I was on Salt Spring Island again this past weekend, and I met a new friend.
This is a Hairy Woodpecker. He’s not that big, but he sure makes a lot of noise for his size. He was busy making himself heard on the wildlife tree in my friend’s front yard, so I walked over to introduce myself.
And to take this photo.
Indulge me, if you will, as I post yet another set of bird photos. This is the Mute Swan, which, until last August, was a common sight at Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon.
The reason Lost Lagoon no longer has any resident swans is that the last three swans were officially retired and now live at an animal sanctuary somewhere in the Fraser Valley. The move came after a fourth swan was killed by river otters. The swans are geriatric, and it was decided they should live out their remaining years without the threat of predators.
The Mute Swan is not native to North American, but you see them everywhere on this continent, mainly in city parks. Back in the 1960s, there were at least 70 of them living at Lost Lagoon. These days, however, the caretakers at Stanley Park are keen to ensure that native species thrive over invasive species. (I could tell you about the blackberries, but that’s a whole other post.)
Don’t worry, though. This isn’t the last you’ll see of swans in Stanley Park. Because the park is on the Pacific Flyway, you have a good chance of seeing either the Trumpeter Swan or the Tundra Swan as they pass through when they migrate — and they are far more likely to stop in if there are no more of the territorial Mute Swans.
But, invasive species or not, aren’t they magnificent creatures?
One last note: The Mute Swan is the national bird of Denmark. Does that surprise you? It sure did me. I would have guessed England, but apparently that country is still trying in the process of choosing a national bird. As is Canada.
Today is the first day of Vancouver Bird Week and to make it a little more interesting, the city is taking a vote on which of four birds should be Vancouver’s Official Bird.
Vancouver has had a City Bird for three years now. The Northwestern Crow was selected in 2014. In 2015, the honour went to the Black-capped Chickadee and in 2016 to the Peregrine Falcon. But this year is different: the honour of City Bird will become permanent.
Oh, the pressure!
None of the previous City Birds are considered eligible. Bummer, as my favourite Vancouver bird is the Black-capped Chickadee. Also not eligible are any birds that are a city, provincial/state, or national bird elsewhere. (That kinda narrows it down. Another choice of mine would have been the Bald Eagle, of which Vancouver has plenty.) Two final stipulations are that the potential City Bird cannot be viewed negatively by any cultural groups (?), and cannot be commonly found outside of the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver’s City Bird has to be uniquely West Coast.
So, which birds made the Final Four??
Which one did I vote for?
Now that would be telling.
But may the Best Bird win.
I took this photo of an Anna’s Hummingbird a few weeks ago during our last snowstorm. I was housebound during that storm because I was hanging out in Solo. If you look closely, you can see that the water in the feeder is almost frozen solid. I’m sure that hummingbird was as confused as I was by the cold weather.
Why am I posting this photo today? Because this morning I spent nearly an hour watching big fat snowflakes fall from the sky.
C’mon. It’s almost March. More snow??
Vancouver has had twice as much snow this winter as Edmonton where it’s winter seven months of the year. (I can say that because I grew up in Edmonton. I know winter. Er … I used to know winter.)
Anna’s Hummingbirds do not migrate south from Vancouver for the winter, thanks to the proliferation of backyard feeders like this one. I still can’t get my head around the fact that hummingbirds are here year-round.
I just hope all that hovering they do kept those tiny birds warm this winter.
One bonus about summer being over is that it means there are only a few more weeks to go until the return of the winter birds. I haven’t seen any sign of them yet, but they’ll be here soon and are most welcome.
This is a Northern Shoveller, one of the dabbling ducks that like to hang out at Lost Lagoon. I myself haven’t seen them that often, but that might be because I first mistook them for the much more common Mallards. From a distance, their colouring looks quite similar. Upon closer inspection, the beaks are longer than a mallard’s and are a noticeably different colour.
Here’s someone I met on one of my walks through Stanley Park this month.
This is a Pileated Woodpecker, the largest (about the size of a crow) of the four species of woodpeckers found in the park. This particular woodpecker loves forests and the best way to find him is to look up.
Check out that grip.
I started this month with photos of a pair of Hooded Mergansers and I’m going to finish the month with photos of Common Mergansers.
Of all the ducks that overwinter in Stanley Park, these two are what I like to call the Odd Couple. He looks so dignified with his tuxedo look, and she ― well, her crazed hair style always makes me laugh.
In honour of Vancouver Bird Week (who knew we had such a week?), which started today and ends next Saturday, here are my photos of some Hooded Mergansers I found at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.
This is the male, much more colourful than the female, as usual.
And this is the female.
My Kalahari safari predates my interest in birding, so I wasn’t paying too much attention to the region’s feathered friends. However, I did think to take one or two photographs. And, because they are rather memorable, I learned some of their names.
These first two photos are of the largest bird capable of flight. It’s called the Kori Bustard, but, thanks to the accent of our South African guide, I kept hearing “horny bastard.” (Believe you me, that made my head turn.)
This one is being stalked by a jackal.
Here’s another bird whose name I enjoyed: the Spotted Thick-knee. I like its Afrikaans name even more: Gewone Dikkop.
I don’t have a photo of the Sociable Weaver ― in fact, I don’t think I ever saw one ― but we saw lots of their nests. Part of the sparrow family, they reside in large colonies ― hence, their name ― and build magnificent nests like these to live in.
Oh, who am I kidding?
I’m no suburbanite.
Walking through Deer Lake Park while I’m hanging out in Solo is all well and fine, but I couldn’t wait to get back to my own urban park. (That would be Stanley.) I even felt a pang while crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge the other day on my way back from snowshoeing with a friend. I looked at the wide expanse of Stanley Park from high above Burrard Inlet and said, “Ohhhh, I miss my park!”
What I like best about “my” park is how I can fit a walk through it in between errands. Like today. I returned some library books, headed over to Lost Lagoon to say hello to the ducks and to check if the river otters were out (they were), walked back along the beach, picked up a few groceries, went to the post office, and then came home.
And what did I see on that walk?
(What didn’t I see?)
Lots and lots of trees. The beach.
Ducks (including mallards, Wood Ducks, American Wigeons, American Coots, Common Mergansers, and Lesser Scaups), Canada Geese, a couple of Spotted Towhees, the above-mentioned river otters, and a raccoon.
And that was a short walk.
Oh. And, um, daffodils.
In full bloom.