Humpback whales in Bishop Bay

A humpback whale that apparently survived a ship strike feeds in Bishop Bay, BC, Monday August 28, 2017. The whale is missing part of its back close to the dorsal fin. (Robin Rowland)

I went down “the Channel” (the collective name for the waters of Douglas Channel and the surrounding passages, channels and canals) with friends on Monday, August 28.

We were first heading down Ursula Channel toward Monkey Beach where I was going to shoot some portraits of my friends,  Before we got to Monkey Beach we saw humpbacks breaching far, far down Ursula Channel.

After we finished shooting the portraits, we went into nearby Bishop Bay for supper.  We never made it to the famed Bishop Bay hotsprings.   There was a pod of perhaps seven humpbacks hugging the shore, feeding.  So we had supper on board and spent a couple of hours watching and photographing the humbacks.

Four humpbacks feed along the shore of Bishop Bay. (Robin Rowland)

As well the whale  missing a chunk from its back, at least two others showed scarring from probable past ship or boat encounters.

Two humpback’s one missing part of its back, feed in Bishop Bay. (Robin Rowland)

A humpback with a scarred back and dorsal fin in Bishop Bay (Robin Rowland)


Another view of the scarred humpback. (Robin Rowland)


The scarred humpback dives showing its fluke (Robin Rowland)

Another humpback showing its scars. (Robin Rowland)


A whale blows in Bishop Bay. (Robin Rowland)

A humpback fluke with what looks like chewed edges. (Robin Rowland)


Another view of the humpback with the strange flukes (Robin Rowland)

Another humpback fluke. Fluke are a different as fingerprints which is how scientists identify them. (Robin Rowland)

A third fluke (Robin Rowland)

And perhaps a fourth (Robin Rowland)

And finally a jellyfish that floated past our boat. (Robin Rowland)

A Merlin flies along the Kitamaat Village waterfront

A merlin (falco columbarius)a small falcon perches on a driftwood stump near the Kitamaat Village seawall during the North West Photo Fest photo walk on Sunday, August 13, 2017. (Robin Rowland)

Camera is a Sony Alpha 77 with the Minolta 500mm f8 mirror lens, which is light weight, which easily makes up for the lack of flexiblity that might come with a much heavier standard telephoto zoom or prime lens that have more adjustments.

The merlin takes off (Robin Rowland)

The merlin skims across the low tide sea grass. (Robin Rowland)

About 10 minutes earlier, a squirrel scampered along the driftwood log.  Lucky the squirrel didn’t stick around.

That shot was taken with my Sony Alpha 7II with the Sony 70 to 300mm G lens, at 91mm. The little fellow came up so fast, I didn’t have time to extend the zoom.

Jay Gough, the Nikon representative who was a speaker at North West Photo Fest, put together a Nikon D500, 400mm f/2.8FL and TC-20III (teleconverter) to get a similar shot during the photo walk.

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)

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)

Wahtl Creek and Maggie Point in black and white

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)

Icy nights, Venus, Mars and the moon

Mars (top center) and Venus set over the mountains of Kitimat #BC with the snow illuminated by the light of 93 per cent gibbous moon. Taken on a cold clear -23C windchill night ISO 8000 1/60 f4.5, January 11, 2017 (Robin Rowland)

The first two weeks of January in Kitimat were cold and clear as an arctic outflow stalled over the Pacific Coast.  A friend back east posted a shot of Venus, and I looked out the window and there the planet was clear in the night sky.

For the next few days (except a couple of times it was too cloudy) I got out in the frigid night air

Venus and the waxing crescent moon (9.1 per cent) over Kitimat on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2017. (Robin Rowland)

Venus and the waxing moon over the light of Kitimat, January 1. 2017.

Venus and the waxing moon now at 15.9 per cent over Douglas Channel, January 2, 2017 (Robin Rowland)’

The view a few minutes later as the sky darkened. (Robin Rowland)


The waxing moon and Venus over Kitimat, January 3, 2017  (Robin Rowland)


Venus by herself sometime later. (Robin Rowland)

The waxing crescent at 31 per cent on January 4, 2017.  (Robin Rowland)


The first quarter waxing moon on January 8. Taken through my bedroom window as the skies cleared with an old Lumix FZ50 standby camera I keep there. Shot at IS0 800 and is a bit noisy (camera vintage is 2005) so converted the image to black and white. (Robin Rowland)

The 93 per cent gibbous moon that illuminated the mountains to the west on January 11, 2017. (Robin Rowland)