Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ocean Waves Pay Dividends

Now that I'm thankfully back in the routine of working during the week, my birding has, unfortunately, taken something of a back seat.
On the plus side, my new employers are located in the City of Langford, and the building is right next to Langford Lake. So, I've managed a couple of exploratory lunch breaks checking out this spot. As yet, I haven't seen much to get excited about, but the habitat looks very promising. The birds that I have seen include: lesser scaup, common loon, American coot, Townsend's warbler, ruby-crowned kinglet, osprey, bald eagle and such relatively common stuff. On Friday, there was even a 30ish strong flock of pine siskin flying around the area. Be interesting to see what I can turn up in the coming weeks and months...
Having completed my first week with FTS, I got home on Friday and managed to squeeze in a swift visit to the Government House grounds.

There were reasonable numbers of birds about, the most notable being an influx of ruby-crowned kinglet. They were all over the place! Good numbers of yellow-rumped warblers were seen and heard, but I couldn't find any other warbler species. At least 5 hermit thrush were present, and fox sparrow numbers seem to have increased. A single Lincoln's sparrow was found, and an impressive flock of feeding golden-crowned sparrows and dark-eyed juncos totalled around 60 birds.I also came across the first band-tailed pigeons that I have seen in the grounds (pictured).

All At Sea

Bait-ball Action!
On Saturday I joined the VNHS (Victoria Natural History Society) pelagic out of Victoria, to Race Rocks off the coast of Sooke.
We were out for around 5 hours and we hit into some pretty good birds.
Gull species were well accounted for, mainly thanks to a couple of sizable bait-balls attracting throngs of the garrulous birds. Thayer's, glaucous-winged, mew, Heermann's, California, western and Bonaparte's were all present.

Mew Gull
Alcids too were thick on the surface with many 100s of common murres, reasonable numbers of rhinoceros auklet, a few pigeon guilemots and best of all - up 8 ancient murrelet.
Now, here was the first lifer I've had in ages. For a reason I can't even begin to remember, I didn't twitch the Lundy (Devon, UK) one back in the early 90s so this species has been very high on my 'wants' list for some time...

Ancient murrelets
The first pair were picked up very close to the boat, and allowed for great views. By the time I reached for my camera however (well, I really wanted to have a good look at the pretty little enigmas), they'd dived, and resurfaced some distance away. Hence the crappy photo here.
Red-necked phalaropes and phalarope sp. were seen frequently, as were a few Pacific loons, and Ian Cruikshank picked up a lovely fork-tailed storm petrel as it rose from the water's surface just ahead of the boat. We got excellent views, albeit rather briefly, as it took off and flew just off the bow, and headed away.
We could see large kettles of turkey vultures soaring around the Beechey Head area, and among them several red-tailed hawks, plus sharp-shined hawks, an osprey and other unidentified raptors (not easy to be thorough when you're trying to go through 100s of vultures, at distance, on a boat...!).

As we arrived back in the harbour mouth on our return we spotted a common tern sat on a piece of driftwood. Once very common passage birds in this area, today they are quite a rarity in Victoria's waters and the bird was a very fitting end to an excellent day's birding.
Well worth the trip, I may well do another soon!

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