Archive for May 2013

Crows and Sparrows from NYC to British Columbia

May 4, 2013

Many of the birds we saw on our trip to British Columbia have counterparts back east, whether the same species or a closely related species.

A male White-throated sparrow surveys the area in Riverside Park, New York.

IMG_1274

White-throated sparrow.

¬†This little fellow was singing up a storm about two weeks ago, fluttering in not-yet leafy bushes and shrubs quite low to the ground. Here he seems to be giving me the old stink-eye from beneath his extraordinary yellow “eyebrows”.

IMG_1270

Below is a male golden-crowned sparrow in Garden Bay, British Columbia.

IMG_1500

Here he is again in the same location, but on a brighter day. Look how much paler and less gray his throat and breast appear below. The golden-crowned sparrow is found only along the Pacific coast, while the white-throated ranges over much of the continent.

IMG_1419

Crows are found all over the continent. Back in March, this group of common crows was delightedly bathing and playing in a large puddle in Riverside Park. (If you place cursor over image below, arrows will appear so you can click through the slide show.) There were five or six crows, but they flew off by ones and twos, eventually leaving just one crow to wallow in the puddle.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back in the late 70s, I co-founded a theater in Portland, Oregon called Crows & Roses Theater Project. Portland has long been known as the “City of Roses,” but for us, it was the “City of Crows and Roses.” Turns out crows abound all over the Pacific Northwest, and are extremely successfully at adapting to suburban and urban environments.

For a fascinating discussion of urban crows, inspired and anchored by the author’s observations of crows in her Seattle neighborhood, read Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

In British Columbia, crows are everywhere.

A crow fans its tails as it looks over the harbor.

A crow fans its tail as it looks over the harbor.

Here is a sunlit crow.

IMG_1567

Below, a crow perches high on a barren tree.

Or could the bird below possibly be a raven? I heard ravens frequently in the woods, and saw them on several occasions calling and flying. I also heard one making a kind of strange high-pitched constant call as it flew that I had never heard before.

IMG_1518

Yet another crow engaged in a turf battle with a gull in the harbor. When it circled up to this tree, its feathers looked quite a bit the worse for wear.

IMG_1452

It repeatedly soared down to the rocks at the water’s edge.

IMG_1459

But if the gull became aggressive, it took off and lit on the tree.

IMG_1455

Then it would fly back down. Must have been some good seafood down there.

A Canada goose also figured in the scenario.

IMG_1458

The goose was mostly left to its own devices, ignored by gull and crow, even when it mounted the rocks.

IMG_1468

Back in Vancouver, a flock of crows mingled with a mallard and a coot at the water’s edge.

IMG_1606

I wondered if any of the crows I saw were Northwestern crows rather than American crows. Northwestern crows, which are found only along the upper Pacific coast, are described as being slightly smaller than the American crow. They specialize in scavenging along shorelines. My guidebook claims they are most easily distinguished by their lower-pitched, hoarser voices. Next time, I’ll listen more closely.

Eagles and Hummingbirds of British Columbia

May 3, 2013

Bald eagles abounded on our recent trip up the British Columbia coast.

IMG_1585

This beautiful bird was sitting on a body of fresh water in an area that looks to me like a beaver dam.

IMG_1582

Another closer look.

IMG_1581

We saw many eagles on the wing. With a wingspan of nearly seven feet, they are an impressive sight.

IMG_1497

And for a size contrast, we also observed several rufous hummingbirds whose wingspan reaches a magnificent 4 1/2 inches.

IMG_1446

We saw these tiny, brilliant creatures at a nectar feeder, and darting out over a road to capture insects.¬† Several times, the hum of those rapidly beating wings alerted me to the bird’s presence before I registered it visually. According to Journey North, hummingbirds beat their wings at a rate of about 75 beats per second.

Here a rufous hummingbird sips nectar from the feeder.

IMG_1445

And here’s a lovely view from the vicinity in which we saw the hummingbird zoom back and forth over the road.

IMG_1542

Happy May Day

May 1, 2013

Happy May!

Phil, the white peacock of Saint John the Divine.

Phil, the white peacock of Saint John the Divine.

People, flowers, wildlife and pets are out in force.

Art meets cherry trees on the grounds of St John's.

Art meets cherry trees on the grounds of St John’s.

Fine weather to sit with your dogs.

Sitting in the shade with the dogs.

Sitting in the shade with the dogs.

Or your birds.

IMG_1662

A bird cage with six parakeets becomes mobile atop a laundry cart.

Here’s a closer look at one of six happy parakeets on their outing to the river.

Oh, what a pretty bird.

Oh, what a pretty bird.

Fine weather, too, for human lovebirds.

On the Greenway by the Hudson in Riverside Park.

On the Greenway by the Hudson in Riverside Park.

Or for sitting alone near the forsythia.

On the retaining wall of Riverside Park.

On the retaining wall of Riverside Park.

Wherever you go and whomever you’re with, keep an eye out for color.

Tulips in Riverside Park.

Tulips in Riverside Park.

And enjoy the flowers before they go.

Magnolia carpet in Riverside Park.

Magnolia carpet in Riverside Park.

The brief life of flowers, and the word “enjoy,”puts me in mind of William Blake’s poem, Eternity:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

Happy May!

IMG_1622


%d bloggers like this: