Sunday, 9 October 2011

Larking Around

It was once again time for me to conduct my Coastal Waterbird Survey and after spending the morning with Jenny I headed out for Gonzales Point. The only problem was, there was a 28km marathon on, and almost every road I needed to go down was closed off. Added this inconvenience, was the fact that each of the 3 marshalls that I spoke to had no idea how to get around the joggers and to my destination. They all confessed to not being local and had no idea of any street names. Marvelous.
My 10 minute drive took 40 minutes, but on the upside I was just about the first person through onto the route as the marathon had come to an end by the time I'd arrived at Oak Bay! Consequently, there were fewer people and dogs around the coast as would normally be the case on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. Result.
The survey wasn't overly exciting, but did included the following highlights:
61 Bonaparte's gulls, 116 surf scoter, 35 black oystercatcher, 25 harlequin ducks, 4 horned and 2 red-necked grebes.
Various common alcids were counted, including a lowly single marbled murrelet.  
Shorebirds were extremely thin on the ground, with just the oystercatchers and handful of black turnstones seen. Trail Island was hosting good numbers of black-bellied plover, but they were all outside my count area. 
I was surprised by the lack of passerine migrants, given that the trees on our street were positively dripping with yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets this morning... I was rather hoping to stumble across some Lapland longspurs (buntings in English), but I was out of luck.

Post-survey, I headed on to Cattle Point to have a look there. The parking area was rammed when I arrived, and any thoughts of feeding sparrow/bunting/finches rapidly evaporated.
I did find 5 savannah sparrows, but that was it.
Looking offshore there were well into double figures of marbled murrelets, plus the commoner species. Around 20 Bonaparte's gulls were feeding noisily over the water.

I went and checked the bluff in the south-west corner and was pleased to find a group of 4 horned larks. The birds were quite wary were seemingly used to the flow of people who were spectacularly ignoring them, and would resume feeding soon after being disturbed. Here's a badly digiscoped pic of one of the larks.

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