May 26 - Twin Island - presentation for MISTY ISLES charter group

June 7 - Arrowsmith 4H Club, Coombs Fairgrounds Hall - photo presentation

Pending - Orca Probus Club


May 16, 2016 - The past month has been exciting with our winter birds leaving, summer birds arriving, and migrants stopping over. All of our winter ducks are gone. The last migratory ducks I saw in mid-April were a few American Wigeons at French Creek beating out the Buffleheads that are usually the latest. The last migratory seabird I saw was a Horned Grebe half way to full breeding plumage also at French Creek, and the last migratory gulls were the Bonaparte's and Californias at Admiral's Lagoon.

Mid-April through mid-May is our brief shorebird stop-over season, and once again it was celebrated by the annual Tofino Shorebird Festival. The festival is fitting for Tofino since it is the best place on Vancouver Island to observe the masses of shorebirds as they stop to fuel up before continuing their journey north to their nesting grounds. I missed the festival this year, but by all accounts it was another successful event. Over on the east coast of the island we only get a few dribs and drabs of shorebirds - just enough to whet your appetite for more. I really enjoy the shorebirds, but with a heavy schedule of other activities I only managed to get out twice to look for them.

Apr. 12 - As much as I hate to see ducks leave it is quite the sight to see the flocks stream by like the Greater Scaup in the photo above. The largest flocks are the Surf Scoters, but they generally stay further offshore and are more difficult to photograph.

As the ducks leave the shorebirds arrive. The first I saw this year were Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlin on the beach at Eaglecrest. There's no mistaking the Black-bellied Plovers in the photo. The small bird at the top left is a Dunlin.

As soon as the shorebirds land they frantically forage of small aquatic insects and worms from the beach.

The flocks are wary and take flight at the slightest sign of danger. Sometimes they circle back and land again if it was a false alarm. Other times they just take off never to be seen again.

Here they are landing again. I was there for about 30 minutes, and the shorebirds were still there when I left.

The Black-bellied Plovers are very distinctive in their summer plumage. They remind me of British magistrates in their black cloaks and white wigs.

This photo was taken on April 14 and shows the last Brant I saw in the area. The day before I saw a huge flock of about 500 getting ready for the final leg of the journey to Alaska.

May 1 - For the past two weeks I took advantage of the sunny weather to chase butterflies, but inspired by the Golden Plovers, Godwits, Whimbrels, and sandpipers being reported at Panama Flats in Victoria I decided to visit San Malo Mudflats and Admiral's Lagoon.

When I arrived at San Malo I spotted a group of about 50 sandpipers out on the mudflat, but there was also an interesting drama unfolding right in front of me. A crow was stalking three killdeer chicks. The adults bravely kept between the crow and the chicks but the crow was undeterred. One of the adults called the chicks to cover them up while the other continued to try to distract the crow.

Finally, when the crow got too close one of the adults flew up and struck the back of the crow. That finally deterred the crow, and it flew off to find something easier.

The chicks survived this time, but there are usually four. I wonder if the fourth was hiding or had perished earlier.

I searched through the flock of sandpipers and found Dunlin, Westerns, and Least. These were the expected birds. In the past I have also seen Semipalmateds, Pectorals, and Whimbrels.

It was low tide when I arrived at Admirals Lagoon. The lagoon was almost dry with no birds to be except a few Mallards on the furthest section that was still flooded. There were no shorebirds in sight. I decided to check the gull roost at the end of the sandbar. It was a good chance to see the last remaining gulls if nothing else. I was glad I did. A small group of shorebirds flew up but landed a few meters from their original position. I wasn't surprised to see a Black-bellied Plover, but I was surprised to see a couple of Dunlin and a stranger.

It's interesting that my best shots of the Black-bellied Plovers are when they are pensively staring out to sea. That's when they allow me to approach the closest. Is it because they are half asleep or do they just feel safe because the escape route is right before them?

Who was the stranger? On closer inspection it was a dowitcher, but without a good frontal view I couldn't be sure if it were a Long or Short-billed. My best guess is Short-billed based on the white on the belly.

Another surprise. There were still a few very handsome black-headed Bonaparte's and California's, but there there was also a pair of Caspian Terns. We don't see a lot of Caspians on the mid-island so it's always a bonus to see them.

White-crowned Sparrows are one of the few sparrows that breed locally. I usually have a pair nesting around my yard, but I was disappointed to find a dead one by the garden yesterday. It didn't have any marks on it so I have no idea what happened. Meanwhile, I did see another in the bird bath so maybe there's still a mating pair around. The other local breeders are Chipping and Song Sparrows.


No matter how often I see a Bald Eagle it always commands my attention. Its behavior runs the gamut of ruthless predator plundering the helpless nests of Great Blue Herons to majestic icons soaring in our skies. But there is another side that many have not been privy to witness, and it is my favorite - gentle, caring and nurturing parents.

Thanks to the diligent observations of my colleagues, Wayne and Pete, I have the chronology of this year's breeding schedule. Sometime near the end of March the eagles mated and, no fooling, the first egg was laid on April 1. The second egg followed as expected on April 3.

The textbooks say it takes about five weeks to incubate the eggs, and the textbooks were right on. The first egg hatched on May 4 and the second on May 6.

May 5 - Bam-Bam was one day old when I had my first chance to visit. She had a good appetite and knew where to find her food. (Of course, I don't know if Bam-Bam is a girl, but there is a 50% chance that I am right.)

Both parents are critical to the survival of the young. Here they are like proud parents admiring their newborn ...

Mama Eagle was careful to cover up Bam-Bam as well as to incubate the remaining egg.

While Mom was incubating Pop flew off to catch lunch. He returned with the usual fare, a midshipman. First he landed on his perch tree which was to the west of the nest tree.

After a short rest he flew west and circled back to the east and around to approach the nest from the south.

The southern approach is the best because branches interfere with the other approaches.

After delivering the fish Pop rejoiced and let everyone know that all was well at the aerie.

On May 9 I visited again. Bam-Bam had a brother. Boom-Boom was three days old. Bam-Bam was noticeably larger and more aggressive in getting her food.

Mom carefully regurgitated food for both chcicks. Even though bam-Bam was more aggressive, Mom made sure that Boom-Boom got his share. That's Bam-Bam being fed.


May 9 - The midshipman is known for its peculiar ability to hum. It is also a major resource for migrating and breeding eagles. It's a type of bullhead, and its breeding period is coincidental with not just the breeding and migrating time for eagles but also with some very low tides. At high tide the females lays her eggs under patches of seaweed and the males are assigned the task of guarding the eggs. In areas where there is a very shallow intertidal zone the retreating tide often leaves the males and eggs stranded in the many tidepools and even on the dry shore.

Before you criticize the quality of the following photos, two negative factors were involved. First, distance. Without setting a blind and preparing well in advance it is very difficult to get close to eagles out in the open. Second, heat shimmer. It was one of the hottest days of the spring and mid-afternoon. My camera doesn't have a heat shimmer correction program.

Now that I've dispensed with the excuses, it is quite the sight to see scores of eagles patiently sitting on the beach waiting for a slight movement (or hum) from under the seaweed. When I first approached the beach I counted 77 Bald Eagles and I knew there were more around the corner.

For the most part the eagles were waiting patiently, but occasionally they would change positions or a new one would fly in and join the party.

I'm not sure if there is a pecking order, an etiquette, or just common sense to move when another eagle is about to land on top of you.

It's easy pickings when the midshipman is stranded right on land. Without water it's sure to start squirming under the seaweed and becomes easy prey for an observant eagle.

There didn't seem to be a consistent pattern after a fish was caught. Sometimes the eagle just stayed nearby to consume the fish. At other times it would fly off like this one and head for its favorite rock.

Just as the eagle was about to land, a bunch of flies flew off the rock.

The flies didn't seem to bother the eagle as it settled down to enjoy its lunch.

There were many immature eagles in the mix and they seemed to be getting their share of the bounty. For many the midshipman fishery provides the last hearty meal before the eagles disperse to their respective summer ranges.




Bird Poster

My poster is on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House. (Note: This poster has been produced in a more manageable size and is now available for $20 unlaminated and $32 laminated.)



















Port Hardy - MUSEUM


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