In my last journal I was still dealing with the spring migration, and now the fall migration is all but over. It might be reasonable to miss one season, but two? That is slightly more difficult to explain. As far as I know I have been around - no trips, no medical problems, no ... I guess there are some things that can't be explained so why waste time trying.
I'm just happy to know that I am here today, and from the Snow Buntings I saw last week at French Creek I know that it is almost winter. Another sign was a the Common Loon in the marina. As long as I can remember there has always been a Common Loon that wintered there. I've often wondered if it were the same one, but there is no way of knowing. There was also a trio of Greater Yellowlegs in the creek. Their migration passed through over two months ago, but sometimes a few hang around for most of the winter. Their lingering presence might be as sign of a mild winter. In the yard I have been keeping my eyes open for a White-throated Sparrow. I have been blessed with their brief fall presence for the last two years. I'm hoping it will become a tradition. I am still waiting and hoping. - the time is right. A yard visitor that I have a love-hate relationship with is the Steller's Jay. After a year's respite, they are back. They are handsome birds, and I love taking their photos, but they are gluttons. They always take more than their share as they fill their cheeks with sunflower seeds or suet. There haven't been any large groups, but there are two or three that visit every day to clean up the sunflower seeds I put out for the smaller yard birds. They also do a number on the suet cakes intended for the woodpeckers. One cake lasts less than a day when they are around so I'm rationing it to two cakes a week.
The big news for birders was the recent discovery of a Yellow-browed Warbler in Victoria (Oct. 18). The Asian vagrant was first seen by Jeff Gaskin then photographed and identified by Geoffry Newell. It was a first for Canada and attracted birders from as far as the southern US. I was tempted to join the mania but with so many other obligations I decided to stay home and collect brownie points. If you are interested I'm sure you can google some of the media reports.
Two other reports that caught my attention were the Brown Shrike and Siberian Pipit. The Brown Shrike is another Asian visitor. It was a first for Vancouver Island and was captured and banded at Rocky Point Bird Observatory which is on restricted DND property. The Siberian Pipit photographed by Adrian Dorst near Tofino was another Asian vagrant. It is a subspecies of the American Pipit, but I think there is some consideration for splitting it into its own species.
It may sound confusing, but a sure sign of summer is the beginning of the fall migration.
Official summer was barely two weeks old when I saw my first juvenile shorebirds on their trip south. They were foraging at the edge of the water at French Creek on July 4. Most were Least sandpipers but there was one of the less common Semipalmated.
It was amonth later before I had a chance to look for shorebirds while returning from a trip to Campbell River. As expected there were an abundance of shorebirds at Oyster Bay. Several Lesser Yellowlegs were foraging in the shallow water close to shore.
Most of the yellowlegs were Lesser, but there was the occasional Greater in the mix.
On the way south I stopped at Admiral's Lagoon. No shorebirds were around, but the expected Black Turnstones were on the sandbar along with the usual gulls and Black-bellied Plovers.
Most of the gulls were Californians and Bonapartes, but there was one surprise visitor - an uncommon Heermann's Gull. They are very common on the south and southwest island but rare north of Victoria.
Over at French Creek there were a few sandpipers foraging in the muddy pond adjoing the creek. They were all juvenile Westerns.
At the far end of the pond a small duck was resting on the muddy shore. At first glance I though it was a juvenile mallard, but a closer look through the lens revealed the green speculum indicative of a Green-winged Teal.
Happiness is a fish for dinner - that is a smile on the bill of the female Common Merganser.
It had been several years since I encountered juvenile Kingfishers at French Creek. I watch for them every year but it's all timing and hit or miss. This year I was lucky. On July 18 I made my usual quick stop to check on any bird activity. As I stepped out of my car I was excited by the staccato chattering of Kingfishers. Scanning the scene I determined there were three Kingfishers flying back and forth around the creek. It was the typical scenario of juveniles chasing the adult for food and the adult displaying tough love by eluding them. After a brief period of observation I could see that there was one adult female and two juvniles. One of the juveniles was a female. The other disappeared before I could get a good look at its chest.
After a brief chase the Kingfishers would land in a tree for a rest or by the creek bank if the adult was foraging.
The juvenile female has an incomplete orange or brown band on its chest. The adult has a complete band.
The general pattern of activity appeared to be from some tall alders then upstream to some large firs. Then it was downstream to a large uprooted stump near the parking lot followed by creek level flight upstream to a perch on the river bank. I crossed the creek to a point just upstream from river bank perch and waited. It was a good position for the flight up to the firs or to the riverbank. Here's a shot of the adult female flying to the firs.
My favorite shot was when the Kingfishers were flying low towards the river bank perch. With a clear view to track its approach I was able to catch the adult just as she was about to land.
The arrival of juvenile yard birds is another enjoyable sign of summer.
This was a banner year for American Goldfinches in our area. Everyone I talked to was amazed at the numbers showing up in their yards. I usually have one or two pairs and had never seen any juveniles at the feeder. I was sure this year would be different. I had at least 5 or 6 pairs, and it was only a matter of time before the juveniles showed up. I was right. The first juveniles showed up in the first week of August. It was fun watching them beg for food from their parents. Unfortunately, the parents usually ignored the youngsters. It was a case of tough love to encourage the youngsters to fend for themselves.
However, the youngsters were still habituated to being spoonfed and even tried begging from their siblings.
Chestnut-backed Chickadees are a year-round yard regular. The juvenile begging scene at the feeder is an annual affair.
The fluttering of the wings is part of the begging routine.
The House Wrens were one of my nest box tenants. Their cheerful song brightened every day until the younsters fledged. The youngsters were very shy and only showed themselves several times before they left.
White-crowned Sparrows have nested around my yard for several years, but this was the first time I had seen a juvenile being fed.
The annual appearance of juvenile Pileated Woodpeckers is always a relief. With our forests diappearing at an alarming rate it won't be long before they run out of nesting sites.
Another over-sized juvenile - Our friends Pete & Carol called to invite us to their property to view their latest fledglings - couple of Great Horned Owls. One of them stayed in the distance but the other tolerated our presence.
The French Creek Market icon - probably the most photographed goat in the country. If you've never seen it this goat lives on the rooftop of the French Creek Market in Coombs on the way to Port Alberni.
It's fun to see your name on a marquee even if it's on Cortes Island.
One of the birds on my wish list is the Ruffed Grouse. I've seen a couple in the past but never succeeded in getting a decent image. I thought the miles of logging roads north of Campbell River would provide a reasonable opportunity. 700 kilometers later I proved I was wrong.
Most of the roads were still lined with forest but there were several lakes and some pretty views like this lake on the way to Little Bear Bay.
Our journey took us all the way to Zeballos which was a quaint little seaside village.
A well-protected harbour was the ideal location for mooring fish boarts.
I couldn't resist the reports of the elusive Red Knots at Long Beach. I had missed them during the spring migration so this would be my last chance. To increase my chances I even bought a bike carrier so I could cover as much beach as possible.
After cycling the length of Long Beach I finally found a small group of shorebirds, but they were all peeps and Semipalmated Plovers. At Chesterman there was a large group of shorebirds. I scoped with my camera for 20 minutes without finding anything but peeps and plovers so I decided to sit in the sand and watch a large group of shorebirds foraging. I was enjoying the scene when a group of walkers flushed all of them except for a trio of Semipalmated Plovers that were right in front of me beside a piece of kelp. Instead of flying they hunkered down and remained motionless until the walkers passed. I've seen that behavior many times in the past.
Once the coast was clear the plovers resumed their foraging.
As a consolation for not finding any Red Knots we had a close encounter with a black bear that was foraging near the forest. The bear was turning over driftwood looking for insects while it was being harassed by crows.
A stop at Oyster Bay on Sept. 16 yielded two migrating sparrows. The first was a Lincoln's which is a regular migrant but only small numbers are ever seen.
On the other hand, the Savannahs are very abundant. large flocks are often seen foraging for insects in the seaweed along the shoreline.
Bonaparte's are also common now after returning from their summer breeding.
The juvenile Cedar Waxwings lack the sleek feathering of their parents, but they are unmistakeable.
September seemed late for a Warbling Vireo but it's always a pleasure to see one in the yard.
For some unknown reason I didn't spend any time photographing juvenile Rufous Hummingbirds this year. However, I was happy to catch a juvenile Anna's enjoying a nectar fix in the garden on Sept. 30. It's now Nov. 12 and the tree fuschias are still in bloom and the hummers still make their daily visits.
Hate to mislead you with the title. I was just being facetious because there wasn't much happening. Part of the problem was the abundance of visitors which is understandable because it is a park, and the other part was that it was still too early for many of the fall migrants. However, you never know what you might encounter so you have to pay a visit if you are in the area.
I was happy to see my first American Coot of the fall. They are usually found in fresh water habitats like Buttertubs Marsh which I haven't visited in several years.
A lone Savannah Sparrow foraged on the boat ramp right in front of me offering full frame views which I didn't refuse.
Much to my surprise the Mallards were in an amorous mood, and it seemed that the females were taking the initiative. They would idle alongside the males with their bodies low in the water to encourage the males. I always thought it was an activity reserved for the breeding season, but Ren Ferguson said there is even a book about ducks having casual sex any time.
This year we had about 50 volunteer sunflowers in our garden so I knew it would be a bonanza for the yard birds. I wasn't disappointed. The garden was a hub of activity as the birds systematically deseeded the seed heads.
The gentle chortling of the American Goldfinches always betrayed their presence. Not surprisingly they were all juveniles that were fending for themselves while their parents were already migrating south.
My favorites have always been the fearless and acrobatic chickadees that have no problem foraging even if it's upside down.
There are more dark-eyed Juncos than usual this year. I think many were attracted by the sunflowers and they are still here even though the sunflowers are finished.
The Red-breasted Nuthatches were just as prolific and acrobatic as the chickadees. Unlike the chickeed who grabbed and dined, the nuthatches snatched and flew to hide their catch for future feeding.
There was a time when I didn't have any feeders. That forced the Steller's Jays to forage in the garden for dropped seeds. Now that I have a feeder (and so does my neightbor) the jays just freeload where no effort is required.
The Northern Shrike has always been a fall favorite despite its unsavory reputation. The first one I saw this year was at Deep Bay on Oct. 8. The most reliable place to find one is at the Nanaimo River estuary.
On Oct. 2 i was checking for birds at French Creek marina when three Snow Buntings flew in to the rocks next to me. They were probably the same three that Ranfy Findlay had reported at Eaglecrest 3 days earlier.
The birds stayed in the shadows but they were close and afforded full frame shots. Coincidentally, I later discovered that Randy was also at the marina at the same time and saw a dog flush the buntings to where I was standing. Last year Randy also spotted a bunting at French Creek so i think he has some mysterious connection with them.
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.)