Search Results for: crows

Weekend Expedition 64: Victoria birds and things


This weekend, Catherine and I went to Victoria to spend the weekend with my family and managed to get out for photography on both Saturday and Sunday.


My brother and I found this Kildeer making a bit of a fuss at the morning flight of crows at Cattle Point. Surely it is too early for nesting?


No! There was definitely some incubation happening!


Returning later in the afternoon allowed a closer approach with more light.


And speaking of crows, here are a few from Cattle Point.


With this moustache, it is no wonder Europeans often mistake our crows for ravens.


The camas is beginning to bloom in Victoria, with a few early blossoms showing u already. They are spectacular in the Garry Oak meadows, and are a great source of pollen for the bumblebees.


Although we shot a bunch of spiders, I will just show the Tibellus, leaving the rest for Catherine to blog about!


This shows how cryptic they can be on dead grass!


With some backlight, they really stand out!


Your background can really be a canvas to convey whatever kind of colour you need. Here is spring grass, you could also use dead leaves for a rich reddish wash.


At first when we found this bee fly, we thought a spider had killed it, as it was hanging limp from an oak branch.


Looking at the abdomen, we could see no spider attached.


It’s alive! Was just torpid from the cool morning.


After a photo session, the fly began some wing buzzing to warm up and fly off.


On Sunday morning, my brother and I headed off at dawn for some early shots. Here is the city from Gonzales hill,



We found this eagle at Clover Point.


After a time, it joined some gulls and crows investigating some garbage.


After an oblivious dogwalker scared it off, it flew away into the morning sun.


This shot is pretty cool…






An oasis in Crow City

IMG_7372Right in the heart of downtown Victoria, in an abandoned, excavated lot we found this little piece of crow paradise. It was fenced and secure, and had a lovely sunstruck bathing pool.


When we approached, several crows were bathing.


Here a crow ducks down in the water, splashing furiously.


Ah, that’s better!


Victoria, much like Vancouver is a city of crows. Although there are some ravens in both cities now, the predominant corvids are crows.


On Boxing Day, right next door from my mother’s house, A huge gathering of crows came down to feed of the subterranean larvae of European chafer, a type of scarab beetle.


Perched up on a power line, the crows wait for a dog to pass.


Many of the crows in Victoria communally roost on Discovery and Chatham Island, like the Vancouver crows nest in Burnaby. Here is one fresh off the morning flight from the islands.


I really enjoy watching crows, and despite their ubiquity, find them a challenge photographically.


Capturing their behaviour accurately remains one of my photographic goals. How cool would it be to get good photos at a nest? Close up views of their prey? Mating? I think I will keep watching and shooting crows for a good long while before I am satisfied!





Our first Christmas Bird Count!


I suppose it is kind of odd for a bird researcher to admit that I have never really taken part in organized birding. This is because I have never really considered myself a birder as such. I admire birders, with their excellent field sense and their identification skills, but I am more of a birdwatcher than a birder. I like watching birds, so long as I am getting insight into their behaviour or appreciating them aesthetically.

Nonetheless, I have adequate ID skills, at least as far as the winter fauna of Victoria goes, so Catherine signed us up as volunteers for the annual Christmas Bird Count. These events are an old tradition of the Audubon Society, and historically have provided quite a bit of abundance and presence/absence data on a continent-wide scale.

Victoria’s count took place yesterday, on a windy and rainy Saturday, which is not really the best weather to see lots and lots of birds. Most songbirds have to eat, however, so the early morning was bound to be at least somewhat productive.

We met other volunteers at a Tim Horton’s, and were assigned a largely-residential section adjacent to Panama Flats in Saanich. The objective is to walk the area, identifying and counting birds, recording how many of each species we saw. For a full list of what we saw, click here. Check out the pictures, and follow the Victoria count results here.


My brother, Colin came out to help. Colin, Catherine and I were the only ones to cover an area to the southeast of Panama flats.


This is the final sunlight Catherine saw before the weather socked in!



We did not record these, but did take a picture to document the sighting.


We recorded 75 crows, but it is likely we missed many.


We saw this Barred Owl in a small floodwater ravine.


White-crowned Sparrow, one of two that we saw.


We saw quite a few House Sparrows, although counting them was difficult due to them hiding in the bushes.


The sole Stellers Jay we saw.


Juncoes! These were one of the most abundant birds all day; we saw 56.


I am sure I could have figured out some of the gulls we saw, but since the checklist included an “unidentified gulls” section, that is what I put.


We had some attention from local pets.


This was the only eagle we saw, and we also spotted one Peregrine Falcon.


This dog has fogged up the window with his barking.




Ibycter 2013: a year of photos and blogging


2013 has been a great year for shooting as well as for getting my images out to people who are interested, via this blog! There are so many decent images to choose from, and I am a bit pressed for time right now, so I  will organize the pictures that stood out for me phylogenetically.



One of the beautiful Ammophila featured in Ibycter Illustrated. Photographing sleeping Hymenoptera at sunrise gave me a new appreciation for mixing ambient and flash.


I love the way the dew sparkles on this Lycaenid.


In 2013, I got to indulge myself with many opportunities to shoot Coelioxys, my favourite Megachilid.


Using flowers as colourful backdrops was something I explored in the gardens this year.


Not the best technically, but it was great to come upon this scene of predation between Laphria and Apis. Productive slacking indeed!


Another Laphria found on a window provided a good long photo session so I could explore lighting against the sky.


The end result of a syrphid rearing experiment! Feed your syrphid well!


Some time spent in Victoria in the spring was a good time to revise papers and look for beautiful snakeflies!

This was my favourite of the bunch, with the water droplets adding to the interest.

After this shot, I resolved to shoot more ants, but unfortunately I did not follow through. This was the best ant I shot all year.


I explored a bit of underwater photography with micro-aquaria, but could use some more practice.


I got to use the Monster Macro Rig to good effect in lush grasses, where it excels.


And more Coelioxys!



This was a great year for spider photography, and I shot many species, such as this uloborid, Hyptiotes gertschi.


Although I worked out a hypothetical method for better jumping spider photos, I never put it to use. I got some decent jumper pics nonetheless,


While exiled in Port Moody, we managed to witness some dramatic spider action.


Fieldwork at Island View Beach provided a good excuse to shoot black widows and other great animals.


I managed more than my fair share of crab spider shots, like this one during some time in the community garden.


This dramatic shot of a Woodlouse Hunter was a big hit.


Some of the studio shots I took of jumpers at Iona were also pretty dramatic. This Habronattus ophrys male was pretty on black.


Jumpers also stand out on white.


I found several long philodromids this year, which look elegant stretched out in their concealed mode.


Following a gravid Cellar Spider was a great lesson in spider reproduction.

Starting to harden up and recover movement.

This molting clack widow was a great treat to see.

(non-human) Vertebrates


Shooting seals underwater was a highlight late in the year, thanks to aquiring a GoPro.


Getting out to YVR with the Wildlife Control people was a really fun experience. This molting Peregrine tiercel was one of the better shots I ever got of a peregrine.


I indulged my crow photography habit more than a little in 2013


A family of raccoons provided entertainment and photo ops all through the year

duck for blog1

This snapshot of an injured duck led me into some community activism, and was ultimately used in newspapers and at council meetings.


I git some decent shots during feeding time for some barn swallows.


This eagle in a cottonwood highlights the gentle light you can get on a bright summer day under the shade of a tree.


Probably my favourite bird shot this year, this male Annas hummingbird was spectacular in the evening light.


A studio session with Jasmine the cat provided some ammunition in the war for equality.


These trumpeter swans emerging out of the clouds were also a favourite.


Sandhill Cranes up close are kinda crazy looking!


I lost my good friend and adventuring partner this year. Maggie was an awesome dog and I will miss her greatly.



I got out several times with Wild Research on birding trips. This shot of Paul Levsque channeling Steve Zissou was fun.


The most fun I had with people was some of the outreach we did bringing insects and spiders to kids.


Antonia with maggot art at the Halloween Spooktacular


Meeting Alex Wild and others at the ESC in Guelph was an unexpected boost.


Attending Alex Wild’s insect photography workshop with Mike Hrabar was a great way to start the conference.


Sometimes going out mushroom hunting with friends is the best cure for the fall blues.


Catherine Scott, my scientific collaborator and fellow member of Team Caracara has a great smile and killer stats insight.


Getting out and speaking up for what matters is important. This was shot at the “Stand Up For Science” rally in Vancouver.


OK, here are several more shots of kids with bugs. What could be more awesome?




People gathered together for Moth Night. A great way to spend a summer evening!



Doing Barn Owl work with Sofi was pretty fun. We managed to capture several owls.


A butterfly outing!

Tavi and Viorel

Tavi and Viorel


Antonia with a great stonefly!

Weekend Expedition 37: Catchup Weekend


This is to be a weekend of catchup, as I try to finish grant proposals and permit applications for work in Honduras. What no one tells you about doing a PhD is how much work it is to not only finish and defend your thesis, but to ensure you have a job or income waiting for you when you do! Defending my PhD work is really the least of my worries.

I did go out Saturday morning for a walk in Stanley Park, where I encountered the regular cast of characters for a late fall morning. Because the crows have completed their molt, I did some crow photography, experimenting with throwing bare flash onto them from behind to give them some separation from the background, and in general to add interest. I think this is something I would like to explore some more, as it does give the shots a bit of extra pop, and the crow plumage seems to tolerate the bare flash well, provided it comes from an angle. All of the following crow shots have a cloudy daylight for the fill, and just a kicker of bare flash for highlighting.






A late blow fly hanging out on a dead leaf. The water droplets are dew.


The heavy rain we have had recently has kicked up soil on this mushroom.


I presume this is some kind of Lentinus. These are actually polypores, but have secondarily evolved gills.


It looks to me to be a Metelina, a type of tetragnathid.


Coon chillin’ on a log.


The winter ducks are arriving, like this Bufflehead. I also saw some Hooded Mergansers and goldeneyes.

Some more crow portraits


Some of my favourite photographic subjects to revisit periodically are crows.  These bold black birds seem to me unusually expressive, with minor variations in posture and plumage conveying very different feelings photographically. I like to get in close, to show their eyes and plumage. In the following shots, you can see that some are molting countour plumes around the face. In another month or so, they will be at their sleekest and blackest, and I will probably go out for some more crow sessions.











Weekend Expedition 25: a few from Stanley Park


Some Eudioctria Robber Flies getting it on!

Photography seems to run in my family, with my Dad shooting lots of people and landscapes, and my brother doing lots of aviation and travel shooting.

My Dad was visiting this weekend from Romania, and so I thought I would take him out to find some cool stuff in Stanley Park. Now is a great time for fledgling birds, and all the summer specialties such as robber flies are abundant.


A mother Wood Duck watches her brood.


Wood Duckling!


Fledgling Great Blue Heron, trying to fish.


Young Canada Goose, looking serious.


Crows were foraging in the intertidal of English Bay.


A fledgling crow learns how to get mollusks on the beach.


My dad takes a break while I shoot crows.



Soldier Beetle tosses antennae provocatively.



A monster!


Lacewing larvae are pretty fascinating.


The Eudioctria were a bit randy today.


And hungry! Here is one with a barklouse as prey.


Strategic wing placement?


This Anthidium manicatum was fixated on these flowers. For an introduced species, these are pretty nice looking insects.

Weekend Expedition 15: Hastings Park


This Weekend Expedition, we set out to go to North Vancouver’s Maplewood Park. Just a short bus ride across the bridge, right? Well, if is if you manage to catch the bus! Catherine and I arrived at the bus stop just as our bus was pulling out…And it was Sunday, so the next one was in 25 minutes. No problem! Lets just walk to the next bus stop and wait there.


This bus stop was awesome, we had knitting to do and Tobey Maguire (Spiderman!) to keep us company. Except the next bus didn’t stop for us! Apparently, our special bus only stops at the first stop (not that they are labelled or anything. Thanks TransLink!). Rather than wait another 25 minutes, we decided to change plans and head to Hastings Park, a few blocks away. Have a look below to see what we found!


The crows are nesting!


this looks a lot like Brumoides histrio, a type of Ladybird beetle (Coccinellidae). UPDATE: this is actually Brumus quadripustulatus. Thanks V. Belov!





We call them harvestpersons. This one appears to be a harvestchild.


first Odonates!


To me this looks like an Anthomyiid. Anyone else have an idea?





I think this syrphid turned out pretty nicely.




The first Damselflies of the season!


I liked how the drop on this lupine magnified the details.


A Sawfly


This Ichneumonid was hunting on the Lupines




taken with the Monster Macro Rig…Even though the leaf was moving, the whole exposure is with flash, so no problem.


I wasn’t the only photographer there. Check out this guy with a large format camera!






Chironomid midges!



This Red-winged Blackbird was doing an awesome job defending his territory.


This was my favourite photo of the trip…This heron was unconcerned with me after I had squatted observing for a while. I was apple to approach really close.

Crow Portraits

I think this is my most popular crow picture. I have shot hundreds of others, but this one particular inclination of the head seems to captivate people.

Many photographers struggle to find models, often paying lots of money to professional agencies or resorting to Model Mayhem to recruit on-camera talent. In Vancouver, I have found a huge selection of beautiful models who will work for peanuts. Literally.

One of my favorite activities in bird photography is to assemble a group of hungry crows in order to hone  my camera technique and practice my timing  Crows are photographically challenging due to their dark tones, but repeated efforts will yield nice results. These abundant city crows are used to scavenging human refuse and soliciting handouts, so feeding them does not risk altering their survival skillset.

They will approach closely, so shooting them with a 50 mm lens is definitely doable.

Contrasting the dark detailed plumage with saturated creamy backgrounds makes for a great portrait. Longer focal lengths are usually needed for this.

What I love especially about these birds is their curiosity and mannerisms that call to mind their intelligence.

In the Vancouver area, there is a high abundance of crows, who (when not rearing young) fly into the city at dawn from huge communal roost sites in Burnaby.


These birds are headed from Coquitlam into Burnaby for the evening . The daily migration gathers birds from all around the area.

Because they are such willing subjects, I can experiment with different lighting styles, even overused hipster clichés.

lens flare and loss of contrast due to light source close to the subject. A no no or an interesting effect?

What I find most intriguing is how individual birds look so different from one another. In this shot, the preening crow looks almost raven-like.

I can show context or isolate. This was shot in Victoria in the spring, with blooming camas in a Garry Oak meadow.

One of the best things about working with an urban social species is that they go about most parts of their lives in front of humans, so they do not alter their behavior because of fear.  So I try to catch natural behavior as well, such as calling, anting, foraging,  playing, and allopreening.

During nesting season, the crows get a bit more reluctant to share their space with us.

Anting looks so satisfying! (it is likely to repel or kill ectoparasites)

Get your fresh water where you can.

Crow love. Allopreening (mutual grooming) is common in pair bonding birds. It probably arises in other situations also.

The red gape of this begging juvenile will disappear and become black like an adult. Also note the brownish tone of the juvenal countour feathers.

Another juvenile crow, this one learning how to forage on shellfish.

This was an attempt to shoot a “Meet Your Neighbours” style shot

Many many interesting moments can be had in rapid succession with a group of crows in attendance.

All in all, I think the crow makes a worthy model for future photographic study. I keep returning to them for inspiration and practice. There are so many more behaviors, looks and moods I would like to document. When nothing else is going well, a photo session with crows can always boost my morale and stir my imagination.
What kind of familiar subjects do you return to?

Go out and try some crow photography, or shoot whatever is your local equivalent. You may find that you return again and again for inspiration.