Wednesday, 25 January 2017


Here are some more bird photos from my visit to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary:
This week the subject is Sandhill Cranes.
Sandhill Cranes are eager for handouts, all the ones I saw were very close to the entrance waiting to sample the wild bird feed that visitors buy as they enter the sanctuary.
I think the head and beak look prehistoric.
That beak looks sharp too, I was surprised both that they were accepting seed from peoples open palms and that people were feeding them that way. I didn't have any seed but would have scattered it on the ground if I had had any.

They also have a rather odd "bustle" type tail. They look to me a bit like a bird designed by a committee, each member concentrating on just a single feature; neck of a goose, body of a turkey, legs of a heron--I am sure you get the idea.

I will share some facts from:
"Sandhill Cranes are very large, tall birds with a long neck, long legs, and very broad wings. The bulky body tapers into a slender neck; the short tail is covered by drooping feathers that form a “bustle.” The head is small and the bill is straight and longer than the head."
"These are slate gray birds, often with a rusty wash on the upperparts. Adults have a pale cheek and red skin on the crown. Their legs are black. Juveniles are gray and rusty brown, without the pale cheek or red crown."

"Sandhill Cranes breed and forage in open prairies, grasslands, and wetlands. Outside of the breeding season, they often roost in deeper water of ponds or lakes, where they are safe from predators."
These ones have found a safe environment at the sanctuary, a sort of birdie bed and breakfast.

"Sandhill Cranes forage for grains and invertebrates in prairies, grasslands, and marshes. They do not hunt in open water or hunch their necks the way herons do. Sandhill Cranes form extremely large flocks—into the tens of thousands—on their wintering grounds and during migration. They often migrate very high in the sky."
"Sandhill Cranes give loud, rattling bugle calls, each lasting a couple of seconds and often strung together. They can be heard up to 2.5 miles away and are given on the ground as well as in flight, when the flock may be very high and hard to see. They also give moans, hisses, gooselike honks, and snoring sounds. Chicks give trills and purrs."

"The Sandhill Crane’s call is a loud, rolling, trumpeting sound whose unique tone is a product of anatomy: Sandhill Cranes have long tracheas (windpipes) that coil into the sternum and help the sound develop a lower pitch and harmonics that add richness."

"Sandhill Cranes are known for their dancing skills. Courting cranes stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air in a graceful and energetic dance."

"The earliest Sandhill Crane fossil, estimated to be 2.5 million years old, was unearthed in the Macasphalt Shell Pit in Florida."

"Sandhill Crane chicks can leave the nest within 8 hours of hatching, and are even capable of swimming."

"The omnivorous Sandhill Crane feeds on land or in shallow marshes where plants grow out of the water, gleaning from the surface and probing with its bill. Its diet is heavy in seeds and cultivated grains, but may also include berries, tubers, small vertebrates, and invertebrates. Nonmigratory populations eat adult and larval insects, snails, reptiles, amphibians, nestling birds, small mammals, seeds, and berries."
"Sandhill Cranes build their nests from the dominant vegetation—such as cattails, sedges, burr reeds, bulrushes, or grasses—using dried plant materials early in the season and adding green materials later on. To a foundation of larger materials they add a cup-shaped hollow lined with smaller stems or twigs. Both mates may gather material, tossing it over their shoulders to form a mound. The female is usually the one to stand on the mound and arrange the material."

"The oldest Sandhill Crane on record was at least 36 years, 7 months old. Originally banded in Wyoming in 1973, it was found in New Mexico in 2010."

"The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan lists them as a Species of Low Concern, and estimates the species as an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score."
"The future of Sandhill Cranes is mainly tied to the fate of their habitat. It’s particularly important to conserve wetlands in the ranges of nonmigratory populations, and in staging and wintering areas where large migratory flocks congregate."
...and a short video:
and another video/audio of the Sandhill Crane's call:
Well that is all for this week, I hope you have enjoyed getting up close to a Sandhill Crane.
Happy Wednesday, with whimsy,

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Wood Ducks on Wednesday

A recent walk took me to Reifel Bird Sanctuary; I saw many amazing birds and took a lot of pictures. These are some of the pictures I took of Wood Ducks. Future posts will feature other birds.
"The Wood Duck is one of the most stunningly pretty of all waterfowl. Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather; the elegant females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These birds live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches."
Most of the facts that I will share here came from the above website.

"Wood Ducks thrive in bottomland forests, swamps, freshwater marshes, and beaver ponds."


"The Wood Duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times over a mile away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water.
The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of over 50 feet without injury."

This is the handsome male Wood Duck with his  
glossy green head cut with white stripes, a red brown breast with light spots and buffy sides.

His eyes are bright red and are edged in red.

 Females and juveniles are grey brown with white-speckled breast and white patches around the eyes.


"Unlike most waterfowl, Wood Ducks perch and nest in trees and are comfortable flying through woods. Their broad tail and short, broad wings help make them maneuverable."
"When swimming, the head jerks back and forth much as a walking pigeon's does."

When natural cavities for nesting are scarce the Wood Duck will use nest boxes.
I thought this was an interesting factoid:
"Egg-dumping, or "intraspecific brood parasitism" is common in Wood Ducks—females visit other Wood Duck cavities, lay eggs in them, and leave them to be raised by the other female. This may have been made more common by the abundance and conspicuousness of artificial nest boxes; in some areas it happens in more than half of all nests. Individual females typically lay 10-11 eggs per clutch, but some very full nests have been found containing 29 eggs, the result of egg-dumping."

"Wood Ducks pair up in January, and most birds arriving at the breeding grounds in the spring are already paired. The Wood Duck is the only North American duck that regularly produces two broods in one year."
The oldest recorded Wood Duck was a male and at least 22 years, 6 months old. He had been banded in Oregon and was found in California.

 Plant materials make up 80% or more of the Wood Duck diet.
"Examples of food eaten include acorns, soybeans, smartweed, water primrose, panic grass, duckweed, millet, waterlily, blackberries and wild cherries, as well as flies, beetles, caterpillars, isopods, and snails."

"Wood Ducks feed by dabbling or short, shallow dives. They are strong fliers and can reach speeds of 30 mph. Wood Ducks are not territorial, with the exception that a male may fight off other males that approach his mate too closely."
Good news on numbers of birds: "Wood Duck populations increased between 1966 and 2015 according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey."
The Wood Ducks at Reifel Bird Sanctuary seem content to share the pathways with bird watchers. I have never seen so many Wood Ducks in one place before, if you too are fascinated by these beautiful birds maybe you should visit the sanctuary soon.
Here is a video of a Wood Duck Pair:
That's all I have for you today,
Happy Wednesday, with whimsy,

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A new year, but same old weather

Another snowfall and a power outage made for a memorable New Year's Eve at our house; candles add atmosphere but alas no heat and little light. Our 3rd power outage in December.

Roads and paths icy so photo walk was quite short.
This crow seems to have had enough of the cold...
...and my hummingbird friends don't seem terribly happy about the long cold spell either.
So I thought is would share a variety of the birds I photographed last year.
From Hawaii:
Above a Mynah bird, below same but acting more like a Roadrunner.
Goudian Finches enjoying a fountain
Finch (foreground) and Zebra Dove
From Haida Gwaii:

the rare "glass" Stellar Jay...

  Magnificent eagles:

Mischievous Raven 


From close to home:



and lastly from Whitehorse

Not sure so will call it a LBB, little brown bird!

That's all the pictures I have for you today.


If it sounds like I am whining about the weather, I am actually whining about the  cities reaction to the weather, too late and too little and very annoying.
The side walks are really slippery, even though the city has a bylaw about clearing sidewalks of snow by 10 am, they didn't clear the city property sidewalks -- but the bike lanes were clear to the ground!

The streets weren't plowed for the 2nd snow storm until after noon on a work day, all the buses were stranded at the bottom of the hill near us. City claimed they didn't expect snowfall even though Environment Canada gave plenty of warning.

As a result many people have fallen with bumps, bruises and breaks.

Vancouver (lower mainland) should be able to a better job of clearing the streets and keeping pedestrians safe!

Nothing like a good "wine" to start the year.


Happy New Year - 2017

I will leave the last words to Tennyson:

"Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, 'It will be happier.'"

"Ring out the false, ring in the true."

 Alfred Lord Tennyson


Happy Wednesday, with whimsy, and a little whine,