Days in Pictures

Birding May 17: two lifers in a day

Reifel, Boundary Bay, Piper Spit

I slept in, so we got to Reifel quite a bit later than usual. Not that big a deal overall, but it meant the hummingbird feeders were in shadow so I didn’t take great photos of the pretty little hummers that stopped to drink. There were some Rufous there too! On the other hand, I’m thinking it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d gotten there right at opening time; maybe the sun would have been too high already? ‘Tis the season, I guess.

Speaking of season, it’s also the Season of Not A Lot Of Songbirds. Plenty of House Sparrows, some towhees hopping about the underbrush, but that was almost it! A small number of chickadees and Song Sparrows but they generally eluded my camera. All the other sparrows are gone.

Bright side: as seems to be the norm since our last visit, Marsh Wrens were both loud and visible! It took a bit of patience to capture them sometimes, but they seemed way more willing to be out in the open. I guess love songs don’t carry as well from within the reeds.

A Marsh Wren on a branch, singing its heart out
Hecking loud as usual

This beautiful guy was chilling on the post above its nest box, just chilling, giving me plenty of chances to shoot my best Tree Swallow shots so far! I can’t get over how shiny and lustrous it is! And I love the contrast between its dazzling body and its plainer grey flight feathers that just make the royal blue and pure white pop even more!

Also, does it have a little bit of a dark mask around its eyes, or is that just how the light hits? Looking at other people’s photos: yep, it’s a mask. Neat, I never noticed before!

A Tree Swallow is sitting on a wooden post. It is very shiny. The background is out-of-focus greyish water
Grace and elegance

You know what else I never noticed before? Cliff Swallows. Though they’re apparently rare in these parts, so that might explain it.

A somewhat blurry photo of a Cliff Swallow against a solid blue sky: it has a white rump and chest, brown body, and black head
Very few cliffs around here

Boundary Bay has cool views, of course.

View from the Boundary Bay trail. Grassy, marshy land, and water way in the background. There are some low clouds in the sky

But I wanted to focus on Savannah Sparrows, and that proved frustrating. For all their numbers they kept their distance, and I had a hard time shooting them. Maybe there was haze in the air too? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A Savannah Sparrow in a tree
Hello sweetie

Then we closed the day at Piper Spit!

This isn’t the first time I shot this particular view, of the towers around Lougheed Town Centre about 2km away, but it was always a bit of a throwaway shot and I don’t think I ever posted it anywhere. But it’s a really nice view, and maybe I need to experiment a little! So that day it went up on the socials, and I’m glad it did! There’s a nice balance here, of blue and green and silver, of curves and straight lines. Totally into it.

A wide-angle shot of Burnaby Lake, a shallow lake surrounded by reeds and trees. In the distance is a cluster of towers The sky is a bit cloudy
The faraway land of Coquitlam

The maps I’ve read show that we’re part of coots’ year-round range, but they obviously go somewhere in the spring and summer, because we are down to zero (0) coots at Reifel and exactly one (1) coot (pictured) at Piper Spit. I guess these kinds of maps aren’t absolute and don’t tell the whole story. Maybe some do migrate, and some don’t. Maybe they just shuffle around to different spots in the Pacific Northwest.

An American Coot is swimming along in shallow water. We see one of its freaky feet underwater
Gotta have the freaky feet

Lots of Wood Ducks around, though. They and Mallards and a single wigeon were all that’s left of Weird Duck Time. It looks like this one is getting weirder, and it’s not just the wind. I think he’s transitioning into his eclipse plumage, and an early symptom is usually a scraggly and messy mullet as some of the feathers fall out and the rest can bend every which way. Also, the chest and side colours are getting very muddled.

A male Wood Duck is standing in shallow water, looking disheveled in the wind
Don’t hate me because I’m less beautiful

And hey, the second lifer of the day! This is not a Killdeer, but a Semipalmated Plover. It looks kind of like a chibi Killdeer, which kind of makes sense since it turns out they’re cousin species. I struggled a bit to get a good shot because it was some distance away, on a background that really wasn’t easy to work with, but I think I did okay in the end!

A Semipalmated Plover -- a small shorebird with brown wings and back, white chest, and a sharp black neck band -- is standing on a muddy shore surrounded by green gunk and debris
Not quite a Killdeer. Maybe a Scratchdeer?

Speaking of doing okay: a little while ago I swore a solemn oath that I would get a good photo of a swallow in flight before the summer ended. It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting better! There are a lot of things to get right: tracking the damn things as they zoom by (closer is better, but also more challenging for obvious reasons); remembering to turn my exposure time very low to reduce motion blur; making sure the light and angle are right; and hope I can fix flaws in post.

I got lucky this time, though. It seemed that the swallows followed a few fairly predictable “lanes” around some of the exposed ground to the east of the pier (near where we saw the plover, actually) and actually slowed down over a couple of spots. I wasn’t really clear why, but they might have been drinking from puddles, or enjoying particularly thick swarms of bugs. It didn’t make my shooting easy, but it did make it a little more possible.

So anyway, please enjoy these two Tree Swallows. Or possibly the same one, I don’t even remember.

And finally…

The doodling I mentioned in my 2023 retrospective is going, though very slowly. I’ve got a few drawings under my belt, but I really need to do a better job of making time for it. The actual drawing process is equal parts frustrating and feeling good, and each model challenges me in a different way.

But what comes out is better and better each time, with unexpected little twists. Like for this latest one, I used colour! Even better, the way the pastels stained my fingers made me feel like a true artiste.

Another thing I’ve been working on but never mentioned: setting up an online store for my photos. I’ve gotten a lot of validation and compliments over the years and eventually thought, hey, I could actually do this! Maybe it’s the “taking it to the next level” energy I’ve vaguely craved for a long time.

I got it online a month ago, and I’ve almost doubled the number of photos. I’ve got birbs, I’ve got waterfowl, I’ve got… the rest of the birds. And sunsets, and landscapes, and cityscapes. There’s something for everyone!

What I don’t have yet is sales. I get it, though, I just haven’t been promoting myself loudly and consistently–something I’ve always struggled with, right from the time I had to sell damn chocolate bars and whatever for cub scouts. But I can rise to the challenge! I’ve been posting more consistently to BlueSky and Mastodon, connecting with other photographers and daring to promote my store a bit. And I’ve decided to pick up the blog again! Sure, I could look at it as self-promotion, but it’s also self-expression, the kind I genuinely enjoy. And all these strands feed and reinforce each other, so who knows where things will end up?

Bottom line: still figuring it all out. I don’t even know if I’m doing it right, but that is also a process.

Now enjoy my photos!

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