Bufflehead landing


Despite some range maps that suggest otherwise, the Bufflehead Duck is a winter resident of Kootenay Lake. It is also both our smallest and (some have asserted) our cutest duck. 

Curiously despite an initial assessment that the male plumage is strictly black and white, it can be surprisingly colourful. In some lightings, the black on its head becomes iridescent. See pictures in a CBC trifling, and fetching birds. Indeed, even in the picture below, some green appears on an otherwise black neck. 

Are those characteristics the reason I have made this posting? Well, no. I just was captivated by this view of a male Bufflehead Duck landing on the water near the mouth of Kokanee Creek.

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Snow Goose


It is not that the Snow Goose is rare. In the right place, such as along a migration route from the Arctic coast to the US and Mexico, the abundance of Snow Geese can saturate one’s eyes and ears. There is a migration route along the BC coast where the numbers can be sufficient to dull the senses. 

Around here, a migrating Snow Goose is really uncommon. It gets reported now and then, probably only because it wandered far off course. 

Consequently, when yesterday I was watching our local aves non grata, I was surprised to see a stranger in their midst. It was an immature Snow Goose, the first such bird I had seen here.

This first picture could not have been taken around Kootenay Lake. It is a view of Snow Geese taken along the coastal migration route (in Ladner, BC) a few winters ago. I leave the cacophony to the imagination.

Yesterday, I saw my first local Snow Goose as it hung out with a few dozen Canada Geese.

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Pileated eats rowan


I only manage to spot a Pileated Woodpecker a few times a year, usually when it is probing for grubs, but sometimes when it is eating them. In the fall, I have seen it eat elderberries.

Yesterday was the first time I watched one feast on rowan berries. (It is difficult enough getting a shot of any backlit bird deep inside a tree’s canopy, so the feeding was a bonus.) 

A female Pileated Woodpecker picks a rowan berry and eats it.

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Sodden grouse


Birds do not have expressive faces, so normally one has to judge their thoughts by their actions. However, there is an occasion when a bird gives the appearance of being downright miserable. (Two pictures, below.)

A Roughed Grouse was spotted perched in a tree as it waited out an interminable downpour.

With sodden and matted feathers, the grouse looked as if it were miserable.

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The kingfisher is restless when fishing and skittish when approached. So on the rare occasion when one is close, a picture is in order.

The kingfisher has been described as cute, probably because its oversized head and disheveled hair remind us of children.

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Carbon antlers


The title, carbon antlers, is easy to misread as caribou antlers. Yet, they are not real antlers, but a fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon, that grows on decaying wood. The common names, carbon antlers, stag’s antlers and candlestick fungus, come from the fruiting portion, which extends above the ground often in branched columns redolent of antlers or candlesticks.

Carbon antlers grow amongst moss. Although they don’t look carbon black now, they will turn so at a later stage.

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Kootenay Lake has three (semi?) aquatic mammals. By medium weight they are: the beaver (~ 23 kg), otter (~ 8 kg), and muskrat (~1.2 kg). 

It is difficult enough to obtain decent pictures of any of the three, but obtaining shots of each interacting with ice is distinctly less likely. So, when I realized that with last week’s picture of a muskrat, I had an example of each, I felt that it was worth a posting. 

How each mammal interacts with ice probably depends upon its weight and ice thickness, but my sample of pictures is too small to allow anything but anecdotal comments. 

The heaviest of our aquatic mammals, the beaver just plowed through the grease ice. (Jan. 16, 2015)

This otter is dealing with much thicker ice, but keeps the dive hole open by stirring the water even while apparently napping. (Dec. 27, 2013)

Weighing little more than a kilogram, this muskrat tried to break the freshly formed ice with its claw. Failing to do so, it then dived and swam underwater to the shore. (Nov. 4, 2015)

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Seasonal raptors


One of the interesting features of birds is how many of them change with the season.

Merely consider two raptors: the Osprey and the Rough-legged Hawk. These two species might well never meet. The osprey spends the summer here, but winters in Central America. The Rough-legged Hawk spends the winter here, but summers in the arctic tundra. Even if they were to overlap briefly, they occupy different local niches: the Osprey captures fish in the Lake and the Rough-legged Hawk captures rodents in fields.

In honour of the seasonal return of the Rough-legged, I show composite images of each bird as it flew past me.

This is a composite image of a single osprey flying past at the end of July.

And this is one of a Rough-legged Hawk seen earlier this week.

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Coyote’s delight


“Grasslands are vast; voles are abundant; sunlight is warm — life is good.”

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Frost patterns


This is the time of year to watch for patterns in frost. Viewing is best around sunrise following a clear night.

The patterns of frost, dew, and snow melt have been discussed other years (e.g., IR snow melt) and so explanations will not be repeated.

These are footprints on a sandy beach. The frost-covered ridges are colder than the valley floors.

The frost-covered lawn surrounding a small tree is colder than that under the tree.

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