Saturday, 13 February 2010

Spring has sprung a leak

Having been seduced by last weekend's spring-like weather, it was a bit of let down to go out this morning in such cold and soggy conditions. What a blunt and unwelcome reminder that it is still winter...  The birds didn't seem too pleased either and, for the most part, kept a pretty low profile.
Things started off well though, and within minutes of arriving at the Nanaimo River Estuary I noticed the golden-crowned sparrow/junco flock around the viewing platform. Within a few seconds the white-throated sparrow was showing well and a very weak sun even managed to puncture the greyness for a moment. I added 'non-indiginous-rabbit' to my estuary mammal list.
The next couple of hours were somewhat less productive, and the only other significant bird was a drake Eurasian wigeon. Up to 60 trumpeter swans were again present on the marsh (pictured) plus there were plenty of pintail, American wigeon and green-winged teal around. Out on the river mouth, there was a group of gadwall, common goldeneye, common merganser, mallard and yet more wigeon.
Along the 'long hedge', I came across a 60+ flock of dark-eyed junco but there appeared to little else with them other than the expected song sparrows and  spotted towhees.
Gull numbers appear to building up nicely, but I couldn't see anything out of the ordinary amongst the distant groups.

Up the Creek
I then spent a short time at Holden Creek, which was quiet. A group of around 200 Canada geese were feeding in the nearby fields, but there was nothing of note among them.

What a cock!
By now (early afternoon), the rain had become somewhat more persistent so I took a leisurely drive around Quennel Lake, primarily on the lookout for wildfowl on the move.
As I approached the lake, a movement caught my eye in a nearby field and I smirked at the sight of a cock ring-necked pheasant picking through some long grass. Now, I know that these birds are quite sought after by many Vancouver Island birders, but I have to say it will a cold day in Hell before I get excited by seeing one - outside of their native range, that is.
Just 1 swan was on the lake, and relatively few Canada geese were present. 7 American coot were the first I'd seen for a while and a flotilla of 11 lesser scaup made for a pleasant sight.
A bedraggled 1stw northern shrike was hunting from nearby fenceposts.
I was rather surprised to find a soggy red crossbill singing away from the exposed branches of a small fruit tree by the roadside.

With the forecast looking better for the majority of the week, perhaps we can get back to convincing ourselves that spring really is around the corner..!

Don't forget to have a go at guessing (or studying and making and educated assessment, if you'd rather) the Mystery Bird on the left - only a short time left remains before I reveal the answer. And, of course there will be a new pic for you all to scratch your heads (or not) over.

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