Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Diary Update #10 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ 2017

✈️   Tuesday 30th May 2017 πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§  ~ I'm now sitting back aboard the boat just after midnight recovering from our nine hour flight back from Vancouver and reflecting on what's been another superb adventure to Alaska and Canada.

View over Stanley Park Vancouver

☀️  Friday 26th May 2017 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦   ~ The last few days of our holiday were spent enjoying the amazing weather, with temperatures well into the mid twenties and cloudless blue skies. The slogan 'Beautiful British Columbia' depicted on car number plates around here could not have been more appropriate!

Nesting Osprey on the pylons at Maplewood!
Black-tailed Deer at Maplewood Flats
We've spent more time with Derek and mixed our days between visiting more touristy areas and some of our favourite birding hotspots such as Maplewood Flats Conservation area, where both nesting Purple Martins and Ospreys can be found. Lynn Canyon, one of Dee's favourite parks in West Vancouver, with its stunning waterfalls and huge Cedar trees produced the usual American Dippers.

Turkey Vulture soars over Squamish
Rufous Hummingbird at Squamish ~ Photo by Dee..

☀️  Saturday 27th May 2017 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦   ~ Today we drove the fifty or so miles out to Squamish. With its estuary, fast flowing river, waterfall and superb marsh trails it's a great place to explore. Dee was of course delighted to see River Otters and the birding produced some good diversity with Rufous HummingbirdsCaspian Terns, Belted Kingfisher, Swainson's Thrush, Turkey Vulture, Purple Finch, Cedar Waxwings and Great Blue Heron, all part of a real variety of species.

Double-crested Cormorants ~ Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park

Red-eared Slider ~ The Lost Lagoon
☀️  Sunday 28th May 2017 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦   With our flight not until the late afternoon we spent the morning in Stanley Park, not the place to explore on a 'Blue Sky Sunday', with cyclists, joggers and walkers teeming all around but somewhere you really have to spend time during any visit to Vancouver. That said a walk around the Lost Lagoon and English Bay produced Red-eared Slider, Racoon, Common Merganser, both Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants and the park the usual Wood DucksBlack Squirrels and Anna's Hummingbird, recently voted the new City Bird of Vancouver!

Female Red-winged Blackbird ~ Iona Beach

Male Red-winged Blackbird ~ Iona Beach
Our final destination was Iona Beach, quite handily on the western end of the airport. We'd started our visit to Vancouver here and so would end our latest visit here. Both Red-winged Blackbirds and Yellow-headed Blackbirds gave some astonishing close views, a noisy Pied-billed Grebe, the torpedos of the lagoons here and the nesting Purple Martins always a treat and of course before we knew it, it was time for home!

More Trip Images...

Purple Martin at Iona Beach ~ Photo by Dee...

Yellow-headed Blackbird ~ Iona Beach ~ Photo by Dee...

Cedar Waxwing ~ Sporting new sun glasses!
Wood Duck ~ Lost Lagoon

Great Blue Heron ~ Lost Lagoon

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Diary Update #9 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ 2017

☀️  Thursday 25th May 2017 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦   ~ Over the past few days we've spent time enjoying Vancouver and mixing the sightseeing with birding. We've certainly been lucky with the weather, cloudless skies and temperatures in the mid 20s!

Vancouver's Coal Harbour ~ Vibrant at night!
On Thursday we met up with Derek once again and headed off to visit Whytecliff Park and Cypress Provincial Park. Whytecliff Park is located along the rugged coastline of Howe Sound in West Vancouver and has scenic views across the Sound. Below several Seals and small rafts of Surf Scoter, plus Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, Double-crested Cormorant and Pelagic Cormorant.

Spotted Towhee ~ Whytecliff Park
We spent a while enjoying the weather and watching the ferries passing through to Vancouver Island! While here an Anna's Hummingbird kept us company, zipping around everywhere and Spotted Towhee, White-crowned sparrow, Warbling Vireo, Wilson's Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler were all noted. From here we took a short drive and walked the Eagle Lane access road, normally a good place for Warblers. It's a blessing to have Derek with us, being so family with North American bird song. I've barely tuned in and am now suffering from what Derek calls 'Warbler Neck', staring endlessly into the high canopy looking for signs of movement!

Finally a chance to photograph a MacGillivray's Warbler 
Still it was a good walk with a selection of Flycatchers: Olive-sided, Hammonds and Pacific-slope. A few more Warbler additions to the day included MacGillivray's and Townsend, plus other sightings: Swainson's Thrush, Western Tanager, Brown Creeper, Northern Flicker and at least four Black-headed Grosbeak.

Olive-sided Flycatcher
From here Derek actually took Dee and I on a Canadian 'Twitch' up to the Cypress Bowl picnic area for an unusual Hermit Warbler X Townsend's Warbler hybrid! After a half hour we actually found the bird, albeit briefly, before we headed off for a late lunch. Also of note today: Turkey Vulture, Band-tailed Pigeon and of course Bald Eagle!

Western Tanager from today!

Diary Update #8 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ 2017

✈️  Wednesday 24th May 2017 πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦   ~ Quite a bumpy flight down from Anchorage to Vancouver yesterday evening but it was just fantastic to be back in Vancouver again today! We're staying close-by to the apartment we stayed in during the short time we lived here in 2011, just a stones throw from Stanley Park.

With Dee deciding to pay her Canadian work colleagues a visit in the morning I met up with my birding buddy Derek Killby at Iona. Iona is located at the western end of Vancouver International Airport and home to a primary sewage treatment plant, an animal refuge and a park. In fact it's actually no longer an Island, but is now a peninsula physically connected via a causeway to what is now known as Sea Island.

Yellow-headed Blackbird ~ This one photographed at Iona during my 2012 visit!
It was a gorgeous start to the day, although a stiff wind was blowing in off the sea making things a little challenging. Many Swallows were feeding across the lagoons included Barn, Tree, Northern Rough-winged and the odd Violet-green! It wasn't long before both Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds were found in among the many reedbeds, such contrasting birds!

On route to the sewage treatment plant, where unlike the UK, birders are welcome and encouraged, Derek pointed out a couple of Common Yellowthroat, which he found by the call. Blue-winged Teal, Brewer's Blackbird, Rufous Hummingbird, House Finch and Kildeer all noted before heading back along the Fraser River. Purple Martin could be found around the nesting structures, located along the river, a couple of Double-crested Cormorants, plus a brief view of Harbour Seal. Raptors during the visit included Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk and we finished with superb views of an Osprey and a Coyote, which was near the roadside as we headed off!

Cedar Waxwing ~ Feeding on the remaining holly berries!
After picking up Dee followed by lunch, a few hours at the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary across in the Fraser Delta. I have been here in the winter months when 1000s of Snow Geese can be found wintering from Russia but sadly the final ones have already departed. Despite only having a couple of hours here, we'd forgot it closes at 5PM, we had an excellent visit.

Always excited to see Blue-winged Teal.
Cedar Waxwings were here in small numbers, feeding on what remains of the Holly berries and of course the waterfowl is always spectacular with Wood Ducks, Blue-winged Teal and Hooded Merganser all noted.

Hooded Merganser
Derek managed to find a Warbling Vireo and along the riverwalk Northern Harrier and more Bald Eagle. Other species of note during the visit included: Savannah Sparrow, Glaucous-winged Gull, Common Yellowthroat and Dee was, of course, delighted when we spotted a Muskrat swimming midstream!

Other Images of Day...

Savannah Sparrow

Wood Duck

Cedar Waxwing

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Diary Update #7 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ 2017

🌦  Saturday 20th May 2017 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ  ~ Before heading off from Homer back north to Anchorage Dee and I spent the morning trying to catch up on a few species which had thus far eluded us. We decided on a final drive back to Lands End, the furthest point along the 4 mile Homer Spit, stopping off at various vantage points along the route. The previously mentioned Loons and Scoters were all to be found but a few additions I haven't mentioned thus far included: Long-tailed Duck, Common Murre, Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot and Red-breasted Merganser.

Aleutian Tern ~ Photo from Wilderness Birding 
Our final option was to enjoy our breakfast while sea-watching from the Ocean Loop Road, a perfect spot for some serious scoping! Three Black Terns, such a rarity here, were still to be found along with Bonaparte's Gull and the many Black-legged Kittiwake but a few birds on the reasonably calm water took the eye, one in particular a Tufted Puffin! As for the elusive Aleutian Terns? Well there were certainly Terns out at distance and by all accounts the Aleutians seldom plunge dive and these certainly weren't during a good hours watching, instead skim feeding but did I have enough information to add this lifer to my list? Sadly I think not πŸ€”  too distant and never coming close enough to clinch that white forehead but you know what, they may just have been!!

The sheer variation of aircraft at Ted Steven's Airport Anchorage!
🌨  Tuesday 23rd May 2017 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ  ~ Since arriving in Anchorage on Saturday evening birding has taken a short break and Dee and I have been city dwellers, exploring the sights the sounds of this amazing municipality. Well nearly, as birds can literally be found anywhere in the downtown areas, as per my latest tweet!

Douglas DC3C 
Being an aviation enthusiast too one bonus for me has been the Ted Stevens International Airport, literally just across the road from our hotel! Due to its location on the globe, being almost equidistant from New York City and Tokyo, Anchorage lies within 9 ½ hours by air to nearly 90% of the industrialised world. For this reason, the Anchorage International Airport is a common refueling stop for many international cargo flights and aircraft such as the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 and Boeing 727 are a regular feature here! Just wandering around the outskirts of this huge airport (6th busiest in the world) you can come across some amazing aircraft still in service. I should also mention that Lake Hood, on the opposite side of our hotel from the airport is the busiest seaplane base in the world, so I hope you bare with me if I hand over this particular post to my aviation enthusiasm!

Northern Air Cargo Boeing 727

Everts Air Cargo DC6

Ravn Air De Havilland Dash 8~100

Douglas DC6 ~ Northern Air Cargo


Atlas 747F

Boeing 747F

Everts Air Cargo DC9

FedEx MD11 on approach!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Diary Update #7 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ 2017

🌦 Friday 19th May 2017 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ  ~ Over the past three days Dee and I have been exploring Homer, a wonderfully friendly little city on Kachemak Bay, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Unfortunately, since we arrived on Tuesday the weather has taken a downward turn and we've gone from stunningly beautifulful cloudless blue skies to lots of cloud accompanied by the odd shower. That said it hasn't dampened our spirits and we've made the most of our time here.

Mum Moose with two newly born calves!
There's certainly plenty of areas to cover and we've hiked many trails, visited much marshland, bogs, rivers and wetland areas and spent hours sea watching! One of the treats is seeing plenty of Moose, which you can literally come across anywhere, from the city itself to the back roads. Bald Eagles are everywhere too and from our clifftop accommodation we can watch them drift by from the comfort of our decking!

Amazing Sea Otters!
Rafts of Sea Otters pass through daily, a sight to behold and Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter and Loons (Common, Red-throated and Yellow-billed) have all be noted.

Red-necked Grebes
Red-necked Grebe appear to be the common grebe species for the area and a forest walk will produce lots of Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, the odd Townsend's Warbler, plus the gorgeous little Boreal Chickadee, which sounds exactly like our own Willow Tit!

Spruce Grouse
Search the undercover and you'll find Dark-eyed Junco, Lincoln's Sparrow, and even Spruce Grouse! Today we came across our first Rusty Blackbird and other species recorded: Golden-crowned Sparrow, Song SparrowFox Sparrow and Belted Kingfisher.

Sandhill Cranes are a regular feature!
Sandhill Cranes are also a regular feature and can be seen most days on any mudflat! Winnowing Wilson's Snipe can be heard constantly, the calls resonating over long distances. However, shorebird (wader) counts have been disappointing, a local birder telling us most have moved further north and 'you should have been here a fortnight ago' 😏  That said they can still be found: WhimbrelPectoral Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, both Yellowlegs, both Dowitchers and Dunlin.

Glaucous-winged Gulls
With lots of fishing boats coming and going Gulls are naturally a feature with the dominant Herring Gull and to a lesser degree, Mew Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull. We have managed Glaucous Gull but not that common and Black-legged Kittiwake are in the 100s, nesting everywhere! The Bonaparte's Gulls are always a pleasure to see and numbers have grown during our stay! We've also managed Black Tern, a rarity here by all accounts but one of our target birds the 'Aleutian Tern' has eluded us thus far!

Dee's Photo Gallery!

Red Squirrel

Meadow Vole

Bald Eagle

Ringed-necked Duck

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Diary Update #6 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ 2017

☀️ Tuesday 16th May 2017 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ  ~ Today we said goodbye to the Alyeska Resort and headed south on a four hour drive to Homer. This is a small city on Kachemak Bay, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. A focal point is the Homer Spit, a long narrow finger of land jutting out 4.5 miles into Kachemak Bay and a place were looking forward to exploring.

Brown Bear ~ This is not a Grizzly just a Brown Bear!

Be prepared at all times!! 
As per usual it actually took nearly six hours to get here with many stops to explore the rivers and trails on route. Those who know Dee and I are aware that we love to find our own wildlife and go equipped to do so! One stop in particular reminded us why birding in this neck of the woods can be a little dangerous and you certainly need to have your wits about you and know what you're doing.

Moose ~ Feeding happily along the river!
Moose were also seen during our stops and this particular individual offered a photo opportunity, although we kept our distance, if there are calfs around they can become quite aggressive! Birds included Cliff Swallow and Belted Kingfisher and if we thought we'd seen some decent numbers of Bald Eagle then think again!

Home for next four days!
We finally arrived at our accommodation for the next four days, a wonderful yurt which has stunning views looking out across Kachemak Bay.

Stunning views from our Yurt!
I spent our first evening sea watching from the cliff tops and quite frankly couldn't believe my eyes! Below not only scores of Surf Scoter, incorporating smaller numbers of White-winged but rafts of Sea Otters passing through, these amazing animals, actually the largest member of the weasel family pass through Homer every year, it's an incredible sight, even at this height!

Bald Eagle with the Lumix FZ1000
Equally as awesome was sitting at the same eye level as many passing Bald Eagles, giving me an excellent opportunity to practice with my new Lumix FZ100 bridge camera!