Saturday, 19 February 2011

Cedar Big Day

Although admittedly not the best time of the day for birding, I managed to spend most of the afternoon out at various local spots. It was a little breezy and cool, but gloriously bright and clear. 
I started out by trying to relocate the large swan flock that was by Adshead Road, Cedar last week but after driving around for a while it seemed apparent that they'd either moved on or were somewhere out of site.
I then made my way to Quennel Lake. A male American kestrel was hunting by the roadside (pictured) and before long an adult female northern harrier came by. The drake common teal was still present, as were the 2 intergrades, in among a few green-winged teal and pintail (the latter pictured below).
A flock of 96 lesser scaup were on the water, occasionally spooked by 2 gun-toting chaps in a boat who were patrolling the lake - I didn't see them actually shooting at anything, so heaven knows what their intended quarry was. Other wildfowl included common mergansers, bufflehead, hooded mergansers, ring-necked ducks and a couple of common goldeneye.

I then made a quick visit to Blue Heron Park at Yellowpoint. Remembering the reasonable seawatching that could be had from when I lived out there, I thought I'd see what was bobbing around on the sea.
As it happened, not much. A single common loon, and a handful of American wigeon were pretty much it. A pair of black oystercatcher were noisily interacting with one another on the rocks. The rather poor pic here shows the male.

My next port of call was Holden Creek. The highlights here were two northern shrikes, one hunting around the fields, the other along the hawthorns to the rear of the marsh. There were few ducks to see; the presence of 3 hunters at the back of the marsh soon explained that!
The Nanaimo River estuary beckoned and I headed to Raines Road. I was quietly pleased to see just one car parked up when I got there.
I first headed along the long hedge, scanning over the marsh as I went. Songbirds were notable only by their absence. A party of distant ravens, obviously mobbing something, drew my attention to a passing turkey vulture - my first of the spring!
I then noticed a short-eared owl hunting in the fields between the houses and the hedge. It gave brilliant views, and in fact showed frequently over the next couple of hours. A pair of northern harrier also showed well. At one point the pair were interacting, the male even attempting a food pass, but an irritated red-tailed hawk took exception and harassed them until they went their separate ways. I wonder if some harriers pair up on the wintering grounds before heading off to breeding sites?
A group of 8 western meadowlark added a welcome splash of colour to proceedings, unquestionably taking the award for best passerine of the day.
Two belted kingfisher, one each male and female, were hunting around the area. 
I walked out to the marsh edge and scanned through the wildfowl. Although greatly reduced in number, there were still plenty of American wigeon and green-winged teal, plus smaller numbers of mallard, gadwall, pintail, bufflehead and common goldeneye.
A very convincing western gull flew by and a party of 8 trumpeter swans were snoozing on the marsh. As always, several bald eagles were kicking around.
All in all, a pretty rewarding afternoon's birding.

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