Christmas Bird Count 2015: A Gabriola Photo Shoot

For my first post of 2016 I offer you a photo display of some of the birds seen on the 2015 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Gabriola Island. The photos are by five Gabriola photographers – Shannon Gresham, Garry Davey, Zulis Yalte, Eileen Kaarsemaker, Douglas Green – and me.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Photo by Garry Davey.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Photo by Garry Davey.

Prolific on the gulf islands, Chestnut-backed Chickadees are chattery, always moving, playful, and open to hand-feeding.

 

Anna's Female. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Anna’s Female. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Anna’s Hummingbirds live here year round. When temperatures fall below zero (that hasn’t happened much yet) the challenge is to keep the nectar from freezing.

 

Spotted Towhee. Photo by Douglas Green.

Spotted Towhee. Photo by Douglas Green.

A sparrow with bright red eyes, the Spotted Towhee has a loud squawk and a distinctive backward double-hop as he forages in leaf litter. Six of these sparrows, male and female, call our back garden home.

 

House Finch, male. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

House Finch, male. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Male House Finches are extraordinary singers thanks to two voice boxes (syringes) they coordinate, essentially harmonizing with themselves. If you’re fascinated by the mechanics and science of birdsong, I recommend The Singing Life of Birds by Donald Kroodsma (2005), which includes a CD of bird songs.

 

Song Sparrow. Photo by Zulis Yalte.

Song Sparrow. Photo by Zulis Yalte.

I love listening to the twitter of the Song Sparrows in the honeysuckle over the pergola. It sounds like they’re whispering stories to one another.

 

Red-shafted Northern Flicker. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Red-shafted Northern Flicker. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Northern Flicker woodpeckers eat ants and are famous for drumming on metal roofs, making them quite an effective alarm clock.

 

California Quails. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

California Quails. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

Families of California Quail hang out on Gabriola roadsides. Along with our turkeys.

 

Turkeys using the side of the road instead of the middle of the road, for once.

Turkeys using the side of the road instead of the middle of the road, for once.

Since the turkeys are feral, they don’t officially get counted during the CBC. Until a few weeks ago seven of them slept on a telephone wire down the road from us every night. Now there are six. Did one become someone’s Christmas dinner?

 

Red-breasted Sapsucker,. Photo by Zulis Yalte.

Red-breasted Sapsucker,. Photo by Zulis Yalte.

Red-breasted Sapsuckers tolerate human proximity surprisingly well, which is nice for photographers. One of these gorgeous woodpeckers is spending a lot of time drilling for sap in our maple trees right now, perhaps one of the two counted during the CBC?

 

Varied Thrush. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Varied Thrush. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

My favourite thing about the lovely Varied Thrush is its spring song, a mournful whistle reminiscent of a sad referee’s whistle.

 

Common Raven. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

Common Raven. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

Common Ravens are a common sight and sound on Gabriola Island. Their smaller crow cousins are not.

 

Dark-eyed Junco. Photo by Douglas Green.

Dark-eyed Junco. Photo by Douglas Green.

The Dark-eyed Junco, Oregon subspecies, is a common year round resident. Lately we’ve also seen some Slate-coloured varieties.

 

Fox Sparrow on a snowy day. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Fox Sparrow on a snowy day. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

The west coast Fox Sparrow is the “Sooty” variety with a chocolate brown back that goes nicely with the yellow lower mandible.

 

Canada Geese. Photo by Eileen Kaarsmaker.

Canada Geese. Photo by Eileen Kaarsemaker.

Some migratory populations of Canada Geese no longer travel as far south in the winter as before. partly because grain is more available in fall and winter now.

 

Bald Eagle. Photo by Garry Davey.

Bald Eagle. Photo by Garry Davey.

The majestic Bald Eagle, spiritual symbol for Aboriginal people and national emblem of the USA, is a common coastal BC raptor. The adult Bald Eagle is not, of course, bald; he has a head of white feathers.

 

Bald Eagle, immature. Photo by Zulis Yalte.

Bald Eagle, immature. Photo by Zulis Yalte.

Up to the age of four years, immature Bald Eagles explore vast territories, sometimes flying hundreds of miles a day.

 

Steller's Jay. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Steller’s Jay. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

This is one of the seven Steller’s Jays that feed daily in our yard. One is always nearby, acting as a lookout, waiting for me to show up at the door with peanuts. The moment I do he starts calling in the crew. I love watching them fly in from all directions. (Yes, they have me trained.)

 

Buffleheads. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

Buffleheads. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

The buoyant Bufflehead, North America’s smallest diving duck, nests in holes made by Northern Flicker and Pileated woodpeckers.

 

Black Oystercatchers. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

Black Oystercatchers. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

Noisy red-billed pink-legged Black Oystercatchers are seen on rocky coasts along the west coast from Alaska to Baja California where they forage for mussels and limpets.

 

American Wigeons. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

American Wigeons. Photo by Shannon Gresham.

The American Wigeon, a dabbling duck, is becoming more abundant in the northwest.

 

Pileated Woodpecker on suet ball. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

Pileated Woodpecker on suet ball. Photo by Sharon McInnes.

The loud and very large Pileated Woodpecker  drills distinctive rectangular-shaped holes in rotten wood to get at carpenter ants and other insects. Its holes provide shelter for swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens. It also likes homemade suet!

 

Great Blue Heron. Photo by Sharon McInnes - taken at Reifel Bird Sanctuary.

Great Blue Heron. Photo by Sharon McInnes – taken at Reifel Bird Sanctuary.

One of the most stunning wading birds anywhere, the graceful Great Blue Heron can strike like lightning when it sees a fish. The feathers on its chest continually grow and fray and the heron uses them like a washcloth to remove fish slime from its feathers.

I hope you enjoyed the show! A huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to the Gabriola Island photographers who so generously shared their photographs. You are all amazing!

 

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5 Responses to Christmas Bird Count 2015: A Gabriola Photo Shoot

  1. melinda says:

    thanks for this what a delight!

  2. Garry Davey says:

    Thanks Sharon, a lovely collection of some familiar feathered friends! Great shots of the quail, and the widgeons and buffleheads are lovely too, we tramp down to Descanso all winter to see them when they visit.

  3. Carroll Hodge says:

    Thanks Sharon- very enlightening! Love the quail…Carroll H

  4. Dianne C. says:

    Nice bit of vicarious birding – thank you!

  5. very cool! love the pic of the quail!