Journal 229 - Nov. 15, 2007
Storm Season - Vancouver Island and many parts of B.C. were battered on Nov. 11 by the first major storm of the season. High winds and heavy rain caused havoc in many areas including a major mudslide near Sayward. Ferries were cancelled, trees were toppled, houses were damaged, and power outages were commonplace. At the height of insanity, a few crazy surfers at Tofino even tried to make it out to the monster waves but were probably fortunate that they couldn't even cross the beach as the howling 100 km/hr wind drove them back. It was a good day stay home. Since then there have been several smaller storms of little consequence except to make bird photography almost impossible
I've often wondered what happens to birds in major storm conditions. How many get blown off course? How many perish? Maybe they enjoy the wind. Maybe for them it's the equivalent to an extreme sport.
Despite the monsoons, there have been a couple of interesting birds reported on the Island since my last journal. The most interesting was the Hooded Warbler discovered by a hiker and naturalist beside the John Hart Dam in Campbell River on Nov. 4. Hooded Warblers nest in the southeastern states and only a very few ever disperse as far northwest as Vancouver Island. The only other report I am aware of was the Duncan CBC in 2002. Coincidentally, almost at the same time, a Tropical Kingbird took up residence on Mallard Street in Saanich. Tropical Kingbirds nest in southern Arizona and Mexico and northward dispersion up the Pacific coast is fairly regular. At least two or three make it to Vancouver Island every fall. The question is, "How many make it back south where they belong?"
The northward dispersion of some species is referred to by some as reverse migration. Like migration itself, it is another of nature's great mysteries that is difficult to explain. There are theories, but that's all they are. Regardless of the answer, it has provided Vancouver Island with many fascinating birds over the years, and it gives us hope that other rare birds might show up, or that history might be repeated for birds like the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Ucluelet), Green-tailed Towhee (Comox), Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Saanich), and Dickcissel (Port Alberni).
Nov. 8 - Barrow's of Fun
It's interesting how different birds have preferences for different locations. Take the Barrow's Goldeneye for example. They are scarce around Oceanside. I've only seen a few small scattered groups from Nanaimo to Deep Bay in my almost 5 years of birding. I reinforced that notion today as I made a bid to find my first Barrow's of the fall. I checked several waterfront locations from Deep Bay to Nanaimo with nary a goldeneye of any description. Just by fluke I happened to stop in Chemainus on my way to Duncan. Voila! At the public boat ramp - 200 Barrow's! Now I know where they like to hang out.
The Barrow's Goldeneye is a very attractive Duck especially if you can catch the iridescent purple shimmer off its head. It's a major photographic challenge as one has to underexpose to avoid blowing out the whites too much.
It was interesting to note that about 90% of the ducks were males. Does that mean the females are tardy or do they prefer other areas?
Green-winged Teal at San Malo.
French Creek - What's for lunch?
I wasn't surprised to see the Common Merganser catch a fish, but I was surprised to see a salt water fish so far up the fresh water creek.
This was just a little snack. The main course was coming.
Nov. 10 - Sunny days seem as rare as Ivory-bills these days. Today was one of those days, and it wasn't to be wasted doing chores at home. It was a tough choice: north for the Hooded Warbler or south for the Tropical Kingbird? Deciding that even if we lucked out on the Warbler, it would have probably been impossible to photograph so it was off to Victoria.
As usual, Esquimalt Lagoon had ducks aplenty. This was my first Common Goldeneye of the fall.
I couldn't resist a picture of the Northern Pintail resting in the sun.
Of course, I couldn't leave out Mr. Northern Pintail (political correctness).
I looked briefly for a yellow head but had to settle for the glossy Brewer's Blackbird.
Just as advertised by several Victoria birders, the Tropical Kingbird was at the end of Mallard Street. So was Ilya who had bussed, ferried, and biked his way from Surrey. I was impressed by his dedication and resourcefulness.
Eventually, the Kingbird flew from one of the backyards to the street. Thanks to the hospitality of the resident on the south side, we were able to use his property for some decent photos.
The Kingbird was there for at least a week. Maybe it's still in the region.
Nov. 15 - Despite the overcast skies and light rain, I decided to cancel my golf in favor of birding. I didn't expect any photo opportunities but my trigger finger was getting itchy as I hadn't taken a picture for 5 whole days. I started at San Malo - zero; Parksville Park - gulls and geese - nothing unusual; French Creek - nothing close; French Creek bushes - a RED Song Sparrow!; Qualicum - SCOTER time.
I have never seen such a red Song Sparrow. Maybe it was eating the same stuff as the male Western Tanager or maybe it was a Californian subspecies.
I'm sure it's commonplace for everyone but me. It just goes to show that you can't learn much in 5 years.
Most of the Song Sparrows I've seen are dark, chocolate brown, but all the pictures in Sibley's have liberal doses of red.
Scotering (verb describing the process of seeking and observing scoters) - Qualicum is my favorite scotering location especially during high tide. After a storm is always good as more clams are exposed. Unfortunately, it was raining so I apologize for the inadequate quality of the photos, but I needed some material for this journal.
There must have been a feast of clams and mussels just south of the Shady Rest. A small flock of White-winged Scoters were successful on almost every dive.
I don't imagine it would take too many large clams to fill them up as it would take awhile to digest the clam shells.
There was one female Black Scoter in the crowd. She came in closer to shore than anyone else and appeared to be diving for mussels.
There were also two male Black Scoters in the crowd. I was surprised not to see any Surf Scoters with the group. There was a group further out
Consolation Bird - What's the consolation for? Just the lousy weather. Blue sky would have made for some great photos. Oh, the consolation bird - finally, my FIRST EVER Red-throated Loon. (I think that's what it is.) It just goes to show that it sometimes pays to go birding in the rain.
SIDNEY - VICTORIAN BIRD HOUSE, TANNER'S BOOKSTORE COMOX - BLUE HERON BOOKS BOWSER - LIGHTHOUSE GIFTS DEEP BAY - SHIP & SHORE VICTORIA - BOLEN BOOKS, MUNRO'S, Crown Publications, Ivy's UCLUELET - WORDS END BOOKSELLERS Comments, questions, or book orders? email email@example.com
SAANICH - WILD BIRDS UNLIMITED
CAMPBELL RIVER - SAVE-ON FOODS
DUNCAN - VOLUME 1 BOOKSTORE
CHEMAINUS - Willow's Wild Bird Store
LADYSMITH - SALAMANDER BOOKS
NANOOSE - SCHOONER COVE MARINA
LAKE COWICHAN - GALLOPING MOON GALLERY
TOFINO - BOTANICAL GARDENS
Quadra Island - EXPLORE & BOOK BONANZA
SIDNEY - VICTORIAN BIRD HOUSE, TANNER'S BOOKSTORE
COMOX - BLUE HERON BOOKS
BOWSER - LIGHTHOUSE GIFTS
DEEP BAY - SHIP & SHORE
VICTORIA - BOLEN BOOKS, MUNRO'S, Crown Publications, Ivy's
UCLUELET - WORDS END BOOKSELLERS
Comments, questions, or book orders? email firstname.lastname@example.org