Friday, 2 September 2011

Fall birding picks up a pace...

Popped down to the Government House grounds this morning in search of passage migrants. Didn't discover anything too thrilling, but there were certainly numbers of birds present.
In among a couple of bushtit flocks I came across at least 8 Wilson's warblers, 1 very grey-headed orange-crowned warbler (without a tail), 2 willow flycatchers and a drab female western tanager. Of course, the regular chestnut-backed chickadees, brown creepers, red-breasted nuthatches and what-have-you were all in attendance too.

A sharp-shinned hawk came through, hotly pursued by a trio of angry Anna's hummingbirds.
Otherwise, the other highlight was a very noisy young racoon (or racoonlet, as I like to call them) that was clambering around in an oak, while its mother kept watch below. It wouldn't keep still enough for a good pic, so here's the best I could manage.

In the evening I nipped down to Clover Point to see what was going on. Gulls. That's what was going on. Thousands of gulls. The rocks below the point were covered with glaucous-winged and California gulls, with about half a dozen Heermann's gulls thrown in. Offshore, birds simply carpeted the water. Among the large rafts of gulls were good numbers of rhinoceros auklets, common murres, a few pigeon guillemots and at least 5 marbled murrelets.

Small groups of red-necked phalaropes were moving around, and a string of phalaropes were picking delicately at the surface. I counted a total of 106. Here's a fuzzy picture of just 2 of them.
As the tide continued to rise, a moulting adult black-bellied plover flew in, joining 4 black turnstone on the rocks.

Thursday Coastal Birds
In between various bits of more important stuff, I managed a couple of hours of coastal birding yesterday.
Starting off at Clover Point, I just about managed to check through the roosting gulls before the rock-jumping hordes and cavorting canines did their best to rid the area entirely of avian life.

Among the multitude of California and glaucous-winged gulls were 9 Heermann's gulls, 5 mew gulls and a single Bonaparte's gull (pictured). Yet more gulls were scattered around offshore but the lingering morning fog made seawatching a waste of time. Within range, I could just about make out good numbers of rhinoceros auklets and common murres, but little else.
Heading along the coast toward Oak Bay I made a few stops at likely looking spots, but found little more than I'd seen at Clover Point.
At Oak Bay Marina things picked up a little. The big yellow rocky island, so beloved of roosting shorebirds, was once again the focus of attention. 'Scoping from Turkey Head, I counted 83 black-bellied plover, 1 dowitcher, 14 black turnstone and a surfbird. At one point the plovers all took to the air, showing a full complement of black axillaries, ruling out the presence of any attendant golden plovers.

On the beach, a group of 7 killdeer were feeding alongside a single spotted sandpiper. Nearby several black oystercatchers were seen, with a further 3 killdeer. 4 greater yellowlegs were feeding along the shore. 
Although I take killdeer totally for granted these days, it's not all that long ago that had I received a call telling me that one was running around on Heysham Golf Course, I'd have been off like a shot to see it. With that in mind, here's a nice pic of one of the Oak Bay birds, just to remind myself of just how smart they really are (and to rub my Brit birder buddies' noses in it a bit...).


  1. Are you using a new camera now Jon?

  2. No, mainly still using my little point and shoot Nikon Coolpix S9 held up to my 'scope eyepiece. It's not an exact science!
    I did use Jen's new Nikon Coolpix L120 for the racoon shot, and any insect pics that I've posted recently.
    Reading your blog, looks like you're getting right back into British birding! And the autumn's only going to bring more amazing birds your way... enjoy!

  3. Right on Jon. Point and shoots are fun! Enjoying blighty and its birds. Looks like you are still busy picking through the shorebirds. Glad you hooked up with Mike: top bloke! Cheers mate...