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Winter bird-watching in the city

December 31, 2009

Barrow's goldeneye, VancouverI am in Vancouver for the week.  It amazes me, every time I pay a winter visit to this city, how absolutely great the bird-watching is here.

So, even though the lighting was far from great for photography, I am postingt a few of this morning’s pix here just to show you how much bird life there is here.

There are lovely seawall walks in this city – in West Vancouver, for example, and also around Stanley Park, where you can see huge flocks of overwintering seabirds.  Right now, here in West Vancouver, there are huge flocks of Barrow’s goldeneye all along the shorelines.  They are really fascinating to watch as they are constantly in motion, diving Barrow's goldeneye, VancouverBarrow's goldeneye, Vancouverdown in the shallows to capture small invertebrates in their beaks then popping back up to the surface to eat them.  The water around the birds at surface is constantly bubbling and churning from the activity of male mallard duck, Vancouverthe birds below.  You can see in the two panoramic shots here – at the left, there is a male bird just coming up from a dive (you can see him still entirely under the water in the first shot) while at the right, another is arching into his next dive.

While I was photographing the goldeneye, I looked up to see that a pair of mallards had stealthily paddled up to the rocks right beside me, and a pair of oystercatchers had landed quietly beside me too.  Looking around, I also saw a pair of mergansers swimming further from shore, as well as a pir of one of my favourite birds, harlequin ducks, sitting together on a rock dow the shoreline.  I had seen the harlequins earlier – they black oystercatcher, vancouverwere what drew me down to the water’s edge – but they are very shy birds, and soon swam away.  I wish I’d been able to get a photo of them – they really are one of the prettiest birds around.  You’d never know from their delicate looks how hardy they are out in the surf zone.

For an online bird ID guide and lots of interesting bird info, check out: http://www.allaboutbirds.org

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