The penultimate page for passerines includes some of the prettiest or cutest species we see up here. Most of them can be seen quite close to home, although a couple require a trip up to Beaver Lake Road.
We’ll begin with one of our most colourful swallows, the Violet-green, which for the two springs and summers we’ve spent here, have nested in the foundation blocks of our condo. With a new three-storey, 18 unit townhouse development under construction on the other side of the lane, I fear that the cruising space our little swallows need to access the foundation will be lost, and they will have to look elsewhere to establish their breeding colony…. I’ll miss them greatly should that fate occur! Who’s going to eat the mosquitos that breed on Belmont Pond?
A bird that I know returns to area in May, finds ways to keep out of sight, it seems, until late August and early September when I usually get my photos of them in Thomson Marsh—the Warbling Vireo.
Another drab bird compared to the brighter species so often found in Eastern Canada and so much of the US, it is, nonetheless, one that I love to watch when I get the chance as I did a week apart in the first half of September 2016. I’d almost concluded that I’d missed the quality opportunities of 2015, when suddenly my luck changed on September 7 and I got some shots in the shade, late in the afternoon.
A week later, I spent fifteen minutes or so with a couple of WAVIs and an entertaining troupe of Yellow-rumped Warblers stocking up on energy before the fall migration.
The “W” category also includes a springtime favourite that can be seen all summer long, the Western Bluebird, which I covered in more detail on my separate Bluebirds post. Here’s one more look at one of my favourites from that presentation a colourful female who posed for several minutes. Photo from White Lake Grasslands Park, west of Oliver, BC.
While we get to observe many Eastern Kingbirds in Thomson Marsh, it’s very rare that Western Kingbirds with their lovely lemon lite hues drop in for a visit, although there are lots off WEKIs in the Kelowna area and in the Okanagan. This youngster surprised me one day, allowed me a couple of photos, then flew off and did not, to my knowledge return.
I have mentioned, several times now, Beaver Valley Road east of Winfield, 30 minutes drive north of home. In Spring, it’s a fabulous location for a great many species, including the Western Meadowlark. Both of these photos were taken there a little over a month apart. There are lots of individuals and plenty of opportunities to capture them in a variety of behaviours. Click the photos to enlarge them in place.
White Lake is another wonderful spot to observe Western Meadowlarks in early spring.
While I want this next shot to appear in this post, I have to admit that it’s a bit of a disappointment to me. Click image to enlarge it in a new tab.
The wonderfully varied hues of a Western Tanager make it a target bird every year. When the grandkids and I unexpectedly came across this one in late June, we were ecstatic; when we got home, our photos all seemed a little below the standard of excellence we aspire to. In part, I suspect, the WETA is just one of those birds, like waxwings, where it’s difficult to capture their plumage as well as we’d like. (Photogenic people are often those who don’t look as great in the flesh as they do in photos, and truly beautiful folks sometimes don’t look as amazing in photos as they do when we meet them.) WETAs are like that, too!)
This one posed in a variety of perches before dropping to the ground to fill up on ants. We had every opportunity to get great shots, yet we didn’t; I dare not say ‘couldn’t.’
Among the “W” species we saw this year was this White-breasted Nuthatch. Not a lifer by listing, it was definitely a first for my camera. We were not surprised to find one, several actually, near Mahoney Lake, but very pleased to have the chance to meet this one, after some careful stalking, up close and personal.
From Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology:
“The White-breasted Nuthatch is normally territorial throughout the year, with pairs staying together. The male has to spend more time looking out for predators when he’s alone than while he’s with his mate. That’s the pattern for most birds, and one reason why birds spend so much time in flocks. But the female nuthatch has to put up with the male pushing her aside from foraging sites, so she spends more time looking around (for him) when he’s around than when she is alone.
WBNUs forage up, down, and sideways over tree trunks and around large branches. They often start high in trees and move down them head first, pausing to crane their necks up and back, toward the horizontal, for a look around.
They probe into bark crevices or chip away at wood to find food. When they find large nuts and seeds, they jam them into the bark and hammer them open. WBNUs often store seeds and insects one at a time, and somewhat haphazardly, under loose bark on their territory. They typically hide the food by covering it with a piece of bark, lichen, moss, or snow.
WBNUs live in pairs year round and chase other nuthatches from their territory. Agitated birds fan their tails, flick their wings, or raise the feathers of the back. A bird backing down from a confrontation typically raises its bill and tail, and droops its wings. In winter WBNUs join groups of chickadees, titmice (not found in BC), and woodpeckers to forage.”
One of our prettiest sparrows out here is the White-crowned Sparrow. Distributed continent-wide, their numbers fluctuate from year to year and season to season as the flocks search for better foraging grounds. In the two and a half years we’ve been here, we’ve been fortunate to have many coming and going in our neighbourhood. Some of the other areas I monitor had very few in 2016. In 2015, I had better photo opps with them than last year, but I’m happy enough with these images…. Click to enlarge.
And finally, in the “W” category, we come to a delightful, if, again, “drab looking little flycatcher” (Cornell Lab of Ornithology), the Willow Flycatcher, not to be confused with the Alder Flycatcher, which is not endemic to our section of BC, but does compete with the WIFL in many parts of Canada.
Click images to enlarge in a new tab.
Cornell offers further details:
Flycatcher songs are innate, not learned like those of most songbirds. Young Willow Flycatchers reared in captivity with Alder Flycatcher tutors sang typical Willow Flycatcher songs.
When the two species are found together, the Willow Flycatcher will keep Alder Flycatchers out of its territory. But it expends more effort to keep out other Willow Flycatchers.
If a Brown-headed Cowbird lays its eggs in the nest of a Willow Flycatcher, the flycatcher may bury the cowbird eggs in the nest lining, or even build a completely new nest over the top of the first one.
The oldest recorded Willow Flycatcher was a female, and at least 11 years old when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California.