Heron’s good minute


I have sought shots such as these for years. 

It is surprising that in all the time I have spent watching the Great Blue Heron hunt for fish, I had not seen it catch and eat one (although, I had seen one catch a vole). In under a minute yesterday morning, I watched a heron alight, catch a fish, and swallow it. That one meal might sate it for days. 

I had wandered out with my camera to watch a kingfisher, but that delight was quickly eclipsed when a juvenile heron landed in front of me and immediately reached for something in the shallows.

It retrieved a Large-scale Sucker. However, the fish, being athwart the bill, was not aligned for swallowing.

So, the fish was dropped and picked up again near the head. The imbalance caused the body of the fish to rotate more in line with the heron’s bill. 

That being done, the whole fish quickly vanished down the gullet.

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August goulash


In this posting, the fridge is scoured and eight leftovers are added to a goulash.

A Columbian Ground Squirrel looks regal as it surveys its domain. 

A Great Blue Heron looks like a pterodactyl as it balances in a tree.

A female Common Whitetail Dragonfly hunts from a twig.

A male Common Whitetail Dragonfly rests on a path.

And a male White-tailed Deer stares into the camera.

The Audubon’s Warbler is a subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Darners mate.

A dipper peeks in the water of a creek for something to eat.

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The redfish (Kokanee, which are landlocked Sockeye Salmon) are spawning again. Crowds of people have gathered to watch them; a Black Bear helps himself to the fish; mallards await the tasty eggs; gulls stand by, and ravens gorge on fish. Despite the fact that a cornucopia is available, there can be acrimony among these predators.

So it was that I watched a subadult eagle steal a fish from some ravens. The irony is that a recent posting showed a raven trying unsuccessfully to take a fish from an eagle. Now, this posting shows an eagle stealing one from ravens. 

The Kokanee have crowded the stream as the males compete for females.

A small unkindness of ravens is gathering to consume one of the fish.

Overhead, a sub-adult Bald Eagle spots them and sees an opportunity.

Swooping down, it steals the fish, now clutched in its claws, from the ravens.

The ravens scatter amid vociferous complaints.

There is nothing the ravens can do about it except whine as the eagle flies off with its prize.

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Loon feasting


Photographing loons can be a challenge. The birds tend to avoid people and stay well offshore in deep water. Nevertheless, over the years, I have accrued some close views and even some of loons on nests and others swimming with chicks. But, I have never managed good shots of a loon eating a fish. Given the amount of time a loon spends fishing, this is a bit unexpected. 

Saturday, I watched a loon down a fish. As usual, the loon was far offshore, so the pictures are so-so, but they were fun to get.

Following a dive, a loon surfaced with a rather large fish in its bill. As the loon cannot tear it apart, the fish must be aligned with the bill so that it can be swallowed whole. As the loon tried to manoeuvre the fish, it was dropped a few times and had to be recaptured. 

It took more than a minute for the loon to get the fish properly aligned, but once done, the head tipped back and the whole fish quickly vanished down the gullet. 

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Kootenay Park, Texas


About a month ago, a friend from Texas stopped by for a visit. He has just written me to say: “Of course, here in Texas, there is nothing to compare with the Kootenays…” then added:

If the Kootenays were in Texas it would be declared a National Park.

Kootenay Lake: not a Texan park

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Peeps in transit


When I spotted five little sandpipers along the muddy outwash of a creek, I knew that they were not our local staple, the Spotted Sandpiper. It was only when I shared pictures with other birders that I learned that I had seen peeps.

In North America, there are only three species of peeps: Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper. I had just seen the last two together. Seeing these birds was unexpected as they breed far to the north and winter far to the south. During their long migrations, a few may stop briefly and feed.

The five peeps were all over the place as they foraged and it was difficult to get more than one in any picture, but here is a shot showing the two species. The Semipalmated Sandpiper is on the left and the Least Sandpiper is on the right. At first glance, I had thought they were all the same species; peeps are difficult to tell apart.

The Least Sandpiper is more colourful, has a longer bill, yellowish-green legs, and no webbing between the toes.

The Semipalmated Sandpiper is less colourful, has a short, blunt bill, dark legs, and partial webbing between the toes (after which it is named).

When a comestible was found, it was quickly eaten, so catching a grub still in the bill of this Least was lucky.

South America is a long way away and we are off again.


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Eagle, fish, raven


This is a saga of an eagle (two-year old Bald), a fish (refused to offer ID), and a raven (bad guy of this piece).

“I don’t know why you are looking up at me. This is my fish and you cannot have it.”

“There are few pleasures greater than feasting on tasty fish guts.”

“However, here is the deal: I prefer to eat alone.”

“So, when an obnoxious Raven (surely a tautology) tried to intimidate me into sharing my fish, I demurred.”

“Raven, I am over three times your weight with a sharper bill and claws. I am unimpressed by your posturing.” 

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Osprey attacks heron


The first evidence I heard of the titanic battle was the repeated cries of a heron sounding the cacophony of a harassed soul.  

Far out onto the Lake, in the dim light of a driving rainstorm, two birds waged war. I knew at once that one bird was a heron, but thought that the other must have been an eagle (Did I mention the low light?). I grabbed my camera and managed only a few shaky hand-held shots. Only later when I looked at those flawed pictures did I realize that the aggressor was not an eagle, but an osprey. 

Why was the osprey harassing a heron? I have no idea. But the battle passed through a dozen or more swoops and banks by the osprey over a period of perhaps a minute or two. 

When first spotted, the cacophonous battle was taking place in the air over the Lake. It took me a moment or two to grab a camera and begin to record the final few encounters of this portion of the conflict. Here the osprey (top) is diving on the heron (bottom).

The heron was forced into the Lake, and the osprey repeatedly dived on it from above.

The osprey coursed back and forth, first attacking from one side and then wheeling and attacking from the other.

Each of these shots corresponds to a separate attack.

Perhaps the best view of an attack was the last one of an osprey with it claws out and the heron expressing horror at what was happening. In the end, the osprey gave up and moved on. Why did it happen? I don’t know.

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Cedar waxwing


The Cedar Waxwing is neither a common summer visitor nor a rare one. While I have taken shots of it before, this view shows the red waxy feather tips after which the bird is named.

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Heron leapfrog


It looked rather as if it were an avian version of leapfrog.

Two juvenile herons repeatedly shifted their foraging location along the shore. Yet, as they moved one at a time, and the second always flew past the first, in my imagination, theirs was a game of heron leapfrog.

Two pictures show different leaps. 

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