A murder of crows mob a juvenile bald eagle

There were more crows than usual Sunday morning at the Kitamaat Village waterfront.  Crows perching on old driftwood roots….

 

…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.

Summer wildlife and nature photos in and around Kitimat

Summer photography in Kitimat and down Douglas Channel.

Images from walking around Kitimat, hikes, and from North West Photo Fest at Minette Bay Lodge and down Douglas Channel.

The most amazing event was when we were off Coste Rocks and witnessed three humpbacks up Amos Channel. One did not dive, but floated on the ocean, asleep. The currents slowly sent the whale toward us while the winds pushed the boat toward the whale.

A sleeping humpback floats in Douglas Channel near Coste Rocks Provincial Park on August 13, 2018. (Robin Rowland)

Watch the encounter on Youtube.

 

 

A newly fledged American robin hides in the undergrowth in Kitimat, August 4, 2018. It was just beside the sidewalk as I walked by. About 10 minutes later as I walked back to the location it finally flew away. (Robin Rowland)

Another fledgling American robin munches on #berries in the undergrowth of Kitimat, August 4m 2018. (Robin Rowland)

A female surf scoter at Pine Lake, near Terrace, BC, August 6, 2018. (Robin Rowland)


A lesser yellow leg flies over seagrass at Minette Bay Kitimat BC during a North West Photo Fest photowalk, August 10, 2018. (Robin Rowland)



Two lesser yellow legs perch in the tidal streams of Minette Bay, August 10, 2018. (Robin Rowland)

A light in the forest.  Light on a tree during a photo walk at Minette Bay Lodge, August 11, 2018. (Robin Rowland)

The largest Coste Rock on August 13, 2018. (Robin Rowland)

A flock of juvenile surf scoters fly over Douglas Channel south of Kitimat. (Robin Rowland)

Harbour seals look out from Coste Rocks, August 13, 2018. (Robin Rowland)

Two marbled murrelets take off near Coste Rocks in Douglas Channel south of Kitimat, August 13. (Robin Rowland)

A marbled murrelet swims in Douglas Channel south of Kitimat, August 13. (Robin Rowland)

 

A barn swallow feeds its young under the rafters of the Tookus Inn floating lodge anchored in Clio Bay, south of Kitimat. (Robin Rowland)

A rufous humming bird coming in to flowers at Minette Bay Lodge Kitimat, BC, August 13, 2018. (Robin Rowland)

 A rufous humming bird coming in to flowers at Minette Bay Lodge Kitimat, BC, August 13, 2018. (Robin Rowland)

Moon, Mars and a meteor over Minette Bay (plus other celestial wonders)

The moon and Mars rise over Minette Bay, Kitimat, BC, as a meteor streaks over head. You can see Saturn on the far right (Robin Rowland)

This week is a stargazer’s delight. Mars is at its closest approach to Earth, and that means the Red Planet is the brightest it will be from July 27 to July 31 (the latter date is when Mars is actually the closest). Although North America missed the solar eclipse earlier this week, the moon is actually at its smallest, sometimes called a Buck Moon. The giant planets Saturn and Jupiter are high in the southern sky this week. Earlier in the month, Venus was visible as the Evening Star and for those with the proper gear it was possible to get a glance of Mercury.

Kitimat is in the midst of the summer heat wave that is gripping most of North America. Nights are mostly clear although there is some high haze from smoke in the atmosphere stemming from the forest fires in both Siberia and North America.

With all that I drove out to the Kitimat Viewpoint late Saturday July 28,  to capture it all.

Gear
Apps (for Android)
The Photographer’s Emphemeris
– told me when the moon will rise and the angle of location. Note: TPE gives moonrise at sea level. That means moonrise in Kitimat is usually between 50 and 70 minutes later depending on where it comes up over the mountains.
A compass app. To check the compass direction of the moonrise as predicted by TPE.
Sky Map. Android app originally developed by Google. Hold up you phone and see location of stars, planets, nebulae, satellite etc.

Camera
Heavy duty Manfrotto tripod
with
Sony Alpha 77, Minolta 17 to 35mm wide angle lens
Mounted with Cokin P121L Neutral density filter (to reduce the glare from the moon)

Handheld
Sony RX10iii

Jupiter and Saturn over Douglas Channel

Jupiter over the Rio Tinto aluminum plant (right) and Saturn (left)  over the mountains above Kitamaat Village, about an hour after sunset (Robin Rowland)

The late summer dusk lingers for more than hour after sunset, so even the distant mountains of Douglas Channel can be seen.  Jupiter is bright over the Rio Tinto plant at 10:50:33

Sony Alpha 77 ISO 4000 F2.8  1/2.5 of a second

Moonrise

Moonrise over Minette Bay. (Robin Rowland)

 

The moon is about to rise above the mountain (Robin Rowland)

 

The first arc of the moon peeked over the mountaintop at about 10:57:40.

The first image in the photoblog was taken at 11:00:23 and the second at 11::02:27

Sony RX10iii, handheld, ISO 4000 f4 1/1000 of a second

The RX1oiii is a high-end carry everywhere point and shoot. Moon was shot at 600mm on manual focus.

 

The moon reaches for the zenith. (Robin Rowland)

Same settings on the RX10iii at 11:06:50.

 

Mars rises

 

Mars rose to the west of the moon at 11:17:08 This image showing the moon, Mars and Minette Bay Lodge was taken 11:18:35.

Sony Alpha 77, manual focus,  ISO 2500, f5 at 2.5 seconds

At 11:23:31 same settings

 

 

I was bracketing shots, working with different shutter speeds and other settings, still on manual focus.  The meteor streak is in just two frames. This was taken at 11:37:05. (The other at 11:36:58 by 11:37:00 the next frame it was gone. I did not notice the meteor streak until I got home.

Alpha 77 ISO 1600, f3.2 at 2.5 seconds

A last look at Jupiter

Jupiter over the Kitimat mountains and the Rio Tinto plant. (Robin Rowland)

At 11:34:02 Jupiter is setting over the mountains behind the Rio Tinto aluminum plant.

Sony Alpha 77  ISO 1600  f2.8 2.5 seconds

 

A juvenile raven comes calling

A family of ravens lives in a tree down the street from me.  I have often seen what I believe to be the same pair overhead for the past several years, often just enjoying flying around.   There are other ravens around, of course, and I often see them overhead or in the trees in the bush park near my house.

On July 11, while on a walk in the bush park with my camera, three ravens flew overhead. Then this young raven, flew down to a branch near me,  frequently calling for its parents while they remained high above in the tree tops.

 

The young raven samples some witch’s hair.

A juvenile steller’s jay learns to crack a nut

 

Updated

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 imagine.

The varied thrush – one of my favourite local birds in Kitimat

One of my favourite birds in here in Kitimat is the Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius).  There were a lot more than usual this spring for one reason or another. So here is an album of  images.

A varied thrush on my back deck.  (Robin Rowland)

 

There was still snow in a hollow in a small woods near my house in mid-April. (Robin Rowland)

The snow in the hollow which lasted for about a week after all the snow had gone elsewhere attracted varied thrushes almost every day. (Robin Rowland)

 

The spring melt advances on the last patch of snow.  A pair of varied thrushes.  (Robin Rowland)

As the spring buds come out in the nearby woods. (Robin Rowland)

 

And in my backyard.

And on an old log in the same hollow a couple of days later. (Robin Rowland)

 

In early May on the waterfront at the Minette Bay Lodge. (Robin Rowland)

A closer shot of the varied thrush at Minette Bay. (Robin Rowland)

On an driftwood stump at the mudflats of Minette Bay at low tide. (Robin Rowland)

A closer view (Robin Rowland)

The pole raising feast

After the friendship pole was raised in Kitimat, the Haisla Nation hosted a feast for both communities at Kitimat’s Riverlodge Recreation Centre.

The headtable, from left to right members of the District of Kitimat Council and the Haisla Nation Council, Kitimat officials and the Haisla hereditary chiefs. (Robin Rowland)

Carver Gary Wilson was the host and master of ceremonies for the feast (Robin Rowland)

Hereditary chief Sammy Robinson  (He’mas C’esi) addresses the feast. (Robin Rowland)

Cyril Grant Jr.(He’mas Sanaxaid) addresses the feast. (Robin Rowland)

A chief addresses the feast. (Robin Rowland)

A  man addresses the feast on behalf of his clan. (Robin Rowland)

Spirit of Kitlope dancers (Robin Rowland)

Spirit of Kitlope Dancers (Robin Rowland)

Spirit of Kitlope Dancers (Robin Rowland)

Spirit of Kitlope Dancers (Robin Rowland)