Sunday, 23 October 2011

'Owls of Delight...

Well, this working 5 days a week is certainly having an effect on my birding life... No time to get out in the mornings and none in the evenings, makes the weekends extra special.
Though, I have been grabbing a few short lunch breaks around Langford Lake, near my workplace and I've clocked up some decentish birds in the last couple of weeks.
Highlights so far have included common loon, pied-billed grebe, lesser scaup, American coot, opsrey, merlin, bald eagle, varied thrush, hermit thrush, belted kingfisher, Townend's warbler, fox sparrow, and the like.
If I can manage a couple of visits a week it'll at least stop me from going completely mad.

Friday night, it absolutely pelted down and I woke on Saturday morning, expecting a thoroughly rainy day. As it turned out, it brightened up early on and in between occasional showers, it stayed reasonable for most of the day.

A minor herd of black-tailed deer had wandered round the back of the house and were nibbling away at some shrubbery in the grounds of Craigdarroch Castle that seemed to appeal to them. The buck was a particularly handsome beast, as you can see in the snap taken from our back door.
I dropped Jenny off at work and headed first to Clover Point. The previous night's wet weather had obviously kept many people indoors, and although it was bright and dry the Point was uncharacteristically quiet, people-wise.
Consequently, there were 14 surfbirds feeding on the rocks, along with around 10 black turnstone and a couple of black oystercatchers. A handful of Bonaparte's gulls were feeding over the water, and a couple Heermann's gulls were also present.
Offshore.all the usual suspects were seen; common loon, common murre, marbled murrelet, rhinoceros auklet, pigeon guillemot, horned grebe, harlequin duck, surf scoter, pelagic and double-crested cormorants, and good numbers of red-necked grebe. I saw my first drake buffleheads of the autumn too.
A couple of savannah sparrows were the only passerines of note.

I then headed along to the Chinese Cemetery and Harling Point. Here it was much the same, with the usual species seen offshore in varying numbers. As I was looking out to sea, I spotted the Victoria Natural History Society mini-pelagic crowd aboard the 'Fantasea' - it looked like a good turnout despite the potentially wet conditions!

White-crowned and golden-crowned sparrows were feeding on the shoreline with a few savannah and song sparrows.

A change of scenery beckoned, and I headed inland to Swan Lake. A few evenings ago, I had made a brief stop here on my way home and had seen an American bittern flying around the floating bridge.
This time, I'd take my camera and see if I could get a snap of one. Ian Cruikshank was pretty certain that there were 3 birds present recently, so you never know, I might just be lucky...

As it turned out a bittern was showing very well, right by the bridge - as the accompanying photos testify. Chris Saunders and I also saw another bird flying by, confirming the presence of at least two bitterns on the reserve.
While at Swan Lake we were treated to the sight of an adult peregrine piling in and driving a northern flicker into the water, which it casually plucked from the lake and took up into a large oak to devour. A second peregrine struck at a starling flock, but failed to emerge with lunch.
There wasn't much on the lake bar a few American coots, a couple of ring-necked duck, and some snoozing ruddy ducks
A few yellow-rumped warblers were seen, along with common sparrows species, red-winged blackbirds, cedar waxwings, downy woodpecker, etc.

On Sunday morning, I took a stroll around the Government House grounds. It was pretty quiet overall, with fewer juncos and sparrows around than on my last visit. I didn't even see or hear any kinglets. A couple of Pacific wrens were notable, but there was little to keep me there for long.
I then headed out to Cattle Point. There were at least 30 surfbirds here, along with smaller numbers of black turnstone. Offshore it was business as usual, although the Bonaparte's gulls here numbered somewhere in the region of 70 birds, certainly the highest concentration of the species along the coast from Clover Point to here.
I stopped off at Oak Bay, where there were 3 greater yellowlegs, a couple of black-bellied plover and 3 killdeer. Just off Bowker rocks there were around 100 American wigeon, plus a few hooded mergansers.
A quick look around Harling Point concluded my day's birding (other 'important' things to do...). Again, it was pretty much as expected, with the usual stuff seen. A juvenile peregrine passed over, but that was the only thing of note.
The undoubted highlight of my weekend was finally seeing a northern saw-whet owl. This diminutive owl has been hovering in the upper reaches of my 'wants' list for years, and I was absolutely delighted to catch up with one at last.
Located in a daytime roost, the owl was being lightly mobbed by local passerines but seemed relatively unperturbed by the minor commotion.
A truly stunning creature, this gorgeous bird was my second world-lifer this month! As you can see, I even managed to get a pic of it.
What will November bring?

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