Monday, September 1, 2008

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Vancouver Island

On Wednesday August 27 2008 I looked out onto the backyard to see what Hummingbird activity there was and I noticed a battle going on in the Bee Balm there was a Rufous juvenile repeatedly diving at another Hummingbird that looked different, at first I thought it might be an Anna's as I had been hoping to attract one.

The different looking Hummingbird won out in the battle and proceeded to take over the yard running off the Rufous.

I have perches for the Hummingbirds by the flower patches and he would perch close to the flowers and this gave me a chance to get some pictures so I could identify him.

First day pictures.

After looking at the pictures I knew right away that this was no Anna's Hummingbird so I posted the pictures at the Hummingbird Forum knowing my friends there would be able to identify this bird.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Vancouver Island

I was told that this was a Juvenile male and that Black-chinned and Ruby-throated juvenile males as are very similar in appearance but that the bill length and wing length show this as Ruby-throated plus that the gorget feather shows up red in some pictures confirms this.

Second day pictures

I sent the pictures to a friend and he posted the Rare Bird Alert on the BCVIBirds forum, there was some debate between Black-chinned and Ruby-throated but once some more pictures were shown with the red gorget feather and some wing detail the debate died down.

I also gave The Backyard Bird and Nature store a call as they do the bird alert for the Nanaimo area and they put the sighting in there Nanaimo Bird Alert.

On the second day a couple of friends that just happen to be photographers came over and we sat on the deck watching the Ruby-throated, Rufous and the other birds visiting the yard, the Ruby-throated put on a good show and we got some good pictures, he kept control of the perches close to us and would feed on the flowers right close to were we sat, we never did see him go to a Hummingbird feeder he just fed on the flowers and hawked insects.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are eastern birds and rarely seen in British Columbia, I did find them mentioned in the British Columbia Rare Birds List and here is the part on Ruby-throated's.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubri
1.(1) adult male; June 11-21, 1951; near Vanderhoof
2.(1) adult male; May 4-late May, 1977; Stories Beach, south of Campbell River (ph)82
3.(1) adult male; April 28, 1979; North Vancouver
4.(1) adult male; July 21, 1981; Cypress Bowl Provincial Park, West Vancouver
5.(1) adult male; June 12, 1983; near Tupper, south of Dawson Creek
6.(1) adult male; April 1-2, 1992; Campbell Valley Regional Park, Langley
7.(max 2) adult male & female; June-July, 2000; near Valley View, north of Dawson Creek
8.(max 2) adult male & female; June-July, 2001; near Valley View, north of Dawson Creek
9.(1) female; August 16, 2002; near Dawson Creek
10.(1) adult male; June 5 - July 5, 2003; near Taylor, south of Fort St.John
11.(8) 4 males/ 4 females; May 20-June 28, 2004; near Taylor, south of Fort St.John
12.(1) adult male; June 12-16, 2005; near Taylor, south of Fort St.John (ph)
13.(1) adult male; August 8-11, 2007; New Hazelton, Bulkley Valley (ph)

And I found some more details in the Birds of British Columbia page 482.

Day three pictures.

The first two days the weather was dark clouds and rain, not the greatest for taking pictures but we made do, the Ruby stayed close to the flowers and was busy guarding them from the Rufous and didn't venture off for any lenth of time, pretty well when every you looked there he was.

By the third day the weather had improved and although he was seen in the morning till 8:00 am he disappeared for a few hours, two birder/photographers had made arrangements to come and see the Ruby and he did show up before they did, he didn't stick as close to the flowers though as the previous two days, with the sunnier weather he was out and about more but did finally put on a show for the visitors and some nice pictures were taken

After every one was gone and the light was too low for photography the Ruby would sit on the perch on the deck with me and we would have a quiet time, he would perch closer than a Rufous would although the Rufous would feed closer.

On the fourth day he was there in the morning and disappeared after 8:00 am and again, I was hoping he would show up after a few hours like the day before as there were a number of people coming to see him but that was the last I saw of him, probably continuing his migration to the wintering grounds in Central America.

I have no idea how he came to be here and we will never know, juvenile hummingbirds are left on there own to find there way south as the adults leave earlier in the season once the breeding and nesting is finished the young birds gain strength and fat stores before migrating on there own, they don't always go in the right direction.

It was a very exiting experience and I am still looking out the window constantly to see if he is back and I do miss him.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Making a Veggie filter for my goldfish pond.

Filtering your pond water removes fish waste and feeds it to bacteria and plants, you won't get the build up of sludge on the bottom and the water will stay clear, its also healthier for the fish.

There is a disadvantage of having clear water and that is the predators will be able to see your fish when they fly over, I have problems with Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons and even a River Otter, so if your cleaning up the water make sure you have lots of cover in the way of Lilies and plants that cover the surface. A net placed over the pond for the winter months when there are no plants for cover can save a lot of fish.Having plants with long roots and some rip rap in the pond to make a reef creates some hiding places that the fish can go into.

I used to use biological upflow filters, these work very well but what I don't like about them is they need an aeration tower to oxygenate the water for proper bacterial action and they have a bare gravel bed, I have my filters integrated with my pond so this became an issue for me since its not so easy to hide, if your filters are hidden than this wouldn't be an issue,veggie filters are easier to construct since you don't need to build a shelve with a grate to support the media.

Veggie filters are sometimes called bog filters, so you if you want to learn more you can try a google search on bog filter or veggie filter.

To construct a filter you will need a pump, a container for holding the media, piping and distribution grid and some media. And some plants of course.

You will also need some way of draining the filter to clean out the accumulated solids, this should be done regularly so make it easy.

For a pump you want something that will recirculate the water in your pond every hour or so, and size your filters so there around 15 percent of the volume of your pond, a lot depends how many fish you have. The height you will be pumping will have to be factored in also since volume drops with height pumped.

Use piping with a smoother surface on the inside and the largest pipe that your pump can use, this will keep your line losses to a minimum.

For a container I dug a hole and used pond liner, build up the area so the filter is higher than the pond so the water will flow back with gravity, I separated the filter a couple of feet from the pond.

Once the hole was dug, underlayment placed, the liner was positioned and the grid layed in, my grid isn't the greatest and is somthing I had on hand and modified.The grid has holes evenly spaced, you don't want the holes too big, you want a bit of back pressure so all the holes get some flow.

The black clean out tower can be seen on the right, this is big enough I can drop a small pump into and pump out the sludge, a long enough hose on the pump to reach over to the flower beds is a good idea since this is great fertilizer. There is also a vertical pipe for hooking up compressed air to bubble the media for a good cleaning, a leaf blower is also good for bubbling, no need to remove the gravel for cleaning.

Once the grid was placed I started putting some water in and fine tuning the liner, once that was positioned the rock was placed, most likely it will need washing fist, I use smooth rock for media since its easiest to clean, course for the first half then pea gravel for the top half should work well.

Back filled and edged, plastic lawn edging works well for an edge treatment, it gives a clean level line that is easy to hide, this way I don't have to hide the edges with flat rocks I can use plants for a more natural look.

Final result, plants are filling in nicely. Experiment with different plants, is suprising what will grow with there roots submerged, Gunnera was an experiment that worked out well, they just love that steady supply of water to the roots, Hostas are another one that work well in the pond and filter, Pickerel Root, Creeping Jenny, Ladies Mantel, are some others I have tried with success, Yellow flag Iris is ideal because it grows fast and has a strong root structure.

I have another Veggie filter feeding the water fall, its small in size, but has a larger volume of water since the waterfall flow feeds through it.

Close up you can see it blends in with the surroundings.

Its only the beginning of July when the last pictures were taken so there will be a lot more filling in and I will try some more different plants to see what else I can find the works well.