April goulash

 

This is a collection of April’s images that were not featured in a posting of their own. As spring rolls in, many new species appear, or change their behaviours.

Early in the month, Trumpeter Swans were seen floating and sleeping on the Lake. The next day, they were gone.

The Columbian ground squirrel re-emerged mid-month.

With spring, the Northern Flicker seems to have a compulsion to carve cavities, whether a new one is needed or not.

Ospreys have returned.

Loons are back on the Lake. Within weeks they will head to the smaller mountain lakes to breed.

A female Brewer’s Blackbird turned up and vanished again.

Sensitivity demands that I not explain what is going on here.

The glacier lily apparently gains its name because it favours the moist ground next to snow melt. This one was in the moist soil near a cataract.

 

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Mountain Bluebirds

 

After a week or so’s absence, Mountain Bluebirds reappeared at Kokanee Creek Park. While they do breed around here, I suspect that the departures have to do with those birds that were stopping by on their way to breed farther north. Mountain Bluebirds are the more common of our two bluebird species. The other one is the Western Bluebird.

A female Mountain Bluebird eyes the grasslands as it hunts from a red-osier shrub.

A male Mountain Bluebird similarly eyes the ground for comestibles. He proves successful.

The male descends to the ground and returns with a grub (my first recording of such a capture).

 

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Cute fly

 

To suggest that a fly is cute certainly has to be a matter of taste. However, the Bombylius major does look like a child’s cuddly toy. Not only that, it is an effective pollinator as it goes around from flower to flower sipping nectar. Indeed, this little fly is one of the first pollinators of springtime.

However, this tiny bee fly has a dark side: Its offspring are parasites of solitary-bee larvae. For a short time before a solitary bee seals the entrance to the nest containing its eggs, the Bombylius major flips its own eggs in there. When the bombylius larvae emerge, they first feed on provisions meant for the bee larvae and then they eat the bee larvae themselves. Bombylius has only a short time in the spring to give its offspring this opportunity.

A Bombylius major sips nectar from a Pieris japonica. Its long legs and proboscis enable it to stay well back from the flower, probably as a way to avoid the attack of a crab spider.

 

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Crossbill feeding chick

 

There are many species that pass through our region. Some breed and raise their young here; many are tourists that only pause for a while, feed, and move on. Sometimes it is difficult to tell who was hatched and raised young locally and who was not.

Today, I observed (what others undoubtedly already knew) that the Red Crossbill raises its chicks beside the Lake.

A female Red Crossbill eyes one of its chicks.

The parent prepares to feed. Note: this freshly fledged chick has yet to develop its crossed bill.

It then feeds its chick.

 

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Turkey Vultures

 

Turkey Vultures return in mid-March, but these seen yesterday were the first I had noticed.

Three of five Turkey Vulture were captured in one shot as they soared on high. They are recognizable, even from a distance, by the way they hold their wings in a shallow V.

One then descended for a closer look, but soon left. Apparently, it decided that I was in an insufficiently advanced state of decay.

 

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Antler buds

 

Antlers are grown afresh each year, and, for white-tailed deer, April is the month for bucks to start that growth. 

Today, some white-tailed bucks stopped by in the rain, and as they tipped their heads down to graze, they revealed their antler buds.

A young buck shows the beginning of antler buds just above its eyes.

A slightly older buck shows what may well be the beginnings of some misshapen antlers.

 

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Geese: tender, combative

 

This is the mating season for geese (as it is for many other species). The implication is that there will be great attentiveness and tenderness between mates. However, along with this goes protectiveness. When another male wishes to possess your girl, you fight.

A moment of tenderness between Canada Geese: female, left; male, right.

Two male geese do aerial combat over a female. The defender, biting the aggressor, won.

 

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First osprey

 

This is the first osprey that I have seen this year. However, Patricia Bambrick saw one at the beginning of last week in Crescent Valley, and Lorraine Symmes saw this same one yesterday on the North Arm. Indeed, it was her sighting that prompted me to take this picture.

Ospreys begin arriving in April (the males come first) and will stay, breed, and raise their chicks for the next half year.

My first osprey of 2019.

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Shrike strikes

 

The shrike is an unusual songbird: it behaves as if it thinks it is a raptor. This behaviour has earned it the nickname of the butcher bird. 

The Northern Shrike is an uncommon winter resident here, but there is a small uptick in numbers in April as birds that wintered to our south move north to breed in the arctic. Yesterday, I watched a shrike with a captured rodent at Kokanee Creek Park.

The Northern Shrike has a hooked bill, but it lacks the raptor’s claws to grasp its prey.

After watching its surroundings for a while, the shrike flew down to the ground and returned to a tree with a rodent. But, what was the prey: a mouse, a vole, a shrew? I cannot tell as its head was never seen.

Very quickly the Northern Shrike left its temporary perch and carried its prey off into the brush. It was probably searching for a thorn on which to impale its victim. That is a way the shrike holds its meal in place as it uses its hooked bill to tear the prey apart to eat a piece at a time. 

 

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Downy foraging

 

A downy, our smallest woodpecker, was flying from one tree to the next looking for things to eat, such as beetle grubs under the bark.

The Downy Woodpecker makes a visual inspection of a tree branch.

It also puts its ear to the bark to listen for the sounds of chewing within. By turning its head in this way, the downy nicely shows its the red patch on the back of its head, indicating that it is a male.

It then flew to the next tree and repeated the process.

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