Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Birding in the Nanaimo Area

Yesterday, Jenny had to go up-island to deliver some pieces to Chemainus Theatre Gallery for an up-coming exhibition of her work. After which, she needed to go to Nanaimo for the afternoon on business -so, being the loyal husband that I am, I decided to accompany her. Well, when I say accompany her I mean on the journey - as soon as we got to Nanaimo, I dropped her off and went straight to Holden Creek. After all, if I'm going to take a day off, I may as well make it worth my while, eh? Oh, and on the way we saw an American kestrel hunting at Nanaimo airport.

The tide was way out, and thanks to the below par weather the mosquitoes were just about tolerable. While I lamented the fact that it was a little too late for northbound shorebirds, and a little too early for post/non-breeding birds I still enjoyed trudging around, checking the muddy pools and creeks.
I counted a total of 7 spotted sandpiper (pictured) and 3 killdeer. With every step I wondered what had passed through a couple of weeks ago, unnoticed and unrecorded...
The expected swallows were all present in fair numbers: cliff, barn, violet-green, tree and northern rough-winged. American goldfinches seemed especially conspicuous, and other typical birds of the area were seen and heard including yellow warbler, Swainson's thrush, red-tailed hawk, purple finch, northern flicker and willow flycatcher (pictured).

I then paid a visit to the Nanaimo River estuary, where the undoubted highlight was a group of 17 Caspian terns out on the mudflats. Another couple of spotted sandpiper were present here, with a fine displaying male. Again, the regular swallows were all busy feeding over the river and turkey vultures and bald eagles punctuated the overcast sky.
A western wood-pewee was a nice surprise - in almost the exact same spot that I found one last spring! Common yellowthroat, white-crowned sparrow and more goldfinches added to the list.

With an hour left to kill before collecting Jen, I decided to pay a visit to Buttertubs Marsh.
Few birds were on the water; a few mallard, 3 hooded merganser and around 20 or so wood duck (drake pictured), including a female with a brood. A pied-billed grebe with 2 stripey headed youngsters was a nice sight. The vegetation around the pools was exploding with the constant sound of singing yellowthroats, marsh wrens and red-winged blackbirds while song sparrows and yellow warblers did their best to compete from the thickets. A male brown-headed cowbird posed nicely for a pic.

Incidentally, I came across a yellowthroat feeding a young cowbird - as with cuckoos back in Britain, I'm always amazed at the evolutionary genius of brood parasitism. How do these birds 'identify' themselves as cowbirds once they leave their foster parents? How do they avoid having their host species imprinted upon them? Brilliant, sinister stuff...
Meanwhile, an osprey was sat upon the nest-free 'osprey platform'. Other birds of note included California quail, cedar waxwings and a pair of highly vocal Eurasian collared doves.

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