Christmas bird count 2018 in a snow storm

Trumpeter swans, signets and canvasback ducks in the Kitimat River estuary, Dec.15, 2018. (Robin Rowland)


My portion of the Christmas Bird Count in the Kitimat River Estuary (courtesy Rio Tinto) was in an afternoon blizzard which cut visibility by up to about 80 per cent at times and was no help to the cameras, whether or on auto focus or manual.

A killdeer hunts for food on a patch of wetland grass as the tide rises (Robin Rowland)


A rare sighting of a Wilson’s snipe out in the open on the river estuary. (Robin Rowland)


A bald eagle overhead. (Robin Rowland)


Another shot of the killdeer. (Robin Rowland)


Another shot of the Wilson’s snipe. (Robin Rowland)


The Wilson’s snipe getting a last shot at a meal as the tide rises. (Robin Rowland)


The trumpeter swans, signets, canvasbacks and mallards. (Robin Rowland)

A great blue heron huddles against the snow storm. (Robin Rowland)

Another great blue heron. (Robin Rowland)

A loon in the choppy waves of Kitimat harbour. (Robin Rowland)

Birds and water: shots from my trip to England

So what did I do on my summer “vacation”?  I am (semi) retired, so  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,


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 grey heron in a park on the banks of the River Avon. I usually photograph their cousins the great blue herons in our much wilder Kitimat River estuary. The grey heron resembles the great blue but is a bit smaller, with no brown feathers and more grey than blue. (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)

Christmas bird count (and more) Kitimat 2015


A juvenile bald eagle surveys the Kitimat River from a log on a sandbar. (Robin Rowland)

Once again this year I joined the Kitimat Christmas Bird Count, helping out the Kitimat Valley Naturalists. Here are some of the best shots from that day, Wednesday December 16. 2015.


Gulls huddle together on the shore of MK Bay at low tide. (Robin Rowland)


A great blue heron watches from an old stump in the Kitimat River estuary. (Robin Rowland)


A female mallard duck in flight over MK Bay at low tide. (Robin Rowland)


A scaup (duck) in intermediate plumage on a mound of reeds in the Kitimat River estuary. (Robin Rowland) (Corrected caption, duck was identified in the field as a ringed-neck but on further review of the photograph, the consensus of the naturalists was scaup)




A red-tailed hawk surveys Haisla Boulevard at the LNG Canada turnoff just as the light fades in the late afternoon. (Robin Rowland)

The next day, on my morning walk, the neighborhood’s resident ravens followed me through the bush. Ravens are intelligent and I almost think they are posing for the camera, for this is the third time that they’ve gone to the same trees, in the same sequence, when I was there with my camera.


One of the ravens directly overhead. (Robin Rowland)


And flying from branch to branch of bare alders. (Robin Rowland)


And perched on a conifer (Robin Rowland)

Christmas bird count in the Kitimat estuary


A great blue heron sits on some debris in Kitimat harbour, during my annual visit to the estuary for the Christmas bird count, Dec. 14, 2014. (Robin Rowland).

There was more late afternoon light than last year .  On the other hand, while my birdwatching colleagues did list lots of species around the area, the photographic opportunities this year were mostly  limited to  great blue herons and Canada geese.


Trumpeter swans in the Kitimat Rver

Trumpeter swans in the oxbow of the Kitimat River. (Robin Rowland)

Mt. Elizabeth and a lagoon in the estuary

Kitimat’s iconic Mt. Elizabeth seen from a lagoon in the Kitimat River estuary. (Robin Rowland)


Canada geese

A Canada goose in a lagoon in the Kitimat River estuary. (Robin Rowland)

Duck in the estuary

A duck in the estuary. (Robin Rowland)

Ducks in the reedsDucks sheltering the reeds of the Kitimat estuary. (Robin Rowland)



A great blue heron comes in for a landing in the Kitimat River estuary, with some Canada geese watching. (Robin Rowland)

Great blue heron in the Kitimat estuary

A great blue heron contemplates the Kitimat River estuary. (Robin Rowland)

Canada geese grazing

Canada geese grazing in the Kitimat River estuary. (Robin Rowland)

Lagoon in the Kitimat estuary

Another view of the lagoon in the Kitimat River estuary. (Robin Rowland)


Birds at Christmas time in Kitimat 2012
Christmas bird count, Kitimat river, estuary and harbour Dec. 17, 2011

Great Blue Heron at Minette Bay, Kitimat

Great Blue Heron

A Great Blue Heron flies over Minette Bay, Kitimat, on the morning of June 5, 2014. (Robin Rowland)

I was assigned by CBC News to shoot stock images of Kitimat in anticipation of the federal government approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline and terminal project later this month.

So as well as my video camera, I took along my DSLR. I shot video of the Great Blue Heron as it waded along the shore for a few minutes. Then as I switched to the DSLR, it took flight.


Minette Bay

Wide shot of Minette Bay, looking toward the Silja Festival aka The Delta Spirit Lodge and the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter.

Minette Bay

Minette Bay from the same spot, the old dock, looking toward the log sort and the Minette Bay marina.


Great Blue Heron wades in Minette Bay


Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron wades in Minette Bay casting a glance at the cruise ship.


Great Blue heron flies over Minette Bay.

It takes flight.

Great Blue Heron flies

It flies past the old dock toward the logs.

Birds at Christmastime in Kitimat

Great blue heron near Kitimat River

A Great Blue Heron perches on a tree overlooking the Kitimat River during the Christmas Bird Count, December 15, 2012.
The bird count photo op wasn’t as good this year as it was last year. It was just as overcast with low late December light, but this time it was high tide with wind gusts making for chop on the ocean, estuary and river and that meant not as many birds in view.

A merlin devours its prey

A merlin, a falcon, devours its prey on a tree branch overlooking the Kitimat River. (Robin Rowland)

As we were starting out, we spotted a merlin, a falcon, (marco columbarius) on a bare branch overlooking the Kitimat River, devouring prey, a smaller bird.


Kitimat River estuary

The Kitimat River estuary on Dec. 15, 2012 (Robin Rowland)

There wasn’t a bird to be seen at the Kitimat River estuary.

bald eagle

A bald eagle perches on a telephone pole near the Kitimat River estuary, Dec. 15, 2012 (Robin Rowland)

Although we could see a bald eagle on a telephone pole far off at the other end of the estuary.

As we were finishing the tour of the estuary, we spotted an American dipper grabbing a salmon egg out a rocky creek. The American dipper (cinclus americanus) has a special ecological niche, a fast moving stream. (The American dipper was also known as the “Water Ouzel”).

American dipper

An American dipper picks a salmon egg out of a fast, rocky stream near the Kitimat River estuary. (Robin Rowland)

A gull hovers over the Kitimat harbour, Dec. 15, 2012 (Robin Rowland)

A gull hovers over the Kitimat harbour, Dec. 15, 2012 (Robin Rowland)

Although the estuary bird count wasn’t that successful, I did get some interesting visitors to my feeder.

varied thrush

A varied thrush visits my deck, Dec, 12, 2012 (Robin Rowland)

Fox sparrow

A fox sparrow on my snow covered deck, Dec. 12, 2012 (Robin Rowland)