Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sometimes things just go right

Whatever the weather; rain, gumbootrain, or raingearrain; we were going to get out of the house. So we promised ourselves Monday night. "It'll be fun!" I said. So when Tuesday dawned with no rain, even a hint of sunshine, we were pleased, and maybe a bit relieved.

Still, we carried our rain capes and umbrellas, just in case; you can never trust BC weather to live up to its promises.

A weekday, a grey day sandwiched between rainy ones; nobody else would be at Reifel Island. A good day for birding. And the sightings started long before we got there, too.

Immature bald eagles in Delta farm land

These eagles looked odd to me. I thought they just might be young goldens. Something about the shape of the head, or maybe the beak, the sleekness of the feathers, the golden crown ... Here's a cropped and enlarged view:

So I spent a few hours looking them up, and finally decided that yes, they are immature bald eagles after all. The distinguishing mark is the leg; the immature golden has feathers right down to the toes.

Coming in for a landing

We stopped, as usual, at Westham Island bridge. There's an eagles' nest high in a tree just across the street, in use this year again. One eagle was standing guard, half hidden behind branches. Above him, unheeding, a flock of starlings perched, occasionally bouncing off to wheel and land again. The eagle took no notice of them.

Below the bridge, a flock of mallards and wigeons dawdled in the shallows. A coot and a grebe were diving for fish. Camouflaged against the patterns of brown mud and grasses, ...

Look at the length of those bills!

... dozens of peeps slept. A few were wading; otherwise we wouldn't have seen the flock at all.

I have almost as much trouble with these as I do with sparrows; they could be anything from yellowlegs to dowitchers.

Pretty, whatever they are.

And these, I am almost sure, are green-winged teal, judging by the couple of green heads I can see, and the vertical white bar just in front of the wing. I don't know what the dark brown duck is.

And there were mute swans!

So elegant!

I love the contrast here; the sharp blades of grass, the broken sticks, and the white softness of the swan. And that downy head!  It makes you want to touch it. (But I wouldn't dare; I want to keep my fingers.)


And going from the sublime to the spiky, a heron hiding on the bank of an irrigation ditch.

Armed and dangerous

On to Reifel! (And it still wasn't raining. Fingers crossed ...)

More tomorrow...


  1. Isn't amazing how nature colors some creatures to blend in so well with their habitat? And then there's the swans, who are just meant to be seen and adored?

  2. What a great day of birding you had. Lovely photos

  3. Love those juvenile bald eagles. Quite beautiful at that stage with their speckled chests. I miss seeing shorebirds.

  4. I believe your shorebirds are dowitchers, but whether they are Short-billed Dowitchers or Long-billed Dowitchers I can't say. I don't have my field guides with me. I'm very much out of practice with shorebirds also.

  5. Looks like a great day birding. Loved all the bird photos.

  6. Great post! As happens so often, I come away from reading it with new knowledge (immature golden having feathers down to the legs). Interesting to see the Mute Swans. I'm curious to know if they are also pinioned, as they are at Stanley Park. (Have to admit, that bothers me a lot.) They eat out of a fellow's hands there, and I did wonder if he ever worried for his fingers.

  7. Thanks, Clare. I lean towards the Long-billed, but who knows? We'd have to measure bills and take an average. I don't think they would line up for me and my ruler, though.

  8. Oh my..I love love that third pic of the mute swan! great capture!


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