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The night sky...

January 29, 2015
In school right now, my Science teacher. Mr. Procyk, recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence, has been teaching us about astronomy. What I have learned is really amazing, and it inspired me to go back and process a couple photos I took of the night sky in Costa Rica in July 2013. These photos were taken in the Cerro De La Muerte region of Costa Rica (Mountain of Death), away from the light polluted sky of the city.

Both these photos were taken with a Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tokina 16.5-135mm F3.5-56 AT-X DX lens at 30 seconds, ISO 800, and f3.5. The first was at 19mm and second was at 17mm.


Costa Rica night sky


Costa Rica night sky


I have been taught a whole new meaning for big... the milky way where we are is just one of countless galaxies in the universe, all constantly being pushed farther away from each other, making the universe larger and larger. From what we can see most of these stars all have their own set of planets orbiting them, meaning there could be trillions of earth-like, livable planets that are currently well beyond the reach of where we can go. The nearest star to us, Alpha Centauri, is 41,314,127,522,900 KM away, and that is the closest star (according to my calculations of 1 light year being 9.4605284 × 10 to the 12 kilometers multiplied by Alpha Centauri's distance of 4.367 light years from earth). If that is the closest star, the distance to the stars in these pictures is unimaginable. We are looking at worlds so far away that the light that we see left them lifetimes ago.

It is very hard to grasp, so for now I am just going to appreciate how amazing the night sky appears, especially away from the city like in these pictures!


Thanks for looking! I will get back to bird pictures soon...


 

More Bald Eagle shots from late November, plus a Golden Eagle from Sunday

January 28, 2015
On a weekend in late November I rented a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM to go photograph Bald Eagles feeding on spawning salmon in BC's Fraser Valley. Unfortunately, high water levels covered the mudflats where dead fish usually get washed up. Despite this, there were still hundreds of eagles around and I got some shots I am very happy with. I still have many more to go through, but here are some shots I have not yet posted on my blog:

Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/3200 | ISO 200 | f/4

Bald Eagle in flight



Other than making this black and white, very little processing was done. I was shooting into the sun which gave a neat effect.

Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/2500 | ISO 200 | f/4
Bald eagle with salmon



Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/2500 | ISO 200 | f/4
Bald Eagle



Lit by the late afternoon sun, a juvenile Bald Eagle flies by a shaded, misty mountain slope in Harrison Mills, BC, in late November 2014.

Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4x III (840mm) | 1/1000 | ISO 1600 | f/5.6
Juvenile Bald Eagle in flight




Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/2000 | ISO 1600 | f/4
Bald Eagle in flight




While I have closer photos of this bird with no branches in the frame, I liked the way the branches and the wider view display slightly more of a setting.

Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/1000 | ISO 500 | f/4Bald Eagle



I photographed another species of eagle on this past Sunday. A Golden Eagle has been at Boundary Bay in Delta, BC, for many weeks now. It has become a bit of a celebrity, and even was featured in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. Despite it's popularity, while at Boundary Bay today I spotted it sitting beside the road in a tree with some Bald Eagles when no other people were around. A really neat bird! When it was first found I was in Mexico. When I tried for it a week ago it did not show, so seeing it on Sunday was awesome!


Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM + 1.4x III (560mm) | 1/320 | ISO 500 | f/8

Golden Eagle




Thanks for looking! I hope to post more eagle shots and more photos from Mexico soon!


 

A couple photos from late November....

January 23, 2015
I still have photos to go through from my Bald Eagle photography trip to Harrison Mills, in the Fraser Valley of BC, Canada. Here is one I recently processed, not of a Bald Eagle but still I shot I really liked!

While walking around at sunset near Harrison Mills, I noticed that the sky was being lit up beautifully by the setting sun. While I did capture some images with my wide angle lens, I found shots like these of birds flying with the beautiful sunset colours taken with a telephoto lens to be even better.

Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/500 | ISO 320 | f/4

Ducks flying at sunset



Here's another shot from in late November 2013 of A young Bald Eagle perched in a tree in Harrison Mills, BC, Canada

This beautiful young Bald Eagle was posing in a tree next to the river. In this shot he is nibbling at something on the bark.

Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/320 | ISO 500 | f/4

Bald Eagle (juvenile)



Thanks for looking!


 

A couple more photos from Mexico - Russet-crowned Motmot and Black Skimmer

January 14, 2015
Here's another shot from Mexico of a beautiful Russet-crowned Motmot. I photographed this bird at El Tuito, a famous birding destination and little town located up in the mountains about an hour from Puerto Vallarta. These birds are among the many beautiful species that can be encountered at this destination.

Russet-crowned Motmot
Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM | 1/800 | ISO 320 | f/5.6

Russet-crowned Motmot




During my previous trips to the Banderas Bay area of Mexico in 2011 and 2012, I found an area of beach that was amazing for waterbirds like shorebirds, gulls, terns, and more. This spot was located right near the mouth of a river, and while I got some great birds on my side of the river close enough to photograph, there were often birds on the other side of the river too far away for photos. This trip (December 2014) was the first time I got species like Black Skimmers and Wilson's Plover on my side of the river. Here is a shot of a Black Skimmer than landed on the ground with lots of other simmers and Royal and Caspian Terns one day.

Black Skimmer
Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM | 1/1000 | ISO 1000 | f/5.6

Black Skimmer


Thanks for looking, more pictures coming in a few days!


 

Mexico!

January 11, 2015
Those of you who have seen my Facebook or Flickr pages will know that I spent time recently in Mexico, throughout almost two weeks in December and a few days in January. While not a birding trip, I managed tons of birding and photography every day and ended up getting 168 species and 19 lifers! Here are just a couple photos to start.

Great Kiskadee
A Great Kiskadee dives at an enemy kiskadee, its rarely seen crest flared during a sunny morning in Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico in December 2014.

Shots like this would not have been possible without the 10 fps on the new 7D Mark II.

Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM | 1/2000 | ISO 320 | f/5.6

Great Kiskadee


Sinaloa Crow

Here is a shot of a Sinaloa Crow landing by a river in Sayulita, Nayarit, in December 2014. More Crows are behind and Great-tailed Grackles are in front of the landing bird.

The Sinaloa Crow was a bird I really wanted to see during my recent trip to the Banderas Bay area of Mexico. This would not be easy however, as we were staying right in the middle of the Banderas Bay, which is just south of the crow's range; to see them, you have to go north of Banderas Bay. While there are a few records of crows in Banderas Bay, few are actually confirmed and I an easily see how one could mistake a Great-tailed Grackle for a Sinaloa Crow, as people coming from the much of the US and Canada are used to crows being the most common bird, not Great-tailed Grackles. While on a birding tour with Gerardo Hernández Vázquez of naturevallarta.com, he said he knew a spot were these crows were guaranteed. It was located just north of Banderas Bay, not actually in the bay. We drove there, and as we looked for parking in this bustling little town, Sayulita, a flock of 45+ crows flew over. Wow! Once we found a spot to park we went looking for more crows and immediately found some in trees. We then went down to the beach to see if any crows were on the ground there. None were, but my lifer Elegant Tern was flying around, and offshore hundreds of Brown and Blue-footed Booby were diving! We went back to where the crows had been in the trees, and found that a flock of them had joined some Great-tailed Grackles on the ground and were bathing in a river. It was amazing to see these birds so well!

What is so special about the Sinaloa Crow? Firstly, it is a Mexican endemic. This means that in the entire world, it is only found in Mexico. The Sinaloa Crow is actually only found along the northern portion of Mexico's pacific coast. Secondly, it is also a very under-photographed bird species. If you look up Sinaloa Crow on google images, you will see there are not many pictures actually of Sinaloa Crows, and few really good images. Thirdly, unlike our Northwestern Crows in coastal BC and American Crows in the rest of the US and Canada, these birds are quite small, basically Grackle-sized, and have a blackbird-like blue and purple sheen on them. Their call is much less harsh, but still a "caw".

Sinaloa Crow was my 5th crow species on my life list. In order of when they were added, I have seen Northwestern, American, Hooded, House, and now Sinaloa Crow. It was awesome seeing this neat bird!

Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM | 1/2500 | ISO 800 | f/5.6

Sinaloa Crow


Thanks for looking, lots more photos coming soon!

 

Top 3 Bird Photos of 2014 from British Columbia

January 4, 2015
This was one heck of a year for me birding-wise. I did the most birding I have ever done in one year in BC. This year I birded the Okanagan Valley (133 species on a big day), Metro Vancouver area, Fraser Valley, Coastal Mountains and Manning Park, Southern Vancouver Island (Victoria area), Northern Vancouver Island (Port McNeil area and Malcolm Island), the Southern Gulf Islands, and I spent a total of nearly two weeks of the year cruising in BC waters in the Straight of Georgia, Johnston Straight, Hecate Straight, open ocean around Triangle Island (northern tip of Vancouver Island), open ocean around Haida Gwaii and more! I got 271 species in BC this year, by far a record for me.

On the photography side, this was also one heck of a year. I have never had such a hard to choosing a top three before, but I have settled on these:

Western Sandpiper
During the Summer when I was off school, I frequently visited Boundary Bay to photograph shorebirds. I had an absolute blast doing this, and these trips formed some of my best birding and photography experiences to date! By the later part of the shorebird season I had even begun leading shorebird photography workshops out there. I would bus out to Delta from Vancouver and bike to Boundary Bay and cover the area on bike and on foot, often multiple times a week. During this years shorebird migration I spent nearly 100 hours at the bay and walked and biked at least 290 kilometers during those visits. This shot was one of my favorite shots that I got during the shorebird migration. While common, Western Sandpipers like all almost the shorebirds at the bay are ridiculously hard to photograph and getting close to them takes tons of patience, which is one reason why I wanted to include at least one shorebird shot in my top three.

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Pileated Woodpecker nest
I had a real thrill spending time with these birds in June. When I arrived at the location of the nest there were some other people there who said the adults had not come in for nearly an hour, so they were due any minute! Sure enough they came in in a few minutes. Unfortunately the light was horrible, and a couple hours later even though I had seen the parents come in a couple more times the light still was not good. Soon however, the sun went behind a large branch. The light was prefect now, but it would only be for 10 or so minutes. To our luck, both the male and female came in to feed the two baby woodpeckers during this time and we all got great shots! It was an awesome experience watching and photographing these birds.

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Sooty Shearwater
During April, I organized a pelagic birding trip to Triangle Island, and Island off the tip of Vancouver Island. This island is a breeding location for literally millions of alcids including 90% of the worlds Cassin's Auklets, more than half a million Tufted Puffins, Common Murres, Storm-petrels, Rhinocerous Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots and BC's only Horned Puffins. It was risky booking this trip becuase the waters around the island are so rough and fog builds so often that less than 1 in 4 birding trips trying to go to Triangle Island have made it there. The group of us on board became some of the few people ever to see this amazing island, as we had a beautiful clear day with only 3 metre swells offshore (the week before they were up to 9 metres!). One of the most numerous birds offshore was the Sooty Shearwater, and I really liked this artistic shot I got of a bird and its reflection. Also, this picture was auctioned off for $500 to raise money for my school! For these reasons this photo is in my top three of 2014.

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As I said it was nearly impossible choosing a top three. I narrowed it down to these images with the Bald Eagle in 4th place:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lirons-nature-photography/sets/72157649652161168/


Thanks for looking and I hope we have some great birding in 2015! :)

 

American Dipper

December 16, 2014
Here are three shots from a few weekends ago, when I was using the rental 600mm in the Fraser Valley. This American Dipper was one of the most cooperative I've ever photographed! I never managed a clear shot at one from a good angle of a dipper just sitting on the side of the water, but the birds cooperated really well for swimming shots and I am very happy with the results!


Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/1000 | ISO 1250 | f/4

American Dipper



Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4x III (840mm) | 1/1640 | ISO 1600 | f/5.6

American Dipper



Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM | 1/1000 | ISO 1250 | f/4

American Dipper


Thanks for looking!
 

Another owl, winter waterfowl, Swamp Sparrow and a Long-billed Curlew

December 15, 2014
Birding has been awesome lately so here are a few more recent shots.

Long-eared Owl
Delta, BC, Canada - Nov 7 2014
Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM | 1/200 | ISO 500 | f/5.6

Long-eared Owl



Photographing winter waterfowl is always fun too, and I have spent some time doing that recently in many spots including Stanley Park.

Hooded Merganser
November 30 2014
Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4x | 1/1600 | ISO 400 | f/5.6

Hooded Merganser


Here's another winter duck:

Common Goldeneye
November 30 2014
Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4x | 1/1600 | ISO 640 | f/5.6


Common Goldeneye



Yesterday (December 13 2014) I birded around Delta with highlights being two Swamp Sparrows at Reifel and an Eared Grebe at White Rock. Both of these were BC Lifers! The Swamps Sparrows were hard to photograph but I managed some shots, the Eared Grebe was about 600 metres away so to far but still neat to see, and it is always rewarding to self-find a bird like that!

Here is a Swamp Sparrow shot:

Swamp Sparrow
December 13 2014
George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Delta, BC, Canada
Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM | 1/320 | ISO 640 | f/5.6

Swamp Sparrow



Here is another shot from yesterday, a Long-billed Curlew. This long staying bird comes every winter and is always lots of fun to photograph! The bird was a bit distant yesterday but the light was too good to resist!

Long-billed Curlew
December 13 2014
Blackie Spit, Surrey, BC, Canada
Canon 7D Mark II | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM | 1/800 | ISO 400 | f/5.6

Long-billed Curlew


Thanks for looking!

 

Recent shots

December 6, 2014
I haven't post on my blog in quite a while but as always I regularly post on my flickr page so be sure to check there if you don't see activity on my blog! 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lirons-nature-photography/

Here are some recent shots from the past couple months. These months have brought lots of good birds and photography opportunities and here are some:

Surfbird: taken in Victoria on Nov 8, one of the many cool birds I saw there on a day trip to the island


Surfbird


Surf Scoters
 - I have spent some time photographing winter ducks in English Bay recently. I have gotten lots of good photos but this is one of my favorites. Taken on November 11 2014.


Surf Scoters


Barrow's Goldeneyes - also from English Bay, but on November 23 2014. This was my first birding outing with my BRAND NEW 7D MARK II which I am very happy with!

Barrow's Goldeneye pair in flight


From Nov 28-30 I had the chance to use a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM. This is an amazing lens, and I rented for a weekend to photograph the Bald Eagles that come to the Fraser Valley each year to feast on salmon. While due to high water levels there were not nearly as many birds as last year hundreds were still around and I got lots of good pictures! I've only gone through 1/5 of them so far so lots more coming, stay tuned to my Flickr page!

Bald Eagle in flight Bald Eagle Bald Eagle closeup Bald Eagle Bald Eagle Bald Eagle Bald Eagle


On this trip to the Fraser Valley I also had a chance to photograph the Northern Pygmy-Owl, Canada's smallest owl which is less than 7 inches long! I did not except to find one, but to my surprise I did and it didn't even take very long! It was very dark (after sunset around dusk) when I spotted this guy, but nonetheless set up for some shots and I am happy with the results! Here this beautiful bird is eating a Dark-eyed Junco. It was an amazing experience to see this bird! This is only the second one I have ever seen.

Northern Pygmy-Owl


Here is one last shot for this post, of a Short-eared Owl. I took the 600mm to Boundary Bay one evening and these owls did not disappoint!

Short-eared Owl



Thanks for looking!   :)
 

Recent mountain birding

October 15, 2014
I have learned a few things about birding on mountains in BC over the years. Sometimes you will go up and only see a couple common birds, but other times it will be the most rewarding birding you have ever done. I've down two big mountain outings in the past while, and both were very rewarding!

Cypress Mountain - October 5 2014

On October 5 I went with Mel (birdergirl) and her sister Megan up Cypress Mountain to look for Pygmy-Owls. There, we ran into many others, who were all there for the same reason.

The wait for the owl began, but many birds kept us company including lots of Gray Jays. I spent some time getting wide angles flight shots of them, and I am very happy with the results!

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There were lots of Steller's Jays too:

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There were at least five Sharp-shinned Hawks that generally remained distant but I still took a few shots:

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After about three hours, I told everybody I was going to head down and look for the owl lower on the trail. Not three minutes after I began looking lower down I got a call. The pygmy owl had flown in! I raced back up and was so happy to see the pygmy owl was still there. It was a lifer!

The owl flew to various perches over the next while, this one being the closest. My 1.4x teleconverter on the 400mm f/5.6 (giving me 560mm) made a big difference for this shot, even though it meant using manual focus.

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On the way home we stopped where Nick had told us he had seen some Greater White-fronted Geese. Sure enough they were there, and also a few Cackling Geese!

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It was a great day of birding!


Manning Park - October 13 2014

On October 13 I went with Mel (birdergirl) to Manning Provincial Park to look for some target birds. It was a great day, we saw some great birds and I got a lifer!

The lifer was this beautiful male American Three-toed Woodpecker that we saw while hiking around. It was so awesome to see it!

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Not long after the success with the three-toed woodpecker, we ran into this beautiful Red-breasted Sapsucker:

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There were also lots of Gray Jays around, as expected:

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We now began the drive up to higher elevations to look for some more birds. On the way up we saw a Sooty Grouse beside the road that disappeared when we stopped for a photo, and this Ruffed Grouse too:

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At we arrived at our next stop where a couple Clark's Nutcrackers were happy to have their photos taken:

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There were beautiful trees around here, just like the rest of the park:

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We were very happy when this Pine Grosbeak flew in while we were watching the nutcrackers! The 1.4x teleconverter on my 400mm helped in this shot.

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While our search in even higher elevations for Boreal Chickadees was unsuccessful (lots of Mountain Chickadees though), we did find this Sooty Grouse on the drive down, which posed for us for a long time! A Pika (rodent) also made a brief appearance.

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It was an awesome day! :) Thanks to Mel for driving me there and for knowing where to look for my target species.


Here are some of the bird species we saw in the park that day:

Ruffed Grouse
Sooty Grouse
Red-tailed Hawk
hawk sp. (brief look)
Northern Pygmy-Owl (heard only)
Red-breasted Sapsucker
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Steller's Jay
Clark's Nutcracker
Common Raven
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pacific Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Townsend's Solitaire
Varied Thrush
Dark-eyed Junco
Pine Grosbeak
Pine Siskin
 
 
 

 

 

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