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!

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