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.

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,

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 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

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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.

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

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

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

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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)

 

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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.

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One of the ravens directly overhead. (Robin Rowland)

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

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And perched on a conifer (Robin Rowland)

Kitimat blizzard and blackout February 5 to 9, 2015

Digging out in Kitimat

Attempting to dig out in Kitimat, as the blzzard continues, Saturday morning, Feb. 7, 2015. (Robin Rowland)

A “Pineapple Express” brought a major blizzard to the Kitimat region last week, dropping approximately 180 centimetres of snow from the morning of Thursday, February 5, 2015 until the skies cleared late on the afternoon of Saturday, February 7. In my neighborhood, the power first went out at about 3 pm on Thursday, came back at 11 pm. It went out about 11 am on Friday and didn’t come back until about 2:30 pm on Saturday.

Power was also out at Kitamaat Village from Thursday until late Sunday.  Early Sunday morning, the Haisla Nation Council ordered a voluntary evacuation, with two convoys of vehicles heading to Kitimat. While many people stayed with friends and families, about 20 people took refuge at the Riverlodge Leisure Centre. Other members of the Haisla Nation stayed in the village, gathering at the Haisla Recreation Centre.

The clean up continues in Kitimat.

Images from Thursday night until Wednesday afternoon. A mixture of photos and frame grabs from video.

This gallery does not include the images I fed to The Canadian Press.

Here is a link to the CBC News photo gallery of my CP images.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015,  approximately 6:15 pm

 

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At this point, early into the storm, all the power was out in Kitimat, with the exception of the street lights on Haisla Boulevard, which illuminated a few trees as I shot this on Albatross Avenue. Sony Alpha 6000, ISO 3200, 1/30, F3.5 from my window. (Robin Rowland)  (Higher ISO images were too noisy)

Friday February 6

Trees in park

The same view, from ground level, the next morning. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)

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Heavy snow on branches (Robin Rowland)

Heavy snow fal;s

As the power goes out again on Friday, heavy snow continues to fall. (Robin Rowland)

Trying to dig out

Trying to dig out in the early afternoon. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)

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A pick up tries to make it through the heavy snow. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)

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A District of Kitimat crew digs out the fire hydrant in front of my house, Friday afternoon. (Robin Rowland)

 

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A woman in white makes her way through the blizzard, Friday afternoon. (Robin Rowland)

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The snow was really heavy near sundown on Friday. (Robin Rowland)

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Trying to dig out as night falls. Note that is supposed to be a pedestrian crossing. (Robin Rowland)

 

Front end loader

Friday night

This front end loader was called in late Friday evening. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)…….

Fire truck

….so a Kitimat Fire and Rescue pumper could get back to the fire hall. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)

Saturday morning

Lights come on

About 3 am Saturday, some lights came on in the Kildala neighborhood, while much of the rest of Kitimat was still in the dark. (Robin Rowland)

Buried Kitimat

On Saturday morning, much of Kitimat was buried under about 170 centimetres and the snow was still falling. (Robin Rowland)

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Digging out begins again as the blizzard tapers off. (Robin Rowland)

 

Raven

A raven flies overhead as the snow stops falling. (Robin Rowland)

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As the storm ends, two people walk on the heavy snow on Albatross Avenue. (Robin Rowland)

 

Snow scene

With the storm ending, the beauty of the trees and snow. (Robin Rowland)

View of the channel

A view of the snow covered Kitimat estuary and Douglas Channel after the storm. (Robin Rowland)

Sunday, February 8

haislacoks3Volunteer chefs hard at work in the Riverlodge Leisure Centre kitchen during the voluntary evacuation of Kitamaat Village. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)

 

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Digging out the trailer park. Framegrab.  (Robin Rowland)

Roadblock on Village Road

BC Hydro contractors at a road block at the entrance to the Kitamaat Village Road. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)

 

Monday, February 9

 

Clearing a roof

 

Clearing a roof Monday morning. Framegrab.  (Robin Rowland)

Heavy snow on roofs
The snow was clearly a heavy load on one roof. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)

 

snowystreet

On Monday morning, side streets were still clogged with snow. Framegrab. (Robin Rowland)

 

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And the Service Centre was still digging out. Framegrab  (Robin Rowland)

District Snowblower
While the District of Kitimat snowblower was still working on main roads, like Nalibila. Framegrab (Robin Rowland)

Tuesday

 

Snowblower

A snowblower clears the sidewalk behind my house. For those not familiar with Kitimat, as part of the original Garden City plan, sidewalks are generally behind houses. (Robin Rowland)

Wednesday

hydrantdig

Heavy equipment digs out the fire hydrant in front of my house. As seen above it’s usually two guys with shovels. I estimated there was at least three metres, perhaps four metres, of snow on top of the hydrant, put there earlier by the snow blower clearing the street. (Robin Rowland)

Breaking the high afternoon summer sun rule and getting the “white raven” effect

So one of the “rules of photography,” especially nature photography, is you don’t shoot on a clear, bright, blue sky, summer afternoon with the sun high overhead.

So today I broke all those rules and got a shot I’ve been trying to get for some time–the “white raven.”

So what is a “white raven?”  One of my long-term projects is to photograph ravens in a “mythological setting.”  In Europe (and perhaps elsewhere) there are legends of a white raven. (I am not sure about here on the northwest coast, where the raven is sacred to the First Nations, so far I have not come across any First Nations stories of white ravens. If anyone reading this knows of a First Nation legend of a white raven please comment). For example, in Greek mythology Apollo is said to have turned the raven, which was originally white, to black,

Although there are rare albino ravens–this site has a photograph of a stuffed albino raven in Port Clements on Haida Gwaii–many scholars who study ravens and crows in nature and mythology believe that the legends of white ravens as messengers of the gods come not from the rare albino raven (which may not survive to adulthood) but when the black feathers of the raven reflect the sun and appear to be white.

I admit that looking for the “white raven” shot wouldn’t be a priority unless you are doing a project on the mythology of ravens.  It is also likely that photographers seeing the image would hit the delete button. I hope that this post would discourage deleting “white raven” shots that anyone reading this may capture in the future.

It was that “white raven” effect I was able to capture this afternoon, on a hot, clear, sunny Kitimat afternoon, actually in my front yard in the space of just over one minute, from 3:30:34 pm to 3:31:39 pm, using my carry with me always Sony Alpha 55, Sony 18-200, set at 200, ISO 1600, shutter priority 1/2000.

Ravens reflect sunlight

The pair of ravens are flying into the sun, and the bright reflection can be seen appearing on their wingtips.

As the ravens circle and come more under direct sunlight, their backs reflect the light, appearing white.

Ravens reflect sunlight

Messengers of the Gods. In Norse mythology, Odin had two messenger ravens Huginn and Muninn. Again the Eddas I have read don’t mention the colour of Huginn and Muninn, but clearly you can see how the reflected sun makes the raven look white.
Raven reflect the light
As the pair continue to circle, only a small white reflection is seen on the wing of the lower bird.

 

Ravens in flight

Here the pair appear in silhouette, dark against the sky.

Ravens fly over mountain

The compression of distance with the 200mm lens gives the impression the ravens are flying over a mountain peak.

Then the pair are lower, appearing to fly in front of the mountainside.

The Duck Pond birding site at the other Houston, Houston, BC

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A Barrow’s Goldeneye duck swims in the Houston, BC, Duck Pond, May 7, 2011. (Robin Rowland)

One of the reasons I decided to return to northwestern British Columbia is that this area is an untapped photographic paradise.

It’s not just the mountains, the forests and the seas, the variety of birds should be a draw for not just birders and photographers but all tourists. 

This week I came across a small wetlands bird refuge, that as far as I can find out, is not listed on any birding guide to the province of British Columbia.  Of course, the big, brash Houston down in Texas may unknowingly be responsible, overshadowing the small town of the same name along the Yellowhead Highway in northwest British Columbia.

This week I drove from my base in Kitimat to Prince George, to see the premiere of the stage adaptation of Robert Sawyer’s novel, Rollback.  I also arranged some business meetings in Prince George and planned to do some location scouting for my planned photographic workshops on the way back.

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Houston was not on my location list.

As a little kid, when my parents drove south to the Lower Mainlaind for vacation, it was a town we just drove through, between Smithers and Burns Lake.  My plans called for me to do the location scouting on the second day of my drive and since I wanted to take it fairly easy and stop in the afternoon of the first day, Houston was a convenient location. So I booked into a bed and breakfast called the Bear’s Claw Inn.  A  small guide to Houston I picked up earlier mentioned the local Duck Pond walking trail as a place to see birds right in the heart of town,

I settled into the B&B and my ears soon told me Houston is a place for birds, you could here the birds songs from the nearby Duck Pond.

366-houstonnamenotrackclose_1.jpgThe Duck Pond is the grey brown circle in the green in the middle of town, just northeast of the high school running track.   As the sun set, Canada geese landed in the fields by my B&B (just to the west of the track).

The early morning was cloudy with drizzle. Got up anyway and by the time I had finished breakfast, the sun had broken through.   Took a side trail through the woods to the pond and was immediately rewarded when I came across some mule deer looking for food.  Spring always comes late in the high country of the BC interior and so food is scarce, the first green shoots are just starting.

I found the Duck Pond. The viewing platform is on the west side of the pond, so not the best location for morning shooting, but I was late enough, it was getting on for nine when I arrived, that the sun was shining, sidelighting, not back lighting, the northwest corner of the pond.  There are benches on the east side and at some clear spots, so there are number of shooting locations.

For this shoot, I didn’t have much time, just 90 minutes, before I had to get back on the road. It was a very rewarding 90 minutes, where I photographed Canada Geese, mallards, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Lincoln’s Sparrow, ravens, crows, my namesake bird, the robin and just as I was about to leave, this  Common Yellowthroat popped up among the reeds and marsh grass in the northwest corner of the pond, nicely let by that mid-morning sun.

367-yellowthroatww.jpgView the complete slideshow Birds of the Houston Duck Pond.

The guide promised, and this time I didn’t get, Common Goldeneye, Pintail and Blue-winged Teals, not to mention reptiles and amphibians (probably a little early for the latter)

So that just means, to quote an old phrase, “I’ll be back.”

I checked my BC birding books when I got home and found none of them mention Houston (and all are generally weak on the northwest in any case),  Future customers can be assured, the Houston Duck Pond will be one of the stops when I get my workshops up and running,

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Personal favourite photographs, 2010

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Wyett Danes, one year old, drums in the arms of his mother, Mary Danes, both members of  the Hartley Bay Dancers, as their procession enters the recreation centre at Kitamaat Village, BC, May 29, 2010.  Traditional dancing followed a day long “Solidarity Gathering of Nations”  sponsored  by the Haisla and Gita’at First Nations, called to protest plans by Enbridge to build a bitumen pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the nearby port of Kitimat. (Robin Rowland)

Slideshow  My personal favourite photographs 2010

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