215 BIRDS …

Since I started recording them on eBird.org in early 2014 (and backdating a few species from photos taken prior to 2014), I’ve been lucky to spot 215 species of birds (mostly in Metro Vancouver). All bird species shown here have been seen in the wild, and are listed in order of discovery, from earliest to most recent. NOTE: generally, a designation of RARE means that the bird is rare to the Metro Vancouver area; it does not mean an overall dwindling population of that species.

1   Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
2   Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
3   Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)
4   Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
5   Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
6   Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)
7   Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens)
8   Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
9   Gadwall (Anas strepera)
10  American Wigeon (Anas americana)

I’ve seen more than 50 species in my backyard, from the more common species like Dark-Eyed Juncos, Black-Capped Chickadees, and Anna’s Hummingbirds, to “one-timers” like Wilson’s Warblers, a Sharp-Shinned Hawk, a Wilson’s Snipe, a quintet of Red Crossbills, a House Wren, and American Goldfinches.

11  Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
12  Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
13  Green-Winged Teal (Anas crecca)
14  Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
15  Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
16  American Coot (Fulica americana)
17  Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
18  Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)
19  Long-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)
20  Barred Owl (Strix varia)

I also have what are known as “nemesis birds” … species that I have sighted more than a handful of times, but have not been able to photograph at close range. That list is a growing one, and #1 on my list was the Belted Kingfisher. On July 31, 2016, I finally got a somewhat decent “closeup” shot of a female Belted Kingfisher … from 30 feet away.

21  Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
22  Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
23  Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
24  American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
25  Brant (Branta bernicla)
26  Sanderling (Calidris alba)
27  Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus)
28  Golden-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
29   Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)
30  Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)

The scientific names of certain birds are easier to remember than others. For example, the Eastern Kingbird has the redundant name Tyrannus tyrannus. Who knew the Mallard, the common Wild Duck, to have such a mouthful to remember — Anas platyrhynchos?

31  Dark-Eyed Junco – Oregon, Slate, and Pink-Sided (Junco hyemalis)
32  Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
33  House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)
34  Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
35  Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
36  Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)
37  Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
38  White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
39  Chestnut-Backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)
40  House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Outside of Metro Vancouver, I’ve also birded Manning Park in the Okanagan-Similkameen Area, and Galiano Island. I’ve never birded internationally, but my first choice of country to bird would be Australia, with a dazzling diversity of birds that sports an equally breathtaking colour palette.

41  Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
42  Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
43  Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna
44  Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
45  Yellow-Rumped Warbler – Myrtle and Audubon’s varieties (Setophaga coronata)
46  Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
47  Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
48   Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
49  Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)
50  Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

Fall and spring are the easiest times to spot (migratory) birds in Metro Vancouver. Summer is the hardest — because many of the summer visitors, like warblers, are often small and hard to spot, particularly when they’re disguised in big trees and bushes. Plenty of patience is required, and knowing a particular bird’s song is important, too.

51  Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
52  Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
53  Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
54  Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
55  Brown-Headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
56  Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)
57  European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
58  Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
59  American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
60  Glaucous-Winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)

By far, the hardest birds for me to positively identify (with the exception of Mew Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, and Ring-Billed Gulls) are gulls, especially when they’re subadults or in their first 3 years; when they hybridize, confirmation is impossible.

61  Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
62  Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
63  Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
64  Mew Gull (Larus canus)
65  Ring-Billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
66  California Gull (Larus californicus)
67  Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
68  Ring-Necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
69  Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
70  Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

The other shorebirds are a close second. Distinguishing Long-Billed Dowitchers from their Short-Billed cousins can take me a long time, even if the field marks are readily visible. The small sandpipers known collectively as “peeps” are even more challenging, as size, body shape, and coloration can be virtually identical!

71  Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
72  Merlin (Falco columbarius)
73  Red-Breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
74  Golden-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)
75  Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)
76  Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)
77  Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
78  Cooper’s Hawk (Accipter cooperii)
79  Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)
80  Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)

The bird species that I most wanted to photograph close up is the Harlequin Duck — specifically, the males in breeding plumage (I finally got “closeups” of the females from about 25 feet away in Ambleside Park on a cloudy August 27, 2016; and closeups of males at the Tsawwassen Ferry Causeway on a sunny first full day of summer, June 21, 2017). Common Redpolls, winter time birds who flock in large groups and never seem to stay in the same spot for long, and (male) Lazuli Buntings have taken over the top two spots.

81  Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
82  Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) 
83  Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
84  Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
85  Common Loon (Gavia immer)
86  Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
87  Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)
88  Long-Tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
89  Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
90  Pied-Billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

My most charming encounters to date have been with Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds. These flying jewels have a legendary pugnacious attitude, and will fly right up to my face when all other birds vamoose. We are allowed to wander “their” domain at their behest!

91  Common Raven (Corvus corax)
92  Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
93  Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)
94  Ring-Necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
95  Rough-Legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)
96  Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
97  Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
98  Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 
99  Red-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
100  Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

It was a surprise to discover just how close I could get to a Tree Swallow. At Iona Island, these little blue birds tolerated my long lens at its minimal focal length (150 mm).

101  Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
102  Black-Bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
103  Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
104  Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
105  Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
106  Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
107  Harris’s Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula) REAR
108  Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)
109  Purple Martin (Progne subis)
110  Violet-Green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)

Perhaps the most colourful bird I’ve photographed locally is the Lazuli Bunting. These birds are bursting with shades of blue and orange, and they tend to make Colony Farm Regional Park their summer home.

111  Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)
112  Blue-Winged Teal (Anas discors)
113  Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)
114  Northern Rough-Winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
115  Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
116  Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
117  Band-Tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)
118  Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)
119  Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)
120  Black-Headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

The cute, Kookaburra-like Gray Jays are notoriously bold. While they will not steal (attended) food from under your nose, when they land on your picnic table, it’s hard to resist the allure of their big black eyes and cocked heads. They certainly know how to turn on the charm!

121  Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope)
122  Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)
123  American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
124  Yellow-Headed Blackbird (Xanthocephaslus xanthocephalus)
125  Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
126  Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)
127  Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
128  Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)
129  Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
130  Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

The bird species that I’ve found to be the best at blending in with its environment (literally) is the Black Turnstone. We saw a flock of them fly into the south side of the Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty at the end of Q1-2015. Once they landed by the rocks on the shoreline, we couldn’t see them anymore!

131  Ruff (Calidris pugnax) RARE
132  Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
133  Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
134  Short-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)
135  Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
136  Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) RARE
137  Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)
138  Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus)
139  House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
140  Orange-Crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)

First heard in the company of a group of experienced birders, two of these wading birds calling each other for 45 seconds: Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola). In mid-May 2016, I finally saw a mother Virginia Rail and three of her coal black chicks!

141  Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)
142  Hutton’s Vireo (Vireo huttoni)
143  Sora (Porzana carolina)
144  Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)
145  Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
146  Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
147  Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
148  Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor)
149  Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)
150  Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica)

I have seen an out-of-season Hudsonian Godwit (in full breeding plumage) at Boundary Bay Regional Park on November 24, 2015, and a Semipalmated Plover, also at the same location, on December 9, 2015 (the latter was relocated on December 24, 2015, by another birder). Both shorebirds were supposed to be wintering in Central and South America at this time of the year!

151  Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)
152  Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)  RARE
153  Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)
154  Greater White-Fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
155  Semipalmated Plover (Semipalmated Plover)
156  White-Winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)
157  Long-Billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)
158  Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)
159  Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
160  Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

I started off 2016 with my first Golden Eagle (a second-year juvenile returnee to the area) (bearing witness to its successful kill of a duck in the marsh) and a small (7) flock of Western Meadowlarks in the same stretch of habitat.

161  Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)
162  Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
163  Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea)
164  Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)
165  American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
166  Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
167  White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
168  Red-Breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)
169  Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)
170  Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)

Birding just a small portion of Minnekhada Regional Park yielded three new lifers (the Red-Breasted Sapsucker, Swainson’s Thrush, and the Western Tanager), plus birds I don’t often or easily see elsewhere (Black-Headed Grosbeak, Yellow Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker, Band-Tailed Pigeon, Mourning Dove). Species like these need lots of forest and marsh habitat to thrive.

171  Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)
172  Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii)
173  Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
174  American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
175  Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)
176  White-Faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) RARE
177  Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
178  Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)
179  Red-Necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
180  Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)

At the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in early August 2016, I picked up two more “lifers”: two juveniles each of the Red-Necked Phalarope and Wilson’s Phalarope “persuasions.” These wading birds were not tide dependent (meaning I didn’t have to rise at an insanely early hour, or be out after sunset and subject myself to poor lights and mosquito bites), and seemed quite comfortable with the photographers who were more than happy to take their photos.

181  Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)
182  Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)
183  Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii)
184  Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (Calidris subruficollis)
185  American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)
186  Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)
187  Black-Necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) RARE
188  Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
189  Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus)
190  Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

Adding a new species to my life list when I’m looking for another species is a bonus. Such was the case with the Red-Necked Grebe I picked up when I was scouting around for Brandt’s Cormorants at the Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty.

191   Red-Necked Grebe (Podicceps grisegena)
192   American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)
193   Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
194   Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
195   Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
196   Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)
197   Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)
198   Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis sayaRARE
199   Townsend’s Warbler (Setophaga townsendi)
200   Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus)

While going through hummingbird withdrawal in late April 2017, I visited the Richmond Nature Park, met a fellow birder, and stumbled upon what many presumed was an adult male Black-Chinned Hummingbird (which is rare for Metro Vancouver, BC). Unfortunately, after further investigation of photos provided by various birders, it turned out this BCHU was actually the hybrid offspring of a Black-Chinned and an Anna’s hummingbird — and the most northerly record of one. It was a fascinating encounter — but unfortunately, hybrids do not count towards one’s life list.

201   Yellow-Breasted Chat (Icteria virens) RARE and *Red-Listed*
202   American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) RARE
203   Olive-Sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)
204   Pacific Slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis)
205   Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
206   Black-Throated Grey Warbler (Setophaga nigrescens)
207   Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
208   Summer Tanager (Piranga rubraRARE
209   Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeliRARE
210   Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristataRARE

Seen on Christmas Eve 2017 was another rare bird: the Blue Jay. These corvids are common sights out in Central and Eastern Canada, but a sighting hasn’t been recorded in Metro Vancouver since January 2014.  An early Christmas gift — nice to see these rarities, almost literally, in one’s backyard (so to speak)!

211   Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
212   White-Winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera)
213   Long-Eared Owl (Asio otus)
214   Redhead (Aythya americana)
215   Chestnut-Sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) RARE

Stay tuned for more to this birding list. Happy Birding! ♠

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