Saturday, 8 January 2011

Whole Lotta Shootin' Goin' On

The morning was crisp and bright, and I headed down to the Nanaimo River estuary to see what was about. 3 trucks in the parking area suggested hunters, and sure enough there were camou-clad men out on the marsh.
I headed along the path running parallel to the long hedge. There were few passerines in the hawthorns; juncos, song sparrows, towhees, etc. I spotted a northern shrike hunting from a small tree some distance away but there was little else activity. 
On a flooded section of marsh there were hundreds of dabbling duck - mainly mallard and pintail with smaller numbers of American wigeon and gadwall. Approximately 30 trumpeter swans were in the area.

I headed toward the viewing tower for a general 'scope over the site. A juv northern harrier was hunting on the north side of the estuary.
Yet more hunters arrived.
Scanning the open water I could see rafts of common wildfowl, plus a few greater scaup and a couple of horned grebe.
I decided to check the estuary mouth and the shrubbery nearby but despite finding a sizable flock of golden-crowned sparrows, I couldn't dig anything more interesting than a fox sparrow out from among them. A short-eared owl cruised by, having been flushed from the marsh by dog-walkers, and headed for the relative peace afforded by the north side of the river.
Increasingly frustrated by the growing levels of disturbance, I left the area and took off toward Holden Creek.

Upon arrival, I could see a group of swans, geese and ducks feeding in the wet fields.
A single cackling goose and 5 greater white-fronted geese were among the Canadas. I scoped through the 360ish American wigeon dabbling in the partially flooded field but was disappointed, and a bit surprised, that no Eurasian wigeons were among them. I did find a hybrid drake, which sported features of both species.
Along the path, I was greeted by the sight of a hermit thrush and up to 30 American robins were searching for worms and such in the field by the farm.
Further out on the marsh, there were lots of green-winged teal and mallard, several gadwall (pictured) and more wigeon.
A peregrine passed through, clutching some hapless bird in its talons. Two red-tailed hawks were kicking around.
A couple of walkers crossed the far fields and headed along the creek embankment, flushing the swans, geese and ducks - just as three hunters appeared at the rear of the marsh and proceeded to shoot at the birds, bringing some down. I didn't see any attempt to retrieve the dead ducks.
Decidedly irked, I called it a day.

Later, Jenny and I took a walk down to Jack Point. The tide was quite low, so seabirds were pretty absent. Large rafts of disturbed wildfowl were sat just off the estuary, while several hunters still held territory on the marsh.
At the point, single black-bellied plover and black turnstone fed alongside 3 dunlin. Surf and white-winged scoter were seen offshore, as were common and Pacific loons.
A merlin was bombing up and down, and stopped briefly on a telegraph pole before a loud gunshot sent it off on its way.

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