Sunday, 26 June 2011

Better Lake, Than Never

The Bridge at Swan Lake, Victoria
As far as many birders are concerned, the pace slows down quite a bit around this time of year. The majority of birds are busy with breeding duties, and other than the early movements of failed or non-breeders, the avian landscape changes relatively little from day to day. Of course, there's lots to observe and record in the way of nesting birds and such, but there's not much to get excited about as far as passage is concerned. This will all change soon enough, as the first shorebirds will start to appear, as they depart their Arctic breeding grounds and commence their journeys south.

In the meantime, it's usually a good time to get out and look for butterflies and dragonflies. Warm sunny days are best (not too many of those yet this year...) and better still, you don't have to get up particularly early to look for them!
With this in mind, I thought I'd go for walk around Swan Lake yesterday. I'd only been once before, briefly, just over a year ago and as I am currently a resident of the fair city of Victoria, I thought it was about time I reacquainted myself with this impressive reserve.
Unfortunately, the day was cooler than I'd hoped and somewhat overcast, with a few sunny spells here and there. Hence the target insects were all but absent.
Nonetheless, I walked the perimeter of the site for the first time and still saw some nice enough birds. Always a treat for a Brit birder, cedar waxwings were all around the reserve and are guaranteed to brighten any day. Better still was a lovely, singing black-headed grosbeak, the first I've seen this year. Yellow warbler, common yellowthroat, red-winged blackbird and other common species provided with me with plenty to look at on the way round.

They're geese. They're in Canada. They must be Canada geese.
The lake itself was very quiet, with just Canada geese and mallards present.
As I neared the end of my trail around the reserve I bumped into Chris Saunders, so we stopped and had a chat and did a bit of birding. While we were talking, a series of dark, foreboding clouds gathered and brought with them, as one would hope, swifts. First we picked up a couple of Vaux's swift, and soon noticed several black swifts as they moved through. Very nice. Also, while we were in the car park a young Cooper's hawk came by, upsetting the local robins, and a peregrine sailed over.
I'll make a point of getting up to this wonderful site more often, especially as autumn approaches and the birding really picks up again.

This morning (Sunday) I took a trundle around the Government House grounds, once again with butterflies on my mind. Sadly, other than a few tatty whites it was bereft of anything interesting. Birds-wise, the bushtits were extremely active, and one large feeding flock included some very recently fledged birds. It was great to see the 'extended' family members helping out with the feeding of these youngsters.
I walked on down to the waterfront and as I made my way along the pebble beach at Ross Bay I noticed a dark duck close offshore. I was somewhat surprised, once I got my bins on it, to see a very unseasonal drake black scoter. Its presence somewhat undermined my 'birding's crap at this time of year' theory... Also on the water were the more expected pigeon guillemots and rhinoceros auklets.    

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