Just one last look at Courtenay Airpark's juvenile Green Heron. I wonder if it'll be there on my next visit on Oct. 24.
Oct. 10/08 - After an extended summer that lasted most of September, October has been a jolt of reality that summer is definitely over. After a few serious rainfalls in the past week, the first major wind storm with gusts up to 160 km/h ravaged the Island last night. Fortunately, I've heard of no casulties and the worst damage seems to have been power outages for a few thousand homes. I've often wondered where the birds go in such conditions. I suppose they're much like humans - most hunker down in some safe place until it blows over while others are out riding the wind like crazy wind surfers. Despite the inconvenience of rain and wind, fall is a magnificent time with the palette crimson and gold leaves decorating the landscape and a few interesting birds passing through during migration.
Since my last journal my only birding trip was to East Sooke Park to catch a glimpse of the raptor migration. And that's all we got was a glimpse. The main body of raptors stayed several kilometers away towards Rocky Point. Despite the absence of raptors, it was a very pleasant and enjoyable time. We hiked along the beautiful ocean trail before turning inland to raptor viewing area. At the view point we had the good fortune of meeting Bruce Whittington and his friend. I had previously met Bruce when I was doing a presentation for the Harbour City Photo Club, and I've read his very informative collection of bird articles in his book "Seasons With Birds." Bruce is a wealth of knowledge about the birds, migration, and the general area, and he kindly answered the many questions we had as first-time visitors.
After a couple of hours waiting for the raptors that teased us in the distance, we retreated to Sooke for a late lunch and then checked out Whiffin Spit. By then the blue skies had been replaced by a thin veil of clouds, but that didn't diminish our expectations and we weren't disappointed. There were shorebirds to photograph, and I had a lot of fun trying to make some short-billed Western Sandpipers into stints.
Sept. 22 - Western Stints! That's not a misprint. That's what I'm calling those late season Western Sandpipers with short bills. If they didn't have partially webbed feet, they could pass as Little Stints. I know the pro-birders could never be fooled, but if you're a novice like me, you do more than a double take. With hope of turning one into a stint, I did take about two hundred shots. That only served to confirm that they were Westerns. I've posted a few shots so you can see for yourself.
After messing with the Westerns for almost an hour, a larger brownish sandpiper caught my attention. It was my first Dunlin of the year.
The Dunlin was in its usual winter plumage.
Another sandpiper that stood out in the crowd was a brightly coloured Pectoral.
Normally, I would have seen several Semipalmated Plovers by now, but this were the first I'd seen in the fall migration.
The lack of Semipalmated Plovers was a reflection of a very poor showing of shorebirds on the Island this fall. I hope that it just meant they had taken a different route, and there was no failure in the breeding season nor any collapse in their population.
As usual the Semipalmated Plovers were adorable. They would make a great pattern for a plush toy.
The most abundant bird at Whiffin was the Savannah Sparrow. It enjoyed foraging in the seaweed just like the shorebirds.
We weren't able to get close to any raptor at East Sooke, but we had no trouble getting close to the Redtail at Whiffin.
Oct. 3 - Most of the Bonaparte's Gulls are hanging out at the river mouths for the obvious reason, but there was one lonely one at the viewing stand in Qualicum. In case you are new to birding, it's salmon spawning time and the river mouths are the place to be for birds and bird photography.
I bet you're tired of seeing Black-bellied Plovers. I just wanted to show you the inside story. The black armpit feathers are unique to the Black-bellieds. If you ever have trouble identifying a large plover, just say, "Hands up!"
I bet you're also tired of the Black Oystercatcher. Well, they are always a lot of fun to see and photograph so you might see a few more during the winter.
Here's a Great Blue Heron I spotted at French Creek. I normally wouldn't have taken its picture unless it was eating some big fish or doing someting unusual, but I was immediately mesmerized by the background. It transformed the scene into a Chinese water-colour painting. What do you think? Am I crazy?
Birthday Birds - I was brought up in spartan, no-frills setting where birthdays were never celebrated. We were just thankful for our daily meal. After a lifetime of no celebrations, I've suddenly been blessed with a couple of fine birthday birds during my birthday week, so maybe this would be a good time to start celebrating. The first was a pair of Great Horned Owls in my backyard forest, and the second was a splendid, perky White-throated Sparrow thanks to Christopher Stevens. To make up for many past years, I'll be accepting birthday birds for the rest of the month. If any you have a bird to share, feel free to contact me.
Oct. 5 - The constant cawing of a pair of Common Ravens finally raised me from the breakfast table to check out the cause of concern. As soon as I opened the door the squeaky sound of a Great-horned Owl caught my ear. I grabbed my boots and headed for the trees. It didn't take me long to find the owl. The big surprise was that there were two. It was still too dark to bother with pictures. My only hope was that they would still be around after my usual Sunday golf.
It was late afternoon when I got home, and I was happy to hear one of the owls. Unfortunately, the sounds were growing fainter as it was moving away from my yard. I was just about to give up when my wife said she heard another one close by. I found it immediately near some big arbutus trees. It was in the shade so I cranked the film speed up to 1600 ISO and was able to shoot at 1/60th of a second. I took about 20 shots handheld before it flew into a taller tree deeper in the forest. The results weren't the best, but they're good record shots, and I still wanted to share my birthday bird.
Oct. 7 - Birthday Bird #2 - Young Christopher Stevens is having a great year spotting birds. Two months ago he discovered a rare Indigo Bunting in his neighourhood. Two weeks ago his sharp eyes spotted a Lark Sparrow at the Englishman Estuary. Today, he found a new bird right in his front yard - a delightful White-throated Sparrow. He discovered it earlier in the morning while having breakfast.
Coincidentally, there have been at least two other White-throated Sparrows reported on the Island in the past week. This is their migration time.
Most White-throated Sparrows nest in central and eastern Canada and then migrate to the southern states. However, there seems to be a growing population that migrates to the Pacific Coast from Washington to California.
A few White-throated Sparrows have been known to winter on Vancouver Island, but the majority that we see on the Island are just passing through.
Christopher's Sparrow was in the company of a small flock of Juncos and House Finches.
It was very considerate of the White-throated to forage close to the living room window nicely in camera range. It was also very considerate of Chris to invite me up to enjoy birthday bird #2. (Thanks again, Chris.)
Oct. 7 - Yard Report - Newcomers in the past week have been a few Golden-crowned Sparrows and one Fox Sparrow. I usually don't see a Fox Sparrow until it snows so this one is an early-bird. The familiar sound of the Winter Wren is also back. It frequents the garden during the winter. My winter supply of Juncos, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Purple Finches, House Finches, and woodpeckers seems to be in.
The Bewick's Wren has been quite elusive all summer, but I finally caught it yesterday.
The male Northern Flicker is very striking with its bright red moustache.
The Steller's and its buddies are still dominating the feeders. Feed consumption has doubled because of them.