Thursday 24 January 2019

Winter Golden-crowned Sparrows in BC

I had plans for a numbers of Blog Postings exhibiting favorite bird shots from a work/birding trip to Victoria, British Columbia 5-16 Dec 2018. But there seem to be too many diversions to making it happen. It is time to move on to the present but before that, one last BC posting. Prior to this trip my life experience with Golden-crowned Sparrow was limited to maybe ten days in total over four decades (or more!). Most of those were adults on the breeding grounds. The immature plumages were a mystery to me. Yes the bird guides illustrate them and there are photos but I was left wanting to know more. Golden-crowned Sparrow was the #1 species I wanted to get to know on this December trip to BC.  Knowing Victoria get upwards of 1000 GCSPs on their Christmas Bird Counts I was expecting a good dose of them. Golden-crowned Sparrows were indeed common and easy to see often. I gorged and gorged on them.  I left BC satiated. Mission accomplished.

The birds with the bold black borders to the sides of the bright yellow crown are adults. The birds with a brown crown and touch of yellow on the forehead are immatures.  The birds in between are apparently either adults or immatures.

Golden-crowned Sparrows were very numerous on southern Vancouver Island. They seem to stick closer together more than their cousins the White-throated and White-crowned Sparrow.

Sooty Fox Sparrows were often feeding with the GCSPs.

Spotted Towhees were very common. Male above and female below. They are not as shy as Eastern Towhees.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Mew Gulls at Victoria, BC Dec 2018 - adults & 2nd winters.

Mew Gull is a not an easy bird to get to know without visiting the Pacific Coast of North America. Most North American birders rarely or ever get there in the non-breeding season to enjoy the beautiful Mew Gull. Mew Gull is a big rarity for the majority of North American birders. A highlight of a work trip to Victoria, BC in early December 2018 was getting time to soak in Mew Gulls. The adult, 2nd winters and 1st winter plumages were all in their best condition. The previous posting shows examples of 1st winter plumages. Here is a post exhibiting some adult and 2nd winter birds.

The beautiful string of pearls on the tongue tips of P5-P8 run in a line on to the conspicuous mirrors of P9 and P10 on a typical adult Mew Gull.

Another look at the unbroken series of bold white spots from P5-P10.

A small white tongue on P9 creating an uneven line of white pearls from P5 to P10..

The occasional apparent 'adult' lacked the white tongue to P8 interrupting the string of white pearls.  Some of these were probably early adults (3 year olds) based on black marks in primary coverts.


Mew Gulls - 2nd winter plumage

Top bird 2nd winter Mew Gull, bottom bird adult Mew Gull.

2nd winter Mew Gull on left with an adult Mew Gull.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

First Winter Mew Gull photos - Victoria, BC December 2018

I was in Victoria, British Columbia 5-16 December 2018.  It was a work trip but there was plenty of time for birding. Even got to partake on  the Victoria CBC. Among the birds I was looking forward to seeing were Mew Gulls. They were abundant, mostly feeding offshore but also many flying and feeding along the shoreline. Finding them at rest was a different story. They were not attracted to bread. I had seen plenty of adult Mew Gull in the early 2000s on the breeding grounds in Yukon and NWT but had no first hand experience with 1st winter birds. That changed on this trip. It was my most photographed bird.  They were like miniature smithsonianus Herring Gulls.with their dark tails and subdued brown wings and body. Attached is a collection of some of the better shots. These will be boring for west coast birders and anyone not interested in gulls but will be of interest to those gullers in the east. Adults and 2nd winter birds to follow in the next post (maybe).

Mew Gulls of various ages feeding in the surf along a beach in Victoria.