Monday, 2 August 2010

Brit Birder on BC Day.

Happy BC Day! (does that stand for, Birding, Crap Day?)
As it happens, the birding wasn't crap as such, just slightly dull. But it is early August after all...

Jenny and I decided to spend the statutory holiday exploring somewhere new, so we checked the backroads map book and headed west. We followed the Nanaimo River Rd until we got passed First Lake and decided to have a wander around. Finding good walking trails seemed difficult, so we headed back, stopping off here and there as we went. At one point, we had up to 6 common nighthawks flying around calling, and seemingly displaying. This was late morning, and the birds gave us excellent views.
After following a few more dead end trails, we stopped and ate lunch at a curious, seemingly abandoned campsite.
signal crayfish
Heading back along the road we turned off and found a car park, with access to the Nanaimo River. We had a good walk around here, and even indulged in a little paddling. Noticing lots of discarded crayfish body parts (presumably the work of local raccoons), around the water's edge I decided to do a little searching myself, and soon found the fella in the pic. I expect these are signal crayfish - the ones that UK naturalists don't like for their impact on declining native species there. Here in Canada, though, they're where they belong, and I was rather pleased to find the wee chap.
Bird-wise we didn't see or hear much, other than Steller's jays and the odd bushtit, chickadee etc.
There were many butterflies around, unfortunately I was unarmed and most went unidentified. We came across good numbers of a medium size butterfly that was very dark, and on the underwing showed 'eyes' that looked like an orange figure of 8, with white dots in the counters - a common name would be very welcome, if anyone out there wishes to provide one!

willow flycatcher
Later, I took my almost-daily trek to Holden Creek to maintain my attempt at monitoring (very casually, I might add) the ongoing shorebird passage, and site use.
There were scattered least sandpipers around, probably 38 in total, they were highly mobile and unusually skittish. At one point they were all on the creek but were zipping about between there and the rancid mosquito-infested pool I now refer to as The Bog Of Eternal Stench. A party of 7 lesser yellowlegs were also on the creek and just 3 killdeer were on the marsh.
A scruffy willow flycatcher was preening near the raised observation area (see pic) and lots of house finch, white-crowned sparrow and American goldfinch families were whizzing around.


  1. I'm across the waterways from you over in the San Juan Islands, and it's interesting to read about what you're seeing over there on Vancouver Island - a place I would love to do some more traveling as I have only visited the Victoria area. I'm out on the water a lot and the sea bird sightings have been picking up a bit as we near the autumn, but I would sure love to see/hear some nighthawks!

    I'm just learning the regional butterflies myself, but what you describe sounds like it could be a common alpine (Erebia epipsodea)?

  2. Hi Monika

    Thanks for your message. Yep, you're spot on with the Common Alpine - checked it out and it certainly matches. It's related to, and not unlike some of, the European 'ringlet' butterflies. I really must buy a field guide to Pacific NW butterflies...

    Here's hoping that you come across a nighthawk soon!

    All the best