Saturday, 6 March 2010

Seeing red

Arrived at the end of Raines Road, at the Nanaimo River estuary, this morning to the delightful sound of singing western meadowlarks. At least 3 birds were visible in the scattered hawthorns in the fields immediately west of the parking area.
As I came up alongside the large oak there was a flurry of activity on my right, the golden-crowned sparrow flock was feeding in the low brambles and there amongst them, was the white-throated sparrow, plus 2 white-crowned, and a song sparrow.
Once again, there seemed to have been a mini-influx of American robins with small groups here and there.
I walked the entire length of the long hedge but it was rather dead, with the exception of the occasional towhee, song sparrow, flicker and a single fox sparrow.
A red-tailed hawk was keeping sentinel from a small tree out in the fields. I came across a small flock of c20 juncos, but they hadn't enticed anything interesting to join  them.
Out on the marsh just 12 trumpeter swans and 2 Canada geese were present, plus the usual 20-odd great blue herons. A couple of bald eagles were sitting around on old logs. A belted kingfisher was hunting along the creeks.

Checking the estuary mouth, there were around 500 gulls roosting there, but the heat haze made the option of going through them pretty pointless. Similarly, the wildfowl - but I could at least make out gadwall, American wigeon, hooded & common mergansers, common goldeneye, bufflehead, mallard, pintail & green-winged teal.

As I stood on the platform, a pair of red crossbill flew in and gave me some great views as they fed & drank by the pool edges, and perched up at eye level. Naturally, I couldn't resist getting a snap.

With an hour to kill before collecting Jen from work, I had a wander around the southern end of Buttertubs Marsh. I was rather hoping for a tree swallow... 
Being early afternoon, and very sunny, it wasn't too productive (lots of strollers) but it was good to hear, and eventually see, good numbers of marsh wren. Red-winged blackbird were also in fine voice, and were busy flashing their scarlet epaulets all over the reed beds. 
A nice male American goldfinch was singing away from the top of an alder.
I got incredibly good views of a mink too. I initially spotted it creeping around under some roots and a boulder, but I applied the old gamekeepers' trick of squeaking away and out it came to investigate. It approached extremely close, but was quickly disturbed by a couple as they clattered noisily along the path toward me.  

Incidentally, following the delivery of our worldly possessions from the UK on Thursday (only took 5 months...) Jenny and I took a stroll to Hemer Park. The birds were as expected, but we saw our first garter snakes of the year - 3 in all, sunning themselves and trying to get revved up for the season.
It's great to have got our stuff, I must say. I now have my many bird books to hand and my much-missed guitars. And Jenny has her impressive shoe and boot collection.


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