Tuesday, 7 September 2010

That Was The Weekend That Was

Crumbs - I've a bit of catching up to do...

So, Friday morning I headed off to the Nanaimo River estuary for a spot of pre-work spotting.
Arrived to find the place positively jumping with sparrows. I estimated around 100 birds in the area of the weedy field approaching the big oak, and the crab-apples and hawthorns beyond the tree. The majority were white-crowned and savannah, but I saw up to 8 Lincoln's too. There were also a couple of song sparrows and house finches loosely associating with them. By 8am, they'd all but melted away.
One each of willow and what looked like a Pacific-slope flycatcher were seen as were a number of cedar waxwings. A lone common yellowthroat also put in an appearance.
A number of mallard and a dozen or so green-winged teal were on the river, as were California, mew and glaucous-winged gulls.

Island Life

We headed over to Newcastle Island on Saturday, for a couple of days camping. Didn't really do a lot of birding but I did see my first 'fall' fox sparrow, and of course, plenty of black oystercatchers. Otherwise, I had to get excited about a lone black-throated grey warbler amongst a chickadee/nuthatch flock and not much else. I did, however, get a mammal tick. Black rat. Rattus rattus. Or roof rat, as I believe it is called in Canada. These things are pretty scarce these days in Britain, and only a few colonies on offshore islands guarantee sightings. I don't think they're very widespread in Canada, to be honest, and I was rather enchanted by this rodent. A lot prettier than the brown (Norwegian) rat, this fellow spent a good deal of time in our camp.

New Mooney On Monday

Popped down to Holden Creek after I returned from a damp Newcastle Island on Monday (a statutory holiday here in good old Canuckland). Bumped into Rich Mooney, who saved me the job of creeping out over the marsh, he himself having just done so. Cheers Rich! He hadn't seen a thing. Other than the handful of least and western sandpipers that were feeding in the sluiced creek right by the path. Well, that's not strictly true, he'd seen the usual merlin, red-tailed hawk etc.
So, we decided to head around to Raines Rd, and to check the estuary there.
It wasn't too birdy, but we had a decent trundle around in our search for avian thrills. Just as we arrived back near the big oak, we flushed a collared dove. Being naturally utterly unimpressed by this species, we didn't really look at it - just acknowledged its presence.
It landed in a weed-filled gravel area a short distance away, so while Rich went to photograph a Lincoln's sparrow in the hawthorns, I decided to check out the dove. With mentions by Guy Monty of hybrid dove species, I thought I might as well have a look at the thing, having only seen one collared dove at this site previously.
Unfortunately the bird flushed again, at distance. By the time I got my bins on it, it was almost over the river but I got the distinct impression of a scaley mantle and a diamond shaped tail. Buggar! Was this my first Vancouver Island mourning dove? I hadn't noticed whether it had dark primaries, or much else to be honest, and Rich couldn't recall noticing either when we first glanced at it with the naked eye. With mourning dove off my 'island radar', I didn't even consider it! That'll teach me for being sloppy... Good job it isn't a lifer.


A post-work wander revealed little this evening. The juv northern harrier was hunting over the flooded marsh, while up to a dozen great-blue herons searched for prey in the boggy channels. I didn't see a single shorebird.
I met another birder, by the name of Joyce, who was visiting the Nanaimo estuary for the first time. Hopefully, another pair of regular eyes down here will help add a few decent sightings in the coming weeks.         


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