For the Birds again: Part III – Annie Pang

Hello again.  It has been quite a while since I have posted anything so thanks again to my blog partner, Terry, for his entertaining and informative blogs…and the great poetry he writes!

Well, back here in Victoria, it has been an unseasonably mild, but moody and grey winter.  On the occasional sunny days I have tried to get out to the Gorge with my camera, but most times I’ve been there it has not been sunny.  So this blog covers early to mid-March including what has been going on here at my home bird feeder and just a few things along the Gorge Waterway as well.

The snowdrops had been out for some time so here is a picture I took in GorgePark.  As they are white, I find it difficult with this camera to get well-defined shots, but here is one.

P1190112 Snowdrop

At the beginning of March, I was so pleased and surprised when, after no sightings of my beloved Goldfinches since last spring, I saw a pair flutter in to feed briefly.  The male was only just beginning to show a bit of his spring plumage with a few black and yellow markings on top of his head.  This is the picture I got of him.

P1190213 Male Goldfinch Mar 1 2013 w verse

The female was evident as she had no such changes occurring.  These were the only two that I saw.

P1190209 Female Goldfinch March 1 2013 edge

As the day was sunny, I headed out to the Gorge Waterway where I was pleased to find my old friend, the Great Blue Heron, had returned to his favourite feeding spot.  The light was bright enough and the tide was low, so I was able to get this shot.

P1190194 Blue Heron returns Mar 1 2013

Although I saw a small raft of American Wigeons up feeding on grass, no diving ducks were evident and I found this troubling since the numbers I’d seen were fairly diminished this last season.

P1190198 Wigeons along Gorge

There was one exception however, a raft of Goldeneyes and there was a surprising number of Goldeneye males…seven actually, and only two females.   How many fellows does a gal need…or even want?  I wonder what happened to the rest of the females.  A good birder friend in Saskatchewan has told me how brutal the mating rituals of the male ducks can be, practically or literally drowning the female during the act of mating with several males pursuing one female at one time.  This may account for the diminished numbers.  Apparently when the male ducks run out of females to mate with due to fatality or flight, they will engage in mating with each other and also remain companions for the entire season.  As we don’t really witness diving ducks mating here in Victoria I guess I’ll have to take her word on this one as there seems to be no other explanation for the diminishing numbers of female Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Common Mergansers, etc. in the last number of years when they overwinter here.  In any case, I was lucky to get this shot of the most Goldeneyes I have ever seen here and hope you enjoy it.

P1190181 Raft of GoldenEyes Mar 3 2013 w verse

There was also a lovely pink rhododendron in bloom along the Gorge Waterway and I was cheered by the promise of spring.  This plant has sometimes started flowering as early as January so I was surprised that it was coming out this late.

P1190221 Rhodo along Gorge WW

As Saskatchewan is seeing probably one of the longest and most brutal winters in about 20 years, I felt compelled to send my friend a cheerful picture of some ornamental Japanese plum blossoms that were just coming out in early March.  These were taken at my home.

P1190234 Plum Blossom

She was very pleased to see flowers, something she tells me she won’t be seeing for another couple of months as things stand.

Time passed…in actuality only two weeks or so, when I got a very pleasant surprise;  a few actually.  The first one was when a male Northern Flicker showed up at my kitchen window feeder.  What was remarkable and exciting was that this was a male Hybrid between the Red and the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker.  The underfeathers were yellow and there was the tell-tale red-crescent on the back of the neck, however his “mustache”, normally black on a Yellow-shafted was red, which was from the Red-shafted “parent”or ”grandparent”of this bird.  What a pretty sight I thought to myself.

Northern Hybrid Flicker 1st pic and poetograph

P1190294 Hybrid flicker 2nd pic and poetograph

A few days later, I heard what sounded like a jack-hammer on my roof, and it took a while to realize that, as I’d seen both Red-shafted and Hybrid Flickers, one of these was looking for food on my roof!!  At least that’s what I thought it was doing but again, I found out that this “drumming” ritual was more of a territorial behaviour at this beginning of mating season.  I’m not so sure I’m crazy about that, but it didn’t last too long and only for a couple of days.  Maybe my roof didn’t taste that great.  One can only hope I suppose.

The last and most lovely surprise, after a two week absence, was another appearance of the male and female Goldfinch.  The male was dramatically altered and had a complete black cap now and mostly bright yellow feathers.  I was fortunate to have someone there to point him out to me so I grabbed my camera and took as many shots as I could.  At the end of this narrative, you will see my altered Goldfinch friend as well as another parting poetograph at the end.

So…now other than those pesky Starlings and House Sparrows as well as the House Finches, who are looking a bit worse for wear, this narrative has been my excitement here in Victoria.  My outings have diminished for now, but I remain hopeful to be able to find the time and strength to venture out into nature again with my camera and some warm sunshine.

I may even find a butterfly but for now, I will leave you with this poem of reflection that echoes my concerns and moods about our ever changing environment and bird population which, as always, I find parallels my own inner being.  I still hold onto hope that things will improve, because one must believe or hope dies.

 

In the Spring Sunlight

 

So many weeks ago since the Goldfinch had been

with his promise of spring not yet to be seen.

I left my home to find the ducks

and I found a life raft of Golden-eyed luck.

The water glistened as I walked along

and carefully listened for sweet birdsong

but all was quiet except for some crows

clawing and cawing their aggressive woes.

The water glistened in the springtime sun

with the blossoms smiling with new life begun

and I walked along in my melancholy mood

looking for the love for my spiritual food.

But none did I find outside of the sun

and the blossoms and life I saw had begun.

So I dove within for inner sight

and found myself in the spring sunlight.

Then the Goldfinch returned to show me his gold

and suddenly I didn’t feel so old…

 

P1190305 Male Goldfinch on branch Mar 15 13 crpd w verse

P1190286 Sun through trees HPcrp w verse 

 

© Annie Pang March 15, 2013.

 

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About annieandterry

This is a blog shared by two friends who have never met in person, Annie Pang and Terry Thormin. We both live on Vancouver Island, Annie in Victoria and Terry in Comox. All communication to date has been either by email or telephone. We are both passionate about nature and conservation and we are both nature photographers. Annie is also a very fine poet and was a concert violinist, while Terry worked as an entomologist for the Royal Alberta Museum until he retired in 2005. We hope you enjoy this joint effort to share our nature musings with anyone who is interested.

Posted on March 22, 2013, in Nature, Photography, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks Annie! Beautiful pics and poem as always. So nice to see signs of spring when temperatures out here are still dipping below zero! One question though: how did you know it was the same goldfinch?

    • Hi Wendy. I don’t know for an absolute certainty that this is the same pair as two weeks before, however since these are the only Goldfinches that have shown up during the entire season, it would stand to reason that they knew where the food source was and may even be hanging around in my stand of Douglas firs or other neighbouring trees. I also have a pair of Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers and others who are more regular than these Goldfinches have been.

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