Juvenile Turkey Vulture


This is the time to see a variety of juvenile birds flying around. They are as large as adults and they haven’t migrated yet. Further, they often look different from the adults. And, they are sometimes different in other ways.

The Turkey Vulture is one of those migrants. We have it from mid-March to mid-October when it breeds here. The juveniles look a bit different from the adults. 

First, a picture of an adult taken a few weeks ago. It has a red head and half of its bill is ivory.

Yesterday’s juvenile has a dark grey head and beak. This gradually shifts to adult colours over the course of a year or so. There are some other differences, but this will do for now.

I try not to disturb animals. Most of the time, when I am spotted, the animal just leaves. But there is another behaviour that seems confined to fresh juveniles: curiosity. On this occasion, I was quite visible as I was walking on the beach. A juvenile Turkey Vulture flew by overhead and on spotting me, it came down for a closer look. It then flew by repeatedly — maybe a half-dozen times. I have noticed this same curiosity with a few other fresh juveniles. 


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Scarce migrants


We have many ground-feeding birds and many migrants, but some are rather uncommon. I encountered two of them yesterday: a Horned Lark and a Lapland Longspur.

Mind you, I strikingly misinterpreted them initially. As the longspur often kept rather close company with the lark I suspected that each was a mated pair of only one species. Alas no, two different species. Indeed, there are mentions of this behaviour on some bird sites and even some pictures on blogs showing them together, sometimes accompanied by Snow Buntings.

As each bird is uncommon around the Lake, the sight of the two of them together, can be viewed as — well, rather small.

In a flock of perhaps a dozen birds, a striking feature was that they often appeared in pairs. Here the Horned Lark is at the back, and the Lapland Longspur is in front.

Another pair has been feeding together on the ground, when the longspur flew off.


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Osprey family


It is September, but some Osprey families have yet to separate. Soon the adults will migrate leaving only the juveniles (white-flecked wings, orangish eyes) to linger a little longer before going. This will be one of the final meals together for this family.


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Red-necked Phalarope


A juvenile Red-necked Phalarope visited the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.

This shorebird summers and breeds in the Canadian Arctic and it winters in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador and Peru. To get from one place to the other, it migrates, but its routes rarely have taken it close to Kootenay Lake. 

Here was a juvenile and it hung around as long as three of us were prepared to watch.

A juvenile Red-necked Phalarope swims a bit east of the Harrop Ferry.


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August’s goulash


This is a collection of August’s pictures that lacked a posting of their own. 

This strange looking bird is just a juvenile Robin.

Wintering in the Amazon, this Red-eyed Vireo is near the limit of its summer range. The red eye does not appear until after the first year.

It is always pleasant to see a Robin with a mouthful of worms.

This cluster of millimetre-sized eggs was on the beach in a deer’s footprint. They lasted for a few days until something ate them. But, what would have they become?

A eight-spotted skimmer (dragonfly) is a common feature of a summer’s day.

The ubiquitous red squirrel is a noisy character. It lives among us, but regularly complains about our presence. This one is chewing me out for walking beside my home.

A juvenile Great Blue Heron is not only catching minnows, it is also objecting to being watched. The hint is the wag of its tail which was rapidly moved back and forth. It kept this up for a few fish catches but finally ignored my presence and just went about its business.

I do not know what this Loon is saying with this display. Sometimes this means go away, but I was distant and probably unnoticed.

Here is an Osprey carrying sticks and brush. But it is the end of August, so there is no nest to be built. Up until now, it has brought fish to its nest for the chicks, but now it is trying to persuade its chicks to get out and catch fish on their own for it soon will migrate. The sticks are a message that says “the molly-codling is over”.

I rarely am this close to a Turkey Vulture.

From toad amplexus at the beginning of July, through eggs, to tadpoles, and now toadlets, this tiny fellow was migrating across the beach.

It is late August and the ghost pipe (previously listed as Indian pipe) is starting to turn black.

My favourite picture of August, was this White-tailed Deer cautiously looking out of a field of overgrown grass.


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Busy soarers


The creeks are awash with kokanee salmon that have come to spawn and die. Many species gather to feast upon kokanee. I will feature only three that we see soaring over the creeks as they eye the fish.

Only big birds soar. For a bird to soar, it needs a fairly large lift-to-drag ratio, which means that it, too, has to be large. I watched an Osprey, a Bald Eagle, and a Turkey Vulture. (While only big birds can soar, only small birds can hover.)

The kokanee salmon gather in the local creeks to spawn.

The Osprey will pick off the local living fish as they arrive, but don’t eat the dead ones.

The Bald Eagle will happily eat either living or dead fish.

The Turkey Vulture specializes in eating just the dead fish.


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Yellow-headed Blackbird


Over a decade ago, I saw my first Yellow-headed Blackbird. It was a male and here it is again. It was on the Creston Flats at the south side of Duck Lake. Except for one other occasion, that is all I have seen of it until today.

This morning, I saw a female at Kokanee Creek Park. Park Naturalist, Joanne Siderius, says that once she saw a male on the grasslands by the beach, and another time she saw a female. That is it. These birds winter in Mexico and apparently come here only occasionally. Here is this morning’s visitor.


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Bear cub


Underscoring the frequency of black bears in the valley this summer was the appearance of a first-year cub. It was the second bear to come along, but it walked right up to me, while I was sitting beside the Lake, before it realized that I was there. I snapped its picture with my phone just at the moment it looked up and said to itself: oops. 


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Lewis’s Woodpecker


In the southeastern portion of the province for a few months in the summertime, one gets a small population of a strange bird. A few Lewis’s Woodpeckers have arrived to breed.

The Lewis’s Woodpecker lives year-round in the southwestern US, but come summer, a small number head far north to breed here. In years of birding, I have only seen it here twice and on those occasions, it was high in trees a long way off. This year, I discovered a small population, and visited it repeatedly with my grandson, Finn. As before, it was high in trees and was significantly difficult to photograph. 

Underscoring the oddness of this bird, All About Birds says: “The Lewis’s Woodpecker might have woodpecker in its name, but it forages like a flycatcher and flies like a crow. It has a color palette all its own, with a pink belly, gray collar, and dark green back unlike any other member of its family. From bare branches and posts, it grabs insects in midair, flying with slow and deep wingbeats.”  

The adult Lewis’s Woodpecker has a pinkish face and belly.

Its back and wings have a dark (greenish) sheen. There is a greyish band around its neck.

It would spend a great deal of time in snags, both flying out to catch bypassing insects and looking for insects in the wood. Picture by Finn Grathwol.

The reddish colour is missing from the juveniles.

The most spectacular picture of it flying after insects was captured by Finn.


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Osprey and eagle


The ospreys have three chicks. And for the longest time, that was all there was to say. Then, a year-old eagle got involved and things quickly got interesting. 

So, let’s start at the end. What was a juvenile eagle doing with its claws up as it falls from the sky? Photo by Cynthia Fraser.

The day started with a visit to an Osprey nest with its three chicks.

Nothing much happened, so we left to do other things. When we returned there were two adults (and one visible chick) in the nest. The adult on the right is the (larger) female. Still nothing was going on, so we left just before the time things got interesting. Apparently, a juvenile eagle then came by and attacked the nest, whereupon the female took to the air to defend the homestead.

Now the osprey and the eagle were all over the sky with the eagle chasing the osprey. Here are the participants: the osprey,

and the juvenile Bald Eagle. The chase went on for maybe ten minutes with the two of them rarely close enough to be in the same picture.

At one point, the eagle became aware that it was about to be attacked from above.

The osprey was diving on his back with its feet deployed. The eagle did a barrel role and brought its feet out to defend itself, but in that position it was falling. Near the lake, it righted itself and flew off, it having lost the battle with a smaller but more skilful bird. Photo by Cynthia Fraser.


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