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)
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.
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.
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,
Oxfordshire Upper Thames River
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.
The Serpentine – London
The Serpentine is a small lake between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in London.
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)
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/
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.”
Not all the shots worked out, the lens did “hunt” as the birds got higher.
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.
A belted kingfisher perches on the root of an upturned tree at the mouth of Whatl Creek after days of heavy rain. (Robin Rowland)
Harlequin Ducks gather on the shore of MK Bay by Whatl Creek. (Robin Rowland)
Harlequin ducks fly past MK Bay (Robin Rowland)
A crow flies past Maggie Point. (Robin Rowland)
A Bonaparte gull flies past a red-necked grebe at Maggie Point (Robin Rowland)
A pair of red-necked grebes at Maggie Point. (Robin Rowland)