Friday, 30 April 2010

All right in the light

An hour at Holden Creek this morning was made considerably better than my recent evening visits, by simple virtue of having the bright morning sun behind me. Therefore I could actually the shorebirds reasonably well.
There were around 60 or so least sandpipers, a single western sandpiper and 3 semi-palmated sandpipers on the marsh.
3 killdeer were out there too, with the resident pair also in the adjacent fields.
Spotted sandpiper was still present, though no yellowlegs were to be seen.
2 American goldfinch were singing away. I couldn't find anything interesting among the teal.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Spring limps on...

Another glorious morning with the wind from the wrong direction... Spent a pre-work hour wandering around the Nanaimo River estuary in search of, well, anything really.
Not too much doing, the usual white-crowned & savannah sparrows, yellow-rumped & orange-crowned warblers, towhees, red crossbills and such were in evidence but not much else.
A single greater yellowlegs flew over.
An American goldfinch was singing near the oak.

Stopped off at Holden Creek on my way home.
The tide was rising, but there was enough mud on the creek to interest a few least sandpipers and a spotted sandpiper. More 'peeps' (as our American birding chums, and certain UK twitchers insist on calling them) were out on the marsh, but the low sun behind them rendered them specifically unidentifiable, though those that got up and flew around calling were all leasts.
A greater yellowlegs was in attendance.
A pair of male brown-headed cowbirds were trying to woo a female (fem pictured), and engaging in some impressive moves. These are the first I've seen here, and are presumably new in.
Two males and a female purple martin joined the mass of barn, tree & violet-green swallows, from time to time, while smaller numbers of norther rough-winged and cliff swallows were also present. Another singing goldfinch was showing well and 12 white-fronted geese were back in the fields.
A female northern harrier was hunting over the fields too.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cinnamon teal twosome save the day

Had a troll around the Nanaimo River estuary for an hour and a bit this morning from 6.30am.

Sadly I didn't find any major rarities, despite my undying optimism, but it was good to be out early. A mini-fall of yellow-rumped warblers had obviously taken place, with at least 30 birds along the long hedge. No other warblers among them sadly, other than a handful of orange-crowned.
A peregrine was sat out on a stranded tree-stump.
A pair of male purple martins were mucking around (pic) and the female northern harrier was hunting over the marsh. A singing American goldfinch was by the big oak.

After work, I bobbed along to Holden Creek. The water levels were extremely high.
A pair of cinnamon teal were a very pleasant surprise. The spotted sandpiper was still present, as was a single greater yellowlegs. It took me a while to locate any small waders, they were feeding in the small muddy puddles in the farm fields. Again, the majority that I could see were least sandpipers, plus a handful of westerns.
A lone cackling goose was among the Canadas.
The local killdeer have at least three hatched young.
Driving round to the estuary along Gordon Road, I had a pileated woodpecker fly over and a pair of wood duck were in the wet area.
The estuary was busy with people, but a few birds were still around... 3 belted kingfisher were flying around and all the common hirundines were seen. Otherwise it was pretty uneventful.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Up a creek...

It was grey, cool and very drizzly when I got home, and so I elected on a short trip to Holden Creek for a bit of wader searching...

The tide was well up and the creeks were mud-less, so the majority of shorebirds were out on the flashes. I counted approximately:

120 least sandpiper
12 western sandpiper
1 dunlin
2 greater yellowlegs
1 spotted sandpiper (pic)

There were still around 30 green-winged teal present, but other than a single feeding American pipit and a fly through female northern harrier, there wasn't much else doing.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Super calidrids are fab, but lighting is atrocious

A quick late afternoon visit to Holden Creek revealed yet more waders - one group on the channel was made up of 14 least sandpiper & 1 western sandpiper.
Two greater yellowlegs were nearby, and another feeding flock of c20 calidrids was out on the flashes - the low sun made them tricky to say the least, though a couple of dunlin were identifiable amongst them. Later they joined the others on the channel, and they all appeared to be westerns, apart from the two dunlin.
I think it's going to get rather interesting (and bloody frustrating!) over the coming weeks...  

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Not so quiet on the Western front

I really need to spread my wings, so to speak, if I'm gonna catch up with any other stuff than that which frequents the estuary - at this rate, I could go all year without seeing a whole bunch of island birds...

Anyhoo, off to the Nanaimo River estuary I trailed this morning, and despite a good scour around, I was unable to discover anything too exciting.
Highlights included watching a merlin mobbing the adult female northern harrier, and seeing another 4 purple martins (2m 2f) joining the other common swallows. Incidentally, all common species of hirundine were present, tree, barn, violet-green, northern rough-winged and cliff.
A group of 6 least sandpiper flew low over, heading toward the Holden Creek area.
8 white-fronted geese were seen flying back and forth a couple of times.
The mighty cock pheasant was singing his delightful song from the fields.

A check-in at Holden Creek was next, and things looked a bit bleak. A lone greater yellowlegs was still on the channel as were a pair of copulating killdeer. Then I noticed a small calidrid on the muddy edges of the creek. It was a lone western sandpiper - my first at this site, and hopefully the vanguard of more to come.

Before I went to gather Jenny from the world of Elvis costuming, I popped into Buttertubs Marsh for a quick peek. There were lots of yellow-rumped warblers around, all those seen were 'Myrtle'. Got great views of a couple of common yellowthroats too.
A pair of wood duck were kicking around.

Early evening, we took a wander around Hemer Park. Wildfowl included ring-necked duck, hooded mergs, bufflehead and 3 wood duck on the pool. 'Pacific' wrens were singing all over the forest, as were varied thrushes. We came across yet more YR warblers were in a large feeding group.  Oh, and we came across a fine looking green frog.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Nanaimo Delta blues

Had a wander around the estuary before heading into work this morning.
First bird of note was a Lincoln's sparrow near the big oak, but little else implied much in the way of fresh migrants until I found a female mountain bluebird in the fields.
A few yellow-rumped and orange-crowned warblers were working the hedge but it's hard to know whether they were new in - they weren't acting like newly arrived migrants.
An osprey passed over and did a bit of hovering out over the water and a peregrine zipped through.

Post-work, I returned to find even less. In fact, the only birds of note were a couple more Lincoln's sparrow, a merlin and an impressive flock of 136 common merganser on the river. 2 northern harrier were doing the rounds. Oh, and a MEGA on my way out - a collared dove was on the wires along Raines Road... yippee-doo. That's almost as good as pheasant.

Went to Holden Creek, just in case... The 12 white-fronted geese had multiplied and become 14. A single greater yellowlegs was feeding on the flashes and 4 least sandpiper were on the creek. One of the harriers came over, but it was pretty quiet otherwise.

Yesterday evening, I'd popped over to Quennell Lake, but it was fairly birdless: 1 pair shoveler, pair of wood duck, pair pied-billed grebe, ring-necked ducks, pintails, all the common swallows etc.
Holden Creek was quietish - a 'new' spotted sandpiper was present, as were Rich Mooney and Mike Ashbee. First time I've seen any other birders at Holden Creek!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Going for Gold

The big oak was jumping with yellow-rumped warblers when I arrived at the Nanaimo River estuary this evening. At least a dozen birds were actively feeding there, and a couple of orange-crowneds too. There were loads of savannah sparrows around and a male American goldfinch was new in.
A female northern harrier was over the marsh and a group of 12 white-fronted geese flew in from the estuary mouth toward Holden Creek - presumably the same birds as have been there for a few days.
A lone western meadowlark was kicking around, and showed well.

A quick blast round to Holden Creek was pretty unremarkable. Another male goldfinch was here (pic), but not much else. 2 greater yellowlegs were feeding out on the marsh flashes and yep, those white-fronts were back grazing in the field.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

More martins

Despite the unhelpful wind-direction, the overnight rain inspired me enough to pay a pre-work visit to the Nanaimo River estuary this morning.
4 California quail were along Raines Road.
There seemed to have been a bit of a fall of yellow-rumped warblers, with around 20 birds in the area. The majority were males and, surprisingly, all but 3 were 'Myrtles'. A handful of orange-crowned warblers were also flitting around.

Good numbers of tree and violet-green swallows were zipping about, and a pair of purple martin flew through. They landed briefly on a telegraph pole by the parking area (see pic).
The adult female northern harrier was hunting over the marsh.
Just 1 greater yellowlegs was on the river.
A single western meadowlark was feeding in the long grass by the big oak.
Other birds seen included belted kingfisher, red crossbill, pine siskin, golden-crowned & white-crowned sparrows and such...

I made a post-work visit to Holden Creek. Tell you what, it was hard to believe standing there in the chilly evening breeze, that it was 20c at the same time yesterday!
A female American kestrel was in one of the dead tress near the farm. Nearby, the 12 white-fronted geese were still present.
On the creek, 3 greater yellowlegs and a Wilson's snipe were the only representatives of the wader clan, with the exception of the resident killdeer.  

Monday, 19 April 2010

At long last, leasts!

Quick dash round the patch this evening - pretty quiet at the Nanaimo River estuary. The highlight was seeing the adult female and immature northern harrier hunting together over the marsh.
No swallows at all, or yellowlegs.

Headed round to Holden Creek, trying to beat the rain. A pair of greater yellowlegs were on the sluiced channel, and a further 3 were on the main creek. 3 killdeer were kicking around, and the nesting red-tailed hawks provided some entertainment as they saw off an interloper, of the same species. The dozen white-fronted geese were still grazing in the fields alongside their Canadian cousins.
Then, a little cloud of around 20 waders appeared, and once they eventually settled on the creek edge I could see that they were least sandpipers. At last, a bit of wader movement - hopefully this is the start of a spell of interesting passage...

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Spotted sandpiper spotted

As Sunday is generally a let's-behave-like-tourists day, I don't really get much proper birding in. But, as a passionate (some may say, obsessive...) birder, I almost always have my bins within reach.

Anyhoo, before our day out today, I noticed a flock of c200 white-fronted geese heading north over the house. Good start.

We headed off to Genoa Bay, where we enjoyed the sunshine, scenery and simply bucketloads of rufous hummingbirds. After lunch we made our way slowly back via a few antique emporiums, and a detour behind Nanaimo airport. Stopping by a small boggy area, I flushed a pair of Wilson's snipe who gave us several superb flyby views, before ditching down again. I bagged my first common yellowthroat of the year, and Jenny found a killdeer.

Later, I managed to get out and headed first to Holden Creek. It seemed pretty quiet, with no waders to be seen out on the marsh flashes or creek. A group of 12 white-fronted geese were feeding in the fields.
Scanning the marsh, I located a feeding gang of 8 American pipits, all looking sharp in their summer finery. Then I heard an unfamiliar call (to be fair, most calls still are), and looked toward the source and discovered a lovely spotted sandpiper as it flew in and landed on the creek edge.

With time to spare, I decided to check the Nanaimo River estuary. I guessed that it may have been busy with folk on a decent day, but hoped that it would now be quiet. Wrong. A single family were present, and while they were doubtless having a lovely time, they did it with astonishing volume. And, they had a spectacular knack for targeting the most sensitive areas, bird-wise, flushing stuff left, right and centre.

As they collectively climbed the big oak, I went to check the 'bluebird posts' and was somewhat surprised to see a female mountain bluebird in the area.
I then went to check the long hedge, as the family followed my footsteps blindly toward the bluebird and sent it flying away.
The northern shrike was still in situ, and a female northern harrier made an appearance.
I noticed that the bluebird was sat on the long hedge top, before coming very agitated. It suddenly launched itself up high, and it started to fly in wide circles, gaining height all the time, before turning and heading east with some apparent determination. It appeared to have been assessing conditions, before orienting itself - fascinating to watch!
Shame I couldn't get down earlier, who knows what had been around before the crowds...


Saturday, 17 April 2010

Cinnamon adds spice to the day

A late afternoon check of Quennel Lake proved rewarding. The rain had stopped, and the sun was even having a go at shining.

Amongst the many hirundines, mostly tree and violet-green swallows, were reasonable numbers of barn swallow, at least 1 cliff and 1 northern rough-winged swallow.
A brown-headed cowbird was sniffing around the Brewer's blackbirds - a year-tick.
3 dunlin and 5 smaller waders were feeding on a distant muddy spit but at that range, I was hard pushed to confirm their identity.
They actually looked most like semi-palmated sandpiper, very grey overall in appearance with no discernible 'warmth' to the plumage, looked short billed and dark legged but, as I say the distance was too great. I do realise, also, that this species is highly unlikely here in spring, as opposed to the much commoner western and least. Sometimes, having a 'scope is even more frustrating than not having one!

Then came the real beauty - a drake cinnamon teal, which, while also being miles away, at least had the decency to be bright ginger, and stand out like a sore thumb. Despite this, it spent considerable time lurking and dabbling in the emergent vegetation at the lakeside and would disappear frequently. It seemed to be keeping close to one particular female, which appeared clearly paler than the nearby female green-wingeds. At one point a bald eagle flew over the lake and all the wildfowl took to the air, the male cinnamon and the female, took off with a group of wigeon and pintail while the other teal went in the opposite direction. The pair were spectacular in flight and easy to pick out, and at least I could confirm that the female wasn't a GW, though blue-winged couldn't be ruled out.
I've made the drake obvious in the pic, just in case anyone thought that it was an old rusty paint can floating in the lake....          

Wetter is better...

Despite, or rather thanks to,  the almost constant drizzle the morning's birding at the Nanaimo River estuary was pretty good today.

The 'new' northern shrike was still in the same area as yesterday evening, and was entertaining me with a collection of extraordinary sounds - I don't believe I've ever heard this species sing before, what a weird bunch of sounds! It's a rather pale bird, and has a striking, almost pure white, rump in flight.

A female northern harrier was sat, soggily, on a snag in the fields.

The rain had obviously dumped a few birds and I was aware of an increase in the number of white-crowned and savannah sparrows around the place. Also, I came across a trio of Lincoln's sparrows.
There were several orange-crowned warblers feeding along the long hedgerow, plus a pair of yellow-rumped. Then I bumped into a fall of yellow-rumped warblers - all males, totalling at least 16 birds, of which 5 where 'Myrtles'.

The hirundine numbers were through the roof and there were approximately 500 feeding over the river. I picked out at least 1 cliff and 2 barn swallows from the mass of violet-greens, plus around 5 tree swallows. I was nearly fooled into thinking I'd seen northern-roughed winged by a couple of very drab female violet-greens. At one point the swallows were spooked by a passing peregrine, forcing them up into a whole whirling mass - quite impressive.
Then, just as I was about to give up, I noticed a very dark, larger, bird coming in - it was the first of a group of 6 purple martins. They came over the river, never really joining the other birds, and passed by me on the viewing platform at eye level. Cool. Not a new bird, but a BC tick.

I decided to have a quick look at Holden Creek on my way home. No sign of any pipits or waders out on the marsh. Another 100 or so violet-green swallows, and 3 barn swallows, were feeding over the fields. A red-tailed hawk was sat out on a small tree.
Of interest, a very bright fox sparrow was here too. Much 'redder' than any I've seen previously on the island and suggestive of what Sibley refers to as 'slate-coloured' - is this a form often found here on passage?


Friday, 16 April 2010


Well, it's Friday already and I haven't posted anything for a few days. Naughty me. To be honest, I've not seen a great deal so a quick summary:

Wednesday - The usual birds were in the Mafeo Sutton Park area on my lunchtime stroll, plus a black oystercatcher and 2 California gulls were with the glaucous-wingeds. Oh, and a pair of otters were engaged in some intense coital action on the beach by the Lighthouse Pub.
Jenny and I walked around Hemer Park in the evening. Not much doing, highlights included varied thrush and hairy woodpecker.

Thursday - my birthday! No birding as such today, but a mega highlight was a great-horned owl sat on wires by the road (near the dump) when we were coming home from Nanaimo, at approximately 11.45pm.

OK - today, and this evening. Went to Holden Creek first. It was fairly quiet with just 3 greater yellowlegs there plus red-tailed hawk, turkey vulture, GW teal, American wigeon etc.
Headed round to the Nanaimo River Estuary. Here, to things were quietish until a cracking male northern harrier appeared, soon joined by a female. The male, in particular, gave excellent views. I noticed a northern shrike - a bird passing through? I'd assumed the wintering birds had moved on... A lone adult white-fronted goose was flying around a bit, seemingly unsure as to what to do with itself.
At least 42 greater yellowlegs (pictured) were on the river.

I'll do a summary, and what-not, regarding the mystery bird over the weekend... looks like quiet a contentious one!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

No rain, no gain.

I put rather too much trust in the weather forecast - gentle southerlies with rain overnight and early morning. Sounded perfect for dropping a few good birds. Anyway, got up at 6.30am and it was bone dry. Oh well, you never know...
Got down to the Nanaimo River estuary, and it was very pleasant with singing savannah sparrows, robins, white-crowned sparrows and the like filling the air.
The group of golden-crowned sparrows was feeding on the path and there with them, was the white-throated sparrow.
Still a dozen or so greater yellowlegs were on the river, as was an otter.
There was no evidence whatsoever, of newly arrived anythings! Next time, maybe...

After work, I headed to Holden Creek to check the wet fields - if there were any waders on the move, hopefully they'd be here, as it was high tide. Guess what? Nowt. Well, apart from a single greater yellowlegs and 2 killdeer. Approximately 80 green-winged teal were feeding in the creeks, as was a pair of hooded merganser.
A pair of white-fronted geese were with the Canadas in the farm fields.
I decided to have a peek at the estuary, flushing a turkey vulture (pic) on the way - it was chowing down on a hapless racoon corpse on the roadside.
The yellowlegs on the Nanaimo River had gained some new recruits, and now numbered 24.


Monday, 12 April 2010

Evenin' all

I managed an hour down at the Nanaimo River estuary mid evening, with crepuscular birds on my mind...
As it happened, it stayed lighter longer than I'd anticipated!
So, as is often the case as this time of day, it was pretty quiet passerine-wise - just a couple of singing white-crowned sparrows and the occasional American robin.
Oh, and my favourite starling. This bird, currently nesting in the big oak, does a fabulous impression of a red-tailed hawk. So good, that it took me several days before I figured out what was going on! Reminds me of the one by an amusement arcade on Morecambe's seafront, back in the 80s, that used to do a cracking Space Invaders. European starlings are particularly fond of mimicking curlews, too...
Anyhoo - back to the estuary, and a female northern harrier was sat out on a snag on the marsh, later a beautiful ghostly male bird also spent a few minutes hunting over the marsh.
At least 12 greater yellowlegs were on the river.

At lunchtime, on my daily stroll to the Mafeo Sutton Park, I noted a pair of black oystercatcher, bald eagle, the regular male Anna's hummingbird and a yellow-rumped warbler.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Snakes in the grass

Jenny and I took a leisurely walk to Hemer Park this afternoon, enjoying the sunshine.

There wasn't too much going on bird-wise, though I did come across my first orange-crowned warblers of the year (at last...).
Along the way we saw pileated woodpecker, rufous hummingbird, varied thrush, hooded merganser, ring-necked duck, lesser scaup, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, bald eagle, plus the usual other bits and bobs.
We got ace views of red-breasted nuthatch, which I never seem to tire of. Mind you, given that I spent several very, very cold hours trampling around Holkham, Norfolk, on New Years' Day 1990 for what turned out to be a 3 second look at one (still the only UK record), a good look at one is always most welcome. I was with my brother Dave (who also saw it, and my mate Adrian 'Ziggy' Dawson (who didn't - I suspect he will quietly rejoice when he finally adds this species to his life list on a forthcoming visit to Canada! 20 years is a long time...) Ziggy also has a blog, which sometimes includes birds (!) -

One of the best things today was the number of garter snakes we encountered. I've never seen as many snakes, and the variety in colours was astonishing.
The attached pic shows, what I assume is a male (the smaller one) mating with a female - at least 3 other males of various sizes and colour were involved in this serpentine orgy.
The pair in flagrante seemed unconcerned by our attentions, while the 'onlookers' were somewhat cautious.
Fascinating stuff.

Later, I popped down to the estuary, which was very quiet.
The highlight was, at least 15 greater yellowlegs on the river. At one point they all took noisily to the air - quite impressive for a Brit Birder in BC!    

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Bluebird morning

Boy, that breeze was a cold one this morning! The radiant sunshine didn't half take time delivering some warmth...
Anyhoo, one of the first things spotted down at the Nanaimo River estuary was yet another mountain bluebird. Again, this 'fresh-in' male was favouring the posts, close to the stranded logs. I then noticed another bird further along the posts - this turned out to be a female, and I had no sooner seen this when another female appeared! A 3 bluebird morning. As I was watching these, Ralph Hocken arrived and he was soon getting shots of the birds. One may assume that his pics will be somewhat better than mine here...
I headed off, leaving Ralph with the bluebirds, and headed up along the hedge in search of, let's say, less obvious migrants. As it happens, it was a bit of a waste of time, as the best I could find were 2 purple finches.
Walking back a pair of barn swallow passed me, low to the ground - my first of the year.
Then, as I scanned ahead I noticed a female American kestrel hovering distantly over the marsh. Cool.
Hoping that Ralph had also picked it up, I watched it as it attempted to hunt, before being bothered by a raven. Then I noticed ANOTHER bluebird - a male again. Was this the same bird as earlier, having moved a way? It looked a lot brighter than the bird before...
When I caught up with Ralph he mentioned that the kestrel had spooked the bluebirds and sent them scattering. Oh, well, I thought - that answers my question!
A male rufous hummingbird whizzed past, making the species' debut on my estuary list. Not that I actually have an estuary list as such, but you know what I mean...
I went to check the river and river mouth, and coming back round I noticed that the bluebirds had returned to the original spot. Then I noticed the really bright male and the earlier male were both present, and there were in fact 4 birds in total. Excellent stuff.

I headed round to Holden Creek for a quick recce.
3 killdeer were on the creek itself, and 3 turkey vultures (pictured right) were cruising up and down. Scanning over the marsh I noticed an American pipit feeding. As I checked the area, I soon located a further 7 birds - another year-tick!      

Friday, 9 April 2010

Let Osprey...

Well, it was really, really quiet when I arrived at the Nanaimo River estuary this evening. Took me ages to find anything to look at, a female northern harrier was a welcome sight when it finally showed up.
Passerines were startlingly quiet, it was as if someone had been down there with a big bird hoover...
As I was trundling back along the hedge, having decided on abandoning play (approx 6.50pm), I glanced round (as I do from time to time) and I spotted an interesting looking bird, quite high up, heading toward the marsh from the south east. An osprey - my first of the year. Lovely, that'll do to save the day! It carried on, determined but unhurried, over Nanaimo and on northward.

Perked up by this, I headed round to Holden Creek for a peek. A couple of killdeer were out on the marsh, but other than a few bufflehead, a heron, and a red-tailed hawk (pic above), it was pretty unremarkable. Good sunset, though.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bright & breezy...

It was very bright this morning down at the Nanaimo River estuary, and relatively calm behind the long hedge... Darned breezy, and nippy, when out in the open though!
Not too much evidence of movement, with just 1 yellow-rumped warbler showing - nothing to suggest that this was newly arrived.
Savannah sparrows, again, were all over the place and a northern shrike was hunting from the posts.
Several juv. bald eagles were floating around, and a sharp-shinned hawk scattered the crossbills and siskins by the viewing platform.
A couple of white-fronted geese came over.
The greater yellowlegs on the river, now number 13.

Didn't feel especially spring like....

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Good anser.

It was cool, wet and windy down at the estuary this evening and the birding was, consequently, rather dull.
I was joined by a male yellow-rumped warbler, which curiously kept pace with me as I walked along the long hedge but it was just about the only bird I saw!
A grey-goose-honking drew my attention to 5 white-fronted geese out on the marsh. They proceeded to take off and headed north, only to return several minutes later. Presumably, they didn't like the look of Nanaimo.
The local pheasant was squawking away from the field and a handful of violet-green swallow were zipping around.
Just 3 greater yellowlegs were on the river, as were several common mergansers (pictured - they'll always be goosanders to me) and 16 gadwall.  


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Friendly, neighbourhood web-slingers

It was absolutely lovely down on the Nanaimo River estuary this morning, with the early sunshine illuminating the hundreds of spider webs, low in the weedy vegetation and as far as the eye could see. Which, given the great light, was actually quite far.  
My theory about the savannah sparrows was totally unfounded - there were loads of of them, singing from every available twig, stump and bush. Presumably, they just shut up and go into hiding early in the evening.
A female northern harrier was preening on a snag out on the marsh, while a northern shrike was occupying the posts previously favoured by the bluebird.
There were a couple of singing white-crowned sparrows, while a few more were back in with the golden-crowned. The flock was scattered, and feeding on the ground this morning and difficult to go through, so I wasn't able to locate the white-throated.
7 greater yellowlegs were on the river. Then it was 8.30am and I had to go to work... p'ah.

At lunchtime, I clocked the male Anna's hummingbird at Mafeo Sutton Park, plus a singing yellow-rumped warbler was down there.

Jenny, Chrissie and I went for an early evening wander to Hemer Park, but it wasn't overly birdy. As usual, great to hear varied thrushes singing away from the depths of the forest. A pair of wood duck, 3 ring-necked duck and 4 hooded merganser were on the pool. On the walk back we got buzzed by a rufous hummer and a Cooper's hawk flew up onto the telegraph wires beside us (see pic). A little further along a merlin was sat up in a conifer near the house.

Monday, 5 April 2010

No blue Monday

Had a post work trawl around a very quiet estuary this evening (6pm-7.30pm).
No sign of the mountain bluebird. I suppose conditions last night were suitable for it to have cleared off...
There weren't even any savannah sparrows to be seen or heard - was the recent influx made up of northbound, off-passage birds?

A northern shrike was hunting from the hawthorns in the fields and a couple of flickers were kicking around.
A single white-crowned sparrow was singing away, but there were no crossbills or golden-crowned sparrows around.
The tide was way out, as were the gulls and wildfowl...
8 greater yellowlegs (one of which is pictured here) were on a shingle spit on the river.
Good numbers of violet-green swallow and just 1 tree swallow were whizzing around.
As usual, a few bald eagles were cruising around.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

There'll be bluebirds over.. etc etc

Despite the overnight rain, there was no sign of any grounded migrants on the Nanaimo River estuary this morning.
Once again, the long hedge was disappointingly bereft of avian action.

An early dog-walker was patrolling the mountain bluebird posts, which resulted in the bird being in a different area, feeding around some tide stranded old logs. I managed a few more snaps, one of which you can see here.
A female northern harrier was hunting over the marsh and passed close by, giving great views.
The distinctive call of a greater yellowlegs alerted me to a single bird flying overhead, from the river.
Again the white-throated sparrow was with the golden-crowned flock, and white-crowned sparrows were in good voice. Crossbills were again much in evidence and were joined by pine siskins, as they were yesterday. Oh, and the mighty cock pheasant was crowing away from the fields...

An early evening visit to Quennell Lake was unremarkable - 49 shoveler, 20 lesser scaup and a handful of teal, pintail, bufflehead, common merganser and mallard.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Bluebird of happiness

Managed an early morning visit to the Nanaimo River estuary, before being encouraged to go for a nice day out on Saltspring Island - a place where I consistently see no birds of interest.

Anyway, upon arrival it was apparent that there were good numbers of savannah sparrow on territory, with birds singing from every available spot. I was surprised to rediscover the golden-crowned sparrow flock (14 birds) and the attendant white-throated sparrow, which I'd assumed had departed. An influx of white-crowned sparrows was also evident, again a number of birds were in song.
A group of violet-green swallow were roosting in the big oak (see pic.).
The mountain bluebird was still present out on the posts. Presumably the same bird, despite my not seeing it yesterday - it must have been keeping its head down.
A check along the hedgerow revealed just 1 female yellow-rumped warbler.

There were good numbers of red crossbill (see pic), including recently fledged young, around - plus a couple of pine siskins.
I could hear yellowlegs, frequently calling from somewhere on the river but I didn't spend any time looking for them. Noticed a handful of gadwall dabbling around the waterlogged fields.
Left the site around 8.30am and decided to check Holden Creek. No sign of yesterday's white-fronts, or even the Euro wigeon. A single northern shrike was hunting along the creek, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. As usual, there were plenty of green-winged teal present, plus 3 hooded merganser.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Bad Friday becomes Reasonably Good Friday

Vile weather today. We were desperate to show Jenny's sister Chrissie why we chose to move half way across the world to live here (difficult under the circumstances; packed ferries from Vancouver to Duke Point, that we couldn't get on, and had to catch one to Victoria then drive up island in the rain and dark, a night of violent storms, the whole morning with no electricty, etc), so we elected to go for a walk to Jack Point. At least, we thought, we might have a little shelter there... and we did. The birding was crap however, with nothing of particular note taking shelter from the wind and rain.

Having enjoyed a leisurely, late lunch at the Crow & Gate pub, I'm still toying with the idea of a soggy, breezy, visit to the estuary. We'll see... *see below

So, in the meantime let's look at the mystery bird. Didn't fool anyone with that one, did I?
100% of participants, were in favour of what was quite clearly an American robin - until a last minute vote for spotted towhee fudged the figure. I assume it was some wag, having a laugh? Very good, have an extra point for that. If you genuinely thought it was a towhee - you really need to stop wasting your time looking at blogs like this, and more time reading your field guides.
So, to your left is the new one. Let's see what you make of this... enjoy!

*Late breaking news... 

Well, I succumbed to the call and headed of to the Nanaimo River estuary early evening. Dodging the wind-felled trees along Raines Road, I noticed a bunch of herons once again feeding in a field. One of these days I'll have to figure out just what it is these birds are eating. Oh, and someone's buckled, twisted trampoline was also in the field, having 'flown' in from somewhere...

Anyhoo - it was cold, wet and windy and I only found a single yellow-rumped warbler in half an hour's searching along the long hedge. I went over to the riverside and while I was scanning through the tree and violet-green swallows I heard a sound that made my brain yell 'greenshank' - my newly acquired bit of Canadian grey matter immediately corrected 30 odd years of Euro-doctrination and replied 'yellowlegs'! I looked round, and here they came; 5 greater yellowlegs, swiftly followed by another 4. Lovely.
By 7pm, I decided to head for a quick check of Holden Creek. A soggy juv. peregrine was sat up in a dead tree and a red-tailed hawk was cruising the fields. Another red-tailed was having a minor conflict with a female northern harrier over the marsh.
Checking through the Canada geese in the fields, I noticed 3 white-fronted geese among them. A drake Eurasian wigeon was dabbling with approximately 140 American wigeon and a handful of pintail out in the flooded fields.

When I got home I noticed my newly erected hummer feeder had a pair of rufous hummingbirds tending to it. My first of the year!