above photo - Mar. 6 - With the onset of the annual herring spawn, I was surprised to find a small flock of Long-tailed Ducks off the Deep Bay Spit. By this time most of them usually forsake the spit to join the huge rafts of ducks feeding on herring roe.

Mar. 4 - The Crow and the Goose

The scene at French Creek reminded me of the two ravens I saw last year in Victoria plucking the wool off of a sheep's back. In this case the crow looked like it was trying to pluck some tail feathers from the goose. In the end I think the crow decided it was more prudent to stay away from the bill of the goose and left without any nest material.

Mar. 5 - A Snowy Day

Actually, it was mostly sunny with a few cloudy periods as we headed down Island. I had an appointment at 8:30 am at Starbucks in Duncan so I decided to make a day of it in Victoria. However, I remembered that Derrick had been reporting a Snow Goose in the field next to Starbuck's, so after my meeting, I checked out the field. In amongst the twenty Canada's was one white goose. Now you get what I meant by a "snowy day." Well, it didn't end there. In Victoria at Clover Point I spotted a Black-bellied Plover with a Surfbird and a Dunlin on the rocks. I decided to climb down to get a closer look. Before I got to the three birds, I spotted the Snow Bunting on a log. Yes, part 2 of "snowy day." Of course, I had to take a few pictures after which I never did find the Surfbird or any of its buddies. I didn't mind as I enjoyed seeing the Snowbird on the rocks instead of the landscaping like the last two times. I was going to toss in a couple of Snowy Egrets and Snowy Plovers, but I don't think anyone would be gullible enough to believe me.

With all the winter we've been having, the Snow Goose must feel right at home. The snow just keeps coming.

It's always interesting to see the intermingling of different species. I wonder how they communicate with each other. Is it just body language or is there a common bird dialect?

The Snow Bunting at Clover has been a birding treat for Island birders for most of the winter. I think it was first reported in December.


After Clover Point my next stop was Summit Reservoir. I'd never been there before, but wanted to check out the Rudy Duck reported by some Victoria birders. I visualized a concrete structure surrounded by a tall chain link fence. I wasn't disappointed as that was exactly what I found. It seemed like a rather desolate and inhospitable location for ducks, but I found the Ruddy Duck which was in the company of about two dozen Northern Shovelers and a couple of Mallards.

I was too far away and separated by the fence but took the picture anyway. Not a bad record shot considering that I was shooting through the chain link fence.

There was a pair of Winter Wrens chasing each other around in the bushes by the reservoir. One stopped for a second to for a picture before it carried on with the game.


One of my target birds for Victoria was the Anna's Hummingbird. I knew where I could find one that perched out in the open.

Next stop, Swan Lake. I haven't found a good place north of Victoria for the Anna's so my only option was Victoria. Unfortunately, it was overcast and the Anna's insisted on perching too far off the trail. White clouds seldom make a good background.

The Anna's was also back lit by the sun which didn't help, but when it tilted its head to a certain position, the rosy pink gorget still refected the light.

To avoid the white background, I had to back up about 3 meters. The gray background was better, but now the Anna's was too far away.

Despite the distance and backlighting, the results were better than I hoped for.

The Anna's was very cooperative as it regularly returned to the same perch.

I was pleased with the Anna's photos but I would still like to get some closer pictures. Maybe next time. (If anyone has some very cooperative Anna's that they want to share, please let me know.)

King's Pond was next on my list, thanks to Mary who I met at Clover. She kindly reminded me of the Canvasback, and since it was on the way ...

The Canvasback was sleeping away from the other ducks. After I caused a duck stampede by throwing out some chicken scratch, the Canvasback woke up. It casually paddled over to be with the other ducks but wasn't interested in the chicken scratch.

As usual there were a few Ring-necked Ducks amongst the almost domesticated flock.

In fact, the Ring-neckeds were the most aggressive at pursuing the free food. There were also about six Wood Ducks, four Leser Scaup, a few Buffleheads, and tons of Mallards and Wigeons.

Because it was cloudy at King's Pond, I waited until Esquimalt Lagoon before taking the Lesser Scaup photo. I wanted the sunlight to highlight the purplish reflection off the head of the male.

The female Lesser is mostly brown like the many other duck species.

The American Wigeon is so abundant that it is often neglected, but there is always a quiet time when the wigeons are the best choice available. The next photo is of a mature male in breeding plumage. I suspect this is an immature male.


Mar. 6 - The Spawn is On

Rick Hilton reported a herring spawn at Ship's Point on Mar. 5, and it hit French Creek on Mar. 6. Meanwhile, there was a seine opening on Mar. 4 just off Chrome Island with an estimated catch of 6,000 tons. At that time the estimated stocks were about 40,000 tons. That meant 15% of the estimated stock has already been taken. The gillnetters opened at 10 am on Mar. 6. I wonder what their quota had been set at?

I decided to spend the morning looking for the herring. I stopped at French Creek at 8:30 am. The small bay was loaded with gulls and the water was starting to turn milky, but there was no boat activity. I decided to work my way up to Deep Bay and then stop on the way back.


My first stop was Qualicum. I thought all the scoters would be off chasing the spawn, but there was still a sizeable flock near the beach.

Most of the scoters were Blacks which was just what I wanted. The conditions were never right in my several stops during the winter, but with sunshine, blue sky, high tide, and not too many tourists, the conditions were pretty good.

The trick is to catch the scoters while they are feeding on Varnish clams close to the beach.

I didn't have the patience to wait for full-frame shots, but I was content with the medium-distance shots.

There were a few Surf Scoters in the flock as well as some White-wingeds.

For some reason the scoter flock was much more flighty this year than in past years. They were easily spooked by anything that moved. I didn't mind as I wanted to move on as well.

There was hardly a gull at the viewing stand, but I was pleased to see a couple of Eurasian Wigeons just to the west. The female Eurasian is probably one of the least photographed birds as the male normally steals the show.

Another reason is that the females are often difficult to distinguish if they are mixed in with the American Wigeons. It helps if the female is in the company of the male.

I was going to say, "Here's a Dunlin with a hair-lip," but that would be incorrect as Dunlin don't have lips. Anyway, here's a Dunlin with an over-grown dorsal bill.

I was impressed with the large flocks of gulls decorating the shoreline on the way up to Deep Bay, and there was also an abundant collection at Deep Bay. I stopped at the corner on the way to the end of the spit to take a few pictures. Most of the gulls were of the Thayer's variety.

I was careful to select only gulls that were distinctly Thayer's. Mind you, I know as much about gulls as I do about women, so don't be surprised if I make a mistake. The main features besides pink legs and black wing-tips are small, thin, greenish-yellow bill, purlish-red eye ring, and small rounded head.

Gull identification is complicated by age, season, and hybridization. In this case it's age as this is a 3rd winter Thayer's.

According to Sibley's about 10% of the Thayer's have a pale iris. It seems to be closer to 20% for gulls in our region.

There were a few California Gulls in the group.

While the gulls were resting on the beach, a flock of six Brant were foraging at the edge of the tide-line.

As soon as the Brant noticed me they swam further out, but I knew I would get some closer shots on another day. (I did take some Long-tailed shots as you can see on the title picture.)

Back at French Creek the King was at his usual spot by the creek. He was completely oblivious of the commotion at the other end of the marina. The herring spawn had happened and the parking lot was full of curious onlookers.

I wondered why the King wasn't out there with the herring. It would be easy pickings for him.

Like the King I wasn't too interested in the herring fishing either. I've seen it before, and it saddens me to see the depletion of one of our most important natural resources. I watched for a few minutes then headed for home.


Mar. 8 - The Spawn Has Gone

The first day of daylight saving time was greeted by about four inches of snow, but by noon it stopped and by 2:00 pm the sun was shinng and the sky was blue. I decided that it would be a good time to check out the aftermath of the herring spawn at Parksville Park. We all know that like any sex act, it's all over in a short time. The same applies to the herring spawn. The milt fertilizes the eggs, and it's all over in a few minutes. The herring that have survived the gamut of fish nets and predators get to live another day in their secret underwater lives. Hopefully, most of the fertized eggs will develop into the next generation of herring, but many of the eggs will not survive. They will become the sustenance and building blocks for many other species.

Pearls of nature - The herring roe is more precious than any jewel as it sustains a myriad of life forms from fish to fowl.

Brant Fest - The large population of Pacific Black Brant that stages in the mid-Island region rely on herring roe to supplement their diet of eel grass and sea lettuce.

It was party time at Parksville Beach as several hundred Brant and a thousand or so gulls dined on the loose herring roe.

In past years the aftermath of the spawn continued for many weeks as the herring roe was so abundant.

Last year the herring roe on the beaches disappeared in a few days.

The late afternoon scene at the park was almost perfect for photography.

The Brant and gulls were feeding close to the top of the beach which was about ten meters from where I was set up.

The only disruption was the occasional tourist who would walk along the tideline with no concern for disturbing the Brant.

Luckily, the disturbances for few considering the mass of tourists and onloookers. The Brant returned once the coast was clear.

In all my years of bird photography, this was my best photog situation ever. I think the photos speak for themselves.

Many species of ducks like scoters and scaup also rely on the herring roe. In past years when the roe was abundant, some of the rafts of ducks would stretch for a kilometer. It would be encouraging to see that again.


Bird Poster

My posters are on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House; Nanoose Bay - Credit Union; Courtenay - Graham's Jewellers























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