Every year, I love to go out to Boundary Bay to photograph the migrating shorebirds. I got an early start this year, and this Dunlin was one of the first migrants that I photographed. These birds breed in the arctic and then migrate south. Some don't go very far, but others go all the way to Florida and Mexico.

       On July 4 2014 I was out at Boundary Bay. After spending some time with a group of Least Sandpipers, I spotted this Dunlin. It was on its own, and was still ~85% into breeding plumage. I got down low, lying on the mudflats, and got some great eye-level shots. It was so much fun spending time with this bird!

       The Boundary Bay shorebird migration is something I look forward to every year. There are still many months to go so I am looking forward to spending more days photographing shorebirds out at the bay!


Dunlin

Taken at Boundary Bay, Delta, BC, Canada.

Photo of the month for July 2014

  

Dunlin
 

  

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: July 4 2014

Photo of the month for: July 2014

Shutter Speed: 1/400

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 320

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: not used   

 

      Golden Eagles are one of the most well known birds of prey in the world. They are huge (sometimes having a wingspan of over seven feet), often larger than the Bald Eagle, and they range over most of North America and much of Europe and Asia as well. In addition to being huge, they are a tough bird, being able to take down large prey that most raptors can't handle. In breeding season, Golden Eagles can be found as far north as the arctic circle, where they use their incredible vision to hunt animals that blend in to the arctic tundra.

      In the Summer of 2012, I did a bird watching and bird photography trip to the Okanagan Valley in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. One of the targets of the trip was a bird which I had never seen before: the Golden Eagle. When I arrived at the cliffs beside Vaseux Lake, located between Okanagan Falls and Oliver, it didn't take long to spot a huge raptor soaring along the cliffs, carried by the thermals. It was a Golden Eagle! This bird, a juvenile, allowed me to take many photos including this one.

      Seeing such a majestic bird was an amazing experience! The setting, huge cliffs that have a high view of Vaseux Lake, combined with the Golden Eagle, was awesome. This photo was my favorite one out of the ones I took of the eagle. I really like the setting of the cliffs behind the bird, I feel they add a really dramatic effect!



Golden Eagle

Taken at at cliff boarding Vaseux Lake in the Southern Okanagan Valley of BC, Canada

Photo of the month for June 2014

 

Golden Eagle
 

  

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: July 1 2012

Photo of the month for: June 2014

Shutter Speed: 1/500

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 400

Exposure Bias: +2/3 EV

Flash: not used  

 

I took this photo on a pelagic birding trip to Triangle Island, off the tip of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

Triangle Island and the surrounding Scott Islands are a home to millions of nesting seabirds including Tufted Puffins, BC's only breeding Horned Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murre, and more. The water around the island also support many other bird species and marine life. The area is one of the hardest places to reach in BC because the seas are so rough. We got really lucky and got a beautiful day. Seas were 2-3 metres offshore (as small as they get), the sun was out, and there was not fog. It was one of the few ever successful attempts to make it out the island.

It was an amazing trip. Thank you to captain Bill Mackay and his wife Donna for safely getting us out to the island and back aboard the Naiad Explorer.

Rhinoceros Auklets were a very common bird everywhere, from the harbor areas to way far offshore. I find them to be a difficult bird to photograph in general, so I was really happy to get these sharp flight pictures.

To read the full trip report and for more photos, go to this link.


Rhinoceros Auklet in flight

Taken in offshore in the Scott Islands, BC in April 2014.

Photo of the month for May 2014

Rhinoceros Auklet in flight
 

 

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: April 25 2014

Photo of the month for: May 2014

Shutter Speed: 1/2000

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 640

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: not used  

 

      On November 30, I went to Harrison Mills, BC. Why? I went to see one of the most amazing spectacles the Earth has to offer: the annual gathering of Bald Eagles on the Chehalis Flats in Harrison Mills. This gathering is the largest gathering in the world of Bald Eagles. In 2010, over 7000 were counted in one day, and it is likely that closer to 10,000 are in the area at the peak of the gathering.

      What controls the gathering? The salmon. Every year, salmon spawn up the Fraser River. Thousands of salmon eventually reach the Harrison River, which is bordered by a huge expanse of mudflats called the Chehalis Flats. The salmon lay their eggs in the river, and then die. The dead salmon get washed up to shore, which is what attracts all the eagles. The more salmon that spawn and die, the more eagles. As more salmon die and it gets colder up north (forcing the eagles south), the numbers of Bald Eagles increases. The peak of the gathering is in late November and early December.

      Not only does this area have the largest gathering of Bald Eagles in the world, but it also has other titles. The Harrison River is the best (healthiest) salmon river in all of Canada. This area also has the last untouched (unlogged) forest in the Vancouver area.

      When I visited, we spent lots of time viewing the eagles from land, but in addition to that I also did a boat tour of the river. It was an amazing day! In total I would say that I saw about 3000 Bald Eagles. This photo was taken from an observation deck next to the mudflats that are beside the river. These two eagles had both found a salmon that they wanted, and began to fight over it until it was all ripped up!


Bald Eagle tug-of-war

Taken in Harrison Mills, BC in November 2013.

Photo of the month for April 2014

  

Bald Eagle tug-of-war
 

 

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: November 30 2013

Photo of the month for: April 2014

Shutter Speed: 1/200

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 640

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: not used  

 

     On December 26 2013, I had a great day of birding with Hawai'i Forest and Trail, a company that took me and a few other people out in search of the native forest birds on Hawai'i, found nowhere else in the world. It had been a great day: with the exception of the 'Akiapola'au, we had seen all the target species such as Palila, 'I'iwi, and Hawai'i 'Elepaio.

     We now just had one bird left to find. So far, the endangered 'Akiapola'au had eluded us. We had covered a large area of Koa forest, and had no luck. No 'Akiapola'au had even called. The plan now was to head out of the Koa patch we were in and to try a new patch, so that is what we did. We walked for a while through the Koa patch we were in, heading for the next patch. Before we got close to the other patch, we stopped for a Hawai'i 'Amakihi feeding above us. As we watched the 'Amakihi, we heard a call. It was very close. Nobody knew what it was, though. Then, all of a sudden, a yellow bird landed very close to the 'Amakihi and also close to us. Even without any binoculars, you could see that it was a much brighter shade of yellow. It was a beautiful male 'Akiapola'au! We watched it for a while as it fed above us. The 'Akiapola'au has a very unique bill adaptation. When feeding, the 'Akiapola'au takes its lower bill and uses it as a chisel to dig a little hole into the bark of a Koa tree. The bird then uses its upper bill as hook and reaches into the hole to pull out food. It was amazing watching a beautiful endangered bird, the 'Akiapola'au.


'Akiapola'au

Taken on Pu'u O'o Trail on the Big Island in the Hawaiian Islands in December 2013.

Photo of the month for February 2014

 

'Akiapola'au
 

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: December 26 2013

Photo of the month for: February 2014

Shutter Speed: 1/640

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 500

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: not used  

 

    The 'I'iwi is the last surviving member of the curve-billed honeycreeper family endemic to Hawaii. It is not listed as endangered state-wide, but it is endangered on O'ahu and Moloka'i and is no longer found on Lana'i. The I'iwi is one of the most beautiful endemics, but like all, is very hard to photograph.

     This is one of my favorite photos of the trip, and from 2013.. The I'iwi usually feeds and moves around high up in the canopy and never stops moving, making it difficult to see, let alone photograph. In fact, I have never encountered birds in my life as hard to photograph as the Hawaiian honeycreeper family. With this in mind, you can manage my awe when this I'iwi decided to land and on Koa branch very close to me, and near eye-level. It was amazing!


'I'iwi

Taken on Pu'u O'o Trail on the Big Island in the Hawaiian Islands in December 2013.

Photo of the Month for January 2014.


'I'iwi
 


Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: December 26 2013

Photo of the month for: January 2014

Shutter Speed: 1/400

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 500

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: not used 

 

On October 13 2013, I went to White Rock, BC, to try to find a rare bird that had been seen: a Black-necked Stilt. I managed some great photos of the stilt and also another uncommon bird for the area, a Willet. After a while with them, I went to an area fifteen minutes away called Blackie Spit.

At Blackie Spit, there was a beautiful late afternoon light. I walked out to the end of the spit, but nothing special was around. As I walked back, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. Two Pectoral Sandpipers were feeding in a marshy area beside me. I set up, getting as low as I could without the grass being in the way. For a while I took photos of the two birds as they fed in the late afternoon light, and I managed some great shots. My other Pectoral Sandpiper photos have been of birds on mudflats, so it was nice to get a chance to photograph them in a different habitat.


Pectoral Sandpiper

Blackie Spit, Surrey, BC, Canada

Photo of the month for November 2013 


Pectoral Sandpiper
 


Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: October 13 2013

Photo of the month for: November 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/320

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 200

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: not used

 

Motmots are one of my favorite birds, ever since I saw my first one in Mexico in December 2012. On my Costa Rica trip, I saw three species of motmot. These were the Blue-crowned Motmot, the Rufous Motmot, and the Turquoise-browed Motmot. I photographed all of these, but the best experiences and the nicest shots went with the Blue-crowned and Turquoise-browed Motmots. All the motmots are such incredible birds though! I saw the Turquoise-browed Motmot on the banks of the Tarcoles River on the pacific coast and I saw the Blue-crowned Motmot at Rancho Naturalista lodge on the Caribbean slope. Here is a shot of the Turquoise-browed Motmot:


 Turquoise-browed Motmot

Tarcoles, Costa Rica

Photo of the month for October 2013

Image 

 


Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: July 3 2013

Photo of the month for: October 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/400

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 640

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: not used


 


On my birding trip to Costa Rica in late June and July, pretty much the biggest target and hoped-for bird was the Resplendent Quetzal, a beautiful trogon of the highlands. To find this bird, I visited the Cerro De La Muerte region of Costa Rica. Cerro De La Muerte means mountain of death, but the incredible birds and scenery of this region made it seem more like the mountain of life.

The easiest time to see quetzals in Costa Rica is during the breeding season when they are very plentiful and much less shy than at other times of the year. Early July when I was looking for the quetzals is not during their breeding season so they are harder to find.

The road that goes through the Cerro De La Muerte region divides the Pacific side and the Caribbean side of the country. The lodge that I was staying at in this region was called Paraiso Del Quetzals (Quetzal Paradise), and it was on the pacific side. During the breeding season the lodge is really quetzal paradise. During most of the other times of year though, the avocados that the quetzals eat get too small around the lodge and the quetzals move to other areas.

One spot that the quetzals go to is on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, ten kilometers from the lodge on the opposite side of the road. This spot is a small farm town with lots of fields and a tiny house or shack here and there. Surrounding the town however is forest that is full of the avocados that the quetzals love. 

Paraiso Del Quetzals lodge where I was staying runs a tour to this area to try to find the quetzals. I went on the tour, and we walked up and down the hills over and over with no luck. The elevation is at about 3000 meters, and even at that elevation it gets hard to breath if you exert yourself. So walking up and down these slopes everybody was out of breath and everybody's muscles where burning. Eventually someone living in the farm town came out of his home on the farm and called to our guide. The guide said that they had spotted a quetzal in a tree. So we walked up the slope once more and just as we got to the top the quetzal flew out of the tree, over our heads into the forest.

For a first look at this bird, I was really blown away. In flight, you see the really long tail and the beautiful red and green colours. Unfortunately we couldn't relocate the bird so we eventually headed back to the lodge.

I was heading to a new site a couple hours away later in the day, so after lunch after checking out of the lodge I headed out and stopped at the farm town once again. It was the peak of afternoon which our guide said is the worst time for the quetzals, but we decided to give a "quetzal search" a go anyways.

As I got out of the car, I saw a man coming out of his home. I had been in Costa Rica long enough by now to know something: the locals know best. Even though I don't know any Spanish and I knew the man wouldn't know any English, I went up to him and said, "Quetzals?". He didn't know what I was talking about, so I played a recording of the Resplendent Quetzal and he said "ahh, Quetzaall!" He then started talking to us in Spanish and pointed to a bunch of different places. After saying "gracias" (thank you in Spanish) I decided to head in the direction of the way he pointed most often. I walked up the path and found a barbed wire fence that wasn't there in the morning. I went back down, and this time he motioned for us to follow him. He undid the barbed wire and took us up to the forest. We walked through the forest (and remember, we are at 3000 meters and there are no trails in the forest) for a long time and he checked all the avocado trees for quetzals. I was getting really tired, but then he started taking us down a slope into a clearing. After an hour and a half of walking with no trails through the forest at 3000 meters with thin air, he pointed into a tree, an there it was: a beautiful male Resplendent Quetzal feeding on avocados.

It is such an incredible bird, and it was a dream come true getting to see one. Probably the best experience and moment of the trip!


 Resplendent Quetzal

Cerro de la Muerte, Costa Rica

Photo of the month for September 2013

Resplendent Quetzal (male)
 


Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: July 6 2013

Photo of the month for: September 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/250

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 640

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: not used

 

    
The Black-and-white Owl is a nightly visitor at the lodge I was staying at in the Tarcoles area on the pacific coast of Costa Rica. The lodge is called Cerro Lodge, and man do they have great service! I knew that the owl comes nightly to the lodge, but I didn't know where or when it usually comes. Until the evening there was no one at the lodge who spoke English, but through google translate, I managed to have a conversation with the workers at the lodge. They showed me where the owl comes and told me when it usually comes. They said that if we want the night guard could come and get us anytime during the night if he saw the owl. We agreed, but that night the owl should up just before eight, so I got the owl and a full sleep.

Great service! This is the first owl I have seen at night. 


Black-and-white Owl
Cerro Lodge, Costa Rica

Photo of the month for August 2013

Black-and-white Owl
 


Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: July 3 2013

Photo of the month for: August 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/15

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 1000

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: I didn't use a flash here, I would signal the night guard when to turn on his light, he would turn it on, I would take a pic, an he would turn it off. Similar to a flash though.

   

 

       On my recent trip to Costa Rica in late June and early July, I saw over twenty species of hummingbirds. The hummingbird featured as the photo of the month for July 2013 is the Green-breasted Mango. I saw this species at only one location on the trip, but at that location, it was very common. Despite the fact of it being common, it was still such an amazing hummingbird to see.

       I took many photos of the Green-breasted Mango hummingbirds at Rancho Naturalista Lodge in Costa Rica where I took this photo, and many, including this one of a male, stood out.


Green-breasted Mango
Rancho Naturalista Lodge, Costa Rica

Photo of the month for July 2013

Green-breasted Mango (male)
 

 

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: July 7 2013

Photo of the month for: July 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/250

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 250

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: On, Fired

  

 

      For the photo of the month for June 2013, I decided to feature a this photo of a White-faced Ibis. The White-faced Ibis is a bird that is found across the western side of the US down to Mexico, and also found in the southern half of South America. I decided to feature this photo for a couple reasons. First, I really like this photo, and second, starting in late June and ending in early July, I will be going to a country were there a lots of tropical birds. Even though the White-faced Ibis isn't fully tropical and isn't found in that country, many other awesome species of birds can be found.

       This photo was taken in Nuevo Vallarta on the pacific coast of Mexico. At the hotel I was staying at there were many birds, and this Ibis had come up onto the grass near a pond, and it provided some great shots.


White-faced Ibis
Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Photo of the month for June 2013

White-faced Ibis (juvenile)
 

 

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: December 21 2013

Photo of the month for: June 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/2000

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 640

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: Not used

 


     
     Every year, a pair of Sandhill Cranes nest at the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Ladner, BC. Last year, 2012, I went out to see the chick when it was only three or four days old.

     Because these birds are very protective of their chick, the area where the birds nest is closed off at this time of year. There is a spot, however, where people can look over a fence and watch the family of cranes feeding, sleeping, and doing other things.

     When I arrived at this spot, the cranes where not in sight. But only a few minutes later, they came out from behind some bushes, and walked right by their awed viewers. The male and the female positioned their chick in between them for protection, and we all got to watch the chick being fed. It was amazing!


Sandhill Crane family

George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Ladner, BC, Canada

Photo of the month for May 2013


Sandhill Cranes
 

 

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: May 22 2012

Photo of the month for: May 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/500

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 320

Exposure Bias: +2 EV

Flash: Not used

 

 

        It's late afternoon, and I am on the mudflats at Boundary Bay. I watch the mud for shorebirds, my target bird family for the day, but I don't have much luck. I walk more, but still I don't see anything.

       All of a sudden, I see something moving. Then two things. They are camouflaged so well, so I can barely make them out against the mudflats. I finally get my camera on them. There they are: two beautiful Pectoral Sandpipers.

       It's time for operation mud crawl. I get down on my knees, and, with my camera, I begin to creep up on  the Pectoral Sandpipers. After a few minutes, I settle down, and begin photographing the relaxed birds. I spend a few more minutes with them, before creeping back some distance as to not disturb them.

       I check the photos on my camera. Yes! It has been a life-long dream of mine to get good shorebird photos, and now I have made part of the dream come true.



Pectoral Sandpipers

Boundary Bay, BC, Canada

Photo of the month for April 2013


Pectoral Sandpipers
 


Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: September 30 2012

Photo of the month for: April 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/640

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 250

Exposure Bias: 0 EV

Flash: Not used


      It's the afternoon, and I am getting into a dinghy, which is similar to a canoe or kayak. The sun is shining, and as I push off, I survey the water. I don't see much, so I paddle out and look around again. A small bird on the water catches my eye. A Pigeon Guillemot. Slowly, I begin to move towards it. I angle myself so the sun is shining on the guillemot, providing nice light. 

    I'm still approaching the bird, but the current is strong, so I have to make sure I don't get pushed away. I continue to move closer, and point my camera at the bird. The beautiful Pigeon Guillemot dives. I wait. A minute later, the bird surfaces up much closer to the dinghy. I settle as low down as possible in the dinghy, and take photos. The Pigeon Guillemot has a fish struggling to get free, so there is action.


Pigeon Guillemot

Deep Cove, British Columbia, Canada.

Photo of the month for March 2013


 

Camera: Canon EOS 60D

Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Date taken: July 12 2012

Photo of the month for: March 2013

Shutter Speed: 1/1000

Aperture: f/5.6

Focal Length: 400mm

ISO: 320

Exposure Bias: +2/3 EV

Flash: Not used