Cooler days, vibrant autumn leaves, fall migrants, and a boutiful harvest apples and pears from the garden. Unfortunately, while I'm thankful for the abundance of fruit thanks the fine summer and fall weather, the same couldn't be said for migrating birds. I suppose I should be happy for the birds, but without inclement weather to force the migrants to land, most of them just continued south. In fact, I didn't see a single episode of fallout this fall and was lucky just to see the occasional stragglers.

Another deviation from the norm has been the lack of fall chickadees and nuthatches. We have a garden full of sunflower seeds just waiting for them, but so far it's just been juncos, towhees, and Golden-crowned Sparrows. In past falls the main benefactors of the sunflower seed harvest were the chickadees and nuthatches.

Steller's Jays returning to the lower elevations of southeast Vancouver Island is always a sign of fall. Last year was a bountiful winter for the Steller's which may suggest a less bountiful return this winter.

There was no dripping of warblers from the alders this fall. One day I saw two or three Yellow-rumpeds hanging around the water bath, but that was it.

Despite the proximity of the suet feeder it was the water bath that seemed to be the main attraction for the Yellow-rumpeds.


15 years ago fall sightings of the migrating White-throated Sparrow on Vancouver Island were few and far between, but since then sightings have increased steadily. Multiple reports are now the norm and so far this fall there have been over twenty sightings. In one Victoria report approximately six birds seen in Uplands Park and in another there were six on Lochside Trail. In my Nanoose Bay backyard I saw at least three in the first two weeks of October.

The breeding range of the White-throated Sparrows extends from northeastern BC across the prairies to the Atlantic coast. In the late summer and fall most of the birds migrate down the prairie and Atlantic flyways to southern US and Mexico. However, birds from the western portion of the breeding range often migrate to the Pacific coast, and an increasing number stop to visit scenic Vancouver Island before proceeding to their coastal winter range from Washington to southern California.

The White-throated Sparrow is very distinctive with its white throat bib, yellow patches in front of eyes, and white or tan stripes at the side and top of its head. Like many sparrows it forages on the ground and is attracted to backyard feeders.

Last year I was delighted to see the first ever White-throated Sparrow in my yard. This year I was incredulous to see at least three. I wonder if the trend will continue next year?

White-throated Sparrows can be white-striped or tan-striped with reference to the bars on the side and top of the head.

Sometimes it is difficult to decide whether the stripe is white or tan, but the defining characteristic for the tan-striped morph is a pair of black lines divide the white throat patch into three sections.

I think all of the ones in my yard were tan-striped.

Song Sparrows have always been a winter regular.

So far there have only been a few drop-in Flickers at the suet. Normally there is a resident winter population, but they may still be on their way.

One species that has been abundant is the Golden-crowned Sparrow. They have been busy harvesting fresh sunflower seeds in the garden as well as foraging for the daily seeds I toss by the rhodo bush. I'm not sure if the sparrows outnumber the juncos, but there are plenty of both.

The most reliable bird in the yard is the Spotted Towhee. There always seems to be at least five or six even if the other birds are tardy.


Admiral's Lagoon USED TO BE my favorite local location for fall shorebirds, but in recent years it has been very much a disappointment. However, just out of loyalty to the past I still check it occasionally as was the case on October 15.

The narrow path to the lagoon is usually good for a White or Golden-crowned Sparrow, but today was my lucky day as the sparrow turned out to be a very handsome Lincoln's. I was lucky to get a shot from able 15 m before it disappeared under the cedar hedge.

The tide was half out at the lagoon, and I was happy to see several medium-sized shorebirds in the shallow water. The closest was a pair of Greater Yellowlegs doing a few synchronized dance steps while foraging.

A few minutes later a Black-bellied Plover scurried by eyeing me suspiciously, but then it stopped and turned around as it spotted a worm jus in front of me. After it teased the worm out of the mud, it carried it to the water and washed the sand off before eating it. Apparently I was standing near a good worm location and was able to watch the plover repeat the process several times.

My next stop was French Creek which also hasn't been productive for me in terms of fall arrivals. I was pleased but not surprised to find a Common Loon in the marina.

It was busy preening as I snuck in between the boats to get into full-frame proximity. I was happy to see that it still had most of its breeding plumage.


Warm, sunny skies greeted us on October 13 so I decided to check out Englishman River Falls Park. I was hoping for a few woodpeckers or other forest birds like Brown Creepers, but after struggling to complete the loop trail packing my heavy gear I didn't see a single bird. Fortunately, I did carry my kit lens and was able to entertain myself by experimenting with fall leaves, rain-forest moss, and back-lighting. I've never spent any time with this type of photography so your criticisms are welcomed.

On the way to the park I stopped at San Malo. The mudflats in the foreground usually entices a few shorebirds, but the only birdss today were a few Killdeer.

The Englishman River was probably at its lowest level of the year.

The falls are always an enjoyable sight to see even with the low water flow.

Most of the park is a rain forest where trees are cloaked in moss. The moss in the trees is fertile enough to sustain fern gardens high above the ground.


I was having lunch on October 18 when I noticed a flurry of birds at hte suet feeder. The weather was fine so I didn't consider it to be a full-fledged fallout. At most it was a mini-fallout or a rest stop for the birds.

The Anna's wasn't part of the fallout. It is a resident and always likes to check out any visiting birds

The first bird to cooperate was a Rudy-crowned Kinglet. I was enjoying a treat at the suet feeder. There was also Golden-crowned Kinglet, but it was an example of perpetual motion.

The largest group was a flock of Pine Siskins. They were very skittish poppping in for a quick shot at the suet or some see on the ground.

There were about twenty siskins and they swirled around for about five minutes before disappearing like the wind.

Just as the siskins disappeared they were replaced by a dozen or so bushtits. If you've ever had a chance to watch Bushtits close-up you'll have to agree that they are very adorable creatures. They are also very gregarious and always travell in small flocks.

The suet was very popular for some of the Bushtits.

Others were just happy to glean insects from the rhodo bush.


On October 24 I had to deliver some books to the Sandbar Cafe at Qualicum Bay. On the way some mysterious instinct prompted me to pull into the Big Qualicum Hatchery. I hadn't visited the facility for over a decade and had never heard anything about its birding potential, but there I was watching the fishermen patiently waiting for salmon to strike. I could see salmon swimming slowly in the pool looking for an opening in the hatchery gate to continue their spawning run. The fisherman closest to me looked up and pointed down river. "See the bear down there?" he asked. I turned and looked down river. There was a large black bear sitting on a rock in the middle of the stream.

I wasn't sure what the bear was doing but assumed it was just resting before trying to catch another fish.

After the bear disappeared I wandered over to one of the retaining channels and was greeted by Leah, one of the workers. She asked if I had seen the Osprey. When I replied, "No," she pointed to the top of a tall spindly cedar.

I looked up and was surprised to see the Osprey. According to ebird the chances of seeing an Osprey on Vancouver Island at this late date was 0.2%, but there it was, perched contentedly near the top. The Osprey didn't seem ready to do anything so I wandered off and returned an hour later. I was adjusting my camera when it took off right above me.

Disgusted with not getting the action shot I looked around and saw some salmon jumping against one of the fish gates. Just for fun I tried a shots. This was the best of the bunch.

When I returned two days later there was no bear and no Osprey, but there were a lot of Ravens at the fish dump. As we approached the ravens flew. I looked around for any photo opportunities but there were none until a Red-tailed Hawk flew across the road to anearby alder. The lighting was poor, but with the ISO set at 1,000 I was able to get a decent shot.

On our way out I stopped at the bridge to see what ducks were in town. It was no surpise to see a few Common Mergansers perched on the rocks.

It was also no surprise to see the Harlequins, but they were surprised to see me.




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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