February goulash


This is a collection of images from this February, none of which has had a posting of its own.

The Rough-legged Hawk is a winter resident that hunts for rodents. 

Our smallest falcon, the kestrel, hunts in open habitats.

I don’t have a bias that favours sighting birds. Yet, notwithstanding the skunk seen earlier, most of the creatures I see are avian. Hiding in the forest is a White-tailed Doe in its winter pelage.

This is one of two Ruffed Grouse that frequent my yard. 

A Bald Eagle added a branch to the pair’s nest. Eagles have a compulsion to add material each year, and sometimes this results in a nest so massive that it topples the tree.

The Song Sparrow is a common bird, but drabness renders it inconspicuous. It deserves to be celebrated now and then.

The robin is also common, yet has a greater cachet and so does not require the same acknowledgment as the Song Sparrow. Here are four robins in a larch.

This has been an really good winter for seeing Trumpeter Swans. Indeed, many pictures I have taken of them have just been discarded. Yet, I rather like this shot taken in the dim light of dawn.

This is a male goldfinch in non-breeding plumage. The black feathers on the finch’s head are a sign of pending spring as it moults into its breeding plumage of a black cap and a yellow body.

And this cutie is a female goldfinch.


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Bad-hair skunk


Being normally nocturnal, skunks are only rarely seen. Yet, when spotted, they usually seem well coiffured, not the unkempt creature I encountered yesterday.

A skunk stopped by for a visit.

But as it wandered off, it looked as if it were suffering a bad-hair day.


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Stuck cat


This blog does not usually concern itself with domestic animals, but this seemed special: a stuck cat. It was beside the highway and high on some utility cables about a third of the way between the poles. Presumably it had been chased up a pole.

The cat has now been there for over three hours, during which time, it has moved no more than a couple of centimetres. Below it, the berm to the road is quite narrow, so the cat will be difficult to rescue. Indeed, someone watching the cat got stuck, and now that person needs to be rescued. Then, that person’s rescuer got stuck. The cat continued to sit on the cables watching the cascade of getting stuck.

The story is ongoing.

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Whinging gander


The whinging gander was frustrated. He nagged his mate for access, but she was having none of it: “It is not even spring yet, and I am just not in the mood.”

“Oh come on, you know you are ready.”

During five minutes of harassment, she talked back to him only once.

Normally she just looked away.

He chased her across the beach.

And through the water. One could imagine her muttering, “Do other species have to put up with this?” One could also imagine him muttering, “Do other species have to put up with this?”
Oh well, he just has to wait another month.


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Swans on ice


A family of five Trumpeter Swans stopped by yesterday for a snooze. 

So, where do swans sleep? I have seen them sleep while they floated in the Lake. Apparently they will also sleep on land, but doing so is fraught with danger from predators such as a coyotes. On this occasion, the little family slept on the border ice covering a shallow bay. 

Four members of the family of peripatetic swans slept on the ice. One parent served as a sentry. The adults are white; the juveniles are greyish. Beside each swan is a small deposit of poop (very few birds have much of a sense of smell).

With morning, the family stirred. An adult and juvenile (left) continued to doze; a juvenile (centre) started to preen, while two others stretched. 

Once everyone was awake, the stretching continued, but soon the family entered the water looking for things to eat. The visit ended later that day when they continued on their way. 


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Early Red-winged


I went looking for visiting winter birds, but discovered early spring arrivals: a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds.

At first, I couldn’t spot the blackbirds in the brush, but their distinctive bubbly song told me that they had to be there. When seen, they tried to stay hidden deep in the bushes, but I finally managed a shot of one flying from one perch to another.

Wintering in the south, Red-winged Blackbirds spread into this area in March, with a handful turning up in the latter half of February. Certainly, a sighting of them here in early February is unusual.

This is one of two Red-winged Blackbirds that arrived at Duck Bay on the Nelson waterfront by the unusually early date of February 8th. It is flying to a new perch in the bushes.


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Palindrome day


The primary reason for today’s posting is its unusual date: it forms a palindrome.

A palindrome is an expression that reads the same forward or backward, and in the manner in which I date my pictures (year month day) today’s date — ta da — is 20200202.

However to post something, I insist on a picture, so here it is.

Today, a Northern Flicker was seen feasting on crab apples, a winter favourite for flickers.


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Not irruptive


For years, I have been wrong (and have been misleading readers) when I have said that the Pine Grosbeak is a locally irruptive species. 

An irruptive bird is one that breeds in the north, but, occasionally irrupts in large numbers to the distant south. I had been persuaded that the Pine Grosbeak was one of these irruptive species by a number of websites that labelled it as such, plus the fact that I only saw it now and then in winter months. It all seemed to fit. But, I was wrong.

Certainly, the Pine Grosbeak is irruptive on the eastern half of North America, and websites based there proclaim it as such. But, these sites are regional (without saying so). In the western mountains, the Pine Grosbeak is, not irruptive, but a permanent resident. It is an altitudinal migrant: breeding in the high country during the warm months and sometimes descending to the valley bottoms in the cold months.

Today, I watched a few Pine Grosbeaks feeding on saskatoon berries.

This bird played the contortionist to get at the berries.

A male (top) and female Pine Grosbeak feed.


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Winter’s hummingbird


A recent article in The Tyee described the Anna’s Hummingbird (Vancouver’s new official bird) as “a sex-crazed, smart, supercharged recent arrival.”

Whatever its other characteristics, Anna’s Hummingbird is indeed a recent arrival to southwestern BC, and it has chosen to remain there year round. Further, it might do the same thing here in southeastern BC.

In the matter of staying throughout the winter, Anna’s Hummingbird is distinctly unusual. This region normally has three hummingbird species: Rufous, Black-chinned, and Calliope. They arrive from the south in April and leave in September. They are really lovely, but they don’t abide our winters. Not so, the Anna’s. It has the ability to slip into hibernation when the temperature drops, and in doing so, it can dwell permanently in places where the temperature plummets. 

Well, surviving during a winter in the coastal climate of the lower mainland of BC is one thing, but can it do so in the continental climate around Kootenay Lake? Apparently it can. In an earlier posting, I showed one still visiting a local feeder last November. The implicit question was: will it stick around, especially during the really cold weather of mid winter? The attached pictures say yes.

When next winter approaches, there might be merit in leaving (heated) hummingbird feeders out for Anna’s Hummingbirds.

This is a picture of Anna’s Hummingbird taken locally on December 23, 2019. 

And another shot of Anna’s Hummingbird taken at the end of a cold snap this January 18, 2020.

These are not my pictures, but they are used with permission.


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Finally, irruptives


A few days ago, I failed to find the Pine Grosbeaks seen by others, but have now seen Bohemian Waxwings. Both of these species are irruptive: They are birds that occasionally visit when they irrupt from their normal feeding grounds in the north. Presumably, the rather cold weather of this last week brought them south.

Bohemian Waxwings were seen feeding on crab apples in pairs…

…and singly.


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