Days in Pictures

I guess I’m a birder now maybe? days 1241 — 1270

Birds, amirite? They are an awesome subject to get into because they’re gorgeous and funny and weird and diverse and there’s always so much to learn and uncover in your neighbourhood. Recognising songs, plumage, behaviour, territories, and how all of that changes according to age or time of day or season or, I don’t know, the phases of the moon?

I’ve mainly relied on the excellent Merlin ID app, though I’ve used Google and some better-informed human folks to fill in the gaps. And at some point in the last few weeks I started wondering if I should call myself a “birder” now. It’s weird that I should question that, but part of me thinks it means “expert” or at least “super obsessed about feathery critters” which probably says more about my perceptions than reality.

I mean, I know a few things? Some of those things I got from Google and some were guesses that turned out to be wrong, but I’ve at least got enough correct things in my head to confidently answer a few bird-related trivia questions at work, and briefly chat about weird heron behaviour the other day. Two guys came up to me as I was shooting a heron on Lost Lagoon to ask if it was actually a heron, because it was hanging its wings in a weird way, down by its legs to look almost like a cape, and from far away it didn’t look much like a heron. I said yep, that’s what it was, and no, I’d never seen any heron do that before, so I was as confused as them.

But they thanked me about filling them in, and that felt nice. Maybe it’s not about being a quote-unquote expert, but keeping your eyes and ears open, learning as much as you can, and sharing the things you know.

So here are some of the things I’ve seen and learned in the last month, split by species:

Anna’s hummingbirds

Yeah, we’ve got hummingbirds in these parts. Here’s what has to be a very immature Anna’s hummingbird. It’s got a bit of green on the back, but that’s it, and otherwise looks really unfinished.

I wonder if it’s the same guy as this male, who looks to just be getting his adult colours. I don’t know if two weeks is enough time for a hummingbird to mature that much, but apparently these guys leave the nest after three weeks, so who knows?

Spotted towhees

I don’t actually know anything about this species, and I think I only got the name from my app. My first encounter with them was around Burnaby Lake way back in March. Then, by Lost Lagoon a few weeks ago.

And then just a week ago: an adult near Burnaby Lake, and apparently a juvenile in Sapperton. So that’s interesting, and I should have trusted Merlin ID when it labeled that juvenile as a towhee. We live and learn.


Starlings are super common, sure, but super pretty in the right light. Also, females and males look very similar. What I shot on the seawall, hanging around with an adult, was a juvenile.

Rule of thumb: if I’ve never seen them before this summer, it’s probably a juvenile.

House finches

We’ve got a few downtown, and here’s one putting his thick beak to good use. They’ve got lovely voices, too. One morning I was taking a walk and stopped by a tree that had such gorgeous music coming out of it. After some careful listening I finally found the source. It doesn’t always pay off since a lot of singing birds rudely hide in foliage, but if you stop and listen for just a minute, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Northern flickers

I’ve seen one of these critters before, three years ago. That looks like a female (or juvenile), since it didn’t have those stripes on the sides of its throat. But here’s a beautiful male digging into the soil by the seawall. And here’s… the same one for all I know, in the same spot.

And I learned that northern flickers come in two subspecies! This is a red-shafted northern flicker, which you’ll find mainly west of the Rockies. Red or dark underwing, red throat stripes and grey head with brown cap are the main markers. Hybrids exist, and will mix and match traits of both subspecies. Neat stuff!

Actually, I’m wondering if this individual is a bit of a hybrid, because he has a very faint darker crescent on the back of his head, which I understand is typical of yellow-shafted flickers.


Apparently they eat worms. Who knew?

Wood ducks

The bebbies, so adorbs. I also realised mallard ducklings have similar light/dark patterns on their faces, but mallards are yellow-golden, while wood ducklings are plain brown and off-white.

A male teen giving me the eye. The head colours are mostly there, though the green still needs some work, and the body is still scruffy and brown. Here’s a still younger male just starting on his white neck & head patterns. It looks like they get their red eyes pretty early too.

Just to switch things up here’s an adult female calmly swimming along. I love the white domino mask effect around her eyes, the only concession to her brothers’ loud colours.


So tiny! So cute. I’ve seen them before around the seawall but they are just so damn hard to photograph since they hardly ever sit still. I was lucky to capture this one!

Tree swallows

They’re who those bird boxes in Lost Lagoon are for. Sometimes they sit and pose, but most of the time they’re zipping around near the surface of the water picking out little bugs. I tried getting action shots, but they’re too fast and too far away and I don’t have the gear or the skill for them yet.

Miscellaneous sparrows

Here’s a song sparrow by Lost Lagoon. Here’s maybe another one on the other side, looking all derpy and lost even though it had a parent on the other side of the trail responding to its calls.

This scraggly little thing might be a white-crowned sparrow (judging by the darker stripes on its head) but I can’t be sure. I spent a while standing around and listening, and it paid off! Feeling thankful for my telephoto lens, plus the fact that my camera screen can swivel up and down so I could line up my shot.

Speaking of, last but not least:

White-crowned sparrows

These birbs are so incredibly photogenic, and I swear I’ll never get over how I didn’t know they were a thing before this very spring. Still, it’s never too late, right? Here’s one serenading me near Second Beach. And here’s another posing all pretty in that little bit of David Lam Park near the ferry dock.

That spot looks to be home to a bunch of them and their families. I’ve been seeing some juveniles there lately; at first I thought they were pregnant females because they looked really round, didn’t move around much, and tore down little plants so I assumed they were building nests. Plus I’d only caught quick glimpses of females before and figured I was due. But I hear they really are juveniles, which would make more sense because it’s late in the season and every other bird out there is making babies. I’m a bit frustrated at how much I don’t know even this one species of bird, but then I’ve only been at it for a couple months so maybe I could be easier on myself? That’s what an expert does too.

In conclusion: they’re perfect and I love them.

Days in Pictures

24 x 24: days 1239 — 1240

Two weeks ago on May 24 UTC (ie: May 23 5:00PM — May 24 5:00PM in my time zone) I took part in the 24×24 Photo Marathon. It was my very first photo marathon, and in fact the very first time I’d tried themes in my photography. Overall I enjoyed the new challenge! Frustrating in parts, but that’s what challenges do, I guess. It taught me to look a little more deeply into what’s in front of me and imagine how I could capture it, something which I’ll definitely carry forward.

Let’s go over each of my 24 photos: themes, outcome, and behind-the-scenes dirt.

Theme 01, “A very good idea” : Sign of the times, right? Plan B would have been a screenshot of the marathon itself.

Theme 02, “Black mirror” : thought about shooting myself reflected in a black car, but that would be weird. Fortunately the lighting at my desk was just right!

Theme 03, “Connection” : the only thing I don’t like about this view is that goddamn eyesore chandelier under Granville Bridge. Didn’t even notice that was there until after I posted the photo. Sigh. Maybe I should have gone with my first idea of shooting Burrard Bridge, whether from the ground or from Granville Bridge.

Theme 04, “Cat and mouse” : here we move indoors, since night has fallen. Good thing I remembered those cheesy socks I got one Xmas!

Theme 05, “Inside out” : easy-peasy silly.

Theme 06, “Solidarity” : I religiously (heh) follow Chris Steadman on the socials, and I really need to finish his book.

Theme 07, “To the left” : probably the leftiest thing I own, a copy of Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation (© 1972 by Karla Jay and Allen Young), a collection of revolutionary articles and essays from the very early days of the gay liberation movement. Bought second-hand at Little Sister’s many years ago.

Theme 08, “Dinner club” : good thing that Ace of Wands looks like a club, because I didn’t have any other ideas.

Theme 09, “Burst” : morning again! I went hunting for flowers, since I figured there wouldn’t be many fireworks available.

Theme 10, “Towards the light” : solar power FTW! My other idea was sunflowers, but we don’t have any around here. I also thought about shooting from a shaded location towards the light, but none of those photos looked good and it was too on the nose anyway.

Theme 11, “Key ingredient” : I think I kind of lost the plot here. The “key ingredient” was supposed to be light, but in hindsight I don’t think that came through.


Theme 13, “Transit(ion)” : The most interesting transit place was the (not yet reopened) ferry dock down the way. I decided to shoot its new, longer, ramp and the way it descends back and forth to the dock itself.

Theme 14, “Roomy” : as roomy as it gets around here!

Theme 15, “Thin red line” : turns out there aren’t many red things in the city, let alone thin red lines. I thought about the line of cones on Beach, but that’s orange. I did take a couple pictures, just to see what it felt like, and good thing this is not a traditional photo marathon!

Theme 16, “Pretty ugly” : formerly pretty pretty, now wilting-pretty. Kinda works? Maybe I could have zoomed in more, I dunno.

Theme 17, “Secret garden” : I don’t have a garden of my own, so I did the best I could.

Theme 18, “Comfort” : yes come through with the comfort food!

Theme 19, “Normal people” : to be fair I don’t know if these people are normal, but they were doing a normal thing so here we go.

Theme 20, “The favo(u)rite“: ugh I’m not happy with how this photo turned out.

Theme 21, “Rough” : Simple, straightforward. Done and done.

Theme 22, “Self portrait” : I’d already done a selfie for theme 6, so I had to kick it up a notch.

Theme 23, “Order” : I don’t remember what prompted this exactly. Maybe it’s just that the pencil case was sitting on my desk and I was all “why not?”

Theme 24, “Give meaning” : ehh, I lost it again, and then wasted time, and then panicked because it was almost 5:00. So here you go I guess?