A few notable RBA's on the Island include the Elegant Tern by Michael S. in Victoria and the Indigo Bunting by Christopher S. in Parksville. Elegant terns have been showing up along the Washington coast so it's reasonable to expect one or two up this way. As for the Indigo Bunting, it is a new bird for the Parksville area, but there have been past reports in the Victoria and Jordan River.
Jul. 14 - I usually like to make at least one visit a year to the Purple Martins at Nanoose Bay. The best time is at low tide as the nest pilings are offshore at high tide. Sunshine with a blue sky is another prerequisite. After an initial fly-by to greet me, the Purple Martins carry on with their regular routines. They like to fly off for their aerial foraging and then come in to the nest boxes and perches for a rest.
July 15 - The Joy of Learning - Part of the fun of birding is learning about their mysterious lives. There are always a million questions, but for the average person, there are often no answers. I've often wondered where Turkey Vultures nested. Thanks to Robin Robinson, I now know the type of habitat they often use, and I know what a six-week old chick looks like.
The Turkey Vulture nest was on cliff secluded by a large fir tree. It was a cave formed by several large boulders and a rocky outcropping of the cliff.
We were disappointed that neither of the adults were present. It would have been interesting to see some regurgitation and feeding and maybe even some defensive vomiting. According to the literature, Turkey Vultures are very intelligent and can develop an affinity for certain humans.
July 18 - High-flying Flycatchers
I always thought Willow Flycatchers were low level birds around marshes or ponds. I was surprised to see them near the top of the Foothills development in Lantzville.
I suppose that flycatchers will go wherever there are flies.
July 19 - The Lonely Cassin's - from about April to last week, the adult Cassin's Vireos have been singing from the trees around my yard. They seem to have disappeared, leaving behind one lonely little juvenile. It has been calling with its squeaky little Cassin's voice for the past few days, perhaps looking for its wayward parents.
July 19 - A Now There were Three - For the past few springs I've seen a family of Hooded Mergansers at Rascal Pond. Some years they've had as many as seven ducklings, but this year the first time I saw them there were five. Three weeks later they were down to three. The pond is quite exposed and vulnerable to the Bald Eagles in the area.
Momma Duck was nowhere in sight. The juveniles seemed to be on their own.
Without Momma, the ducks were less wary.
July 21 - Suet Bribery - Three weeks ago the oncoming heat and the presence of starlings prompted me to take down my suet feeders. I missed seeing the Hairy and Downy Woodpecker families, but I knew they would survive. However, with the Rufous Hummingbirds mostly gone, things were very quiet in the backyard. I decided to reinstate my suet feeder to see if I could liven things up.
The first day of suet didn't attract anyone, but on the second day I had a pair of very special visitors, a juvenile male Pileated with its father.
Junior was quite capable but stayed close to his dad.
The tongue was in good working condition.
Papa Pileated was enjoying the suet, but he also saved some for junior.
July 27 - Hummer Update - The Rufous are down to the last few. Nectar consumption has declined to about a quarter cup a day. Several of the hummers appeared to be very young which suggested that they were from a second brood. One was still sitting on the flower instead of the perch at one of the feeders which is a practice I've never seen with the adults. The one below has a deformed bill. It had trouble inserting its bill in the feeder hole.
July 28 - Shorebird Fix - I've seen a few scattered peeps here and there - just enough to prime my craving for a real shorebird fix. Regular reports of many shorebirds at Boundary bay and down the Washington coast only served to increase my anxiety. I was counting on a visit today to Holden Creek to cure my craving.
Although I was anxious to check out the shorebirds, a recently fledged Common Yellowthroat beside the roadway distracted me.
A few juvenile Tree Swallows also caught my attention.
The Tree Swallows posed beautifully while I took a few pictures.
Ooops! This might be a juvenile Violet-green.
As I proceeded down the first field, I was discouraged to see a black and white house cat prowling through the salicornia. Shorebirds have enough problem with flying predators. The last thing they need is a feline bird-killing machine patrolling their feeding grounds. The shorebirds knew enough to stay away as there was only one Lesser Yellowleg in the first field. I proceeded optimistically to the second field.
Eureka! A sea of bobbing rufous heads greeted me. I counted about 150 Short-billed Dowitchers, 3 Lesser Yellowlegs, and 30 small Calidris (12 Semipalmated, 10 Least, and 8 Western - mostly juveniles). I had my shorebird fix!
The dowis seemed to be mostly Short-billed. The single note "tu" was heard regularly.
The dowis were all adults still in their breeding plumage.
It wasn't surprising to see a few Lesser Yellowlegs with the dowis.
There's no mistaking the short, straight bill of the Lesser.
Holden Creek might be the best spot on the Island to see Semipalmated Sandpipers.
There is always a good number of Semipalmated in the early part of the migration.
For beginning birders, the peeps are confusing. One of the features to watch for is the bill. The bill on the Semipalmated tends to be short and thick compared to other peeps. The bill is generally straight but some have a slight down-curve.
How can you tell that the Semipalmated is one of my favorite shorebirds?
There were only a few Least sandpipers today. The bulk of their migration is yet to come.
Only a few Westerns were present. At its peak there should be many hundreds.
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