Monday, March 14, 2011

Rare white ravens at Vancouver Island beach

White appears to be the new black among the fashion-savvy birds and wildlife in B.C.

By The Vancouver Sun June 13, 2008 

White appears to be the new black among the fashion-savvy birds and wildlife in B.C.
Two white ravens have taken up summer residence in the Qualicum Beach area along with their three black siblings, says bird expert and author Mike Yip of Nanoose Bay.
He photographed the birds last week in the area of the Ravensong pool and ball fields.
Another pair of white juvenile ravens was spotted last year in the area, said Yip. He said there's a good chance the four white ravens came from the same parents.
"What are the odds of two pairs of parents within a kilometre of each other carrying the same rare genetic defect?" Yip said in an e-mail to Canwest News Service.
Other white ravens have also been spotted in previous years at the Morningstar subdivision, a few kilometres east of Qualicum Beach.
"It's not unreasonable to assume that the genetic defect has been passed on to the current parents," said Yip.
These birds are not albinos since they have blue and not pink eyes, he said. Rather, they're likely similar to the black bears of the central coast that carry a mutant gene that makes their coats white.
A Saskatchewan couple hiking in East Sooke Park reported sighting one of these "spirit bears" on the coast trail in mid-May.
While the hotspot for spirit bears is Princess Royal Island, off the central B.C. coast, the largest concentration of white ravens appears to be in the Qualicum area.
The creatures appear to enjoy attention from people taking their photographs, said Yip.
"Walkers and joggers in Qualicum have been constantly amazed at the ivory twins and have accorded them celebrity status," he said.
"Unlike their older and wiser parents, the white ravens and their three siblings have ... provided close-up looks for pedestrians and photographers."
The chance of the public seeing the white ravens now is good, he said, because they usually stay with the parents for a few months before flying off on their own.
© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

White ravens have Vancouver Island birders atwitter

VictoriaFrom Monday's Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Jul. 04, 2010 7:51PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Jan. 14, 2011 7:48PM EST
O raven, you clever trickster, you bold scavenger, you brainiac of the avian world.
When we approach, you barely deign to acknowledge our presence, an insouciance not often seen in the natural world. You mock our superiority, you saucy bird.
Even the myth makers know not what to make of you. Did you create the world? Or are you a harbinger of its end?
Did you bring light to the world, thus condemned to be covered in dark feathers?
Blackness is an essence of the raven.
No wonder Edgar Allan Poe, the master of the horror tale, took your name as the title of a dark story of lost love.
So shiny and black are the feathers of a raven that Hollywood starlets are inevitably described as “raven-haired beauties.”
If their name is a synonym for black, then what are we to make of a white raven?
Mike Yip, a 66-year-old retired school teacher, heard reports of a sighting in the Qualicum Beach area. Armed with nothing more deadly than a Nikon D300 and his own curiosity, he went in pursuit of an elusive quarry.
Mr. Yip was born in Duncan to a sawmill worker. He graduated with a science degree from the University of British Columbia in the centennial year. To his surprise, he wound up spending his working life in a classroom, teaching math and English at elementary, middle, secondary and alternative schools. The final quarter century of his career was spent in Parksville.
He put aside his chalk in 2001, planning to spend his days on the golf course. But a chance encounter two years later changed his life.
“I came across a strange duck that I’d never seen before,” he said. “I spent two hours watching that duck trying to figure out what it was. I went home and got my old camera. From then on I just wanted to find every bird around and get as good a picture as I could.”
A silent afternoon spent in a swamp with a northern shoveler, an odd-looking duck known for its spoon-shaped bill, turned a retiree into a birder.
He posted online his photographic portraits. He then invested $25,000 to self-publish 3,000 copies of a hardbound, full-colour book with the unexciting but informative title of Vancouver Island Birds. It sold out and has since been reprinted. Last year, he released Volume 3 in a lavish series.
Poetry is found in the names of Vancouver Island’s residents – warbling vireo and chipping sparrow; hairy woodpecker and willow flycatcher; northern flicker and Western wood-pewee; belted kingfisher and orange-crowned warbler; red-breasted sapsucker and black-headed grosbeak and chestnut-backed chickadee.
Sometimes, the Pacific winds bring with them an unexpected visitor.
“Because birds have wings you get all kinds of strange ones on the Island,” he said.
Birders recently made a pilgrimage to Tofino to pursue a bristle-thighed curlew, an Asian shorebird that was a vagrant far beyond its range.
In seeking the white raven, Mr. Yip left his home at Nanoose Bay for the familiar woods at Qualicum Beach.
“Lo and behold,” he said, “the first place I looked.
“I heard a raven. Then I heard another. The second one was the adult. It landed on a tree. A few seconds later a white one flew in.”
He fired off several shots of the blue-eyed and white-feathered bird.
“It’s a jaw-dropping thing. You’re just in awe. It’s such an unusual and marvellous sight. Exciting.”
He has now seen five white ravens at Qualicum in the past three years.
The birds are thought to be leucistic and not albino, the result of a genetic defect producing chicks lacking normal pigmentation.
Other sightings around the globe are rare. Eight years ago, one was spotted at Fairbanks, Alaska. (The University of Alaska Museum has a collection of 18,000 ravens, only one of which is white.) Three years ago, an abandoned trio of starving chicks was spotted in a nest at a churchyard in County Durham, England. They were taken to an animal rescue shelter where they were named Tic, Tac and Toe.
Mr. Yip playfully declares Qualicum to be the White Raven Capital of the World.
An earlier report of white ravens led to an exchange with the artist Roy Henry Vickers, who received from Mr. Yip a set of photographic prints of birds of spiritual significance to some.
Far-away birders wonder whether the white ravens are a hoax, Photoshopped rather than a natural wonder.
They’re for real, magnificent in their rarity and somewhat bracing in their presence. Some tales have the sighting of a white raven foretelling the end of the world.
Special to The Globe and Mail

Sources :


Rare white ravens are increasingly turning up in

Qualicum Beach, where another one was

photographed last week.

The sightings are making the Island town a popular

 stop on the birding circuit.

Nanoose photographer Mike Yip, who photographed

 a white raven near Qualicum’s ballfields Friday, has

 seen five of the rare birds over the last three years.

“They’ve been a local phenomena for well over a

decade,” said Yip in an e-mail.

Local legend has it that eight years ago, some golfers

at Morningstar golf course saw four white ravens

perched on the same branch.

The reason may be genetic.

 White ravens are the result of the mating of two

 common ravens with the same genetic defect.

The same pair could produce many generations

of white ravens, since common black ravens are

 monogamous and long-lived.

“Under ideal conditions they could live well over

 20 years,” said Yip, author of Vancouver Island

Birds, volumes 1, 2 and 3.

The white ravens are not albinos, said Yip, noting all

the ones he’s seen have blue eyes.

Albinos have pink eyes, while white ravens that are

 not all white or do not have pink eyes are

considered leucistic.

Leucism is the result of a reduction of all types of

 pigmentation while albinism is the reduction of

 just melanin.

White Raven Legend

BC’s coastal nations tell of Raven giving light to

 the world

 Raven symbolizes creation, knowledge and prestige.

 He is wise, crafty and helpful.

Diane’s husband has ancestors which he can trace

 back to the Athabascan, a First Nation tribe that

 lives  in Canada and interior Alaska and to the

Native American Crow.

He is very proud of his ancestry and has several

 prints of Teutonic art.

 One of the prints features Raven and Cedar.

There are many varied legends about Raven.

 On how Raven turned white is a favorite legend of

 Diane and Mike’s. –

 There was a time when darkness covered the earth;

the sun had been stolen.

After much searching, Raven found the sun.

With the sun in Raven’s bill, Raven began the long

 journey to return the sun turning white during the

 trip due to the brightness of the sun

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