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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Macro Monika

As I've continued to be inspired to explore new types of photography, I've been taking pictures on almost a daily basis, including lots of macro shots. Turns out macro photography is a lot like birding - you can do it anywhere! I just have to turn on my "macro eyes" and suddenly there are subjects everywhere. Especially water droplets - water droplets are awesome! ;) Here are a few of my favorite shots from the last couple of weeks. (If you're interested in seeing more of my recent photographic exploits, check out my new page at 500px!)














Monday, January 18, 2016

Photographing Photographers

I've recently had the pleasure of going out on a couple of photography excursions with a fellow photographer. Photography has mostly been a solo act for me over the years, but it's been exciting to be re-inspired by seeing things through the eyes of someone else. You can both walk the same trail, but end up taking vastly different pictures, and that makes both of you start to push your own photography in new directions! Here are a few of the shots I've taken over the last couple of weeks that have been inspired by seeing things in a different light and experimenting with different styles of photography.







Of course, being with another photographer also gives you another subject to photograph. I found I was taking pictures of him taking pictures, and that it was pretty neat to see the shot that resulted next to the photo of the shot being taken. Here are a few examples of that:









By the way, that sweet little camera he's shooting with his a Ricoh GR, an excellent and compact wide angle set up particularly good for street photography and macro work. I've had a ton of fun getting to play with that a little bit too! And check out some of Jason's other work on his 500px site

Finally, a brief year list update! A little birding on San Juan Island has helped me bump the list from 67 to 74 by adding harlequin duck, red-breasted merganser, black oystercatcher, greater yellowlegs, horned grebe, mourning dove, and house sparrow. That helps me build my lead over my dad, who is still at 66 in the year list challenge, though I know that lead will be short lived! I'm still trailing way behind Dave for the moment as well, who as of yesterday is at an impressive 93!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2015 / 2016 Year List Update

Okay, I've fallen way behind the times here, but I still want to post my annual update about my 2015 bird year list, and better late than never, right? Since 2010 I've had a challenge going with Dave over in England, and starting in 2011 my dad joined in as well. I've never beat my dad (who tends to travel more than I do), and I've only beat Dave once (in 2014, though we miraculously tied in 2013!), but it's still fun to play. I'm afraid my lack of blogging over the last couple months has coincided with a lack of birding, so not only did I lose this year but I lost to both of them pretty badly! Here are the numbers:


2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
Total # Bird Species
233
203
222
192
201
176
Dave's Total
237
206
275/205*
192
179
200
Dad's Total

230
204
222
250
245
# States/
Provinces
6
4
5
4
5
6
# Life Birds
23
3
6
3
11
2
# SJ County Species
133?
157
145
149
142
128
# Species by Month
January
87
114
105
110
86
84
February
19
13
52
6
57
7
March
25
12
3
14
8
49
April
21
25
12
20
13
13
May
37
17
24
10
9
8
June
24
2
14
5
6
5
July
1
4
0
1
1
1
August
2
4
3
2
0
2
September
3
5
0
1
5
0
October
2
1
6
0
11
1
November
4
4
0
22
5
3
December
8
2
3
0
0
3

Of course the listing is just for fun, and it's really all about getting out there and enjoying nature and seeing the birds. Here are some highlights of my bird-watching in the last month or so, also demonstrating all the regional travel I've been doing!

Bald Eagle in Cowichan Bay, BC

Great egret in Scappoose, Oregon

Chestnut-backed chickadee in St. Helens, OR

Barrow's goldeneye in Duncan, BC - species #171 in 2015, and #4 in 2016)

Golden-crowned kinglet in Duncan, BC (2016 year bird #33)


Trumpeter swans in Duncan, BC (2016 year bird #20)

Trumpeter swans in Cowichan Bay, BC

Trumpeter swans in Skagit County, WA

Rough-legged hawk in Skagit County, WA (2016 year bird #56)

Red-tailed hawk (dark morph) in Friday Harbor, WA

Immature bald eagle in Surrey, BC

As of now, January 13, my 2016 year list sits at 67 species. My first bird of the year was an American robin, and it was awesome to have Barrow's goldeneye in the first five species of the year. Some other early highlights include pileated woodpecker (#13), Virginia rail (#37), rough-legged hawk (#56), and short-eared owl (#59). 67 puts me just ahead of my dad at 66 as of today, but meanwhile Dave's pulled ahead to a big early lead, with 91 species through January 12, but there's plenty of time to close that gap! Stay tuned for another year of friendly birding competition!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Southern Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island: I look at it *all* the time, just 10 miles across Haro Strait, but it's embarrassing how few times I've been there. In the last few weeks I've had the opportunity to do some exploring over there, and have been reminded how the short ferry ride and border crossing really shouldn't be such a deterrent to visiting! It's a beautiful place, and it's been awesome to visit some of the places I see on the map or from the water on a regular basis.

One of the first places I visited was Mt. Douglas, which we shore-based whale watchers use as a landmark when watching whales from Lime Kiln. After all these years it was fun to finally be on the Mt. Douglas looking back towards San Juan Island, with the bonus of Mt. Baker as a backdrop.



It's a pretty amazing vantage point from up there. You can see from nearly Turn Point at the north end of Haro Strait to well west of Victoria.





One thing that's very apparent over there is that there is a lot more acknowledgment of the native culture than in the United States. There was a big sign on Mt. Douglas talking about how it is also known as PKOLS by the aboriginal Saanich people, and at Somenos Marsh in Duncan all the interpretive signs give both the English and native names:



The birding was pretty good at Somenos Marsh, though everything but the birdhouses were too far away to photograph:


Another really noticeable thing across the strait is the number of Garry oak trees! It's a habitat that local preservation groups are trying to restore in the San Juan Islands, but it's much more prominent on Southern Vancouver Island.


One place we often refer to when we hear about incoming whales (from the Strait of Juan de Fuca) is Clover Point. In September 2012 I had an amazing encounter with transients off Clover Point, but from the water. It was cool to finally visit it from the shore side!

A photo I took of transients passing off the beach at Clover Point in September 2012

Looking the other way: a photo taken from where the whale watchers are standing in the photo above, but looking out to sea
You can see Trial Island from Clover Point:


After a long lull I finally managed to add a few birds to the year list, too: Barrow's goldeneye (171), herring gull (172), and Eurasian wigeon (173), the latter two species at Beacon Hill Park:

Eurasian wigeon
I was surprised to see so many peacocks at Beacon Hill Park!


Peacock feathers: a study

 There was a decent amount of native bird activity there as well, including a lot of Anna's hummingbirds! Anna's hummingbirds actually overwinter locally, feeding on insects and sap throughout the winter when there aren't an abundance of flowering plants. It's pretty amazing to me that they survive our cold temperatures and short days, but apparently it works for them! There are a lot more of them on Vancouver Island than on San Juan; I saw half a dozen at Beacon Hill Park alone - in November!!


It's a very pretty place:



As I headed over to the water side of the park, I caught sight of a few whale-watching boats! They were with a pair of humpback whales - surprise!



Another place I got to visit is East Sooke Park, and that's a place I will definitely have to go back to, as there are many miles of fantastic hiking trails there. More amazing vistas overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca! I can just imagine seeing the Southern Residents pass from here.


Probably my favorite birding location I discovered was the Cowichan Estuary. With salmon still spawning on the Cowichan River, there were lots of bald eagles around.


There were also several dozen trumpeter swans there. Any place you can see two of North America's largest birds is a pretty cool place!


Trumpeter swans flying over Cowichan Estuary

The whole Cowichan Bay area is another beautiful place with scenic views in every direction!



Vancouver Island is full of so many new places to explore, and it's really just a stone's throw away! I definitely plan to visit again soon.