title photo: Bonaparte's Gull after a tasty meal (see photos just before the end)
Sept. 12 - It was another superb September day as I slowly worked my way towards Buckley Bay. My destination was Denman and Hornby, but I was not in any hurry. My book was in the proofing stage, and I was starting to get into the birding mode again. Although the sun-kissed mountaintops were inviting me to chase butterflies and wildflowers, I opted for shorebirds and seabirds. French Creek, Admiral's Lagoon, and Qualicum Beach were disappointing with very little bird life of any kind. Deep Bay showed a little more promise. At Mapleguard a trio of Pacific Loons cruising close to the shoreline caught my attention as they glided towards the gull roost. But, as slow and meticulous as I was, they reversed direction when they spotted me on the rocks. I was left with the gull roost which I scanned hopefully. Five years ago I was floored to find a Sabine's in with the flock. There were no surprises today - only Bonies and a lone Common Tern.
After unsuccessfully stalking the tern for about ten minutes I headed expectantly to the spit hoping for something like Horned Larks or Lapland Longspurs. But, there was no rejoicing as I scanned the glassy calm waters of Baynes Sound. The only birds around were a few Bonies drifting sleepily just offshore. I had had about 30 minutes to spare before heading for the ferry so I decided to just sit and enjoy the sun and scenery. I was just about to nod off when a ripple caught my attention just off the point. I did a double take as a small bird surfaced - it was a juvenile Marbled Murrelet!
I froze as I watched the murrelet. I didn't want it to be frightened by my movements.
My best bet was to wait for it to dive then try to predict when it would resurface.
It didn't take long for the murrelet to get into a diving mode.
It would lower its head, take a breath, and
then dive - showing its classic "kiss my butt" pose. That was the moment I was waiting for. I grabbed my tripod and ran about 30 paces to where I thought it would emerge. I repeated this three times before the murrelet headed offshore. I was quite pleased to have just incresed my collection of murrelet photos by about 500%.
When I was leaving a few passerines flew into the brush. I thought they were the regular Savannahs, but was surprised to see they were Lincoln's.
Here's the tern I stalked at Mapleguard. That's probably the last one I'll see this year. Theres only a window of about three weeks that they pass through on the way south.
While I was stalking the tern I was distracted by a crab that was about to become breakfast for a gull.
Later in the day I decided to check on the butterflies at Fairwinds. A few weeks ago the Wood Nymphs and Woodland Skippers were quite abundant, but with the end of summer just around the corner, I didn't expect to find very many.
Most of the wildflowers were in their seed stage, but there were still a few skippers around.
On the other hand, Wood Nymphs were scarce. I managed to find two in about an hour. Both had fairly well-worn wings.
Sept. 19 - Today my target was the Eurasian Collared Dove at French Creek. I wanted to get some better photos for my next column in the North Islander newspaper. With so many people reporting Ringed Turtle-Doves, I thought it was timely to write about the Collared Doves.
By force of habit my first stop was beside French Creek. The creek has provided me with many photo opportunities in the past. Today the surprise was a juvenile Spotted Sandpiper. It was not a common bird for this location.
Spottie was just minding its own business as it foraged in the shallow waters.
The only other bird around was a Killdeer.
Spottie wanted to pass the Killdeer but wasn't sure what to expect.
When the Killdeer was preoccupied with some foraging of its own, Spottie made its move and snuck by without incident.
After my photo shoot with Spottie I scanned the deciduous forest further up the creek. I was happy to see several doves in one of the larger alder trees.
I drove around to the north bank of the creek and slowly worked my way towards the doves. I was pleased to get closer than my last visit. There were six doves in the tree. Some were preening while others were just soaking in the morning sun. The dove in the photo is a juvenile before it develops a collar.
Like the Rock Pigeons, the Collared Dove is now a regular part of the island birdscape.
My next stop was Admiral's Lagoon. The tide was coming in but there was no sign of any migrating shorebirds. However, the usual resident flock of Black-bellied Plovers was in its usual position at the edge of the gravel bar. As I was approaching the flock a few plovers flew in to join the flock.
A few more simply walked in to be with the others.
I did my usual scan for a golden-plover but was disappointed once again.
Next stop - Qualicum. Nothing new, but I'm always happy to see the Harlequins. Two males were present, and they were still molting into their standard plumage.
Qualicum is one of my favorite venues for photographing the Harlequins. They love to sit on the rocks to preen and rest.
Another bird that likes to frequent the rocks is the Black Turnstone.
I can't remember when I last visited Reifel. All I know is that it was time to reward myself with a birding day and to use use my annual pass before it expired on Oct. 2.
One of the regulars at Reifel is the Black-capped Chickadee. After all these years I still didn't have a decent photo of this bird. Today was my best effort.
My first stop was at the wheel-chair accessible viewing stand where I had seen a Green Heron last year. There was no Green Heron today, but there were a couple of chickadees working the trees. Hey! Lunch is served.
It's impossible to walk by the Wood Ducks without taking a few pictures.
The sunlight was harsh against the dark shadows, but that didn't stop me from clicking the camera.
I was hoping for a few shorebirds near the viewing tower, but all I got was another chickadee.
As expected, there were shorebirds on the other side of the west pond. Long-billed Dowitchers were abundant.
Short-billed Dowitchers were also quite common.
I was happy to see several Lesser Yellowlegs. I haven't seen any on the island since I gave up on Holden Creek.
I heard that there was still one Stilt Sandpiper in the neighborhood. I finally found it with some Westerns. I was waiting for it to lift its head, but a Merlin flew in to scatter the flock.
A few Pectorals returned after the Merlin left, but the Stilt was nowhere in sight.
I was ready to move on when a silent flock of Sandhill Cranes flew in. The leader was all decked out in colourful legbands and had an Ipod strapped to its right leg. Even the birds have gone hi-tech!
I assumed that this was a flock that had just stopped on its migration south, but it could also be the local wintering flock.
I've sent an email to Jim Martin asking if the decorated bird is part of the Reifel flock.
After Reifel I had the choice of Boundary or Iona. I chose Iona. It was a bad choice. Iona was almost birdless. I saw a few Savannahs on the way out. Surf Scoters were one of the few birds at the end of the pipe.
I sat at the end of the pipe for a half hour watching the scoters and Bonies. The best action was a bonie having lunch.
It's always fun watching a bird manipulating its prey to get it in position for swallowing.
That's it. The show is over. It wasn't my best day at Reifel and Iona, but it was very enjoyable to spend a day chasing birds.
My poster is on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House