Monday, 25 July 2011

A Tale of Two Tattlers - Brit Birders on Shore(bird) leave

On Sunday I was joined by my chum Rich Mooney, who had decided he wanted to do some birding around Victoria in advance of his pending return to England after several years in BC.
I had a bit of work to do, so we didn't get out until midday, but nevertheless, we had a great afternoon and managed to clock up some 13 species of shorebird.

We started out at Panama Flats and soon located a small gathering of feeding waders, in the first of the two remaining larger pools. Here were saw 1 greater and 2 lesser yellowlegs (one pictured below, in comedy pose), 5 dowitchers (silent, but we suspected were long-billed), a spotted sandpiper, 15 least sandpiper, 1 western sandpiper, 1 semi-palmated sandpiper and a pectoral sandpiper (pictured above). Not a bad start!
The next pool was somewhat quieter with just another spotted sandpiper and 2 more greater yellowlegs.
We walked around the southern perimeter, and in a ditch just below Carey Road we came across another trio of greater yellowlegs and a family party of spotted sandpipers (1 ad, 3 juvs). We also had ace looks at lots of common whitetail dragonflies, and saw a meadowhawk sp. and a couple of unidentified darners... and western tiger swallowtail.

There were fewer killdeers present than on my last visit, with just a small family group seen. We came across another juv spotted sandpiper, and made our way down the central bund, once again grilling the small group of scattered waders we had initially encountered. 
Satisfied with our haul, we headed to the coast, stopping first at Oak Bay Marina. The wonderful sunny weather had brought out the crowds and the birds were pretty thin on the ground. We added black oystercatcher to the growing shorebirds list, and also noted the usual pigeon guillemots offshore.

Hoping that the wandering tattler was still in the Ogden Point area, we decided to check it out. Again the hordes were out enjoying the sunshine but we soon located the tattler roosting on a rock below the breakwater. And next to it - another tattler! (pair pictured)
We had a quick scan around the harbour, noting 11 black turnstone on the Pier A wall, along with more black guillemots.
We headed back with the intention of walking along the breakwater so that we could look down onto the tattlers but soon noticed that they had disappeared from the rocks. As we passed the pilot boats we relocated them, just feet away from us. One of the birds was quite vocal, and they showed wonderfully in the bright sunlight.
Next stop was Clover Point. From here we spotted rhinoceros auklets, a common murre, more pigeon guillemots and 8 surf scoter offshore. A lone Heermann's gull sailed by, and we were rather surprised to see a flotilla of 26 red-necked phalarope feeding on the water's surface.

So all in all, a wonderful afternoon's birding. There was a real sense that things are really starting to change, and that autumn's just around the corner... It was good fun to get out with Rich for what may have been our last Canadian field excursion together!

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