Bruce Whittington – November 2015

Recently I discovered a transparency of a Ruffed Grouse that I took in 1969. I guess that means I’ve been photographing birds since then, but, truth be told, there were also long periods devoted to cars, girls, coffee houses, raising kids, day jobs and so on. When I began to lead more tours and field trips, and needed good images for slide shows and books I was working on, I returned to photography with renewed interest and purpose. Just as I made an effort to expand my writing to genres other than non-fiction, I also broadened my subject areas in my photography. But I kept returning to what inspired me the most—the natural world. I came to understand that I was not a writer or a photographer so much as a naturalist who writes and takes photographs.

I’ve had many careers: in retail, conservation work, tour leading, municipal politics, self-publishing, and it continues. Most recently—career number twenty-nine I think— I am working with my wife Wanda, who is an artist, in her picture framing shop and gallery in Ladysmith.

I have just moved from a Nikon D7000 to a D7100 camera. My primary wildlife lens is a Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 with a 1.4 teleconverter. I also use a Nikon 300 mm f/4 with the converter when I can use a tripod, an 18-70 mm for landscapes and grandkids, and a venerable but amazingly sharp Micro-Nikkor 55 mm  f/3.5 for little critters. I prefer not to over-mask or over-sharpen my images, but I do use several software programs to address the limitations of digital imagery.

(Ed’s note: click on images for closer views).


 

This male Anna’s Hummingbird posed very cooperatively, on a spent flower head of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Anna's Hummingbird, Calypte anna, male, on Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota, Panama Flats, Saanich, BC.

Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna, male, on Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, Panama Flats, Saanich, BC., 18 Apr. 2003

 

A Bewick’s Wren pops up in a thicket along the waterfront in Ladysmith; a little habitat in a photo can be a good thing.

Bewick's Wren, Thryomanes bewickii, Oyster Bay Drive, Ladysmith, BC.

Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii, Oyster Bay Drive, Ladysmith, BC., 19 Feb. 2009

 

I never cease to be amazed when Black-footed Albatrosses suddenly appear to mark the transition to pelagic environments. This was one of about 40 on a trip off the west coast of Haida Gwaii.

Black-footed Albatross, Phoebastria nigripes, in flight west of Kunghit Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, BC.

Black-footed Albatross, Phoebastria nigripes, in flight west of Kunghit Island, Haida Gwaii, BC., 22 June 2009

 

I’ve “planted” dead branches in our back yard which attract many species of birds, and provide good photo perches. This Downy Woodpecker appeared when a nearby cherry tree had changed colour in the fall, providing the ocherous bokeh for the image.

Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens, adult male, Ladysmith, BC., 12 Nov. 2009.

 

Evening Grosbeaks are rare visitors to our feeders, but we were entertained for a week or so by a small group one year. I was able to get quite close for photos like this, but I also got a lot of images of the empty branch.

Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus, male, 1031 Dunsmuir Crescent, Ladysmith, BC.

Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus, male, 1031 Dunsmuir Crescent, Ladysmith, BC., 16 Nov. 2014

I get a thrill when I see migrating birds returning each year to feed in Important Bird Areas like Active Pass. This Bonaparte’s Gull was just around the corner from Active Pass at Boiling Reef, off the eastern tip of Saturna Island.

Bonaparte's Gull, Larus philadelphia, Boiling Reef, Saturna Island, BC.

Bonaparte’s Gull, Larus philadelphia, Boiling Reef, Saturna Island, BC., 12 Apr. 2010

 

The Nanaimo River Estuary is one of the more productive winter habitats on central Vancouver Island. Northern Shrikes like the open meadows—the challenge is to get close enough for the shot.

Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, immature, Nanaimo River Estuary, Cedar, BC.

Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, immature, Nanaimo River Estuary, Cedar, BC., 11 Oct. 2009

 

My wife found this Northern Pygmy-Owl in an unlikely habitat: along the high tide line at Wickaninnish Beach, foraging on isopods in the beach wrack.

Northern Pygmy-owl, Glaucidium gnoma, foraging from driftwood at Wickanninish Beach, likely on Megalorchestia sp. amphipods, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, BC., 22 Feb. 2015

 

This Rufous Hummingbird led me to her nest with two eggs one day as I sat and opened a thermos of coffee. She had so recently completed the nest that she still had cobwebs on her. I followed the progress until she successfully fledged two young hummers.

Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus, female on nest one metre off the ground in a young Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Banon Creek Forest Service Road at powerline crossing, near Ladysmith, BC.

Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus, female on nest one metre off the ground in a young Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Banon Creek Forest Service Road at powerline crossing, near Ladysmith, BC., 22 May 2013

 

There was no hope of approaching this Semipalmated Plover for a photo, so I sat down quietly, and before too long the bird continued foraging and came close enough for this photo, taken in Haida Gwaii.

Semipalmated Plover, Charadrius semipalmatus, foraging at low tide on sand/gravel beach, Murchison Island, Haida Gwaii, BC.

Semipalmated Plover, Charadrius semipalmatus, foraging at low tide on sand/gravel beach, Murchison Island, Haida Gwaii, BC., 19 May 2010

 

East Sooke Regional Park has become well known as a spot to watch migrating vultures and raptors. At the place I call “Hawk Lookout”, this bird came in for a closer look at me. It is clearly moulting while it makes its way south.

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, in flight over Hawk Lookout, East Sooke Regional Park, East Sooke, BC.

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, in flight over Hawk Lookout, East Sooke Regional Park, East Sooke, BC., 23 Sept. 2009

 

Chilcotin wetlands are alive with birds. A pair of Yellow-headed Blackbirds was catching dragonflies and their nymphs for an unseen nest . This was taken on a BCFO field trip.

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus, male with insects (dragonfly nymphs?), ponds about 40 km west of Redstone along Highway 20 in the Chilcotin, BC.

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus, male with insects (dragonfly nymphs?), ponds about 40 km west of Redstone along Highway 20 in the Chilcotin, BC., 21 June 2103

 

Bruce Whittington
Ladysmith, BC
www.strayfeathers.ca