yellow wing patches of a male red=winged blackbird as you can see in the closer cropped image of the blackbird.

The bird books say that a male red-winged blackbird will aggressively defend its nest, although usually against similar size birds such as other males, yellow=headed blackbirds and marsh wrens.

The hawk climbs higher into the sky, with the red=winged blackbird still following, and below a smaller bird (bottom right just left and above the watermark) prudently stays well away from the “dogfight.”

You can see the smaller bird in this close crop.

Not all the shots worked out, the lens did “hunt” as the birds got higher.

But then the hawk circles around, with the red=winged blackbird still riding his tail feathers.

Finally, it seems,the red=winged blackbird had made his point and the hawk heads away in clear skies.

So what kind of hawk was it? I asked my birder friends. Two votes said a possible Swainson’s hawk, although the Hazelton and Bulkley Ranges are at the far north of hte Swainson’s hawk’s range. One vote was “I don’t know.” If you have a better idea add a note in the comments.

Close cropped image of the hawk. (Robin Rowland)