Sept. 20, 2018

The Common Nighthawks have long departed for their journeys back to South America, and summer suddenly disappeared a couple of weeks ago. After one of the hottest and driest summers on record the fall rains were a welcome relief considering we were just one careless cigarette butt from disaster.

As for the birds, fall migration continues. Most of the shorebirds have passed through, but a few stragglers can still be found at places like San Malo Mudflats and French Creek. I haven't seen any fallout of warblers yet but Geoffrey reported good numbers in Victoria a couple of days ago. Although warblers have been scarce, in the past week I've seen Lincoln's, Gold-crowned, White-crowned, and Song Sparrows in my yard. On the water our winter residents are starting to arrive. Three weeks ago I saw an American Coot at Fairwinds; last week a pair of Northern Pintails, a Northern Shoveler, and many Green-winged Teal at Oyster Bay; and yesterday a pair of Horned Grebes at Esquimalt Lagoon.

I haven't had the opportunity to do much photography since my last report on the White Raven, but I have a few small items to report. By the way, no one has reported the White Raven since mid-July. One can only speculate on whether it is surviving on its own or continues to fly with its siblings.

July 20, 2018

The Last Fledgling

Typically, my last yard bird to fledge is the Chipping Sparrow. I was a bit concerned this year because our neighbor's cat has been spending a lot of time on our property. She has been doing an excellent job of protecting our garden from mice, voles, and invasive Sooke bunnies (Eastern Cottontails), but she has also taken a couple of unsuspecting birds. However, I was relieved to finally see a juvenile on the garden fence. I was able to approach quite closely, but only had a macro lens for butterflies on my camera. I decided to get my telephoto and leave it set up in the yard just in case I spotted the juvenile again. I was rewarded an hour later when I saw the juvenile begging for food from an adult. For about twenty minutes I watched the adult catch a variety of insects and feed the juvie. Of course I relished the opportunity for some photos, but most of all I was relieved to know that another yard bird was successful in raising its family.

Qualicum Quail

During an afternoon trip I stopped at the Qualicum viewing stand to check for any birds or mammals. There were no birds on the water or beach, but a flush of quail right beside the vegetation at the side of the parking lot caught my attention. There were at least two adult males and females and probably about twenty juveniles. I carefully edged the car to a decent angle for my camera and parked without flushing the quail. They continued to tentatively forage near the bush until they were comfortable with my presence, and then they foraged freely away from the bush while I took a variety of photos. Despite frequently seeing quail I have never had the opportunity to try for some decent photos. This would be my best chance.>

Eventually one of the males decided it was safe to take a rest from its sentry duties.

One of the chicks decided to join the adult for an afternoon nap.

It lay down and stretched out and it didn't take long before it was asleep.

Meanwhile, the female and the rest of the flock continued to forage beside the bush and on the beach.

While one of the males was resting the other was still standing guard.

I spent an hour in close proximity with the quail, and they showed no sign of distress as they foraged quietly within several feet of me.

July 24, 2018

Nighthawk Appointment

Many years ago when I wanted to photograph Common Nighthawks in flight I would head for the edge of the forest just northwest of Arbutus Meadows near the end of July. After a hiatus of at least ten years I decided to see if the nighthawks still frequented the area. I headed out at 645 pm approximately an hour and a half before sunset. I did the clockwise loop south to the PetroCan, west to the tourist centre, then east along Northwest Bay Road. When I reached the Rocking Horse road I was greeted by a host of Common Nighthawks foraging low over the second growth trees. I was pleased and surprised to find the nighthawks still utilizing the same location despite considerable clear-cutting and ten years of development. In the next week and a half I repeated my circuit six times and was able to find the nighthawks five times. Knowing that nighthawk populations have been on the decline it was gratifying to see that our local flock was still around.

July 30, 2018

A Bird on the Wire

While heading into Parksville I was surprised to see the large shape of an owl adjacent to the gorse field across from the industrial centre. I hadn't seen an owl for a long time so I had to pull over, set up my camera and carefully pick my way through the gorse until I was face-to-face with the Barred Owl. It showed no sign of interest in me as I tried to line up a shot with no distracting patches of light in the background of trees. There's not much one can do with a bird on the wire except take a few record shots, and that's what I did before heading to the estuary.

At the Estuary

The San Malo mudflats always has the potential of attracting shorebirds stopping in migration. There were a few peeps foraging in the distance as well as a pair of Long-billed Dowitchers fairly close to the road. I was happy to see my first shorebirds of the season.

Further down the estuary a juvenile Bald Eagle was enjoying the morning sun on roots of a large tree that had been washed down by last winter's storms.

Being the end of July it had to be a recently fledged bird and may have been waiting for its parents to bring some food.

July 31, 2018

Shorebird Season

I'm always amazed by the brief time between the northern migration of shorebirds in May and their southern return at the end of July. Like most birders I always enjoy the shorebird season and look forward to their brief stopovers during the migration.

One of the common visitors to French Creek is the Greater Yellowlegs. I'm not sure what it's eating, but it looks like a bullfrog tadpole. What do you think?

A less common visitor is the Lesser Yellowlegs. Besides being smaller than the Greater it has a shorter and straighter bill.

Here's a lesser Yellowleg coming down for a landing to join the rest of the group.

The difference in size of the Greater and Lesser is quite obvious when they are next to each other.

August 8, 2018

Oyster Bay

One of the best shorebird habitats on the east coast of the island is Oyster Bay which offers an extensive mudflat a t low tide. I had a chance to visit on August 8 when I made a trip to deliver some books to Book Bonanza on Quadra Island.

There was an abundance of shorebirds foraging in the mudflats when I arrived. Because of their size, the most noticeable were the Long-billed Dowitchers with their bills stuck in the mud. There was at least twenty in my immediate field of view and based on their worn plumage most seemed to be adult Long-billed.

Peeps were also numerous and most seemed to be juvenile Westerns.

One thing I hadn't noticed before were the type A personality juveniles with their tails turned up and projecting in the air.

These type A birds were very aggressive and attacked anything that seemed to be in their way even if they weren't.

I had to look hard to find a Least Sandpiper, but there were a few amonst the Westerns.

Even more scarce were the Semipalmated Plovers. I managed to find one after a serious look at the entire flock.

August 15, 2018

Birder Meets Butterfly

On August 18 Intrepid birder, Mark Wynja, was checking out some butterflies at the Englishman estuary in a restoration area. Most of the butterflies were Woodland Skippers, but among them were several larger skippers. It didn't take long for him to identify them as Western Branded Skippers.

What was the significance of Mark's discovery? It was extremely significant because the it was a new population of the endangered species. Previously the Cordova Spit population was the only known population in the province. Incredibly, within a week of Mark's discovery there was also a discovery on Quadra and another on Cortes. However, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between Common Branded and Western Branded and DNA testing may be required to confirm the species.

August 23, 2018

Random Shots

Anna's meets Anna's.

Two-headed Turkey Vulture at french Creek.

Sept. 4, 2018 - Record shot to document a Barrow's Goldeneye at Mt. Washington. Although it is not mentioned in Birds of British Columbia and older publications Mt. Washington is a known breeding habitat for the Barrow's Goldeneye.

Gray Jay - the National Bird nominee at Mt. Washington.

I'm sure the wild blueberries were more nutricious than any food that humans could offer.

Sept. 13, 2018 - Turkey Vultures are normally quite wary, but this one stayed close waiting for us to vacate the beach at Oyster Bay where someone had dumped some fish heads.

A Black Oystercatcher scored a worm from under the seaweed on the mudflats at Oyster Bay.

A quick record shot of a Lincoln's Sparrow out my kitchen window.

Sept. 18 - Esquimalt Lagoon - A Black-bellied Plover with a lunch snack.

A lone Dunlin foraging at the duck feeding location.

The Dunlin was alone until it was joined by its buddy - a western sandpiper.




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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