Category Archives: Science

Turkey Vulture

Early one morning, I was out exploring with my camera and telephoto lens, when I spotted the large brown bird in the photo below, which I thought, judging by its size, must be a bird of prey. However, after taking a closer look, I noticed it had a red, featherless head and I said to myself, “What is that?”. It was a turkey vulture which I had previously never seen in this area. Unlike most birds, the turkey vulture finds carrion by using its sense of smell and is protected from disease associated with decaying animals by a very sophisticated immune system. The turkey vulture only comes this far north during the summer months. There was a raven following it around as the turkey vulture flew from tree to tree and it seemed quite comfortable with the raven’s presence. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

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A Fog bow

I just returned from a week of exploring a remote area of Vancouver Island and came home with a greater appreciation for the natural beauty of British Columbia. There was an abundance of marine life to photograph which included humpback whales, killer whales, minke whales, pacific white-sided dolphins, dall’s porpoise, steller sea lions, harbour seals, sea otters, river otters, bald eagles, black turnstones, pelagic cormorants, common murres, rhinoceros auklets and kingfishers. Each morning there was coastal fog and one morning, as it began to burn off, it created this beautiful fog bow. At first I couldn’t understand the faint vertical line that appears in the middle of the photo shown below, but I think this is the shadow of the mast of the ketch I was on. To see more of my images visit The Salish Sea gallery and click on ‘View Slideshow’.

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A Mysterious Language

On the west coast of Vancouver Island I was walking on the beach early one morning, keeping an eye out for bears and wolves, when I noticed a large number of strange markings in the sand. There were thick lines, spirals, curves and even circles. The Purple Olive Snail (Olivella biplicata) are beautiful little creatures that create these markings. Close to the dynamic edge of the ocean they plow through the sand looking for animal and plant matter to eat. Males find females for mating by following their tracks.

Looking at their tracks reminded me of the movie Arrival where a linguistics professor and her team tries to find a way to communicate with extraterrestrial visitors who use a written language consisting of complicated circular symbols. The Purple Olive Snails may have been just looking for food to eat or perhaps they were trying to tell me something…

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The Mink (Mustela vison)

The daily rhythm of coastal minks depends on the tide cycle. I was photographing this mink while it was exploring the intertidal zone during a low tide. It was very shy, elusive and I had to stand very still while it became comfortable with my presence. This small mammal never stops moving which made it difficult to capture a good photograph. The mink was foraging in a bay where there was lots of boulders, rocky crevices, and marine plants, which provides cover for prey. The coastal mink eats shellfish ( mainly crabs ) and small fish. After the mink disappeared into the trees, I felt fortunate that I was able to spend some time with this solitary and efficient hunter.

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Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat ( Geothlypis trichas ) is a wood-warbler that lives in marshy or brushy vegetation near water. The bird in the photos is a male, with a bright yellow throat and broad black mask which crosses the forehead. They eat grasshoppers, dragonflies, beetles, butterflies, spiders and sometimes seeds. I sat listening to its beautiful song that sounds like whichity-whichity-whichity.

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Red-Winged Blackbird

It is Spring and the displaying male Red-Winged Blackbirds ( Agelaius phoeniceus ) are trying everything to get noticed. Like the bird in this photo they spread their wings and puff out their orange and yellow shoulder patches while singing and calling. The conk-la-ree is a classic sound in a wetlands area.

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Northern Pintail

Often referred to as the ‘greyhound of ducks’ because of its slender and elegant appearance, the Northern Pintail ( Anas acuta ) is found in shallow ponds and marshes. It feeds on seeds and aquatic insects. The Northern Pintail in the photo is a breeding male who looks this way from November to June. Click on the image to see a larger version.

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Happy Holidays

I came across this herd of Roosevelt elk grazing in a meadow. With the setting sun and frosted trees in the background it created a beautiful winter scene. Roosevelt elk have a golden brown coat during the summer and a longer, grayish brown coat during the winter. Their legs, head and neck remain dark brown year round. Have a wonderful Christmas and happy new year. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

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Bufflehead

One of the smallest ducks the Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is very energetic in its feeding. They eat aquatic insects, mollusks and small amounts of plant material. It forages mostly underwater. Less sociable than most ducks, seen in pairs or small groups, almost never in large flocks. The Bufflehead in the photo below is a female. Note the auricular white patch. She was repeatedly diving in front of me along the riverbank. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

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Bald Eagles

Early this morning I spent some time taking images of bald eagles feeding on dead salmon. Despite the rain it was a nice way way to start the day. Click on one of the photos to open up the gallery.

Posted in Autumn, Birds, British Columbia, Science, West Coast, Wildlife | Leave a comment