Another Wagtail Day

Dec. 4 - With my presentation at Ecole Mill Bay cancelled I decided to honor my promise to deliver one calendar to Campbell River. It didn't make economic sense, but a promise made is a debt unpaid so despite the turbulent skies I packed my cameras, a few books, and the calendar and headed west. Large black clouds and pelting rain dampened my spirits as I headed north on the Island Highway, but as I passed Nile Creek, blue sky was visible over the Salish Sea. Shortly after blue sky and glorious sunshine appeared to my right, but on the highway, the rain was relentless. What's that saying about being served lemons? Right, you make lemonade. So what do you make when you are served rain and sun? Yes, RAINBOWS, and I enjoyed rainbows almost all the way to Campbell River where the rain was finally replaced by glorious blue skies and sunshine. Things even brightened on the business side as my calendar customer also bought a book, and SAVE ON FOODS needed seven books.

Looking west along the highway in the pouring rain I was awestruck by the intense band of colours of a rainbow almost on the road. Just for fun I held my camera to the windshield and in between wiper swipes I took a couple of pictures. There were actually two rainbows, but the one further to the west was quite faint. (I have a rainbow challenge going with Judy Brown. I hope she sees this.)

On the way back near Qualicum I was greeted by another rainbow above the Salish Sea. This time I pulled over and walked to the other side of the road to take the picture. I think if I had waited a little longer the rainbow may have become more intense as the rain seemed to be moving east.

In between rainbows I had the opportunity to check in with the Citrine Wagtail for the 4th time. I couldn't drive by Courtenay without stopping to visit the amazing, long-staying vagrant. Once again there were several birders engaged in viewing the bird which was across the grassy field in one of its favorite locations.

On my earlier photos I noticed a trace of yellow on the face and chest of the Citrine. I wasn't sure if the yellow was a stain or natural plumage colouration. This was two weeks later and the colouration was definitely more intense and definitely lemon yellow. I'm not familiar with the moulting sequence of the Citrine, but I'm guessing these for the first signs of adult plumage.

Dec. 6 - A surprise order of books from Blue Heron Books in Comox gave me an excuse to visit the Citrine for the 5th time and the second time in two days. (I would visit it every day if I lived up there.) Several birders from California were leaving as I was going in. Two birders still remained and they were enjoying great views of the Citrine near the second stump pile. One of the birders was from North Carolina and the other was from Colorado. For Keith, the birder from North Carolina, the Citrine was around #730 on his ABA list.

I enjoyed visiting with the birders for about an hour and left shortly after David A. from Shawnigan Lake arrived. David said it took the Citrine to finally get him back into birding after a 2 or 3 year hiatus. On my way out I had the pleasure of encountering David and Adele who discovered the bird on Nov. 14. This was their first visit since Nov. 15. I was pleased to present them with a couple of my Citrine greeting cards as my thanks for finding the bird. The Citrine wasn't David's first discovery of a rare bird, although it may have been his first live one. In a previous life as a warden in Strathcona Park he discovered the casrcass of a Red-tailed Tropic Bird which was also a first for Canada.

Victoria Bound

Dec. 10 - An order of 6 books from Munro's didn't justify a trip to Victoria, but the presence of Pelicans and the Harris's Sparrow sweetened the pot. There was also the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, but I would be happy with two out of three. As well, I had run out of sleeves and envelopes so a visit to Caedblanks was another reason travel. After a leisurely drive down, my first stop was Cardblanks, but much to my dismay, they weren't open on Mondays. I hoped that wasn't a sign of things to come. Munro's was next and then it was time to check out the pelicans.

From the messages kindly posted on the BCVIBIRDS site, the pelicans were best viewed from Fishermen's Wharf. Sure enough, when we drove down to the end of the wharf, my wife spotted a juvenile Brown Pelican floating at the end of the wharf. I hustled down with my camera and joined Rosemary, a local photographer. The pelican was very cooperative as it drifted towards the inner harbour. There was no problem getting a few close-up shots, but the lack of sunshine denied the chance of capturing the full glory of the bird. Pelicans in Victoria are uncommon, but as far as I know, the current invasion of over twenty is unprecedented. They have been in town for several weeks now and show no signs of leaving. If there is any avian sign of global warming, this might be it.

Most of the pelicans stayed on the far side of the harbour but another juvenile - or possibly the same one flew by on its way back to Pelly Island. It was wonderful to see the pelicans, but I sure hope they know there way back to California if the food supply diminishes and the weather gets extreme.

Just to keep things interesting the occasional Rhinocerous Auklet would pop up in front of us to say hello.

After the pelican I flipped a coin and the Harris's won over the Blue-gray. I wasn't sure how to get to Interurban but by intuition I headed north on the highway then right on Mackenzie and then right on Burnside which thankfully ran into Interurban. Then it was a search for a Hyacinth Park sign. By the time we got to Wilkinson we had passed Hyacinth Road but no park sign. We turned around and decided to try Hyacinth Road which led to a park. On the way in we noticed a dirt trail with lots of sparrows and decided to give it a try. Birdseed on both sides of the trail told us we were at the right spot.

After a half hour the best bird that appeared was a White-throated Sparrow. It was a good consolation if Harris's wasn't home.

Ten more minutes and I was starting to think of Swan Lake when a new bird appeared on the scene. It popped tentatively out of the bushes on my left and then popped back in. A few minutes later it reappeared and boldly joined the Fox Sparrows, Towhees, and House Sparrows at the seed buffet. I think the Harris's has been in the area for at least a month, and I was grateful for finally having the opportunity to see it. Many thanks to the person(s) who has been feeding the sparrows.

In the mid-day darkness I had to crank the ISO to 1250 and the f-stop to 5.3 just to shoot at 1/125th of a second, but I didn't mind as long as I was able to reasonably and finally record my first Harris's Sparrow.

After the Harris's disappeared an ghostly apparition emerged from the underbrush. I had heard rumors that the trail was haunted by a Fox Sparrow ghost, and here it was.

Forgotten Files

With all the excitement about the Citrine I forgot about a few shots from Deep Bay.

Here's a Pelagic Cormorant that was a bit underexposed so I thought it wasn't worth posting. After I lightened it up in Photoshop. I was quite pleased with the results.

Deep Bay seemed to be back in its normal winter state. Surf Scoters were present as expected, and a few were quite frisky chasing each other.

I consider the Longtailed as the signature bird of Deep Bay. I could sit an watch them for hours and enjoy their gentle calls.

Red-breasted Grebes without their red breasts are another fixture at the spit.

Usually they stay away from shore but occasionally one will drift in for closer shots.

On the other hand, the Horned Grebes are much more trusting. They sometimes paddle by within twnty feet.

A Change of Focus

While I don't intend on abandoning birds, I do plan on focussing on some different wings for the next year - BUTTERFLIES. Butterflies are the most beautiful and least understood creatures on earth, and we are killing at a rate faster than you can imagine. Every time natural habit is alienated for human use or usurped by invasive plants there is a good chance that the natural habitat of some butterfly is destroyed. An illustration of our track record - in the recently published Victoria Nature Guide, 60 butterfly species are listed, but 22 of the species are relegated to historical records.

Butterflies are an integral part of the delicate fabric of our natural world, and part of what makes this world a beautiful place to live in. We must make a better effort to preserve critical natural habitat and reducing our relentless destruction of our planet's biodiversity. My goal in producing a book on Vancouver Island butterflies is to increase public awareness of butterflies and, hopefully, increase conservation efforts. My efforts might not make any difference, but it's better than doing nothing.

Publishing has always been risky business, but I have been fortunate with my four previous publications. It is always difficult to gauge public interest so I'm taking the cautious approach and will limit my production to 500 to 1,000 copies instead of my usual 3,000. As well, I plan to only sell directly to keep the price as low as possible for customers. Interested patrons are invited to reserve a copy by emailing me (admin AT vancouverislandbirds DOT com). Publication date should be late 2013 or early 2014. My first two orders were from Victoria and Minnesota, respectively. Past experience with my previous publications is that the first 1,000 copies always sold quickly, but the next 1,000 took twice as long. Since I'm not producing more than 1,000, if you snooze, you might lose.

Of the 187 species in B.C. (Butterflies of B.C. by Guppy & Shepard) approximately 60 are found on Vancouver Island. It will be a challenge but probably impossible for me to photograph all of them in their natural habitats. Therefore I will be soliciting photos from other photographers. If you have photos that you think I may be able to use, please contact me.























Port Hardy - MUSEUM


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