Friday, 30 October 2009

Catch the wigeon

The day started bright, calm and mild so a dash off to Holden Creek was on the cards as soon as I dropped Jenny off.

The main channel was almost birdless upon arrival though the marsh area immediately by it was teeming with American wigeon and green-winged teal.
Despite being a rather duckless creek, it certainly wasn't a total loss - a pair of Wilson's snipe were feeding on the muddy edge and a single long-billed dowitcher flew in and started to feed alongside them.
6 killdeer, and a handful of pintail and mallard were also present.

Scoping through the hundreds of American wigeon on the marsh I soon found a drake Eurasian wigeon and before long, another.
Then I picked up a bird which looked exactly like the one I saw at Buttertubs recently.
This wigeon had a dark chestnut head with no discernible crown stripe, though a dark greenish area around the eye and blotchy pink and grey flanks. Presumably a hybrid of some sort, though I'd have thought if it was a straightforward American/Eurasian wigeon cross it would have some pale area on the forehead and crown?

Taking advantage of the good morning I went round to the estuary to see what I could find over there.
From the viewing platform I could see small flocks of dunlin and black turnstone with occasional black-bellied plovers out on the estuary.
There was no sign of any harriers though a red-tailed hawk was sat on the hawthorns and a sharp-shinned hawk came through scattering panicking house finches and flickers. It also landed in the hawthorns and gave great views.
A northern shrike showed well sitting up on top of the hedgerow and, rather incongruously, a downy woodpecker was sat in a small shrub.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Good weather for otters

Wet, with terrible visibility, and windy for most of today and birding opportunities were non-existent with the exception of staring at the drizzly sea from the condo.
Even still, a group of Pacific loons were just about visible while the usual cormorants and common loons were present, if in somewhat lower numbers. In fact much of the regular stuff, horned grebes, surf scoters etc were notable by their absence. Presumably they seek more sheltered waters nearby?
Added fox sparrow to the 'house-list' - one joined the regular song sparrows, juncos and towhees and we had a visit from a fine male varied thrush.
A couple of crossbills were zipping around overhead and a bedraggled red-tailed hawk came in-off the sea.
A small flock of small waders was seen distantly offshore - couldn't get much on them but they had the look of dunlin about them.
Mid afternoon I noticed a pair of Northern river otters just outside the window, they emerged from the water and proceeded to roll around together on the grass. I nipped back for my camera just in time to catch them before they left (or quite possibly before I disturbed them...). Watch the video here! (Look out Simon King...)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Swan fine day...

Paid an early visit to Holden Creek this morning where there were still at least 15 long-billed dowitcher feeding in the main channel. 5 killdeer were in the area.
Also 250ish green-winged teal plus a handful of wigeon and a couple of pintail there. Otherwise it was pretty quiet.

Made my way round to the Nanaimo River estuary (Raines Rd) around 10am where the trumpeter swan-in-residence was again on the river. Soon another single trumpeter came over heading west and that was followed a couple of minutes later by a flock of 9 headed, more logically, south-east.
Not much going here this morning either, a single juv harrier was posing well in the occasional bursts of sunlight but I couldn't locate any shrikes or meadowlarks today. With it being low-tide, all the wildfowl were way out. Added to that was the disturbance by the odd hunter out on the marsh and the glut of fisherman on the river...

Around midday, a quick count from the condo revealed 98 Pacific loon plus the usual common loons, horned grebes, double-crested cormorants etc. Then a single Bonaparte's gull flew by - the first one I've seen from the house.


Following an unsuccessful attempt to buy a used car, I headed to Buttertubs Marsh in an effort to salvage some of the afternoon...
That wasn't overly fruitful either. Pretty much the same stuff as was there a couple of days ago except with fewer coot and wigeon. A party of American goldfinch were a pleasant distraction, despite being in non-breeding plumage.
A merlin whipped through and a group of 5 grey geese passed high over - could only be white-fronted I suppose. Meanwhile a flock of c.120 Canada geese dropped in.
Otherwise it was business as usual.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Morning glory

While not quite in the same league as yesterday's stunning sunrise, I looked out the bedroom window this morning and saw 3 black oystercatchers wandering around on the rocks by the jetty. I couldn't resist the chance to take a crap photo of them and hastily ran off for my scope, stuck my trusty snapper up to the eyepiece and bingo! Mind you, it was a bit cold stood on that balcony in just my pyjamas...

Late in the morning (fully dressed by now) I had an hour or so at Buttertubs Marsh while Jenny was downtown seeing to some work stuff.
Wasn't too birdy though I did note the the following:
Cooper's hawk, a juvenile bird made two slow passes over the sanctuary and certainly kept the wigeon on alert.
2 female pintail were amongst a group of mallard - the first I've seen at this site.
No sign of the 'Eurasian-style' wigeon among its American congeners, despite a thorough grilling. Shame, as I wanted to get a better look at it in good light.
Again, plenty of coot and gadwall around plus the 3 ringed-necked duck but only 2 green-winged teal. Up to 3 pied-billed grebe seen.
Amongst the more notable passerines were at least 6 yellow-rumped warbler and 3 cedar waxwing with a feeding flock of bushtit around the car park. Also present were a couple of ruby-crowned kinglet, a Bewick's wren and chestnut-backed chickadees.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Mud, mud, glorious mud...

Before joining the Sunday morning Bird Walk (who were conveniently meeting at the Nanaimo River estuary) I spent an hour at first light at Holden Creek. Incidentally, the sunrise this morning was absolutely spectacular. See attached pic - and I swear it is totally untouched, that's what it looked like when I got up...

With the tide being low (see the pic in the sidebar for when it's up) at Holden Creek, I was treated to the rare sight of some muddy channels and indeed to some probing bills!
A group of 16 long-billed dowitcher were busy feeding along the water's edge. A couple of great-blue herons were also present and green-winged teal and a few wigeon dabbled nearby.
After a short while another small group of dowitcher's dropped in and brought the total up to 22 birds. Nice.
Meanwhile, a few crossbills were noisily flitting around overhead while a party of bushtit, with lone ruby-crowned kinglet in tow, bounced from shrub to shrub behind me.
A fox sparrow made an appearance and the usual flickers, juncos etc were much in evidence, as always.

Driving down to the estuary parking area I noticed 6 drake Barrow's goldeneye on the river plus the usual Thayer's and Glaucous-winged gulls.
As the bird-walkers assembled 3 western meadowlark flew up and away toward the viewing platform. We later had great views of birds perched up and showing brilliantly. A mixed group of house and purple finches were in the hawthorns soon after leaving the parking area.
A northern grey shrike was soon located and as the morning wore on we were delighted to discover a second, with both birds visible at one point.
One of the shrikes in particular was a feisty individual and was seen in aerial pursuit of a small bird and again seeing off a northern flicker.
Just one juvenile northern harrier was spotted, it gave great views in flight and also sat on a post.
Bald eagles and ravens frequently passed by.
Wildfowl numbers were down (hmmm, maybe due to the hunters out on the marsh?) although still in evidence - American wigeon, pintail, mallard and common merganser were all seen.
A belted kingfisher was by the river and the lone trumpeter swan was just downstream as usual.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Ready, willing and Cable

Hooray, the sun returns!
A pretty lovely, if cool, day and Jenny has discovered a new trail she wants us to have a go at. The Cable Bay Trail, as it turns out is a cracker - just a short drive down the road and a good, relatively quiet (if you get there early) woodland walk that leads to the coast. Once there, one can carry on to Joan Point and the Dodd Narrows, which we happily did. And had it mostly to ourselves, bar the odd American red squirrel or 'chickaree' as it is also known. Not to be confused with chickadee, of course...
Before we set a, off quick scan from the the window revealed a flock of approximately 140 Pacific loons (they seem to appear here only after a day or two of wet, windy weather), 4 western grebes, 2 white-winged scoter, 4 bufflehead, 12 red-breasted mergansers plus the usual common loons, cormorants, pigeon guillemots etc.
A pileated woodpecker was in the parking area - as the attendant snap shows!

Not much bird-wise noted on the Cable Bay Trail, the usual kinglets, red-breasted nuthatches, winter wrens and other common woodland species were seen and heard. A red-breasted sapsucker and another pileated 'pecker shone in the sunlight.
By the water we had great views of Steller's sealion , always exciting for us Europeans! Good numbers of harbour seal too.
On the way home a red-tailed hawk drifted over the road.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Penelope pit-stop

Despite the wet weather I braved a walk around Buttertubs today, which wasn't without its rewards.
Having spent the past God-knows-how-long searching through flocks of Eurasian wigeon for their American counterparts on muddy estuaries in northern Britain, the tables have now turned and chestnut heads and grey flanks are the target...
Following up (yet again) on the report of a penelope at Buttertubs that I received from a visiting Ontario birder I met at Nanaimo River estuary a couple of weeks ago I scanned the yankie wigeon flocks and at last spotted something gingery amongst the masses. However, once I got my scope onto it I heard alarm bells.
This particular drake is a very odd looking bird indeed and I suspect it's a hybrid. I'm not entirely convinced that it's a simple 2 wigeon job either as it lacks any clear crown stripe, though the flanks are both grey and blotched pink. Whatever, it certainly doesn't appear to be a straightforward Eurasian wigeon anyway. I'll have to do better than that!

Still around 20 American coot and similar number of gadwall on the pools plus 30+ wood duck, 3 ring-necked duck (1m, 2f), a few green-winged teal and good numbers of mallard.

The female northern harrier was making a commotion on the reed edges as she pulled apart some hapless bird that I'd just missed her kill - couldn't quite make out the victim, although it was formidable, possibly a teal.
A male merlin shot through.

Also present around the place were a couple of yellow-rumped warbler, a fox sparrow, plenty of red-winged blackbirds, flickers, robins etc.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Wildfowl wonderland

Having dropped Jenny off in Chemainus this morning, I headed up to Holden Creek at the Nanamio River estuary for a quick visit.
Not too much doing, the usual mass of green-winged teal and wigeon were present plus a few mallard and pintail.
The immature male northern harrier was again seen hunting over the saltmarsh.
Steady groups of Brewer's blackbird passed over and a belted kingfisher was belting around.
An adult bald eagle was carrying a large branch - do they maintain established nests even at this time of year?

Back at home a sharp-shinned hawk landed on the jetty, much to the annoyance of one of the local kingfishers.
Offshore a single drake black scoter and a female white-winged scoter were amongst the raft of 238 surf scoter. 8 horned grebe, 4 pigeon guillemot and the usual multiple common loons and cormorants were also present.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Newty beauty

After a bit of essential bureaucracy today, Jenny and I had a wander around wonderful Buttertubs Marsh, Nanaimo, late afternoon.
The first thing we came across was the little fella in the accompanying pic - turns out it's taricha granulosa, or roughskinned newt. Cute huh?

Avian excitement was soon provided by a yellow-rumped warbler flitting around the trackside vegetation while a scan over the nearby water revealed reasonable numbers of American wigeon - though far fewer than on my last visit.
Amongst the wigeon were numerous mallard, 20+ gadwall, a handful of wood duck, small numbers of green-winged teal, a few Canada geese, 20+ American coot and a pair of ring-necked duck. 2 pied-billed grebe were seen.
A Wilson's snipe made a fly-by but carried on over the marsh.
A couple of great-blue herons were fishing the shallows and a northern harrier - appeared to be an adult female rather than a juv? (also pictured - badly!) - was sat on a branch over one of the pools.

Numbers of highly mobile red-winged blackbird were apparent and other common stuff included flickers, house finch, bushtit, golden-crowned kinglet, chestnut-backed chickadee, belted kingfisher etc.
An otter was freaking out small groups of wigeon as it went about its business.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Be-Holden Creek

Spent an hour and a bit down at Holden Creek (the area of the Nanaimo River estuary shown to me by Mike Yip yesterday) early this morning. Of course, the tidal water levels were too high to be of any use for what few feeding waders might be around but it was still an excellent spot for some pre-breakfast birding.
Once again there were loads of ducks, though this time the many American wigeon were outnumbered by several hundred green-winged teal. Also present were plenty of pintail and mallard.
A single drake bufflehead came through but decided to keep going.
The sub-adult male and a juvenile northern harrier were quartering the marshes while the ubiquitous belted kingfishers were noisily rattling around the place. I managed a quick snap of one through my scope - hardly competes with Mike's superb pics but then we're using somewhat different equipment and I'm not as talented!
Small groups (or the same mobile flocks) of red crossbill were notable, while other common passerines included golden-crowned sparrow, juncos, house finch and song sparrow.
Bald eagles, ravens and great-blue herons were much in evidence.

Jen and I went for a wander round Hemer Park in the afternoon and although there were far fewer wigeon (30 or so) on the marshy pool than on previous visits, the following were noted: an impressive 27 gadwall, 3 northern shoveler, 4 ring-necked duck, 6 American coot and 8 hooded merganser plus a couple of pied-billed grebe.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Happy Monday

Jen and I behaved like tourists today, visiting two well know beauty spots in north Nanaimo - Neck Point and Piper's Lagoon.
The day was clear, sunny and warm - when sheltered.

At Neck Point we walked around the small headland and I was delighted to spot a western grebe close offshore. This was the first one I'd seen in a number of years and I'd forgotten just how large they are, for a grebe. A couple of marbled murrelet flew by but otherwise it was pretty quiet on the sea.

Piper's Lagoon is a lovely place, we'd visited here in spring when we were over for a couple of weeks. Not much doing bird-wise here today though a single western meadowlark was of note. As usual, wherever there are trees there are chestnut-backed chickadees, juncos, flickers etc.

I popped out for and hour, or two, at 4pm and headed once more for the Nanaimo River estuary. Upon arrival I met a young fellow toting a rifle, with a brace of wildfowl hanging from his belt, coming away from the site. I had a little chat with him and inspected his bag (so to speak) - one each of pintail and American wigeon. That explained why the place was a bit quiet when I got to the viewing platform.
I went trampling around a bit trying to find something worthwhile to look at... highlights included:
2 juv northern harriers, 2 peregrines, 1 sharp-shinned hawk, numerous bald eagles, hundreds of American wigeon, many pintail plus green-winged teal and mallard present in lower numbers.
The northern shrike was keeping sentinel in its favourite row of hawthorns, a couple of savannah sparrows were flushed from the marsh and 3 common merganser (goosander) flew upstream.
As usual, the lone trumpeter swan remained in place on the river.

Returning to the car I met a photographer, who it turned out was Mike Yip - a local birder whose superb photographs and website Vancouver Island Birds I am very familiar with. We chatted for some time and he kindly showed me how to access another section of the estuary area not visible from where we were that tends to be favoured by waders. In fact, a stilt sandpiper, amongst other things, was reported from there yesterday... I know where I'll be going tomorrow! Check out Mike's website in the links section on the left.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Varied and Sunday

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, Jenny and I joined the Sunday Bird Walk and went to the Englishman River Estuary in Parksville. And it had stopped raining!!
The group saw/heard a total of 52 species, of which the highlights for me included:
Sharp-shinned Hawk (initially in an argument with a merlin then later chasing a Northern Flicker
Northern Shrike (juv).
Black turnstones and black-bellied (grey) plovers flying along the shoreline.
An adult peregrine came through, perching for a short while at the top of a dead tree.
Among the many American wigeon were smaller numbers of pintail, mallard, harlequin duck, bufflehead and green-winged Teal while offshore surf & white-winged (velvet) scoter, red-breasted & common merganser (goosander), common loon (great-northern diver) etc were seen.
Bonaparte's, mew (common), California, Thayer's and glaucous-winged gulls were all present.
Occasional passerines included yellow-rumped warbler, chestnut-backed chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch, golden-crowned & ruby-crowned kinglets, Brewer's blackbird, golden-crowned & savannah sparrows, house finch and red crossbill.

It was good to meet up again with people who we joined for the Bird Walk back in April and the weather stayed mercifully pleasant. Thanks, as ever, to Colin and Neil and all involved.

Jenny and I paid a quick visit to Rathtrevor Beach on our way back, where we ate our butties and watched a flock of around 60 Bonaparte's gulls mucking about in the surf. Also here we saw a stunning group of around a dozen varied thrush (probably my favourite Canadian bird). Without being too indelicate, I could even see two though the ventilation slats whilst busy in the public 'washrooms'... What a country!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Varied and sundry

Added a couple of new birds to the 'as seen from the house' list this morning.
A fine pair of stunning varied thrush were feeding with a considerable number of American robins on the lawn right in front of the living room window - when the robins weren't chasing them off anyway...
Out on the water a couple of marbled murrelet, almost fully moulted into winter plumage, were bobbing around making their species debut as a house-tick.
In fact the horrible weather had driven a few more seabirds closer inshore, several pigeon guillemot were close by and in excess of 80 Pacific loons (divers) were feeding together in a channel alongside the usual common loons, pelagic and double-crested cormorants.

The drizzle unfortunately turned to deluge and an attempt to do some birding at Buttertubs Marsh was kicked swiftly into touch. A soggy merlin, several gadwall, half a dozen American coot and the large number of American wigeon was all that I could make out through the torrent, so I beat a hasty retreat back to Yellow Point. Not much chance of getting homesick with all this Lancastrian weather...

Disgruntled at my abortive efforts to do some birding I poked my scope out into the easing rain at 5pm and counted 182 surf scoter from the condo. An otter made an appearance once again and the usual supporting cast of horned (Slav) grebes, harlequin ducks, etc almost made amends.

The forecast for tomorrow is promising, let's hope so as I intend to join other local birdwatchers for their regular Sunday Morning Bird Walk - as organised by the good folk at The Backyard Wildbird & Nature Store (see the link on this page)

Friday, 16 October 2009

Raptor raptures

I managed a relatively quick visit to Nanaimo River estuary again today, once the persistent rain had finally ceased around midday.
I was joined by Jenny today who had not yet visited this great site. And while it was lovely to have her along, it goes some way to explaining why the visit was a brief one.

Anyhoo - as we drove along Raines Road the lone trumpeter swan was seen in the river and we arrived in the parking area to be greeted by the sight of the usual loafing gulls.
We headed for the viewing platform scattering towhees and robins as we went. A group of white-crowned and golden-crowned sparrows - all 1st winter birds - were feeding in the bushes at the base of the steps. A couple of song sparrow were also amongst them.

Looking toward the estuary mouth up to ten bald eagles could be seen sat around waiting for... something, while great-blue herons punctuated the horizon. Within a few minutes a juvenile northern harrier came into view and showed well before vanishing over the marsh.

A female common merganser (or goosander in English) was on the river and a pristine drake Barrow's goldeneye dropped in to join it. Lovely.

Before long the harrier returned, joined this time by another juvenile bird. As we watched them hunting over the marsh the 1st year northern shrike made an appearance and sat obligingly in the top of an isolated bush.

A small group of female/juv red-winged blackbirds were joined by a party of house finches in a nearby hedgerow and a noisy northern flicker soon arrived to adda bit of colour.

A merlin was seen bombing over the marsh and a juvenile peregrine came in from the direction of Nanaimo, scattering the gulls before landing in a pine on the river's edge.

Groups of pintail were seed feeding distantly - with small numbers occasionally flighting over.

On the way back we noted our first racoon (well, first alive one anyway) since we arrived, as it ambled across the road in front of us.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Estuarine time

Despite the grotty cold drizzle, I headed for the Nanaimo River estuary this morning just to see what was around, compared to my visit a few days ago.

'The' trumpeter swan was still present, this time on the river adjacent to the road and therefore much easier to observe. All the expected gulls were loafing around on the shingle banks and the usual multitude of ravens were kicking around.
From the viewing platform, a juvenile northern harrier was seen cruising over the marsh. Passerines seemed in short supply, just 3 female-type red-winged blackbirds, a few juncos, house finches and the odd towhee put in an appearance.

A wander around revealed a few skulking savannah sparrows in the saltmarsh and 4 long-billed dowitchers identified themselves by conveniently calling as they flew overhead.
A further juv northern harrier came into view and soon both birds were hunting just metres apart. Then I noticed a distant male harrier which eventually came closer and gave stunning views. This near-adult bird was quite a show-off and kept me entertained for some time as it twisted low over the marsh in search of prey.

Given my own previous experience of birding on estuaries back home I was struck by the lack of waders present - so much mud and so few probing bills!

Other birds of note this morning included the 1st year northern shrike still present, plus 3 fly-over wood duck, numerous mallards, green-winged teal and small flocks of pintail.

I had a strange and comforting sense of familiarity as I wandered around this damp, deserted estuary... made me feel quite at home!

Later in the day, while eating lunch, 3 otters came to fish around the jetty. Altogether far more approachable than any I've seen in the UK, these animals seemed oblivious to my interest in them! The pic shows 2 of the otters, again forgive the poor quality - taken with a little digi-snapper.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Yellow-rumps move through...

Unfortunately a bit of essential bureaucracy put pay to any thoughts of getting out birding today - my planned visit to Buttertubs Marsh was sadly abandoned.

When I finally got home around 5pm I managed the obligatory scan from the window and added a couple of species to the house list (if such a thing existed, that is). A couple of yellow-rumped warblers were flitting around by the jetty bushes (yes, I can say those words with comfortable familiarity) and a pied-billed grebe was fishing close inshore - not a bird I would normally associate with saltwater... but what do I know?
Around 70 surf scoter were present offshore as were the usual common loons, horned grebes, mew gulls and a common murre (or good old guillemot back home).
Oh, I nearly forgot - around 30 black oystercatcher were feeding on an exposed rocky isle at low tide this morning (which by Morecambe Bay standards isn't remotely low at all...)

If the rain's no worse tomorrow than it was today I will make an effort to get to Nanaimo River estuary in the morning and see what's moving through.

The pics attached are of a pigeon guillemot (essentially the Pacific representative of black guillemot) and the afore-mentioned pied-billed grebe. Apologies for the poor quality - hand held digisnapper held up to my scope eyepiece.

Monday, 12 October 2009


At last, a week after arrival I have finally got my new blog up and running.
And what a week it has been! Following a night in Vancouver we caught the ferry to Duke Point, Nanaimo - on Vancouver Island, hopefully our new home for the foreseeable future.
A few birds were seen en route, gulls being the most obvious and numerous. These included glaucous-winged, Thayer's, ring-billed, mew (common) and Bonaparte's gulls. Other stuff included double-crested and pelagic cormorants plus the odd pigeon guillemot, white-winged (velvet) and surf scoters and such.
The highlight was the sight of a pod of killer whales who formed a fine welcoming committee.
We arrived at our oceanside 'condo' at Yellow Point a bit too late to be of much use bird-wise. And in fairness, I did have one or two other more pressing things to attend to. One of which was getting the champagne in the fridge.

An early reccie around the new homestead was pretty exciting with tons of common loons (great-northern divers), horned (Slavonian) grebes, surf scoters, harlequin ducks and the like bobbing around in front of the condo. In the adjacent shrubbery and gardens were dark-eyed juncos, American robins, spotted towhees, song sparrows, northwestern crows, northern flickers and a Bewick's wren. A familiar sound alerted me to presence of a sizeable flock of red crossbills in the conifers above me.
The first of many bald eagles made an appearance (as pictured in the header pic - it's the one on the right with a hooked beak...). A pair of belted kingfisher were noisily tazzing around.
As well as the numerous harbour seals, a bull Stellerr's sealion made an impressive appearance offshore.

Later Jenny and I had a wander around a couple of the local parks - Yellow Point Park and Robson Memorial Park. Highlights of these mainly mixed forests included many red-breasted nuthatches plus pileated and hairy woodpecker, though it was generally quiet - not too surprising given the season.

Tuesday, we went to a favourite place of mine, Buttertubs Marsh. This small reserve is something of a wetland haven in the city of Nanaimo and supports a startling range of birds. Although very different from my last visit here in the spring, the birds were still thrilling.
Highlights included a flock of cedar waxwing, up to 6 yellow-rumped warbler, 7 pectoral sandpiper and good numbers of American wigeon and in excess of 100 wood duck. A pair of gadwall and a few green-winged teal were noisily dabbling while great blue herons stalked the shallows and a couple of pied-billed grebes were noted on the deeper waters.

On Wednesday we had to return to Vancouver to pick up some excess baggage which had arrived inconveniently late... however the ferry ride allowed for me to get a 'Canada tick' in the form of a fine adult Sabine's gull. The return crossing saw at least 4 parasitic jaegers (Arctic skuas to you and me) harassing small flocks of Bonaparte's gulls. Oh, and while I was in Vancouver I bought me a new scope.

More essential issues reduced my casual birding opportunities on Thursday, though I did manage wander up the road to Yellow Point Lodge - unfortunately little was seen, though a red-breasted sapsucker put in a welcome appearance.

Friday wasn't much more productive as we headed north to Courtenay so Jen could get a much-needed sewing machine. The sun continued to shine and although it was a non-birdy day, the journey was pleasant enough and we had a jolly day out.

On Saturday we headed for Extension Ridge to see the crack in the ground known locally, rather grandly, as 'The Abyss'. It was worth the trek - it is apparently a remnant fissure from an earthquake... see the pic attached.
The birds, as is often the case in the forests outside of spring, were thin on the ground though a group of 4 superb varied thrush showed well and a Steller's jay flew by. Otherwise it was noisy red-breasted nuthatches and golden-crowned kinglets and the like.
Later that day, we headed for Hemer Park - a site near home - and discovered a brilliant spot! Primarily mixed woodland bordering Holden Lake (pb grebes, hooded mergansers, wood duck), the best bit of the park is a marshy wetland that was covered with American wigeon. Also present were a pair of lesser scaup, numerous hooded mergansers and a few green-winged teal and mallard. A bald eagle was spooking the ducks with reckless abandon. We also got ace views of a pileated woodpecker.

On Sunday I took off alone for some real birding and tried a site I'd read about but never visited - Nanaimo River estuary.
I think I'll be making sorties to this well-known place with some regularity...
Soon after arrival I noticed a northern harrier in pursuit of a raven over the marsh, and a single trumpeter swan was feeding in a flooded area. As well as the numerous common species (American robins, spotted towhees etc) a northern shrike came into view and performed well before I was distracted by a brief flight view of what appeared to be a Western meadowlark. Further investigation revealed 4 birds there.

Later in the day, an impressive raft of 114 Pacific loons (divers) were offshore from the condo. Amazing.

Monday (Canadian Thanksgiving - fact fans) saw us make a repeat visit to Hemer where a very cute male downy woodpecker showed down to a couple of feet. There were fewer wigeon on the swampy pool, though a dozen gadwall and an American coot were seen.
Oh yeah, and I found a moribund robin who sadly didn't make it... see pic.

Okay, there we are; a week's condensed bird notes. I'll try and keep this up to date now that I'm up and running!