Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Ruddy ducks head the list

Back in Cedar after the excitement of the big city, I was itching to get down to the Nanaimo River estuary. I haven't been able to get down there for a couple of weeks, at least, and I was keen to see what was about. It was a bit later in the day, than I'd have liked (just before 1pm), but I thought that the dropping tide might prove interesting. 
As I arrived at the end of Raines Road it looked like Leighton Moss car park on a Sunday afternoon. And before I even got out of the car, I could see a short-eared owl hunting in the near field. Then I realised why the parking area was so full; sunny day = nice owl pictures.
I actually thought that Prince William and Kate whatserface must have been here to see the owls too, given the barrage of lenses on the marsh and field perimeter. I had a very quick scout along the river edge but, to be honest, I prefer the place when it's quieter people-wise, and I'm sure that with all those keen eyes out there, nothing interesting was going to go unfound for long.
Returning to the car, I noticed that there were at least 3 short-eareds hunting over the fields. Presumably the marsh was a bit too busy for their liking too.

So, off to Holden Creek I went, and soon found myself alone with the birds.
A scan through the ducks on the flooded marsh revealed at least 12 gadwall among the 230 or so green-winged teal. Despite my best efforts, no common teal were seen among them. There were no wigeon or pintail present and only 20+ mallard. A couple of bufflehead, common goldeneye and hooded mergansers were on the creek.
Out on the marsh I could see some trumpeter swans, I counted 30 as they were flushed by a small group of people with an inexplicably large gang of little dogs.
A couple of northern shrike were hunting various areas (1 pictured, badly as ever) and 2 juv northern harriers were also patrolling the rear of the marsh. A couple of red-tailed hawks were kicking about, as were the customary bald eagles and a merlin.
Other than a Bewick's wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, and a flyover purple finch, passerines were represented by the usual juncos, towhees, golden-crowned and song sparrows, etc.

I decided to make a quick detour and check out Quennell Lake on my way home. Very few swans were present, as now seems to be the norm.
Good numbers of ring-necked duck, lesser scaup and common merganser were on the lake, plus a pair of ruddy duck. Even though they were quite far out, I'm pretty sure that they were a male and female.
There were also 5 American coot present.
The American kestrel was hunting from the roadside wires.

 Eider known you were coming, I'd have baked a cake...

...and for those of you who aren't aware of the thread on BCVI Birds forum regarding yesterday's eider sighting. It turns out that common eider, while having been recorded off Vancouver Island in the past has yet to be recorded in the Victoria area.

Naturally, this troubles me. I really cannot begin to imagine what else it could have been! It looked like a female eider. I remember saying to Jenny, "Hey, female eider - that's the first I've seen on the island".
Problem is, I didn't really pay as much attention to it as perhaps I should have done, just casually remarking to Jenny that I wasn't sure about the status of the species in this part of the world, but I presumed they were reasonably frequent. Why else would I be seeing one? Anyway, I've made some notes on what I saw, and will submit them. As I write this I'm not aware of anyone relocating it. Or even looking for it, for that matter! (Though I'm sure someone will have done).
Anyway, having set something of a cat among the pigeons, here's a pic I took moments after seeing the duck, of a black turnstone among the pigeons.


  1. I had a good look today Jon at Clover Point but had no luck with the eider. Hopefully someone in Victoria will relocate it. I did see someone down there but they were looking for hybrid gulls...

  2. Cheers Rich. It's a pain, I was really hoping that someone would relocate the bird by now. Unfortunately there weren't any other birders at Clover Point when I was there, or I would have at least been able to ask them about the frequency of the species in the area!
    Given the history of twitchable seabirds, we shouldn't give up just yet - it may reappear somewhere soon...