Transition Time - August is a time for change. My last few Rufous Hummingbirds will soon be gone. As I am writing (8:30 pm) there is a hummer at the feeder, and I saw a couple in the fir trees this morning. Interest in the seed feeders continue to be steady with an influx of new Chestnut-backed Chickadees in the past week. Spotted Towhees in many stages of development visit regularly. Some appear to be recently fledged while others have almost molted into adult plumage. There are also recently fledged Dark-eyed Juncos showing up which begs the question of how many broods can Juncos have? Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches are still regular. Woodpeckers continue to frequent the suet feeders and there is a definite pecking order with the Downy, Hairy, and Pileated. You won't be surprised to hear it's all related to size especially between the Hairy and Downy. Surprise yard visitors have been the two Pacific-slope Flycatchers that arrived on July 31 and are still here today. It's not their arrival that is the surprise, but the fact that they've stayed so long. They've taken up residence in the towering arbutus trees where they regularly fly out to catch flying insects. I'd be happy if they stay a few more weeks. Visitors of the ephemeral variety included a rush of passerines during two fallouts in the past week. Both occurred at about 8:00 am and lasted about an hour. Most common birds seemed to be Cassin's Vireos, Townsend's Warblers, and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Lesser species included Black-throated Gray Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Brown Creepers. There may have been more fallouts, but I wasn't around to notice.
Shorebird migration continues to be a steady trickle unlike the flood to major staging areas like Boundary Bay and the Washington coast. At times they are difficult to find. The best shorebirding on the Island is probably on the outer coast in places like the Tofino mudflats and beaches. My favorite spot over here is usually Holden Creek, but that seems to be diminishing every year as the mudflats continue degenerate with the infill of salicornia and other plant growth. The timing of the excavation last year didn't help either as it may have disrupted the major portion of the migration.
Yard Shots ...
My resident Spotted Towhees seem to have had a very prolific breeding season. There are juveniles everywhere. Some have almost molted into adult plumage while others seem to be recently fledged.
As I mentioned, I'm down to my last few hummers. They all seem to be young juveniles waiting until they have the strength and courage for the incredible journey to Mexico.
The hummers are on a strict regimen of training that includes a program of morning stretching.
The hummers have to be in peak condition just to cross the Strait of Georgia to the mainland. After the strait the rest is easier as they meander south along the mountains and valleys.
Revving up the motor - the engine has to be finely tuned and in top running condition.
The Contortionist - Junior, the juvenile male Hairy Woodpecker is the most frequent visitor to the suet feeder. The other woodpeckers often cache food in the holes on the feeder pole. When Junior gets tired of the feeder, he helps himself to the cached food.
After a hearty snack, Junior is ready to explore the forest with his siblings.
Nobody argues with Mr. Pileated when he comes to the feeder. Today he was shy and flew to a nearby fir tree when I showed up with my camera. That suited me fine as I wanted a photo on a tree and not my feeder pole.
One of my new yard birds is a recently fledged Dark-eyed Junco. It was still dependent on its mother for food.
Passerine Fallouts ...
Birds, birds, everywhere but not photo chance ... A partially exposed juvenile Cassin's Vireo was the only shot I got during the two recent fallouts of passerines in my yard. Most of the birds were high in the towering arbutus trees. The few that were at lower levels were too fleeting for any decent shots. It was like standing next to millions in a bank but not being able to touch any of it.
* Oct. 8/10 - Thanks to Jos Grzybowski for pointing out that the break in the eye-ring above the eye indicates that this is a Hutton's Vireo. The Cassin's has a break in front of the eye.
She Loves me Not ...
She Loves me, She Loves Me Not - Like the fickle heart of a teenager, Holden Creek didn't love me this week. Last week she favored me with about 200 shorebirds, but today only three Least Sandpipers. I'm limiting my visits to one a week so hopefully, next week she'll love me.
When the birds are scarce, a butterfly is always welcome, even if it's a beat up Anise Swallowtail.
Pac-Slope Karma ...
It's interesting how some birds stick with you for awhile. A few weeks ago someone emailed a photo of flycatcher that was nesting in her basement that was open because of renovations. I was able to identify it as a Pacific-slope. On July 31 a pair of Pacific-slopes took up residence in my arbutus trees. This is their tenth straight day. This is one of them. It's laughing because it knows it's too far away for me to get a good photo. This was the best I could do from about 40 feet with my handheld 50 -500 m lens.
On Aug. 6 I had a call from a resident of Columbia Beach. She invited me up to photograph a nest of flycatchers in her porch before they fledged. Needless to say, I immediately accepted and made a date for the next day. When I arrived I could see two nestlings peering over the top of the nest. I took a couple of pictures then turned around to get a chair to stand on. When I turned back, the nest was empty!
The birds had fledged. I looked around and one of the birds was on the fence. I took a few pictures and decided to see if wanted to be back in the nest.
It responded by flying into the shade of a nearby fruit tree. Fortunately, I just happened to have my bathroom mirror with me. That allowed me to angle some sunlight into the tree and get a few decent shots. Thanks again, Marilyn. I hope you enjoyed the notecards of the fledgling.
Since I was already in the area, I wandered over to Admiral's Lagoon. I was happy to see the Bonaparte's were back from their nesting grounds.
Bonaparte's Gulls nest inland and as far north as Alaska.
The Bonies usually stay around the Island until late November before sliding further south for the winter. The usually reappear during the herring spawn.
It was fun to catch up with the Black Oystercatchers.
I was actually looking for a juvenile, but I've never seen one around here.
Most of the Mid-Island shoreline is probably too developed and busy with people and dogs for any successful Oystercatcher nesting.
Communion With Nature ... Sitting on the gravel beach at Admiral's Lagoon with Western and Least Sandpipers fearlessly foraging within inches of me and my camera ... Is that how it is at Shangri-La? It's difficult to articulate the feelings and emotions when you're in communion with nature, but it is a spiritual experience. The simple things in life are the best ... and, yes - full-framed photos at 200 and 300 mm.
Notice the webbed feet on the Western Sandpiper. The Semipalmated Sandpiper has the same style.
The Least Sandpiper does not have webbed feet. They're better suited for foraging on land.
Notice the toenails on the least Sandpiper? Last week I saw a Least Sandpiper foraging on the 12th fairway at Fairwinds. It was 200 m from the closest water.
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