Title photo: Surf Scoters are among the first ducks to arrive for the winter.
Oct. 23/10 - If any of you have detected a decline in my birding activity, you're right. Like most of you I'm trying to be more environmentally and fiscally responsible. A number of birders have resorted to non-motorized transport or NMT birding, and they are to be commended for reducing their carbon footprints and improving their personal health. For me, it just isn't practical with about 15 kg of bulky camera gear, so my only alternative to cut down on the motorized birding. It won't be easy since birding has become a pathological addiction tantamount to nicotine, alcohol, pot, or - no I won't go where Tiger went. I might have to enroll in one of those birding withdrawal clinics where they make you bird non-stop until you're just sick of it. If you know of one of those places, please let me know. Meanwhile, I'll just have to utilize good old "won't" power.
I still have to work which means I'll be delivering books and birding whenever I get a few orders. That's why I only try to deliver when it's sunny. In fact, this journal was only possible because of two orders. Graham's Jewellers in Courtenay continues to be my best outlet by far, and last week they ordered 72 books in preparation for Christmas. That gave me the opportunity for a little birding at Comox Bay Farm and Deep Bay. This week Bolen Books in Victoria ordered 17 books and the Wild Bird Centre in Langford took 3 which made a trip to Clover Point, Esquimalt Lagoon, and Whiffin Spit possible. I'm counting on a few more Christmas orders so I can do more birding. By the way, the books are a unique Vancouver Island product and great Christmas gifts. Except for Reifel, the book is only available on V.I.
Other than book days, I'll be trying to limit my travel to selected birding opportunities. Did you notice my restraint at not twitching the Wood and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers at Reifel? That would have been a miss for the Wood but the Sharpies were still around for a few days.
Comox Bay Farm is the the winter home for one of the Island's largest Trumpeter Swan flocks, but it was still a bit early for them. However, I did see a couple of white birds in the midst of a cluster of geese. Snow Geese I assumed as I drove nearer, and I was right. There were 2 Snowies with about 100 Greater White-fronteds and 58 Cackling Geese. It's always a pleasure to see all 3 species as they are only casual visitors to the Island during their fall migration. Occasionally, some will stay for an extended period like a couple of Snow Geese in Parksville during the past winter. I've also seen Great White-fronteds and Cacklings stay for about 6 weeks at Fairwinds, but most head south to Oregon and California.
As most of you know, the small Canada Geese were reclassified as Cackling Geese a few years ago. Several of them had wide white collars which were new to me. I suspected they were of the Aleutian subspecies which at one time were almost extinct because fur hunters had introduced foxes to their breeding islands in the Aleutian chain. However, a small colony survived and with careful conservation measures they are now off the endangered list. Okay, back to the identification. I posted a message on our Yahoo e-group and was fortunate to receive the requisite information to determine that they were not Aleutians. The wide white collars are typical for Aleutians, but so are gray breasts which weren't present on my birds. The best guess is that my birds were "minimas." Regardless of their ancestral origins, they were fun to see, and I enjoyed doing a little research as well as hearing from other birders. In the end birding and learning about birds (including subspecies) is all about fun or I wouldn't be doing it.
The Cackling Goose with the white collar was probably a minima posing as an Aleutian.
After Comox Bay Farm I made my usual stop at Deep Bay hoping to find a Lapland Larkspur, Horned lark, or Long-tailed Ducks. I was skunked on all three, but there were a couple of consolation offerings. One was on the wires with a couple of Rock pigeons. I think it was an immature Eurasian Collared-Dove. Take a look at the photo and see what you think. I'm open to suggestions, but favor my original assumption because the Eurasian has now expanded its range to the Island.
My second consolation was a pair of Dunlin on the sandy beach of the spit. They were the first I've seen this fall probably because I haven't been out much.
The Dunlin were foraging in the sand and grass along the water's edge.
The Dunlin would probe their bills deep into the sand and whenever they found something they would run to the water. My guess is that they had to rinse the sand off their prey and bills before they swallowed the food.
The Dunlin are one of the few shorebird species that winter in the region.
I forget which day it was but I know it was at San Pareil in Parksville that I spotted a raptor with a bird. By the time I parked an set up the camera it was gone, but I found it in a nearby tree. It was a male American Kestrel - guess what it was having for breakfast?
I wasn't sure what the Kestrel was until it dropped it close to where I was standing. The Kestrel flew down but when it samw me it flew up to the hydro line then left. Email me if you want to know what the raptor was eating.
Oct. 20 - The forecast was for sunny weather, and I would have been stuck at home doing chores were it not for Bolen Books in Victoria. Bolens is the biggest and best bookstore in Victoria and my best customer in the south Island. I phoned them on Oct. 19 and was delighted that they were ready to place their Christmas order. (Last year I had to deliver twice in Dec.) To top it off, Chris at the Wild Bird Centre in Langford also needed a few books so it was another books and birds (b&b) day.
After the books it was off to Clover Point. Birds seen in the past included the Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, Snowbirds, Horned larks, Lapland Longspurs, and Rock Sandpiper. I was cautiously optimistic as we drove into the parking lot. Right away I spotted some Harlequin Ducks which were to be expected, but I was distracted by another Clover Point resident, an otter.
I've seen otters many times at Clover Point, and they are always a great consolation if no unusual birds are present. I think the otter was aware that there were no birds so it put on an extra special show by displaying a series of otter yoga positions. You can figure them out for yourself from the various photos.
After about 10 minutes a crowd had gathered around me and that was too imposing for the otter. It decided to exit to the ocean.
After the otter left I turned my attention to the Harlequins.
The male obliged by jumping in the water and swimming towards me.
It did a few dives in front of me but didn't do the expected splashing and showering then returned to the rock with the females.
For some reason the gals seemed to prefer to stay out of the water. They might have been working on their tans in the warm October sun. I was fortunate to get my pictures just before someone's unleashed German Shepherd charged in and flushed all the birds.
The only songbird available was the Savannah Sparrow. As usual they were plentiful on the grassy slope where they gleaned little insects.
Esquimalt Lagoon was next and after taking the long route around I was dismayed to see cars travelling over the bridge. Yes, the bridge has been repaired. Anyway, back to the birds. A quick stop at the duck feeding station revealed only a few Mallards, Pintails, and Wigeons, but nearby in the tall grass a Great Blue Heron was relaxing in the sun.
The Great Blue was obviously accustomed to people as it didn't move when a few walkers pssed fairly close by.
I was intrigued by all the gulls drifting listlessly in the lagoon. You know what I mean - like siesta time after lunch in Mexico. Occasionally one would dip its head under and pull up a fish.
I looked around and saw fish everywhere. There was even one trying to swim onto the beach, but there was no feeding frenzy with the gulls.
The gulls were obviously satiated. There were a couple of Heermann's, and I watched one grab a fish, play with it, then drop it. The scene reminded me of the Comox Capelin I experienced many years ago. I wondered if the lagoon was full of spawned out capelin. I guess I'll never know.
Whiffin Spit was disappointing except for my first Common Goldeneye of the fall. Can i be sure that it was a Common and not a Barrow's? No. What do you think?
I don't think you can go by this pic as it exxagerates the head shape.
The normal head profile says Common to me, but i reserve the right to change my mind. Put it this way - I've never seen Barrow's at Whiffin.
Did I mention that I had to put away my bird feeders because a Black Bear was in the neighborhood. I wasn't worried about the seed but I didn't want to attract the bear to my garden full of tomatoes and apples. With no feeders it's been very quiet around here. However,the crops have been harvested. My local winter birds are now back, and they have been complaining so the suet feeder is finally back up. The seed will soon follow.
It's great to see the birds working on the sunflowers. They get really lazy when the feeders are out.
My poster is on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House