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Great blue heron at Steveston

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Most of the time when I find great blue herons their chest plumes (the long string-like feathers that come off the lower neck and upper chest) are pressed tight against their body.  They also have back plumes and head plumes that form a crest.  These plumes are at their longest and most dramatic during the breeding season where they are used in courtship displays.  I photographed the above heron three days ago (March 24)  which is the time herons are involved in nest building in the lower mainland.   Great blue herons are monogamous on a yearly basis but find new mates the following year.  Along with courtship displays involving their long plumes (you can see the chest and back ones on the above specimen) they intertwine necks, vocalize with gutteral croaks, and the male will present sticks to the female who is involved in nest building.  Even though the herons are clearly dedicated to nest construction, mating, and egg tending (both sexes do this), they still spend most of their wakin

How to photograph birds - tips.

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I have thousands of bird photographs that I have taken over the years.  If one was to go through the images by date a gradual improvement would be noticed.  I can safely say that my photos have improved over time.  That's not to say that I have arrived; far from it.  I think that there is still a lot I can achieve and look forward to improving my performance and collection in the future.  I have formulated a number of opinions that have enormous value for the wildlife photographer.  Here are some of my musings. Good glass (lenses) are more important than good cameras.  If you are uncertain where to spend your photography money, put it towards good quality optics.   Spring is an exceptional time for birding.  Migration, breeding behaviours, breeding plumage, chicks and nests, and vocalizations are more likely to produce exceptional images. Parks are good places to photograph birds; they are somewhat habituated to people and that means you are more able to approach them without scari

Northern Harrier - The marsh hunter.

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I have only seen Northern Harriers a few times, but each opportunity afforded some speculation as to its behaviour.  They seem to cruise at low altitude, scarcely a few meters above the ground, and always over marshy plains next to a large water body.  I saw one last year along the Pitt River in Maple Ridge as it surveilled the landscape beneath it.  Yesterday I was out at Steveston in the far reaches of Richmond and enjoyed another encounter. The large size of the raptor, its distinctive white rump, and the banded tail substantiated my conclusion on its identity.  The brown shades underwing testifies to the individual's sex; a female.  She apparently spends a great deal of her day scanning the area of her domain looking for prey.  They mainly consume small mammals such as mice, voles, rats, and rabbits but will take birds and even grasshoppers.  Unlike other hawks, the northern harrier keeps low to the ground.  They have exceptional hearing and can locate prey through sound simila

Visiting Brydon Lagoon in Langley. Two turtle species present.

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In the Lower Mainland, it is unusual to visit a local water body and find turtles.  I have lived here for thirty years and rarely seen them.  Yet, it was only a few days ago that I spotted some in Maple Ridge (click here for blog).  What was extra unusual in today's viewing was the fact that there were two separate species present.  Western painted turtles (left) are native to BC.  Red-eared sliders (right) are an introduced species and not native.  In fact, they are considered invasive. With globalization and the burgeoning pet industry, we have seen a large number of introduced species take hold in environments where they never existed before.  Such occurrences may be beneficial to the local ecosystem, may be neutral, or may be harmful.  Harmful species are often identified as invasive.  Essentially that means that they take food and habitat away from native species.  The two main reasons for the harm they cause are their rapid rate of reproduction and the lack of natural enemie

You'll never know what you've got till it's gone.

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A proud father, a mom that is feeling blessed, and a loved child could well depict the moment in time captured by my camera.  My granddaughter, Nora, turned one year old in January of this year and we were there to celebrate the occasion.  Surrounded by her parents, both sets of grandparents, and her great-grandmother, she was only aware of those who deeply cared for her and the about-to-be demolished cake.  Her basic needs were well tended to.  Full tummy, safe, surrounded by loved ones, and happy.  This is the way it should be. Then Russia invaded Ukraine.  Food became hard to come by.  Loved ones were separated as the men went off to defend their homeland, possibly to never return.  The warm, dry, and hospitable surroundings that were commonplace became rare parameters with uncertainty about what tomorrow would bring.  Over three million refugees, mostly women, children, and the elderly, were suddenly fleeing for their lives.  Many were injured, some lost, and all wondering if their

Babel Creek and Consolation Lakes

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  If you have ever been to Banff National Park there is a good chance that you have been to Morraine Lake.  It is a jewel amongst the amazing peaks and valleys that the area has to offer, but it is not alone.  If you follow the trail that goes southeast from the parking lot you will eventually come to a pair of lakes.  They are the Consolation Lakes.  The channel that drains them is Babel Creek and is the water body you see in the above picture. Like most tourists, I will travel to popular destinations that attract the masses.  Getting there early is always a good idea as the light tends to be better and there are few people to get in the way of photos.  For me, it doesn't stop there.  I like to go beyond the typical experience and explore lesser-known venues.  A good example was the experience I had visiting Morraine Lake.  I did thoroughly enjoy my visit there and came away with some stunning photos, but it was my journey along the path following the ascending valley that provide

Black-billed magpie and composition.

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I find there are at least two parts of me that wrestle with each other every time I get behind a camera.  First, there is the creative side that wants the photo to look good; applying compositional axioms that have been tried and tested over the years.  This would include things like framing, rule of thirds, pointing with lines, and so on.  This usually means that I am searching for a meaningful frame of reference while assessing light and what position to photograph from.  This often requires time and forethought; something that many of my subjects cares very little about.   Then there is the scientist part of me that wants to record an image reflecting some aspect of an organism's life history, appearance, and environment.  The photo should convey information about the nature of the subject.  Often it involves simply about what it looks like and capturing fine details about its morphology.  It is always nice to incorporate behaviours into the shot.  This would include actions rel