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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Birds of a Feather

Did you ever see a bird fly upside down? Or backwards?

Did you know a Northern Gannet can pick its mate out of a roost of thousands - that all look the very same to me!

Have you ever seen the ballet-like mating dance of the Reddish Egret?  Or the courtship dance of Sandhill Cranes?

Did you know the tail of a chickadee acts as a third wing in flight? Or that vultures soar for hours on currents without so much as the flap of a wing? Or that Magnificent Frigatebirds fish, eat, digest, and rest in flight?

I learned all this and much more yesterday at the Nanaimo Museum. The show, Birds of a Feather, is a travelling exhibition from The Museum of Nature in Ottawa and includes walls of the stunning bird photography of Ralph Hocken as well as educational displays. And the gift shop is well-stocked with bird supplies from Nanaimo's Backyard Wild Bird and Nature Store, sponsors of the exhibit.

My favourite part of the exhibit was a video called Our Feathered Friends: Flying High by the National Museum of Natural Sciences. I happened upon it half-way through and plopped myself down on a bench, mesmerized, to watch. But when it was over I couldn't find a way to turn it back to watch from the beginning. Luckily, a kind museum volunteer tracked down someone who came and opened up the cupboard underneath the VCR player and rewound the video for me. It was worth the wait! What a fascinating show. If it's not playing when you go, do take the trouble to ask for assistance. You won't regret it.

The exhibit runs to May 21 and costs only $2.00 ($1.75 if you're over 55 - what a deal!). If you're interested in birds (and I am assuming you are since you are reading the blog!) don't miss it. The Nanaimo Museum is a short walk from the Gabriola Ferry. Just walk up Front Street (heading east) and turn left at the Port Theatre corner. The museum is just up the hill past the library.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Contamination Alert

An outbreak of salmonella poisoning in BC has already killed at least 50 pine siskins, probably caused by contaminated feeders. Read the Vancouver Province news story here:

Then PLEASE join me in giving all your feeders and bird baths a very good scrub. One part bleach to 9 parts water should do the trick.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count!

The Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual winter event, takes place this year from February 17 - 20. Let's make sure Gabriola birds are well-represented.

For information about the count go to

Here are a few photos (with identification comments) of a few of the Gabriola birds you might see during the count:

Spotted Towhee

It may be hard to tell from this picture,
but these large sparrows have remarkable red eyes.
Pair of purple finches

Note the raspberry wash down the backs of the purple finches

House Finch

Compared to the raspberry colouring of the male "Purple" Finch, the male House Finch usually has a true red head and breast. It's colouring can, however, be affected by his diet and can range from a yellowish-orange to this vibrant red.
In any case, his elaborate song doesn't change much! 

Red-headed sapsucker

The Red-breasted Sapsucker is the only local woodpecker with a completely red head, chin and upper breast. Even if you can't see him, you'll know he's nearby
by his distinctive irregular drumming.  

Female Northern Flicker with Steller's Jay looking on

Note the impatient Steller's Jay in the background waiting for this female Northern Flicker to finish her breakfast. The lack of a red "moustache" reveals her gender. 

Male Northern Flicker

Here's the male - note the red moustache.

Varied Thrush

The lovely Varied Thrush was once a finalist for the BC Provincial Bird,
but lost to the Steller's Jay. If a bird's song had been the deciding factor,
surely this thrush would have won, hands down.   

And last but surely not least, the unique California Quail, common now on Gabriola. 
That's all for now. Enjoy the count!