Saturday, 30 January 2010

No gun salute

It was a bit grizzly out there this morning. Misty and grey with a lot of moisture in the air and occasional showers to add to the fun. Nonetheless, it was OK weather for birding and I had the Nanaimo River estuary to myself for almost 3 hours. Not a hunter in sight.
As I arrived, I did meet a birder who was coming away from the area, he'd not seen too much though he did mention a peregrine.

Undeterred I headed out and opted to 'do' the long hedge first. As it turned out it wasn't such a bad idea as I soon found a mixed flock and almost immediately saw the white-throated sparrow. Once again the majority of birds here were golden-crowned sparrow (c.20) and dark-eyed junco (c.40) plus a few song sparrows and towhees thrown in for good measure.
A juv northern harrier then drifted in from out on the estuary, hunted briefly over the marsh then went and alighted on a dead tree in the fields, where it remained for a couple of hours or so. A red-tailed hawk was also sat up on a snag nearby.
4 Western meadowlark were sat up in a tree out in the fields - the first I've seen here in a while.
Up to 60 trumpeter swans were on the marsh along with some 'newly' arrived Canada geese (do they know the hunting season's over?) and a small group of American wigeon.
I eventually came across another mixed group of passerines and hoped that this was the flock with the American tree sparrows. Despite my best efforts I couldn't see or hear any, although a very smart Lincoln's sparrow was amongst them.
I headed back down along the hedgerow, but with the exception of the resident flickers and a gang of red-winged blackbirds it was pretty uneventful.
From the viewing platform I could see that the majority of the ducks were out on the water - it was low tide and they were quite some distance. Scoping through them, I picked out a lone Eurasian wigeon amongst the many American wigeon (ironically, back in  Lancashire, many of my old birding chums have been heading out to see an American wigeon in with a load of common Europeans - quite a rarity!). As usual the bulk of the wildfowl comprised of pintail, A. wigeon, green-winged teal and mallard. Gadwall numbers were up with around 40 birds present. Buffleheads, common mergansers and common goldeneye were also seen.
A rather impressive 22 great blue herons were on the marsh, and of course bald eagles were a constant presence.
I came across the big flock again, near the platform, and once more saw the white-throated sparrow in with them but, as usual, it eluded being photographed. The ruby-crowned kinglet was with them again.
I walked out to river mouth a short way and was delighted to flush a short-eared owl, which then proceeded to hunt briefly over the marsh before taking to ground again. Whether the owl was as delighted as I was, is up for debate...
On my way to collect Jenny from work in the early afternoon, I made a  quick stop at Buttertubs Marsh  which was rather unremarkable. Apart from the return of the mallards, a dozen ring-necked duck, 2 hooded merganser and a pair of pied-billed grebe it was somewhat on the quiet side.

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