JOURNAL 171 - July 9 - 25/06

Red Mud & Salicornia

Yes, it's that time of year again, and I love it - shorebird season at Holden Creek! What is it that makes it so much fun? I think it's the closeness to the birds. When I was photographing them on Fri. (Jul. 14) many of the peeps came within 2 meters of me. I looked up from the camera frequently just to enjoy their presence. I think it's the ultimate experience in being in harmony with nature.

Bird Watch

Two vigils I'd imposed upon myself were the Kaye Road Kestral and the Buttertubs Pied-billed Grebe. In 2004 the Kestrals fledged on Jul. 12. In 2005 it was Jul. 6. I've been checking almost everyday to see if and when it happened this year. I don't remember when the Pied-bills fledged last year, but I remember seeing them. They were too far away to photograph, but this year they're much closer. As shown in a previous journal, the time of procreation was documented. I'll try to provide a photo record of events.


Earlier in the year I wasn't organized to do presentations, but since Ed Pellizon promised me 10 birds from my photo wish-list, I've learned enough about PowerPoint to put together a slide show of "Vancouver Island Birds." I've done several presentations so far and am currently booking shows for clubs or organizations that have a computer and projector. There is no charge for these presentations as they are part of my personal mission to increase public awareness of Vancouver Island birds.

Photo Donations

I received 3 photo requests in the past 2 weeks which reflect the global citizenship of our birds. The first was from Peru for the use of a Swainson's Thrush image for their northern rainforest environmental education program. The second was from Birdlife - Turkey for use of a White-winged Scoter photo in their nature guide. It's fun to think that my backyard Swainson's winters in Peru. However, I don't think our local White-winged Scoters ever visit Turkey. The third was for an environmental article in the News-Times of Danbury, Conn. Apparently, the loss of grasslands has had a seriously endangered many grassland birds including the Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and Savannah Sparrow. I was pleased to be able to supply a photo of the Savannah Sparrow for the article.

Book Mark

Having just passed the first anniversary of my book publication, I'm delighted to report that 87% of the books have beeen sold. I'm down to my last 400 copies and optimistically expect to be sold out before Christmas. The question of reprint &/or Volume II has been crossing my mind with increasing frequency.

July 9 - Shorebird Debut

With the recent rash of inclement weather, I was sure there would be shorebirds at Holden. There was probably about 100, but with probably a Peregrine Falcon harassing them, they were constantly on the move. It wasn't a good day to watch let alone photograph shorebirds.

It's funny how you end at the beginning sometimes. After trudging through 2 fields of slimy red mud, the only relaxed shorebirds I found were right at the entrance. Besides the Least Sandpipers shown above and below, there were 4 more Least and 2 Westerns.

This was my first close-up look at a Western Sandpiper this year. Somehow I missed them on the spring migration which was typically very brief in the mid-island.

Western is Western & Least is Least, but they all seem to ge along unlike some human species.

Pied-billed Vigil

In Journal 169 the Buttertubs Pied-billed Grebes started the process of producing a family. That was June 27.

Jul. 11 - Incubation Time? I'm assuming Mrs. P. B. Grebe is sitting on eggs. It amazes me how they build their nest right out in the open, but they had a successful family last year. From what I can see, they are ferocious fighters and that might be the key to their success. They've certainly done a fine job landscaping their nest.

July 21 - I expected the Pied-billed grebes to still be incubating their eggs or perhaps tending to hatchlings. It was an absolute shock to see no sign of the nest at all? Was it destroyed by vandals or natural causes? I wish I knew.

July 25 - Rebuilding - good news. The Pied-billed Grebes have started a new nest a short distance from the previous one. My grebe-vigil continues.

July 13 - TUVU Time

With no Kestrels in sight at Kaye Road, my consolation bird was the Turkey Vulture. Normally, they are extremely shy, but when there's food on the line, they can be less shy.

Yummmmmy, sun-baked bunny. Where should I start?

Look out! Incoming Turkey Vulture - just looking for carrion.

Letting it all hang out.

Kestral Watch

July 14 - It had been 2 weeks since I started the Kestral watch, and I've now bracketed the fledging dates of 2004 and 2005. I saw the male kestral again today, but no sign of anyone else. But, all was not lost as there were a few other birds to enjoy.

Complaining Works - Last journal I whined about seeing more female Common Yellowthroats than males. Today was payback time as a handsome male poked out of the scrub pine trees at the end of Peterson Road.

I usually associate Common Yellowthroats with damp close-to-water habitats, but they seem to be plentiful in the dry and dusty logged-out scrub bush habitat at the end of Peterson Road.

Willow Flycatchers are also common around Peterson Road even though it's fairly high and dry. I guess where there's flies, there could be flycatchers.

While I was watching the Yellowthroat and Flycatcher, a stranger flew onto the hydro line. It was a cool-looking juvenile Black-headed Grosbeak.

July 14 - Post-Storm Peeping

5 days of stormy weather passed since my last visit to Holden. It was reasonable to assume that a few new peeps would be stopping over.

I was in luck. Peeps were plentiful and predators were absent. It seemed to be siesta time.

The Long-billed Dowitchers looked like they were resting after a long journey from the Arctic coast. There were 6 Long-bills in the flock.

Just a little stretch before the Long-billed Dowi takes a nap.

Napping with one eye open.

Ready to eat again. Where's the food?

The Westerns were also in the siesta mode. Maybe they made the same journey as the dowis.

Just shaking out the dirt and bugs.

Darn mosquitoes. Mike told me to use OFF.

It's always rewarding to find a couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers. They always seem to be busier than the other peeps.

Maybe with their short, little bills they have to forage a little harder.

Jul. 15 - Kestral Watch

After 2 weeks of diligent monitoring (30 km roundtrip), I swore Jul. 14 was my last day. Since I saw the adult male almost every day, I concluded that the nest probably failed or maybe I missed them this year. But, as I was greeted with sunshine and blues skies for the first time all week, I couldn't resist the temptation of little birding. It was a good excuse to take one "last" look for the new Kestrals. At the end of Peterson Road, I found the California Quail family; lots of White-crowned and Chipping Sparrows; the occasional Common Yellowthroat, Orange-crowned Sparrow, Northern Flicker, and Willow and Olive-sided Flycatchers; but not a sign of Kestrals. After an hour I concluded that there was to be no new Kestral family this year and decided to leave. On the way out, I decided to check the end of Kaye Road to see if there might be a Nighthawk sleeping on the branch where I found one 2 years ago. There was no Nighthawk, but we flushed Papa Kestral. We found him again half way up Peterson and a short distance away was junior Kestral!

The two week vigil paid off. It was truly a joy to see and experience the Kestrel fledglings. It was a special moment and a privilege to enjoy one of the wonders of nature.

True to form, the youngsters had not learned to fear humans yet. That lesson would come in day 2 of their fledgling lives.

As in past years, the Kestrels would hang out for 2 days after fledging.

If the pattern continues as last year, the Kestrels would show up at the Springford farm in a couple of days.

July 15 - Legacy Marsh

After the Kestrel morning, there was still time for more birding. It was time to visit Legacy Marsh again. Unfortunately, it was midday and very hot - not the best for birding.

One of the few birds we did see was the Western Tanager, deep in the shaded forest while we were tracking the WHO-WHOOOOOO of an owl.

As usual, the Common Yellowthroat was common, but the only one I could coax out for a photo was a little juvenile.

July 18 - Breakfast Bird

After missing the Cassin's Vireo, I always keep the camera handy when I'm having breakfast on the patio. I'm glad I had it for the first Pacific-slope Flycatcher I've seen this year.

Back at Holden creek, there were about 100 peeps. Most were Least and Westerns, but I did see 2 Semipalmated. No, not the 2 in this photo. There was another in the next field.

July 21 - Another Breakfast Bird

I was just about to sip my breakfast tea when a bird squeezed through the branches of a small fir to soak in some sun. I was 65 feet away when I clicked. My plan was to sneak up for a closer shot but as soon as I moved, it left. I wasn't surprised as the Swainson's Thrush has to be the shyiest bird around, especially a juvenile.

July 21 - Double Bagel Day

If you're not familiar with the semantics, the title means I was zero at Holden Creek (no peeps) and zero at Buttertubs Marsh (no Pied-billed Grebe nest). But that evening at 7:15, a flock of 17 Black Swifts worked the skies over my house for a few minutes before drifting eastward. A few minutes later the nasally "meep" of a Common Nighthawk drew my attention skyward. I didn't have to look far as there were several circling low over my house. Even without binoculars I could see the white bars on inner third of the primaries that were diagnostic of the Common. They continued for about 20 minutes before disappearing to the west with the setting sun.

July 22 - Precocious Hatchling

Found wandering around by Skutz Falls. Turn off the amber alert.

July 25 - Nanaimo Birding

A book order from CHAPTERS was a good excuse to do a little birding. First stop was Holden Creek where the clouds of mosquitoes made me wish that I hadn't come. To reinforce that thought, there was only a small flock of about 20 peeps that were on the move and never did settle down. I was glad to slide out of the red mud and head for Buttertubs. As mentioned previously, I was happy to see the resilient Pied-billed Grebes on a new nest. It's still a mystery about the old one. Yellow Warblers were abundant. Otherwise, it was very quiet with the usual Woodies, Hoodies, and Mallards on the water. My last stop was Nanoose Flats to visit the Purple Martins and a river otter.

The skeletons of the giant oaks at Buttertubs are wonderful perching spots for the belted Kingfisher.

Purple Martin Time - It was time for my annual Purple Martin visit at the Nanoose Flats. I wasn't surprised to see Roland and his wife toiling in the midday sun repairing their clam nets. As expected, the nest boxes were busy with Purple Martins.

Landing gear deployed. Watch out below.

It looks good. I wonder what it tastes like?

Please share with me. I just want a little bite. Tough love - Momma didn't give in.

Ever see Purple martins kissing? You have now.

Sibling Rivalry - Kids will be kids - battle over the perching spot.

There's only one big rock on the beach and look who was on it - a young river otter.

It was having a grand time rolling and scratching itself until it noticed me.

It was time for the otter to leave. That was also my signal to say "adios!"
































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