Saturday, 6 February 2010

A slight hint of spring

I awoke to be thrilled by the beautiful, calm, bright morning - seems a while since I've seen any blue sky...
As per usual, dropped Jenny off at work then headed off to the Nanaimo River Estuary for a dig around.
Once again, I arrived to find that I had the place to myself and I set off toward the big oak with something of a spring in my step, thanks to the sound of birdsong in the air.
House finches, Bewick's wrens and song sparrows were all being motivated to give their lungs a good blast in the sunshine.
The 'big' flock was in and around the brambles just by the tree, and I soon picked up the white-throated sparrow feeding on the ground with some golden-crowneds. The sound of a Western meadowlark drew my attention away and I noticed 3 birds close by, with a small group of starlings.
As I looked up I noticed that Ralph Hocken had arrived and was taking pics of the meadowlarks from the path up from the parking area.
I headed off down the long hedge for a while but it was pretty quiet. A lone Northern shrike and a bunch of flickers were the only things of note.
I could hear the lovely sound of a singing meadowlark and looking round, noticed the three birds in a hawthorn in the adjacent field.
I headed back and caught up with Ralph, who had got some great shots of the 'larks. He hadn't seen the WT sparrow though, so we decided to try and find it again. Unfortunately, a concerted effort failed to come up with the goods and despite grilling the flock, the target bird remained elusive. We did, at least, get views of the Lincoln's sparrow.
Out on the marsh, the trumpeter swans numbered fewer than 30 birds though, like last week, they had pretty much all cleared out by midday.
As usual, the majority of wildfowl consisted of American wigeon, pintail and green-winged teal with smaller numbers of gadwall and mallard. The drake Eurasian wigeon was present and a few bufflehead, greater scaup, common merganser, common goldeneye and gaggle of Canada geese completed the set of web-footed wonders.
A pair of amorous red-tailed hawks were having fun in the distance and a couple of peregrine zipped through.
26 great blue heron were hanging out on the marsh and a belted kingfisher was on the river.

Early afternoon, I made my customary pre-Jenny-pick-up, stop at Buttertubs Marsh but it was pretty unremarkable. Still a dozen or so ring-necked duck and a few hooded merganser, plus 3 pied-billed grebe on the water. Very little in the way of notable passerines - just a couple of varied thrush, a brown creeper, ruby-crowned kinglet and some singing red-winged blackbirds.
A Cooper's hawk nearly took my head off though...
Later, on our way back to Cedar, a merlin flew over the road just south of Nanaimo.

Late afternoon we took a stroll around Hemer Park.
Five trumpeter swans were still on the pool, along with a few hooded mergs, couple of bufflehead, 3 RN duck and a common merganser. A pileated woodpecker was making a racket up in the trees, but I didn't see it. A hairy woodpecker put in a, silent, appearance.

I had a real sense of the coming spring out there today, and although I realise it's only just into February and things could still get very wintry yet, the feeling that things were about to change was really overwhelming. For a newcomer like me, it's going to be absolutely thrilling (and doubtless mind-boggling) to witness a first full Vancouver Island spring. Bring it on...!  

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