April 4, 2008 - Time flies, birds fly, and I just plod along ... On Wed. April 2 I had the pleasure of attending the Conservancy Hornby Island AGM and meeting some of the fine people who have dedicated their time to protecting the natural resources and beauty of the Island. It is a constant and thankless battle as the government and developers would be delighted to cut down every tree, fill every wetland, and pave the whole Island which is the likely scenario for Vancouver Island. Just imagine rows of condos and highrises on Helliwell Park. Kudos to those who have a vision of preserving some of the natural world for future generations. (Actually, preserving the natural world is critical to saving the earth itself.) Seeing the dedication of the Hornby Islanders was a good reminder for me to be more concerned and pro-active in protecting the natural habitat of our big island. Thank you CHI for inviting me and being interested in my presentation on "Rare, Uncommon, and Interesting Birds of Vancouver Island." Thanks also to Ron and Jeanette for kindly sharing their home with me. (P.S. Della, I still haven't received your email.)
Since my last journal I've had several opportunities to enjoy the Brant, gulls, and ducks particularly from French Creek to Kincaid Road in Qualicum. Unfortunately, the weather was frequently bitterly cold and overcast which wasn't great for photography, but it kept beach walkers, dogs, and disturbances to a minimum. It was sad to see the rapidly dwindling numbers of ducks and gulls because of the desperately low herring spawn. In past years the cornucopia of ducks and gulls lasted well into the middle of April. It won't be long before the few remaining birds depart for their nesting grounds. In fact, some of my flight shots just might be birds that were on their way.
I was at Kincaid Beach one morning when a small flock of Brant were busy preening and resting on a gravel bar.
The Brant didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave, but suddenly several flocks flew by heading towards the Little Qualicum, and my small flock joined them.
After the last Brant left I thought they would be gone for the morning. I was surprised to see them flying back and forth all morning as if in search of food.
With the Brant out of the picture, I was entertained by the courtship behavior of a few distant Barrow's Goldeneye. When they finally flew, I had a chance for a few flight shots.
After the Barrow's left, there were still quite a few Harlequins dabbling for herring roe. It was fun trying to photograph them bouncing up on down on the waves.
I wasn't very successful in catching one on top of a wave, but it was cloudy and cold. I had trouble holding the camera as well as shooting at a higher shutter speed. (I know, just excuses.)
How Gull-able Are You?For beginning birders, make sure you have a decent bird guide like Sibley's and focus mainly on adult gulls. If you can identify a Glaucous-winged, Western, Mew, California, Glaucous, and Herring Gull from the following collection, you are doing well. I'm leaving it up to you to do the research and identification.
I had to deliver some books to Victoria on March 29. On the way down the weather was perfect - sunny and warm with nary a cloud in the sky. As soon as the books were delivered, it clouded over and snowed, hailed, and rained for the rest of the day. What's happening to your weather Victoria? It used to always be sunny there. My only photo was the Anna's at Swan Lake.
Mar. 31 - Finally, a sunny morning. My target was a few flight shots of the Brant. I suspected there would be several flocks coming into Admiral's Lagoon during the morning to rest and preen on the gravel bar. There were no Brant around when I got there, but I was able to practice my technique on a few flying Northern Pintails.
Shortly after my Pintail shots, an impressive flock of Trumpeters flew by. For some reason my auto-focus doesn't work at any distance. I was lucky to get a manual focus picture.
I was ready to move on when two small flocks of Brant flew in.
The angle of the sun and the background was ideal for flight shots.
I think I've tried a few hundred Brant flight shots this spring with no success. These were my best results so far.
The large rafts of diving ducks at Qualicum have dwindled to a few small flocks. They were close to shore at the eastern end of Qualicum Beach.
Greater Scaup were the second most abundant duck in the flocks. Surf Scoters were the most abundant.
After checking Qualicum, I decided to look for Herring Gulls at French Creek, but I spent most of my time photographing Bonaparte's Gulls instead. The Bonies always look interesting when they are in transition to their breeding plumage.
A Couple of April Fools' Birds
I hope the female Hooded Merganser wasn't planning on nesting here. It was only 50 meters away from the eagle tree and in full view of the Bald Eagle's nest at Dolphin Lake.
It's always a treat to find the Sebastion Beach Spotted Sandpiper.
Once again I was the beneficiary of a cold and breezy day. I knew that without too much disturbance, the there would be a good chance of finding the Spottie out on the rocks.
Apr. 3 - Birding to Hornby and Back
Usually the Long-tailed Ducks at Deep Bay disappear to join the large flocks chasing the herring roe. I was astounded to see them back at spit. I suspect the reason was the lack of spawn.
It was another cloudy morning on the way to Hornby, but I couldn't resist taking a photo of an almost "breeding plumaged" male close to shore.
The "bad hair day" Red-breasted Merganser is always a treat to photograph.
While I was waiting for the Hornby ferry, a Marbled Murrelet caught my eye. Unfortunately, I also caught the Murrelet's eye, and it was soon out of range. I was happy to get a distant shot and a well-cropped photo.
On Hornby I found three Horned Grebes at the end of Sallans Road. The spectacular breeding plumaged Horned Grebe is one of my favorite birds. This one is well on its way but still in transition. One of the birds was still in standard plumage and the third (in the next pictures) was almost in complete breeding plumage.
It's hard to imagine that a few weeks ago this bird was black, white, and gray. Okay, the eyes were the same red.
Just before the ferry was about to leave Hornby, I spotted a few Surf Scoters having a barnacle breakfast at the pilings. I was lucky to get a picture while the ferry was vibrating.
It was fitting to end my day with the Brant Geese at Qualicum. There were about 600 by the viewing stand at the west end of the beach.
The Brant were enjoying the herring roe and eel grass being washed in by the incoming tide.
You can tell the Brant were enjoying themselves.
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