Possibly the most popular and productive birding site on Vancouver Island is Clover Point which is essentially an urban park within shouting distance of downtown Victoria. Despite being part of the sewage outfall system, it regularly attracts interesting birds to its rocky shoreline as well as its grassy surface. The birds have to compete with the constant hoards of people and dogs, but surprisingly, year after year it is still a popular stop-over habitat for weary shorebirds and passerines on migration.
Oct. 10 - The forecast today was the best of the week - nothing but blue skies and warm sun. My wife and I left home before 7:00 am on our way to Victoria. We decided to take the scenic route via Crofton, Salt Spring Island, Ruckle Provincial Park, Fulford Harbour, and Sidney. The birding was disappointing at Ruckle with only juncos, robins, and Winter Wren along the 6 km rocky waterfront and forested trail, but the hike was exhilarating. After Sidney we made our obligatory stop at the Roost where we shared a mouth-watering meatloaf on Russian rye sandwich. It was late afternoon when we arrived at Clover Point, and despite the pre-holiday crowd, the Point didn't disappoint. There were the usual crowds of people and a few birds, but it wasn't the birds that made the day worthwhile - it was a mink.
One of the unpleasant realities of bird photography is that often you won't find any birds to photograph. That seems to be happening to me a lot lately so I have been paying more attention to mammals, amphibians, scenery, insects, and plants. I certainly would prefer to photograph birds, but what can you do when the birds are avoiding you? Now you know why a frog and mink are featured in this journal.
Wild Turkeys? - The only birds I managed to photograph on Salt Spring were the wild turkeys near the entrance to Tuckle Park. I don't know if they were actually Wild Turkeys, but they were turkeys running wild.
I must admit that I'm totally froggy illiterate, but from my brief effort at internet research, I think I photographed a Red-legged Frog near King's Cove in Ruckle Park. I don't know the conservation status of this frog but I understand that many of our Island frogs are under seige from the invasive bullfrog.
Our most exciting discovery at Clover Point was an amiable little mink. My wife first spotted it foraging in the water near a big boulder.
It had caught something that was wiggling around in the water.
When the mink finally corraled its prey and grabbed it with its razor-sharp teeth, I saw that it was a small fish - possibly a bullhead.
The mink took its prey under a large rock and proceeded to crunch and munch its lunch. It emerged a few minutes later looking for more.
It gave me the evil eye, decided I wasn't any danger, then continued hunting.
I was surprised to see it slink down to the water and dive right in. It swam underwater looking for prey under the large rocks.
It didn't find anything under the first rock. It swam over to another rock and finally came up carrying a squirming eel. It took a few minutes, but the mink finally immobilized the eel and quickly dragged it up the cliff to its den.
Oh yes, I almost forgot that this is a birding site and there were a few birds around. Large groups Heermann's and other gulls sat on the rocks intersped with the occasional Black Turnstone, Black Oystercatcher and Surfbird, but my main interest was in a shy or maybe wily Horned Lark on the grass.
The Horned lark was busy foraging for seeds in the grass. Every time I approached, it headed for the cement retaining wall.
It would sit on the wall deciding if it should fly down to the rocks or start foraging again. As long as I was motionless, it would come back to the grass.
The one advantage with the bird on the wall was a fairly clean background which does well to accentuate the bird. The obvious liability was the unnatural and unappealing gray concrete foreground.
Among the many birds at Clover were a pair of Surfbirds. This was my first chance to see them since their fall arrival.
The Surfbirds were in the company of Black Turnstones foraging on the rocks at the tide line.
Sept. 27 - Although Holden Creek has been a bust for shorebirds, it is usually reliable for my first Lincoln's Sparrow photo of the year. The advantage is that the Lincoln's is usually along the road beside the creek and doesn't necessitate entering the estuary.
The Lincoln's and other sparrows usually fly ahead of me as I walk down the road. At the end of the road there is a bramble of blackberries and thistles where the birds usually forage. That's where I've taken my pictures in the last two years.
Oct. 17 - Although I've only seen 11 Greater White-Fronted Geese this fall, the numbers that have been reported on Vancouver Island have been astounding to most veteran birders. No one can recall a year with so many birds on the Island Flyway. There is no explanation for this phenomenon, but I'm sure everyone will have their theories.
Home on the Range - Last Sunday there were 5 Greater White-fronteds on the 18th fairway at Fairwinds Golf Course. They disappeared by the time I finished my round of golf. I was hoping they would stick around for a few pictures. Today, in between rain clouds, I made a quick trip to Fairwinds to see if any new geese had arrived. I was in luck as I found a six-pack right at home on the driving range. Did you notice the golf balls on the ground?
There have been some years where a couple of Greater White-fronteds have stayed for a few months in the company of the local Canada Geese.
It's always a pleasure to see the Greater White-fronteds. I missed the Snow Goose in Parksville last week, and so far there haven't been any Cackling Geese.