Friday, 1 July 2011

Black Thursday

After a few days of hardly doing any notable birding, yesterday I decided to give Ian Cruikshank a call to see if he fancied trying to relocate the black phoebe reported on Wednesday at Mystic Pond. What was presumably the same bird had been found up the coast in Sidney on Monday, and while I couldn't be bothered going up the peninsula to see a bird I've seen before, now that it was closer to home I rather fancied having a look for it. Plus, I knew that Ian had dipped on it on Tuesday.
So, once I finished working I picked Ian from his home and we headed over to the aforementioned, brilliantly named, Mystic Pond.
We were entertained by the nesting great-blue herons, and violet-green swallows as they skimmed over the water's surface, but had neither sight nor sound of the phoebe. We checked out the beach area, and a few nearby spots that might harbour a hungry vagrant flycatcher but had no luck.
Ian pointed out Ten Mile Point, a rocky promontory we could see, and suggested it might be worth a visit as it's a pretty good if under watched seawatching spot.

And so we did. Upon arrival, we set up scopes and started checking the water. After a couple of minutes, a rather excited Ian beckoned me over. As I got close, he asked (somewhat rhetorically, one presumes) "Are these black terns?" to which I replied with a resounding yes. And indeed there they were, 3 black terns actively feeding over the water by a small lighthouse.
There were two obvious adults in breeding plumage and another odd-looking bird which we now think was probably a second summer bird (Adult left, sub-adult right, pictured).
Although familiar with black terns in Europe I had never seen the distinctive American form, and I was rather pleased with this discovery. But it was only Ian's obvious giddy delight that hinted just how big a deal it was to see this species on Vancouver Island.

We made a few calls and eventually the first birders started to arrive  - and I witnessed my first Victoria twitch! Unfortunately, I had to leave just after 8pm and I abandoned Ian to scrounge a ride home from another benevolent birder.
Among other decent birds seen here were an early Heerman's gull (pictured, extremely badly), a couple of fly-by white-winged scoters and the usual rhino auklets and what-not. 

Today (Friday), I spent a couple of hours checking a few places up and down the coast - somewhat inspired by yesterday's events. I didn't see much to get excited about, lots of rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, black oystercatchers etc. I even dropped in at Ten Mile Point, but there were few birds present. Perhaps the combination of a low tide and great Canada Day weather, with the resulting plethora of boats out on the water, helped keep the area bird-free...

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