Friday, October 29, 2010

Chestnut-backed Chickadees

In stark contrast to yesterday, today it was just a bee hive of activity in the trees and bushes all along the trail…

activity at log bay

but before we get to that we’ll take a quick look at the log bay area where all the water related activity was taking place.  Lots of Salmon, in fact the numbers of salmon had increased all along the area.  Not as many Bald Eagles, perhaps 50 or 60, most out on the edges of the gravel bars……lots of ducks..

American Wigeon at the log bay

Here are some of the American Wigeon that were in the log bay..

California Gull

Many, many gulls, especially way out.  This guy was in the log bay area and I think is a California Gull….this based on the fact that there was a mix of black and red on that marking on it’s bill.  I am not an expert at identifying gulls so I may be wrong.

Tundra Swans at log bay

and speaking of identifying….those 3 Swans were still out there (only 2 in picture) and still way out, but I did get enough of a look at their heads to clarify their ID as Tundra and not Trumpeter Swans.  Again, I am no expert, but I will try to give a brief synopsis of the difference:

Tundra Swans are slightly smaller and their backs are less evenly rounded than a Trumpeters, but the biggest difference, is the bill shape and coloration

Tundra Swan

This is a cropped version of a very poor photo I took of a Tundra Swan family that was here several years ago.  The bill is very slightly concave on top and you will note that the bird on the left has yellow at the base of the bill ~ this is a very helpful and positive ID marker…unfortunately, they don’t all have it.  The only other Swan species with yellow on the bill is the very rare (for our area) Whooper Swan and it’s bill is almost entirely yellow.  Juvenile Tundra Swans are actually easier to identify as their bills are pink at the base where as a juvenile Trumpeter Swan’s bill is always black at the base.

Adult Trumpeter and Juvenile Mute Swan

Now I’m going to really confuse the issue….this picture taken on Vancouver Island shows an adult Trumpeter Swan standing in the rear….notice how straight his bill is…very ‘roman nosed’.  The bird in front is a young Mute Swan…as a Mute Swan ages his bill becomes bright orange.

Now back to today….the bushes were full of Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhee’s,

Robin in the bushes

Lots of Robins and a few Varied Thrush but most noticeable was a large flock of Chestnut-backed Chickadees!

Chestnut backed Chickadee

The above picture wasn’t taken today, but was taken in the area.  We all know the Black capped Chickadee and it’s call of ‘chick a dee dee’ ~ The Chestnut-backed is slightly smaller, with a ‘chestnut coloured back and sides and has a more nasal sounding call….more like ‘tsicity zee zee’.  They are found mainly on the extreme west coast of the province and for the past few years have been scare in this area.  The flock I saw today had a good number of birds in it so perhaps that will change this winter.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Swan correction:

Just wanted to post a correction:  those 3 Swans from today and yesterday…are actually Tundra swans and not Trumpeters….I just heard from a birder friend of mine who got a better look at them than I did!  I’ll explain the difference tomorrow.

What a difference….

What a difference a day makes!  Yesterday was so beautiful and today even the dog looked at me with a ‘do we have to’ look on her face…

rainy day

Not only was it wet but chilly enough I’d been wishing I’d tucked some gloves in my pocket.  The 3 Trumpeter Swans, by the way were out there just the other side of the point of grass on the right of the picture.

Salmon in the log bay

Lots of salmon in both the ‘bays’ but especially the log bay…there was a Kingfisher in this area too.

Eagles in the rain

Quite a few Bald Eagles out there…and gulls of course…

Heron and ducks

Only one Great Blue Heron, but lots and lots of ducks, mainly the usual suspects, Mallard, Green Wing Teal and American Wigeon, but also a few Common Merganser.


One thing I did notice today was the increase in Red Wing Blackbirds…the above picture, obviously NOT taken today but taken in this area in the past, shows a male Red Wing Blackbird.  Every winter the Chehalis Estuary has an over wintering flock of male Red Wings, numbering in excess of a hundred individuals.  For the past week or so a few individuals have been showing up, today about 30 of them were calling from the top of one of the area trees.  If all goes as normal, numbers will build and we will be ‘treated’ to listening to these guys for the next 4 or 5 months, to the point that even we bird lovers are saying ‘go some where else for a while!’.  IF the weather gets really cold, they tend to disappear but return as soon as it moderates.  Come March or April their behavior will change dramatically and during the summer breeding season their behavior will change again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


What an awesome day!


This morning shot shows the snow I talked about yesterday…these mountains being over by Chilliwack.


Today was the first day that there have been significant numbers of Eagles soaring up over the hillside to the west of the estuary.  Thermals must be just right in this area because from now on, at about mid day, when the weather is nice, you can expect to see 30, 40, 50 even more, Eagles soaring in this area.  These flights that seem to be done just for pure enjoyment are called ‘kettles’.

First swans of the season

There was another first today….these 3 Swans…probably Trumpeter’s…are the first of the season and my personal favorite wintering visitor.  Tundra Swans have also been known to stop here on their way further south, but the Trumpeter’s will spend the winter with us.  Note all the gulls out there too, especially on the very far shore…not much in the way of eagles…they were having too much fun!

First snow of the season

a shot of the snow capped mountains to the north east of the estuary area…

Steller's Jay

and I’m tossing this in today too.  This is a Steller’s Jay and we have lots of them.  These are a bird you either love or hate.  They are noisy and boisterous and tend to take over at feeders although I’ve noticed that if you have enough feeders spread around the other birds manage to get their share although the Jays are always there first for the ‘good stuff’.  It would be a very rare day to not see any Steller’s Jay so they tend to get overlooked and we forget that they are only found here on the west coast and so seeing one would be a treat for anyone living east of the Rocky Mountains!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A drier day…..

Well today was certainly a much pleasanter walk than yesterday!

on the flats

Lots of Bald Eagles out there today…..

Eagles & Gulls

started counting and a ‘guesstimate’ would be a couple of hundred out on the flats and probably another hundred in the surrounding trees…

Eagle Tree

This is the ‘eagle’ tree by the viewing platform and there were more calling down in the direction of the golf course….and of course if there are that many over on this side, you know there are many more lining the Harrison River side.

Lot’s of Gulls too….pretty much all Glaucous-wing although I spotted 1 Mew Gull and a couple of Herring.

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The bushes along the trail were pretty quiet…some Chickadees and Dark eyed Junco….that was about it.  Lots of ducks around,  Mallard and Green Wing Teal in this photo…but about a dozen American Wigeon as well…and this was the only Great Blue Heron I spotted today.

I had hoped to get pictures of the mountain tops because the higher ones all had snow on them this morning, the first of the season, but the clouds had dropped by the time I got out for our walk…..maybe tomorrow.

Monday, October 25, 2010


The rains had to come sometime, we’ve actually been very lucky ‘weather-wise’ this month….

first bay

The rain didn’t start until last night but already look at the difference in the water levels in this, the first bay, from the picture in the last post!

log bay

the log bay the same….that lower log is now partially submerged again and the gravel ‘flats’ are fast disappearing – again!  This is actually a ‘good thing’ as it is going to force all those people who just can’t understand the concept of staying on trails…up and away from the foreshores

Eagles on the flats 

I wasn’t going to stand around counting today but it was obvious there were more eagles out there…

Eagle in the rain

there were also numerous ducks in this area, again didn’t stand around to count, appeared to be mainly Mallard and Green Wing Teal but suspect a few American Wigeon as well.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Strange day!

What a strange day!  The weather was much better than expected…

High and dry

it was blustery but dry….BUT there was nothing anywhere in the way of birds!  One lone Heron out in this bay and look at how low the water is compared to just a week ago…


nothing out there…no ducks…only the occasional gull…there were lots of salmon in this area… High and dry

many of them now high and dry and struggling to get from one puddle of water to another.

There was a fairly large flock of mixed Black Cap Chickadee’s and Bushtits that flew from the shelter of one red osier dogwood bush to another but that was about it.


I only saw 1 Bald Eagle the entire walk and that one flew over head.  Couldn’t even hear any calling although I had heard them earlier in the day.  Maybe the birds know something we don’t!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Last day of sunshine?


They say our sunshine is coming to and end so thought I’d share these ‘sunny’ day pictures…the above was taken this morning just before the sun rose over Mt. Woodside.

Morning scene

Here is a sort of surreal shot with a Great Blue Heron and a Mew gull in the foreground, mist in the background and the rising sun highlighting the logging that is taking place on the hillside.



High stepping it

and the Mew Gull high stepping it along the shoreline…

low water

Mid day and the sun was shining but look how low the water levels have dropped…even since yesterday!

disturbance on the flats

Virtually nothing in the way of eagles out on the flats today…look carefully and you can see one of the reasons why….although, as we’ve already discovered….sunny days there just aren’t the same numbers of them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mew Gull and Meadowhawk

Heron in the water

A pretty quiet day out on the flats today.  Like I’ve said before, sunny days don’t have nearly the activity that inclement weather days do, that could be partly due to the increase in human activity in the area on sunny days.  There is one lone Great Blue Heron out there, belly deep in spawning salmon..I should note that it is starting to smell a bit ‘fishy’ in this area even though, to date, the numbers of salmon are low…hopefully that is just because it is early yet.

Mew Gull at log bay

Back at the bay by the viewing platform you’ll note one lone gull there on the water…

Stirring up the water

This, quit dainty looking gull is a Mew Gull…..

Mew Gull and Salmon

They stay quite close to a pair of spawning salmon, dashing in and grabbing the roe as the salmon drop it.  They will also ‘stir up’ the water to bring the roe, or salmon eggs, closer to the surface, where they quickly devour them.  You can see that ‘stir’ effect in the ripples on the water in the photo before this one.

Western Meadowhawk

Wanted to toss this in.  These red ‘dragonflies’ are actually called ‘Western Meadowhawks’ and there are a lot of them on the grassland areas right now.  Usually they are gone by mid October, but we have yet to have a good frost. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Agitated Herons!

Don’t know what was going on today….but before we get into it I’m going to post this picture that I took this morning…

Oct.19 001

I took it because this was the first Hooded Merganser I’d seen so far this season (the duck with the white spot on the head); it wasn’t until I downloaded it that I realized there was an American Wigeon in the background and a male Gadwall to the right….so a good selection of some of the ducks that are regulars, but not as common as say the Mallards and Green Wing Teal.

Now back to today’s matter of interest…

Oct.19 005

It was another beautiful day, not much in the way of Eagles but probably a hundred or so assorted ducks in this area….as we continued our walk we could hear some really agitated birds….mainly Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer (always slightly hysterical) and Heron…..

Oct.19 011

We had just walked past the viewing platform when a Great Blue Heron flew in and landed on it!

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We tip toed back until we had a good line of sight and I got these pictures…

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Notice in this one there is another Heron in flight in the background and the whole time this was going on the Yellowlegs which had been in the bay beside the viewing platform were shrieking their alarm call…several Bald Eagles bolted out of the Eagle tree, although a couple stayed and ducks took off out of the bay but the smaller birds, Towhee and Robins that were busy eating the last of the choke cherries in the near by bush weren’t the least bit concerned – it seemed to be a ‘shore bird thing’

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The dispute, or what ever it was continued as we reached the log bay…if you look closely there are two black specks flying….those were another couple of Heron….

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I’ll toss in one more Heron picture….this one cropped, because you just don’t get that many opportunities to get pictures this close!

On our way back home every duck that had been enjoying themselves along the edge of the grasslands had disappeared – the reason – someone had walked right along the edge of the grass instead of staying back on the trail.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A cloudier day

After a weekend full of sunshine that drew as many people to watch the salmon spawning as it did salmon… was a quieter day.

Oct.18 006

Activity on the flats pretty much the same…approximately 140 Eagles counted today and lots of Gulls out there.

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On the way over there was a quite a large flock of these little Bushtits in the ‘bushes’….also some Black Cap Chickadees and a few Ruby Crowned Kinglets…all very active busy little birds!

Oct.18 013 

those swirls in the water at the log bay are sites where Salmon are spawning…notice how the water level continues to drop …

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over at the side of the bay this Great Blue Heron wasn’t too concerned with the salmon activity taking place at it’s feet.

Oct.18 009

There is a look at some of the fish…

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Off to the south there were a few Bald Eagles in these ‘eagle tree’s located off of Sandpiper Golf Course…not nearly as many as we’ll see in the coming weeks.