Monday, 18 May 2015

Buff-bellied Pipit (Pipit d'Amérique)

     Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens is known in North America as American Pipit, and was formerly conspecific with Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta. 
     It occurs in our area only as a spring and fall migrant on its way to or from rocky, sloping tundra in high latitudes where it breeds, usually close to water. 


     Miriam and I were delighted to discover nineteen individuals in a field of last year's corn stubble, scurrying around and searching for food. It is a fairly nondescript species and it was the movement and short bursts of flight that first attracted us to their presence, before we heard them over the noise of the car engine. It was only when we shut off the motor and settled in to enjoy them that their vocalizations became clear and audible.



     In another field close by, we detected a pair of Killdeer Charadrius vociferus with young. 


     As can be seen in the photograph above the young birds camouflage well with their surroundings, but the mother quickly called them to her while the male tried to distract us with a broken-wing display.


     The precocial offspring of this species are equipped for life from the moment they leave the egg, but many hazards await them on their journey to adulthood.


     We can only hope that the care of dedicated and resourceful parents will assure their survival so that they too can return next year to breed.


Friday, 15 May 2015

Bella and the Birds

     Next door to us live two little girls, Sophie and Gabriella (Bella). We have known both of them since virtually the day they were born and they are very precious to us. In fact they refer to us as Grandpa Dave and Gramiam (a combination of Grandma and Miriam) and in every respect but biology they are effectively our grandchildren.
    Sophie is the older of the two and now attends senior kindergarten every weekday, but at least twice a week Bella comes to visit. She is just three years old, although on the cusp of her fourth birthday. She is entranced by birds and recently has decided that Grandpa Dave needs help keeping a list of the birds in the backyard. Here she is at the window.



     She knows the names of most of our backyard visitors and wastes no time in pointing them out. A couple of days ago about twenty-five Pine Siskins Spinus pinus descended on us and have been cleaning out the feeders ever since. This provided great excitement for Bella and she quickly learned a new species.





    She was very intently observing them all and pointing out every one to me.



     Among her favourites is American Goldfinch Spinus tristis and looking at this handsome male it is not hard to figure its appeal to a little girl.



     Chipping Sparrows Spizella passerina don't visit quite as often as some of the other species so it's always a moment of great excitement when one shows up. 



     Perhaps her greatest excitement of all is reserved for the House Sparrows Passer domesticus now feeding young in the nest box I installed in early spring. She calls the male "the fat bird."



     Every coming and going is added to the list; checking it out, she calls it.



      American Robin Turdus migratorius is one of the first birds she learned by name and she always enjoys it when one comes to vacuum up the seed spilled by the finches.



     We have tried to explain the concept of mourning to her, as in Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura but she can't quite grasp why the bird is sad, and she still thinks of it as a Morning Dove!




     When a House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus, Mourning Dove and Pine Siskin are together on the bird bath.......




     ...... you really have to pay close attention......



     ...... and add it to the list so that Grandpa Dave won't forget any of the birds that came to visit today.



     Thank you Bella for all your help. The lists are on my desk and I am hoping that you will perhaps be one of the new generation of ornithologists about twenty years from now.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Few Images from the Past Couple of Weeks


     From about mid-April onwards I watched a pair of Canada Geese Branta canadensis nesting at a local pond. I think that the pair got so used to me they hardly raised a stir when I passed by quite close to their nest. It has been well established that American Crows Corvus brachyrynchos recognize human faces and react differently to friend and foe so perhaps geese have the same level of cognition.


     Farmers are all busy preparing their fields for crops and these Mennonite farmers were using teams of horses in compliance with their rejection of modern life.



     American Beavers Castor canadensis are primarily nocturnal animals and it is rare to see one in sufficient light to take a photograph. We were very happy, therefore, to see this individual sitting on its lodge in broad daylight. We waited a long time to see whether it would get in a position where we could include its broad, flat tail, but it never obliged.



     During the past week or so Rose-breasted Grosbeaks Pheucticus ludovicianus have returned in good numbers and Miriam and I were delighted to encounter this male.


     On the same day we spotted this Great Northern Loon Gavia immer on the Grand River in Cambridge, an unlikely location, and as we were to discover only the second sighting there ever of this species.


     The picture was taken through dense shoreline vegetation and the bird was constantly diving so many of our pictures were a mere swirl of water.
     And here are the results of the Canada Goose's incubation.



     At this time of year it is almost impossible to take a walk and not hear the familiar refrain of a Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus.


     We are always interested in every facet of nature and were delighted to see this snail, although we have been unable to identify it as to species, having little expertise in this area.


     And no less interesting was this American Toad Anaxyrus americanus americanus doing its best to remain hidden from view.


Friday, 8 May 2015

Baltimore Oriole (Oriole de Baltimore) Building a Nest

RIM Park 
Waterloo, ON
8 May 2015

                                              
     Spring has truly descended on Ontario and the woods are filled with the sounds of migrants arriving back from the areas to the south where they spend most of the year. It is sometimes easy to slip into the fallacy of thinking of these birds as "our birds" but in fact they pass the greater part of their lives elsewhere.
     Baltimore Orioles Icterus galbula are suddenly everywhere and this morning we observed this female building her familiar long, pendant nest.



     The male seemed to be content to perch, preen, sing and watch!


     Yellow Warblers Setophaga perechia seemed to be everywhere and we were rarely out of earshot of a singing male. 


     Killdeers Charadrius vociferus were seen on rocky outcrops along the river and this picture shows the effectiveness of its camouflaging plumage.


     Imagine how difficult it would be for a hawk flying over to detect this bird from the air. In order for us to first detect them we had to wait for movement.

     In addition to the avian migrants the woodlands and meadows are bursting with new growth, and here are just a few of the species of wildflowers we observed.

Large-flowered Trillium Trillium grandiflorum
Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara
Trout Lily Erythronium americanum


Mayapple Podophyllum peltatum
Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris
Emergent Skunk Cabbage Symplocarpus foetidus
Skunk Cabbage Symplocarpus foetidus

Monday, 4 May 2015

Trip Report, Victoria, British Columbia

Trip Report
Victoria, BC
15 - 24 April 2015

15 April 2015
Waterloo - Toronto - Vancouver - Victoria

     For the first time in a several years John was unable to drive us to the airport so we left on our own at 03:52 bound for Pearson International. We left the car at Skyway Park an hour later and were shuttled to the terminal where we quickly went through the check-in process, having printed our boarding passes at home. We were at our gate by 05:20 and settled in for a long wait. 
     We left for Vancouver at 07:45 and after an uneventful flight arrived in Vancouver at 09:17 PST. Our connecting flight to Victoria took off promptly at 11:00 am for the short ten-minute crossing to Victoria. We had our baggage fifteen minutes later and went outside the terminal to wait for Miriam's sister, Jan, who had agreed to pick us up on arrival. In fact, there was some confusion as to the time she was supposed to pick us up and it was another hour before she arrived.
     The delay didn't concern us greatly and we amused ourselves by doing a little birding and admiring some totem poles. The son of the carver of the poles was present showing one his friends the wonderful creations of his father.



     Jan had packed a picnic lunch and took us to one of her all time favourite off the beaten track locations in the Victoria area, the site of the historic (but still used) St. Stephen's Anglican Church. It was delightful indeed and we feasted on bagels with salmon and cream cheese, other cheese, capers, sliced cucumber, grapes, pears, an orange and tomato juice.



     We then meandered through the church and its cemetery where Miriam managed to capture this dorsal view of a Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus. 


          Jan lives in a lovely, small condominium building and one of the other owners has a second unit which has been converted into an Airbnb and Jan had arranged for us to rent this unit. It was absolutely delightful and suited us to a tee. It is modern, well-appointed and spacious for two people, with everything you could possibly need, including a washer and dryer. We were very happy with it.







     We had a coffee with Jan and then walked over to the neighborhood market to pick up a few food items, especially stuff for breakfast the next morning.
     We had a couple of hours to relax after our trip before going down to Jan's for dinner. She had prepared a really delicious pork ragout with sweet potatoes infused with a mix of Indian spices and the result was superb. This was followed by a salad and a decadent dessert picked up from a local French pastry shop. 
A Chilean red wine accompanied dinner and we had a cup of tea after it.
     Jan was going to the theatre so when she left for that engagement we went back up to our own unit and had an early night, since our bodies were telling us that we had had a long day.

All species 15 April: Canada Goose, Turkey Vulture, Rufous Hummingbird, Northwestern Crow, Common Starling, American Robin, Brewer's Blackbird, White-crowned Sparrow.

Accommodation: Airbnb, 2109 Chambers Street, Victoria, BC. Contact: Josh or Nan, josh@globalarts.ca.  Price: $85.00 per night. Rating: Five stars.

     Let me add that this is a perfect location for a birder. Victoria's famous Clover Point is less than ten minutes away, as is Beacon Hill Park, and none of the other great birding destinations such as the Ogden Point Breakwater, Uplands Park, Oak Bay, Cattle Point and others are more than a half hour away with many of them much less. I can't recommend this location too highly and Josh and Nan are a pleasure to deal with. You don't see them unless you need them but if you do they are ready to help you in any way they can.

16 April 2016
Clover Point - Beacon Hill - Clover Point - Oak Bay - Cattle Point - Upland Park

     We were awake early and made coffee and had a bowl of cereal. At 08:00 Jan drove me over to National Car Rental where I was able to rent a Volkswagen Beetle for the duration of our stay. It was the perfect little vehicle for us - inexpensive and easy to park in a small spot. And since I drive a VW Tiguan at home it all seemed very familiar.



     Our first stop was at Clover Point which I remembered well from our last visit to Vancouver Island and is, I think, one of my favourite locations ever. It is the kind of lookout where at any given time almost anything can go past. It varies from hour to hour sometimes, but as might be expected early morning is the best time, before the dog walkers and beachcombers get busy.


      Northwestern Crow Corvus caurinus was opportunistically hanging around the parking areas where scraps were freely dispensed by humans - and sometimes not just scraps, several people bringing corn which they strewed around for the crows and Rock Doves Columba livia.


     Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens was the default gull of the area and they could be seen and heard wherever one turned one's head.



     One of the specialty birds reliably found at Clover Point is Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus and several were basking and preening on the rocks.


     Leaving Clover Point we headed over to nearby Beacon Hill Park where it did not take us long to find a Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope.


     As might be expected it was keeping company with the numerous American Wigeon Anas Americana.


     In an area of Garry Oak Quercus garryana, interspersed with other species, we located the nest of a Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecile rufescens and by taking multiple shots we were able to capture this image just as one of the birds left the cavity.


     Numerous other species made for an interesting visit and Orange-crowned Warbler Leiothlypis celata, recently arrived in the area, was ubiquitous. Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii was noisy and active but, on this day at least, did not offer itself up for good pictures.
     It was getting close to lunch time so we decided to make a quick stop back at Clover Point and then head along the shore to find a restaurant. Since our earlier visit four Brant Geese Branta bernicla had arrived and we were delighted to see this species seldom encountered at home.


    We took lunch at the Marina Coffee House at Oak Bay and each had a bowl of seafood chowder and shared a turkey/cranberry/brie/spinach sandwich and sat outside on the patio enjoying the sun. 
     Afterwards we visited Cattle Point and birded there for a while but most of what we saw was far out and beyond photographic range.
     Upon leaving Cattle Point we went to Upland Park which is nearby, where this Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis permitted a surprisingly close approach. In fact it was perched not far from the trail.


          The highlight of the visit to Upland Park might well have been the range of wildflowers, far beyond the realm of our expertise to identify, but with a little help from a local we met and chatted with, we can offer you pictures of Shooting Star, a plant in the genus Dodecatheon.


     And this flower which dotted the landscape everywhere, in the genus Camassia.


     By late afternoon we headed home where we intended to make a cup of tea and then go out to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner, but when we arrived there was a note on our door from Jan to say that she was preparing dinner for us. So, at 18:00 we went down to her place, where we were immediately given a glass of Chilean red and then treated to a wonderful pasta dish with roasted vegetables with a cheese sauce and topped with asparagus, followed by one of Jan's glorious salads of mixed greens with avocado and orange, and raspberries for dessert. Fit for a king I would say - or perhaps more to the point a sister visiting from Ontario with her husband!
     Jan, a social worker by profession before retiring, wanted us to watch an especially poignant episode of a show called Call the Midwife, after we which we went back to our unit, watched a little news and then retired for the night.

All species 16 April: Canada Goose, Brant Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Pelagic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Bald Eagle, Black Oystercatcher, Glaucous-winged Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, Rock Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, Northwestern Crow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, American Bushtit, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Starling, House Sparrow, House Finch, Orange-crowned Warbler, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Spotted Towhee

17 April 2015
Mount Tolmie - Witty's Lagoon (Metchosin) - Clover Point

      We remembered Mount Tolmie with great affection from the last time we visited Victoria and immediately after breakfast set out for that location. It was 9° and a little overcast but pleasant enough. 


      Lichen-encrusted rocks were quite beautiful, especially when the sun struck them a certain way, and they were a constant feature of the Mount Tolmie landscape.


     As had been the case at Beacon Hill Park yesterday Orange-crowned Warblers were very much in evidence and they were joined by both Audubon's Warbler Setophaga auduboni and, in smaller numbers by Myrtle Warbler Setophaga coronata. These two species are considered by some taxonomic authorities to be different colour morphs of the same species, Yellow-rumped Warbler.
     We spotted a Brown Creeper and by observing closely we discovered that it was visiting its nest. The picture below clearly shows how much this species is wedded to the bark of a tree.


     One of the most ubiquitous species throughout our visit was Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus and any time we did anything other than strictly shoreline birding we saw and heard them. It's a very striking bird as the pictures below reveal.



     Bewick's Wren was almost as common and on this occasion I was able to get a little better shot.


     Not so, however, with this male Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna. It was vigorously defending a territory and when the sun caught its gorget at the right angle it was absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately this picture reveals little of its brilliance.


     We left for Metchosin about 11:15 and first of all sought a restaurant recommended by Jan for lunch. It's name is My Chosen Café with the "My Chosen" being a play on the name Metchosin.
     It was a fine choice. We ate in an enclosed patio next to a fireplace and the food was well prepared and very tasty. Miriam ordered a Mi-Thai salad and I had the Mi-Thai wrap with a half order each of fries and salad. I guess we were both feeling Thai that day!
     The temperature was now around 15° and we left to go to Witty's Lagoon. This is an area that I would have loved to have birded more extensively and more frequently. We enjoyed the time we had there, however, and saw the only American Dipper Cinclus mexicanus of our trip.
      The temperate rain forest there was characterized by a whole suite of epiphytic plants and ferns and we felt very much in a habitat quite different from home.





     The Sleeping Lady Falls are a prominent landmark at Witty's Lagoon.


     The lagoons were home to numerous species of waterfowl and shorebirds, most fairly distant, however.
     On the way home we dropped by Clover Point and were rewarded with several Black Oystercatchers Haematopus bachmani probing among the rocks and tide pools.


     At 18:00, under instructions from Chef Jan, we once again presented ourselves for dinner. She had prepared a delicious pot au feu made with parsnips, leeks, carrots etc. and topped with beef steak. This was followed by one of her trademark salads and a little Chilean Casillero del Diablo helped it all go down. 
     Around 19:30 we all left to go downtown to the Royal Theatre for a performance of Madama Butterfly, surely one of the best loved creations in all the operatic world. The entire performance was of the very highest order, from the sets and the costumes, to the superb quality of the singing. I have never heard a finer Cho Cho San and when she sang that most moving of all arias (well, maybe Che gelida manina from La Bohème might give it a run for its money), I doubt that there was a dry eye in the audience. It was a wonderful way to cap off a day, and I am so happy that Jan had arranged this for us.
     We slept well that night with melodies galore permeating our brains!

All species 17 April: Canada Goose, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Blad Eagle, Black Oystercatcher, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Glaucous-winged Gull, Rock Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Northwestern Crow, Northern Raven, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Violet-green Swallow, Bewick's Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Common Starling, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, House Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Audubon's Warbler, Brewer's Blackbird, Chipping Sparrow, Spotted Towhee.

18 April 2015
Ogden Point Breakwater - Chinese Cemetery - Beacon Hill Park

     When we left around 06:45 it was 8° but it was sunny and the augury was for a fine day. 
     The Ogden Point Breakwater is a well-known birding destination in the Victoria area, and like Clover Point is a location where almost anything can show up on a given day, especially pelagic species driven inshore by unfavorable winds. From tip to tip it is 765m and we walked it twice. The first time we got to the end and regretted not having taken the scope so we went back to the car to get it.


     Glaucous-winged Gulls were, of course, the most common species and this couple seemed quite entranced with each other.



     It was interesting to see the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza birthed in the harbour - a bit of a Holy Grail to be sure for a committed environmentalist.


     These cone shaped formations were to be found at the base of the breakwater right at the water's edge. We are not quite sure what kind of minute life they contain, but it was of great interest to the Black Turnstones Arenaria interpres and numbers of them gathered to feed.




     We saw several Harbour Seals Phoca vitulina as they swam alongside the breakwater.


     A pair of Pigeon Guillemots Cepphus columba seemed to taunt us a little as they swam around and dived repeatedly, always within decent scope range, but too far for pictures. Finally they came in somewhat closer and we managed a few reasonable shots.



      We left Ogden Point and headed over to Harling Point where there is an interesting Chinese cemetery. The following sign describes the purpose of the cemetery and, judging from the visitors present, it is revered.



 We clambered out over the rocks here and sat and ate a lunch we had brought from home. Glaucous-winged Gulls were again our constant companions.


     We left shortly after 13:00 to return home to relax for a while. The temperature by now had reached 15.5°.
     At 16:00 we left for Beacon Hill Park and while sitting on a bench saw a Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperi perched in a tree.



     This caused great consternation among the Northwestern Crows and they mobbed it ferociously. More and more birds came in to help drive the intruder away and the noise became quite deafening. A couple of times the tables were turned and the accipiter gave chase to one of the crows, never succeeding in capturing it however.
     Quite unperturbed by all the commotion, this Northern Pintail Anas acuta quietly went about its business.


     As we were leaving Beacon Hill Park we spotted two Bald Eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus. One was perched on the top of a totem pole and the other on an adjacent conifer. Bald Eagles are common in coastal British Columbia, of course, and are becoming ever more common where we live, but for us any sighting of these magnificent creatures is always a cause for rejoicing.




     On the way back to the Airbnb we stopped off at Hillside Mall to pick up ingredients for dinner. Even though we had full cooking facilities we decided on something easy so we chose Chorizo, Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Quiche which only needed to be heated, with three prepared salads - Greek, Orzo and Quinoa with edamame. Just as we were about to eat Jan showed up at our door and joined us in our feast! We had a bottle of wine which we enjoyed and the meal was in fact quite delicious. 
     Jan stayed until 21:00, after which we watched the news and went to bed.

All species 18 April: Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Great Blue Heron, Brandt's Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Cooper's Hawk, Bald Eagle, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Glaucous-winged Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Rock Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Northwestern Crow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Violet-green Swallow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bewick's Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Common Starling, House Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Orange-crowned Warbler, Audubon's Warbler, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Chipping Sparrow, Fox Sparrow.

19 April 2015
Victoria - Cowichan Bay - Duncan 

     We left for Cowichan Bay around 08:00 with the thermometer in the car showing a temperature of 8.5°. It was sunny and the forecast was for a fine day and we were looking forward to a good day's birding in the Cowichan Bay area with its fine estuary.
     We arrived around 09:00 and were struck by the general beauty of the area and the interesting features of the harbour.



        As we settled in to scan the wide area of mudflats of the estuary we heard the load cronking of a Norther Raven Corvus corax  across the street and saw this individual at the top of a conifer, announcing its presence to all who cared to listen.


     The estuary was full of interesting organisms and we took great pleasure in watching the ubiquitous Glaucous-winged Gulls picking up clams, oysters and other shell fish and dropping them onto stony areas to crack open the shell so that they could feed on the nutritious contents. As the second picture below shows, juvenile birds have wasted no time in acquiring this skill.



     We were by now sitting at a picnic table in a small parkette and I went to a local coffee shop and picked up coffee and butter tarts which we enjoyed al fresco while watching the wonders of nature all around us. We spotted a Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto and thought we had a great rarity, until a local birder happened by to tell us that this species has now become widespread in the area and that his feeders are sometimes visited by as many as a dozen individuals. 


     There was a pair of Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus occupying a nesting platform, but what was more interesting to us were the Purple Martin Progne subis houses attached to the support posts. I had never seen this type of structure and it was very successful for there were many, many Purple Martins flying around. The houses were located on other pilings throughout the estuary and the entire effort seems to have paid rich dividends.


   
     The estuary was not without mammalian attractions either and we very much enjoyed watching this River Otter Lontra canadensis feeding.


     We had a fine lunch at the Rock Cod Café located right at the water's edge; Miriam chose Thai coconut soup and a shrimp sandwich, I opted for a halibut burger with a half order each of yam fries and cole slaw.
     After lunch, with the temperature now in the low twenties we drove up to Duncan and found an area called Somenos Marsh. We walked the entire length of the boardwalk and while the birding was a little slow, no doubt due to the time of day and the heat of the afternoon sun, much entertainment and interest was provided by a large population of Tree Swallows Tachycineta bicolor.




     Duncan, BC is renowned for its totem poles, all carved as authentic representations of the culture of the west coast indians, by master carvers who carry on this ancient tradition. Here are but a few of them.





     We returned home at around 16:00 and relaxed for a while before showering and changing to go down to Jan's condo for dinner with friends of hers who were visiting from Ottawa. We had a very enjoyable time and a great dinner of chicken with a variety of roasted vegetables, salad and a strawberry/rhubarb pie for dessert. 
     A fine way to end a day! We returned to our unit at 21:30, watched the end of The National and went to bed.

All species 19 April: Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan, American Wigeon, Mallard, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Western Osprey, Bald Eagle, Lesser Yellowlegs, Glaucous-winged Gull, Rock Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Mourning Dove, Rufous Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Northwestern Crow, Northern Raven, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Purple Martin, Common Starling, American Robin, House Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Fox Sparrow.

20 April 2015
Ogden Point Breakwater - Butchart Gardens - Outerbridge Park - Clover Point

     We visited the Ogden Point Breakwater again to try to get some pictures of the very elusive Rhinoceros Auklets. They rarely came anywhere close and dived constantly, remaining on the surface of the water for mere moments. After about an hour of dogged determination we managed at least to capture the following images of a very interesting species.



     This Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias was patiently waiting for any source of food to pass within striking distance.


     We left the breakwater at around 09:00 and headed out to Butchart Gardens, one of the premier tourist attractions on Vancouver Island. It really is a miracle of gardening excellence and represents an era long since eclipsed by modernity, when large ornamental gardens were a hallmark of wealth and status. The amount of work needed in such a garden is staggering, as is the sheer variety of species. 




     Much native vegetation still remains and has been integrated into the more ornamental aspects of the garden. This trunk is a fine example of an ancient coastal red cedar.


     The birding was quite good in the gardens and we saw our first Dark-eyed Juncos there. As might be expected with so much nectar available Anna's Hummingbirds were prolific.
     We took our lunch in the Blue Poppy Restaurant there and shared a salad made of quinoa, peppers, onions and feta cheese. I had a curried chicken wrap to accompany it and Miriam chose smoked Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese on a ciabatta bun. 
     After lunch we went to the lookout over Brentwood Bay and then left to visit Outerbridge Park. We found very few birds there of any kind.
     We returned home and I had a little siesta while Miriam and Jan went for a walk together. Before they returned I headed down to Clover Point but there was so much human activity going on there that few birds remained on the rocks.
     Once again Jan made dinner for us and we went down at 17:30 for chicken dumpling stew and a green salad with asparagus. Jan was going out for the evening so we dropped her off and then made another visit to Clover Point and Oak Bay. The wind was cold coming off the water, however, and, not being warmly dressed, we didn't stay long.
     We went home, had a cup of tea, and read until bed time.

All species 20 April: Canada Goose, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Great Blue Heron, Brandt's Cormorant, Bald Eagle, Black Turnstone, Dunlin, Glaucous-winged Gull, Rhinoceros Auklet, Rock Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Northwester Crow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Violet-green Swallow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Starling, American Robin, House Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Audubon's Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Savannah Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Spotted Towhee.

21 April 2015
Clover Point - Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary - Bowker Street Beach 

     The temperature was already 13.5° at 08:10 when we left for Clover Point to check on what might be there early in the morning before the throng of dog walkers, cyclists, kite flyers, frisbee throwers etc. arrived.
     There was a really appealing selection of birds, not the least of which was a small flock of Mew Gulls Larus canus, the first of our trip, and a gull that I always find particularly appealing. 



     Dunlin Calidris alpina, in various stages of breeding plumage, were energetically searching for food in every crevice.



     As always, Black Oystercatchers were present and just before leaving Clover Point Brant Geese put in an appearance.



     We left for Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary at around 09:00 and arrived there a half hour later. This was a fine place to bird and we enjoyed a variety of species including an abundance of both Marsh Wrens Cistothorus pulustris and Bewick's Wrens, many of which were nesting. Male Marsh Wrens build several nests for the female to inspect but this one seemed to have found favour and was occupied.


     Bewick's Wren were in fine voice everywhere we walked.



     There was much else to garner our interest and attention and this fine example of bracket fungi was truly impressive.


     A Western Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta bellii was spotted basking in the warm sunlight, although it was starting to cloud over a little at this point.


     I found this stand of Lemmon's Needlegrass Achnatherum lemmonii exquisitely beautiful and I would have been glad to have made the visit to Swan Lake if this had been the only thing we saw.


     Miriam found a telescope providing a great lookout over the surrounding area and she wasted no time in manning her post!


     Upon leaving Swan Lake we headed towards Oak Bay and had lunch on the patio at the Marina Coffee Shop where we had eaten a couple of days earlier. Miriam had bacon and corn soup while I had cream of mushroom and we split a baguette sandwich of ham, Brie and pear. As had been the case on our last visit a really friendly Northwestern Crow kept us company, so I went to buy a blueberry scone, which I was very happy to share with him (her?). In fact, I think the crow may have had the lion's share!
     After lunch we went to the beach at the foot of Bowker Street where there was an impressive array of shorebirds, including several Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola.


     On the way home we stopped to pick up some wine to take to Jan's tonight, and were happy to relax for a while before going down for dinner. 
     Jan's friend Marilyn joined us for dinner  and we started with an appetizer of marinated mozzarella cubes with cherry tomatoes. This was followed by a fine vegetarian stir fry with rice, and a salad. Both Jan and Marilyn had plans for the evening so we were back home soon after 19:00. We read for a while, watched the news and went to bed.

All species 21 April: Canada Goose, Mallard, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Great Blue Heron, Black Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Killdeer, Dunlin, Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Rhinoceros Auklet, Rock Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Northwestern Crow, Northern Raven, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Tree Swallow, Marsh Wren, Bewick's Wren, Common Starling, American Robin, House Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow.

22 April 2015
Clover Point - Fort Rodd - Esquimalt Lagoon - Panama Flats

     I made my usual early morning visit to Clover Point and then returned to get Miriam and we left for Fort Rodd and Esquimalt Lagoon.
     We arrived at Fort Rodd at around 09:00 and enjoyed a coffee we had brought with us in a thermos. As we sat at a picnic table and drank our coffee numerous Golden-crowned Sparrows Zonotrichia atricapilla were hopping around but always in the shade and gloom and never were we able to get a decent shot. White-crowned Sparrows were a little more cooperative. 


     We walked the perimeter of the parking area and a small garden and found our way down to the beach. We saw a variety of species but nothing unusual and after a while returned to the car, finished the coffee and each had a hard-boiled egg that we had brought with us. 
     Esquimalt Lagoon was mere minutes away and we drove down to see what we could find.


     The birding there was not very productive, although we did see ten Mute Swans Cygnus olor, a species that had been relatively unusual during our stay in BC. We returned to "our" picnic table at Fort Rodd and ate the lunch we had made at home. This consisted of sandwiches of turkey, cheese and tomato, and quinoa salad. Everything tasted great as we enjoyed the pleasure of eating outside.
     We left Fort Rodd to go to Panama Flats, an area we had been informed was productive for shorebirds and waterfowl. Indeed this turned out to be true. This Canada Goose had a nest right next to one of the paths and curiously there was a golf ball in among the eggs(if you look at the picture carefully you can just see it next to the bird's left foot) and another one was alongside the nest.


      Many Western Sandpipers Calidris mauri were feeding on the mud flats and in the lagoons.  

  
      Numerous Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes also enlivened the scene.


     A conservative count of the Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis present would be at least sixty.


     Various other species of waterfowl and shorebirds made this a fine place to visit.
     We were back home by mid afternoon to get ready for dinner that night. This was our night to take Jan out to a restaurant as a token of our appreciation for all she had done for us. 
     After weighing up various options we decided on the Oak Bay Marina Restaurant at a wonderful location overlooking the water. The meal we had there was quite superb. Jan started with a Cesar salad, Miriam with French onion soup and I had a salad of beets and Oka goat cheese. Our main courses were as follows: Jan - albacore tuna, Miriam and I - halibut in lobster butter. We had a bottle of the house white wine which was very acceptable. Dessert was tiramisu with three forks! I finished off with a cappuccino. 
     We were back home just after 21:00 after a very pleasant night out.

All species 22 April: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Black Oystercatcher, Kildeer, Great Yellowlegs. Lesser Yellowlegs, Black Turnstone, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Rock Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Northwestern Crow, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Common Starling, American Robin, House Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Audubon's Warbler, red-winged Blackbird, Brewer's Blackbird, Common Grackle, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Savannah Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Spotted Towhee. 

23 April 2015 
Clover Point - Island View Beach Regional Park -  Victoria Golf Course - Robert Bateman Gallery

     My early morning visit to Clover Point was wonderfully productive with a whole host of species, the most delightful of all being a flock of about twenty Bonaparte's Gulls Chroicocephalus philadelphia. 
     Eight Harlequin Ducks preened on the rocks as though they knew I would not be able to return to see them again and they wanted to put on a final show.



      The Dunlin were equally amenable.

  
     The weather, however, was not good! It was raining lightly and looked like it was set for the day. We could hardly complain since we had had almost perfect weather up until now.
     I returned to get Miriam and we left to visit Island View Beach Regional Park. When we arrived there the heavens opened and even though we waited in the car for quite a while it was apparent that it was not going to abate very much. We departed for Victoria but stopped shortly afterwards when we saw an adult Bald Eagle in a field. It was feeding on a carcass of some kind but we could not make out what it was. Soon it was knocked off the food by a sub adult bird and pretty soon was joined by three more juveniles in different stages of development, and another adult. It was quite a spectacle to see them fight and jostle over the prey, until one of the adults picked it up and flew off with it.



     We stopped at a grocery store to pick up items for lunch and dinner and were back home at about 10:40. The rain had stopped for a while so we went back out for a drive alongside the Victoria Golf Course, an area renowned for shorebirds at times, but today it harboured little more than Canada Geese and Northwestern Crows.
      It started to sprinkle again so we returned home to make lunch of sandwiches of turkey meat loaf and jalapeno Havarti cheese with tomato on the side, and a cup of tea.
     After lunch, given the uncertain state of the weather, we looked for something to do indoors and decided to go downtown to the Robert Bateman Gallery to see an exhibit of his work, surely among the very finest of all natural history art. We were almost thankful that rain had provided the impetus to go indoors.
     During the afternoon Miriam and Jan went out together to visit a fabric store and to Christ Church Cathedral where there was an exhibition of the work of Ted Harrison. I took the car back to the rental agency and Jan picked me up there. When we got back home Miriam reminded me that my scope was in the trunk - and that was where it still was - so Jan drove me back to get it. Thanks goodness Miriam remembered!
     For dinner we had turkey roll in a pastry shell, and three salads - spicy red Thai noodle, quinoa and Santa Fé. 
     It was time to pack and get ready for tomorrow's early morning departure.
     We went to bed early but might as well have stayed up; I don't think either of us got to sleep very quickly.

All species 23 April: Canada Goose, Mallard, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Great Blue Heron, Pelagic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Bald Eagle, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Dunlin, Bonaparte's Gull, Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Rock Dove, Northwestern Crow, Common Starling, American Robin. 

24 April 2015
Victoria - Vancouver - Toronto - Waterloo

     We were up at 03:00 and Jan was at our door at 03:45 to take us to the airport. It was raining but we made good time and we bade her farewell with much gratitude and left Victoria at 05:25  for the ten minute flight to Vancouver.
     Our plane from Vancouver left about an hour later than scheduled due to a late arrival from Sydney, Australia. We touched down in Toronto at 16:41 local time and were delivered to our car 17:45. The drive home was uneventful but we were glad to see our driveway after a long day.

General comments

     This was a great little trip and we enjoyed ourselves every day, with great birding, great food and a great little car to get us around. The weather was uncharacteristically warm for the time of year and several people commented about how lucky we were.

Acknowledgements

      What can we say about Jan that does not stray into the realm of superlatives? She was concerned with our welfare every step of the way and before we even left home had arranged accommodation for us. She fed us, entertained us, clipped out interesting things for us whenever she saw them in a magazine or newspaper, secured opera tickets for us, picked us up, dropped us off - in every way possible made it her business to make sure that we had a wonderful visit. Thank you, Jan - I owe you big time!