Tiny Brown Birds

Tiny Brown Birds
by Heather Harbord, 14
January 2017.

Eight members joined Clyde at 8am on Saturday for the Tiny Brown Birds trip.  After carpooling from town, we drove to the Lang Creek Hatchery, crossed the road and walked among the prime TBB habitat.

At the start, Clyde explained how carefully and quietly we should move to avoid scaring the birds.  Unfortunately, the sun went behind a cloud and it was very cold so only a few Towhees and Ruby-crowned Kinglets cooperated.  At the Hatchery, we saw a Pacific Wren beside the creek where the Dippers are often found at this time of year.

Next stop was Michael Stewart’s feeders which were much more fruitful for our purpose.  Hidden inside her house, after a slow start we enjoyed prime views of seven birds on Heather’s hand-out of TBBs plus several Anna’s Hummingbirds which sat on twigs to display their black throats and shocking pink and orange lapels, an iridescence caused by the way light hits microscopic barbules in their colourless feathers. Oregon Juncos were the commonest birds.  The red squirrel-proof feeder had both male and female House Finches on one side and Purple Finches on the other often interrupted by Spotted Towhees and Juncos.  Clyde showed us how to distinguish between them.

Both Song and Fox Sparrows put in brief appearances and also demonstrated Clyde’s distinctions.  We were grateful to him for sharing his vast knowledge of birds and their behaviours and setting us on track to become more competent birders.  The area has potential for a birding or tree frog field trip in the spring when the weather should be more clement.

Note: Apart from leading the trip, Clyde and Heather have produced a really useful “mini-field guide” to some of our local TBBs…you can get it here.

Art Martell – “An Abundance of Gulls”

Art Martell – “An Abundance of Gulls”
by Andrew Bryant, 
17 March 2016

Dr. Art Martell worked for decades as a research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, publishing numerous papers on caribou, small mammals, ticks, birds and other creatures. Now retired to the Comox Valley, Art visited us to provide an introduction to the diversity and characteristics of gulls found in the Salish Sea.  The photos above show our more common species.

Once one accepts that “there’s no such thing as a seagull”, it soon becomes apparent that identifying gulls is tricky – and becoming good at it takes work.

Starting with the basics, Art began by “narrowing down the field”, noting that of the 25 or so species which have been found here, only 8 are commonly encountered.  Much can be quickly learned from the general size, shape and “gestalt” or “jizz” of the bird.  Is it small, with a delicate, even dainty flight pattern?  Is it medium gray, or is it distinctly paler than others in the flock?  Much more can be determined by learning the common ones first, and then determining what a given bird is not!

 A handy gull ID chart can be found here.  Like anything else, but especially with gulls…practice is good!  

Art’s complete talk is below (note that you can enlarge slides to full-screen, and go backwards or forwards at will – hover over the 1st slide to see the controls).

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