Freedom 55 - no commitments scheduled!
May 17 - The chicks are now almost two weeks old. They are still helpless fuzzballs, but they can flop around to accept food from the adults. They have also mastered the function of excreting waste out of the nest. As expected the parents have been diligently feeding them about every two hours.
May 21 - An unexpected visit by my daughter gave me another excuse to visit the denman nest. We arrived at 9:15 am and had the scene to ourselves. The chicks were sleeping quietly in the nest still looking cute in their baby fuzz. Right on schedule at 10:00 am one of the parents arrived with a midshipman for breakfast. The parent pulled off small pieces of fish and regurgitated it for the chicks.
May 30 - The fuzzy baby stage was almost over. This was my last visit. I waited two hours to see if there was any feeding activity. There wasn't. Both parents were around but didn't come to the nest. The chicks didn't seem to mind. There were relatively quiet with only the occasional change of position.
My intention was to visit again around June 16, but with a variety of commitments and inconsistent weather I didn't make it. However, I did hear some tragic news. Apparently, on June 14 a couple and their grandchildren watched in horror as the larger sibling dragged and pushed the smaller sibling out of the nest.
Over the years the nest has been the scene of various disasters. Part of the problem is the construction of the nest. It is essentially balanced on one large branch with minor support from a smaller branch. Consequently it is more of a pancake than a bowl. That provides no protection to prevent a chick from falling or being pushed out of the nest. As well, because of the fragile construction and foundation, the nest has often disintegrated before the end of the nesting season.
May 20 - Low tide at Buccaneer Beach. Eagles were perched everywhere around the various tidepools.
They were all patiently waiting for the slightest movement of the midshipman fish under the seaweed.
Just missed or false alarm?
Here's one that didn't get away. The midshipman is a member of the toadfish family and known for its vocalizations which some consider a form of singing; hence, the appellation of the singing or humming fish. The name midshipman comes from the lateral line of photophores on the fish that resemble buttons on the naval uniform.
At times the eagles would consume the fish on a rock near where it was caught.
In most cases it was very difficult to get close to the eagles. They usually kept a distance of at least 50 meters. The closest I got was about 30 meters, but that was only once. However, I talked to a regular at the beach. He walked every day with his dog, and the eagles didn't mind his presence. He figured the eagles recognized either him or his dog and knew they were no threat unlike a stranger with a large camera and lens.
I didn't have to wait long to see an eagle jump in after a fish. Many had dirty sea water stained head feathers as a testament to the number of fish they dunked their heads in to capture.
Of course, most of the eagles flew away from me after caught a fish.
Not all the eagles dunked for their fish. Some used their claws. They were the ones without the water stained head feathers.
Like I said, most of them flew away from me.
Occasionally one would circle past me as it headed for its favorite tree perch or nest.
Here's an eagle that used its claw to grab a fish, but the stained feathers suggested that it also dunked for a few. I'm not sure when each technique was used but I think the bigger fish were clawed.
This was the second fish caught by the eagle. It ate the first one. When it caught this one it gave its call then headed off across the water to Denman Island. I wonder if it was telling its mate that it was coming home with dinner.
I watched it fly off towards Chrome Island. I thought it might be heading for the nest just past the lighthouse but it continued past heading northwest.
My last visit to the beach was on June 2. The tide was perfect, and it was sunny.
I was disappointed to see that the number of eagles had declined significantly from about a hundred to about 30. My assumption was that the midshipman spawning season was over and most of the non-resident eagles have headed off to their respective summer ranges. Most of the remaining birds were local breeders.
On Jan. 12, 2016 I received an invitation from Mike Moore to be the guest bird guy on a May 26, 27 trip to Mitlenatch and Twin Islands with the Malaspina Naturalists from Powell River. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. Mike and his wife are the owners Misty Isle Adventures, a sailboat cruising and mothership charter company based on Cortes Island. Their specialty is adventure and kayak tours around the Discovery Islands, Mitlenatch, and Desolation Sound.
The Misty Isle is a 43' sailboat with the pleasing lines of a classic gaff rigged schooner and the sturdy comfort of a west coast troller. It is lovingly maintained and completely updated to qualify for Canadian Marine Safety Inspection and Certification.
The first leg of the journey began at charming seaside village of Lund and proceeded south of Savary Island before heading northwest to Milenatch, a unique nature preserve and largest seabird colony in the Salish Sea. It is also a Nature Provincial Park supervised by volunteer wardens to protect the sensitive ecosystem. As expected we were greeted by the raucous and excited sea lion welcoming committee. Most of the sea lions were non-breeding Californians with a few giant stellers in the mix.
A zodiac is used to transfer guests to shore and to cruise around the island to view the wildlife and cormorant colonies. Just a reminder to potential visitors that it is wise to take a spare pair of runners or sandals for wading through the shallows up to the oyster shell beach.
Volunteer wardens are on hand from mid-spring to late summer. They perform an number of monitoring activites, remove invasive plants, and inform visitors of the regulations as well as natural sights to look for.
The location of Mitlenatch in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island produces semi-arid conditions that support a variety of unusual plants like the Pacific prickly pear and over 30 blossoming plants.
Mitlenatch is host to the largest Glaucous-winged Gull colony in the Salish Sea. Approximately a 1,000 pairs arrive in the spring to begin their reproductive activities.
Black Oystercatchers are abundant and nest above the high tide line on rocky beaches and the surrounding rocks.
The Double-crested Cormorants inhabit the penthouse on Mitlenatch. About 30 pairs build their stick nests on the highest cliffs.
About 250 pairs of Pelagic Cormorants nest on the narrow mid-level ledges and crevices. They were still busy collecting grass for nest material during our visit.
Twin Island is private enclave located a stone's throw from Cortes Island. It has never been open to the public, but it is well-known that Queen Elizabeth has been hosted there not once but twice. Through a special arrangement with Mike and the owners, Mark and Amy, we were the first public guests to be welcomed to the island. I'm not going to say anything more about our visit except we were we were warmly welcomed by Mark and Amy, wonderfully wined and dined, comfortably housed in separate rustic suites, and personally toured to the secluded gardens, orchards, and other island facilities.
My Misty Isle Adventure was a wonderful break from my routine of domestic chores, and I am thankful for those who made it possible. Of course, it all started with Mike Moore who conjured up the idea of including a bird guy on the itinerary; his wife, Samantha, who kept us well fed with her culinary treats on boat and Twin Island; Mark and Amy for their fine hospitality on Twin Island; and John and Joan Treen who kindly picked me up at the ferry and warmly welcomed me into their home.
Although I haven't had a chance to chase any birds lately, I have been able to squeeze in the occasional hour by my window looking out at the hummingbirds. It's always fascinating to watch their aerial combats and hi-jinks as they attack each other on their perches. Most of the action seems to involve the finely feathered juveniles as they test out their flying skills. But, it's not all hummingbirds. A few other visitors have stopped by to pay their regards.
One of the newcomers to my yard is the House Wren. It seems to spend most of its time around the garden but it did stop by to say hello one day.
I can now add the Pale Swallowtail to the feeder list along with the occasional Orange-crowned Warbler.
The curious American Goldfinch stopped by the feeder several times, but I'm not sure if it took a drink.
I think the Black-headed Grosbeak studied the feeder for several seconds but couldn't see any way of accessing the sweet treat.
A juvenile Dark-eyed Junco was drawn by the activity around the feeder. It sat and watched for awhile then left to search for some food.
There are several holly trees behind the feeders that also attracts its share of birds. The Orange-crowned Warbler is one of the regular visitors gleaning insects from the leaves.
I think the juvenile Bushtit was just using the holly as a refuge. I've seen the adults occasionally around the yard and wonder if they are nesting nearby.
The sun shines between the trees and on to my feeders from 5 to 6 pm. That's when I usually take a photo break while waiting for dinner and listening to the news. It's always a challenge to get better shots, and the time seems to fly as fast as the hummers. As mentioned the scene is dominated by sleek and aggressive juveniles who are honing their flying skills in preparation for their southern migration.
Dogbane is a butterfly magnet. The only patch I know of is down Nanaimo River Road. Last year I didn't get down there until June 23. I wanted to be early this year to see what else was attracted to the dogbane. My first trip was June 6. I knew it was probably too early for Dun Skippers and Sylvan hairstreaks, but I had a couple of pleasant surprises.
Surprise number 1 - a Boisduval Blue. Low elevation populations have largely disappeared so it was rewarding to see one at an elevation of 250 m.
Surprise number 2 - I had never seen or photographed a Western Meadow Fritillary at low elevations. My only experience with it has been on Mt. Cokely and Washington at high elevations. Another surprise was a Great Arctic the fluttered right beside me but didn't stop.
As expected Lorquin's Admirals were abundant.
Several Cedar Hairstreaks were also present. Most were fairly well worn and near the end of their adult lives.
Clodius Apollos were fairly common and in their prime. Several were actively engaged in reproduction.
After a week of inclement weather I returned to the dogbane again. It was still fairly cool at 11:30 am. The large butterflies were like the Pale and Tiger swallowtails, Clodius Apollos, and Lorquin's Admirals were abundant and busy, but the smaller butterflies were conspicuous by their absence.
An hour later it was much warmer and the Dun Skippers appeared. In short order I found about five.
Several Grey and Cedar Hairstreaks flew in but no Sylvan. I was just about to leave when I decided one last look. It worked. A fresh-looking Sylvan showed up.
A surprise was waiting when I got home. A propertius Duskywing was nectaring in the lavender patch.160616homea-007.jpg xxxxx
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.)