Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anna and the Redhead

well, the weekend didn't quite turn out as nice as they forecast but it didn't stop me from wanting to get out.
Birding during the week is ok, but it's always afternoon and it's always after my work duties are finished for the day.
i've seen some cool birds during the week, don't get me wrong, but nothing beats weekend birding Cool
weekend birding is all about preparation and having a game plan so that the time can best be managed.
it means getting up early, something i do every day (since i start work at 6am) but somewhat more of a chore for Audy i must admit.

for this weekend in particular i decided to simplify the routine and concentrate on only one target bird a day.
those birds were Redhead duck at Surrey lake and the male Anna's hummingbird at VanDusen garden.

knowing that VanDusen opened at 10am i chose Sunday as a good day for that location and Saturday (early) for the drive out to Surrey.

Surrey lake is a great little man-made lake full of waterfowl this time of year from the looks of what we saw Saturday.
we were the only people there when we arrived at around 8:30am and the lake was quiet.
things were so quiet that all the birds were sleeping as well.

the grouping in the middle of the lake included American wigeon (including a couple of Eurasian), Gadwall, Mallard, Scaup, Canvasback (only place i've seen these handsome ducks at this season) and a couple Common merganser as well.
a few ducks were awake but most had their heads tucked in and glided softly back and forth, frustratingly so.

the task on hand was to look for the drake Redhead in the bunch.
my only previous encounter with this species occurred last spring in Kelowna but it was a distant "life list" shot and i was anxious to better the effort hopefully.
first i had to find the bird.

Audy and i split up, she concentrated near the bridge area and i decided to walk further along to scan the large gathering in the middle.
scoping the birds as they "slept" was easy enough to do with the 50X eyepiece but i knew at that range any shot would suffer, nonetheless.
suddenly i found the bird Very Happy
i was able to ID it by the colour of it's head, it stuck out like a sore thumb.
once i had it in scope it was just a matter of tracking action until it woke up.

well, the excitement of finding the bird slowly wore off when i realized it could be while before something in the bird triggered it to suddenly get up. a disturbance from shore in the form of a large off-leash dog barking at me while on my knees in the mud wasn't even enough to wake the birds, i would just have to wait it out.
about an hour later it finally happened.
the bird awoke, stretched and took account of it's surroundings.
it started to move and i began pursuit, eventually it came close to shore and i knew this was my opportunity, i had better get the shots now.

a few minutes later it flew off suddenly and was gone.
when all was said and done, this was the best shot and i'm quite happy with it.
it's full frame as well, no cropping.

Sunday we were going to look for the male Anna's hummingbird at VanDusen garden i had heard about.
i had a general idea of where to look for the tiny gem of a bird but i soon realized, it was a big place, there was no guarantee we would even find it.

Audy is pretty good at tracking hummingbirds and she had a hunch she wanted to follow so went off in another direction as i staked out this spot and that spot, always looking towards the tops of the trees for that little hummingbird shape i knew so well.
i kept coming up empty however.

at one point i watched incredulously as a family walked by noisily through a section of bamboo forest.
i heard a great crashing and breaking of branches and thought one of the kids had gone off into the bush.
i didn't expect to see each kid (3 of them) happily walking out with big bamboo sticks in their hands, waving them about like swords as dad broke off leaves, throwing them on the ground around them as they casually walked by.
some people just don't get it Mad

anyways, just at that moment my cell phone rang and it was Audy telling me she thought she had found the Anna's!
i walked quickly on ahead and marveled at her bird luck, once again she had come through.
sure enough, there was a little bird, high up in a tree top, with terrible light behind it.

i smiled, the shot didn't really matter (as long as you get at least one) since actually finding the needle in the haystack was the true reward in this instance.

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The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area