Days in Pictures

The case of the fake goldfinches

Ceci n’est pas une goldfinch

On the weekend before the long weekend I visited Blackie Spit, Centennial Beach, a bit of the Boundary Bay trail, ƛ̓éxətəm (Tlahutum) Regional Park — formerly Colony Farm — and Lost Lagoon! And what do I have to show for it? Some cool birds, some rarities… and one shot that will make my Best Of 2023.

Blackie Spit: there wasn’t a whole lot to see; the day was a little smoky, and warm even by mid-morning, which might have affected quality and quantity of birds. I did get some nice landscapes as per usual, and artsy seagulls, but overall nothing to write home about. Most notable were a gaggle of Greater Yellowlegs with some Short-billed Dowitchers hanging about. Plus, another bird that I thought was a goldfinch. More about that one later.

Three Greater Yellowlegs on a log in a little creek, each standing on one leg

Centennial Beach gave us a bit more diversity. Some Brewer’s Blackbirds welcomed us, and eventually we moved to the tidal flats at the north end to check out the shorebirds.

A male Brewer's Blackbird -- a bird with glossy dark black / purplish plumage and striking pale yellow eyes -- is on the dusty ground andlooking forward
Look into his eye

In addition to more Yellowlegs and a few Killdeer, I enjoyed shooting some Caspian Terns hanging out with a gaggle of Ring-billed Gulls. They apparently come up here for the summer but somehow I don’t remember ever seeing them before last month!

A Caspian Tern -- a seabird with a black cap and bright red bill -- is flying over some Ring-billed Gulls
Caspian Terns love to show off

On to Boundary Bay! Again, the heat meant few birds were around — no Savannah Sparrows, boo! Some Red-necked Pharalopes were a welcome sight, though they were swimming against the light so I wasn’t super happy with those shots. The real star was unquestionably a Northern Harrier that came very close—almost uncomfortably close, in fact! Look at this beauty, with a Harrier’s characteristic V wing position, living her life and looking awesome doing it.

Who knows, I might even submit it for next year’s Audubon Society photo contest!

The ƛ̓éxətəm gardens were pretty much Anna’s country. And not a lot of Anna’s, but just a couple that we could see, and they spent most of her time zipping around and dogfighting. Though one did give me some very artsy poses!

At Lost Lagoon on Sunday, I found this adolescent Great Blue, growing up nicely into its adult plumage. I wonder how long the whole process will take? Herons can’t be like songbirds, who usually (I think) get their adult colours on their first spring.

Now, at both Blackie Spit and Lost Lagoon, I saw similar cute little birbs that I thought were goldfinches. Yellow body, dark wings, it’s a pretty safe assumption, right? But then it was pointed out to me that they were not goldfinches, but Western Tanagers. Mostly very similar (except breeding males, which look very different), but the main difference is that goldfinches have yellow shoulders, whereas for Tanagers the whole wing is dark.

Well hey, we live and learn.

Finally, here’s a lovely Black-throated Gray Warbler. Immature, as you can tell by the lack of a black throat. These adorable little birbs are apparently summer residents around here, yet—just like the Terns!—I’ve only just started seeing them.

On one hand, these mis-IDs and new IDs are a bit frustrating, and make me feel like a n00b. On the other hand… well, I am! Three and a half years of birding is no time at all; we’re all learning, we all make mistakes, so we need to go easy on ourselves. Besides, if n00bness means continual learning and a steady supply of lifers and discoveries, I’m good with being a lifelong n00b!

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