Sunday, 2 February 2014

Year of the Harris'

With all the Kung Hei Fat Choi going on with the Chinese New Year, I figured I would kick it off with some nice birds.  According to the Chinese calendar, it is the year of the horse but I think that's just because they don't have Harris' Sparrows over in China.  Here on Vancouver Island, it is definitely the year of the Harris'.  In an average winter, we have maybe one record of Harris' Sparrow reported somewhere on Vancouver Island.  This winter we've had at least three reported: one consistent bird near Summit Park in Victoria, a bird in Metchosin that put in a couple days of appearances, and an individual in Port McNeill found on a Hooded Oriole twitch.

I started things off today at Portage Inlet with Jeremy and Thea Kimm to look for a bird that Jeremy K. saw on the way to work.  He spotted a bird that appeared to be a grackle, but unfortunately we were unable to relocate it.  We did, however, have an enjoyable walk along Portage Rd. that was quite productive for birds.  The highlights of the area included: 13 Canvasbacks, 1 Hermit Thrush, 10 Cedar Waxwings, 75 Greater Scaup, 1 Merlin, and 2 Pied-billed Grebes.

A female and two males - part of the group of 13 Canvasbacks seen in Portage Inlet

After the Portage Inlet session, I headed back towards the Cedar Hill area and decided I would stop in to McNair St. because I had not followed up on any of the Harris' Sparrows this winter.  Luckily for me, it was almost too easy.  I parked at the end of McNair and immediately spotted the Harris' sitting on the rock wall near a rather elaborate feeder set-up.  The Harris' periodically joined dozens of Golden-crowned and House Sparrows, with lower numbers of Fox and Song Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Spotted Towhees in attendance.  A flock of Bushtits and lone Bewick's Wren and Ruby-crowned Kinglet also put in an appearance.  The Harris' Sparrow was almost always in low light and it really gave me a chance to test out my new Tamron 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3 lens.  I think the results, considering the low light conditions, were pretty good.  I did a tiny bit of basic post-production (something I definitely need to work on) and it looks pretty nice despite the slightly noisy feel to the background, which is expected with such a high ISO (1600).  What do you think?

The Harris' Sparrow on McNair St. is quite the sharp-looking sparrow and I was glad to finally lay eyes on it!

I am off to Jamaica on Sunday evening and come Monday afternoon I will be in Montego Bay with Nathan Hentze.  We will be touring around for a week and hopefully my new lens will result in some nice pictures to show off the rather exquisite suite of endemics Jamaica has to offer!  In the mean time, would someone do me a favour and find a Thick-billed Murre on this side of the strait!

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