Mountain Bluebird

This gallery contains 6 photos. My experiences with photographing songbirds of the blue-colored persuasion–notably, Lazuli Buntings, Steller’s Jays, Harlequin Ducks, and Belted Kingfishers–have been erring on the side of miss in the “hit-and-miss” scenario, and often result in postage stamp-sized results. It is with great pleasure that I make the Mountain Bluebird, a new bird to my life list, an exception to the rule.

© WHSIM Mountain Bluebird on a Log 2 cropped (IMG_2410_DxO).jpg
male MOBL perched on driftwood during a brief moment of sunshine (March 24 at BBRP)
f/14, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 800

For many of us in North America–birder or non-birder–one of the most celebrated heralds of spring has got to be the bluebird. Many of those living on the East Coast enjoy the sight of Eastern Bluebirds as they select suitable places (including nestboxes) within which to raise the next generation; those living on Vancouver Island and the Pacific West Coast (from Washington, Oregon, and California, through to most of the American Midwest), enjoy the Western Bluebird; and those living in the midwest, enjoy the Mountain Bluebird.

© WHSIM Mountain Bluebird on the Post cropped (IMG_2392_DxO).jpg
male MOBL perched on driftwood post on an overcast afternoon (March 24 at BBRP)
f/14, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 800

The sight of these tubby, cerulean songbirds signals the end of winter and the start of the growing season. For myself, discovering that a male Mountain Bluebird had been sighted in the Metro Vancouver two years ago (and stayed for 2 weeks!) fueled my interest to photograph it (unfortunately, it would be two long years before I would be able to do so). Perhaps 10-50 of these small thrushes show up here like clockwork in the early spring, but stay briefly (sometimes a day or two) before they head into the mountains of the BC Interior to breed–and hundreds can be found there. These cavity nesters like wide, flat, and open spaces to hunt in.

© WHSIM Mountain Bluebird on Tansy cropped (IMG_2454_DxO).jpg
male MOBL perched on tansy. it had just started to rain at this moment (March 24 at BBRP)
f/10, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 800

Acting on a tip from the local birding forums, I was able to see a Mountain Bluebird for the first time at Brunswick Point in Ladner, on the eve of spring 2017. It was a gorgeous male in breeding plumage, with a deeper shade of blue on his face, back, wings, and tail; a lighter shade of blue on his breast and flanks; and hints of white on his underside. Unfortunately, despite spending a delightful hour in his company, I realized that he was keeping his peregrinations confined largely to the farm cornfield, and, less often to the trees that were closer but offered few photo ops, thanks to intervening branches. My best shots of him were from 60-70 feet away. The experience did allow me to study his hunting habits. He would highpoint on a broken stalk of corn and watch the ground for movement, and pounce on his prey from his perch. Hunger satisfied, he would return once more to an elevated perch to study the ground for insects.

IMG_2428_DxO (Mountain Bluebird on Post).jpg
male MOBL highpointing on scattered driftwood post (March 24 at BBRP)
f/14, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 800

A few days later, on March 23, another male MOBL was sighted at Centennial Beach / Boundary Bay Regional Park (as of the time of the publication of this blogpost, he has been here for 4 days). This wildlife habitat is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA), which hosts thousands and thousands of migratory shorebirds, warblers, and ducks throughout the year, particularly in the spring and fall. I was “granted” the opportunity to photograph that male MOBL at much closer range.

IMG_2404_DxO (Mountain Bluebird on Driftwood).jpg
male MOBL perched on a big log that has been washed ashore (March 24 at BBRP)
f/14, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 800

My closest photo with this handsome male was from 15 feet away (typically, MOBLs have a personal space of 35 feet). Like the male I met at the farm, this fellow was also highpointing when he was resting and/or not hunting (on scattered driftwood and stalks of tansy growing haphazardly on the beach). Patience is a virtue when it comes to photographing Mountain Bluebirds. I have yet to see a female Bluebird (who is mostly grey with a small amount of blue on her wingtips and tail). In fact, the recent sightings reported on eBird only indicate males. This is not overly surprising, since male birds tend to migrate and arrive before the females do. To learn more about Mountain Bluebirds, please visit their Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s allaboutbirds.org profile here.

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31 thoughts on “Mountain Bluebird

    • Thank you, Elle! 🙂

      Other than the cute little Tree and Barn Swallows (a few arrived in early and very cold January!!), Mountain Bluebirds are usually the first migratory birds to arrive here in the spring, and they do so like clockwork — but they are here only very briefly (this fellow’s been here a week) before they head to more northern and mountainous climes. We don’t have many blue birds (the Lazuli Bunting is the other), so their arrival always generates lots of attention! You don’t feel blue after seeing a little blue! 😉

      Cheers,
      Hui

      Liked by 1 person

      • there’s something like 10,000 species in the world — but ornithologists believe that there are more than that. I have seen just 199 species in the wild. 🙂

        on a grey day, his blues really made the beach shine. I have to wonder that the hawks and eagles in the area don’t have a go at him, with his eyecatching colors!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe blue doesn’t taste nice to hawks and eagles?? I’ve seen odd coloured broccoli and cauliflower and they really don’t appeal to me to eat?? Maybe or maybe not-nice thinking about it though! 😀🤓

        Liked by 1 person

      • I like the purple cauliflower, but I haven’t managed to get it to grow beyond the size of my thumbnail. 🙂

        very, very few bird species are actually poisonous to others, and they don’t telegraph their toxicity to potential predators with bright colors the way insects, lizards, and snakes would.

        apparently, blue is the color the female Mountain Bluebird likes, so the brighter blue he is, the better for him. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • thank you! Mother Nature at her best! it’s easy to see why bluebirds are the symbols of happiness … you can’t feel blue after seeing a little blue! 😀

      Like

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