Saturday, 7 January 2012

Rusty Blackbird Makes The List

Today, I decided to go and look for a specific bird.
No, not the BC mega - a brambling that local birders have been getting all excited about, but a rusty blackbird that has been seen on and off in the Martindale Road area in Saanich.
I did try and see one of these a couple of years ago when one was in the Victoria area but I dipped, and have since been rather keen to catch up with one. 
According to the limited info available, the rusty blackbird has been seen hanging out with a flock of Brewer's blackbirds and European starlings in the agricultural area to the southwest of Island View Beach.
Jenny had a desire to visit nearby Michell's Farms Market, rather conveniently, so it provided an ideal opportunity to do some birding in this large open area.
The wet fields had attracted lots of Canada geese and a small number of cackling geese. Two Canadas were sporting red collars, but they were too far away for me to read the numbers. A pair of adult trumpeter swans were by one flooded field while a lone juvenile was close by.
A sizable flock of American wigeon contained no Eurasians, though 4 gadwall were a pleasant sight in among the many mallards.

Ring-billed gull
Scanning through the mew and glaucous-winged gulls I came across a smart ring-billed gull (pictured), always a treat to see on the island.       
After checking a few stubble fields and likely looking roosting trees we eventually came across a flock of mixed starlings and blackbirds along Welch Road. The birds were sat up in roadside trees and after quite some time I located the rusty among the squawking throng. It wasn't exactly giving itself up easily, keeping its back to me and remaining in the centre of the tree. I managed a few crappy shots (one of the better ones seen here) before the birds flew down to feed in the roadside field.

Rusty blackbird
Here the rusty blackbird really came into its own and looked spectacular, even if the flock was constantly moving at a rapid pace. Another icterid in the bag!
Pleased with our fine find, Jenny and I headed over to the Indian Food Store on Cook St, procured some pakoras and samosas and went to Swan Lake for an impromptu picnic and a walk around the nature reserve.
We didn't see much, but the stroll was a pleasant enough way to spend the early afternoon. 
Despite the obvious attraction of the brambling (UK readers may find this amusing, but consider the excitement that any Yank passerine causes in Blighty - after all aren't twitchers back home chasing a dark-eyed junco around Hampshire at the moment?), I've been more interested in a visitor in my own back yard this week.

Every morning there has been a western tanager in the apple tree outside our kitchen window (pictured). Now the reason that this bird hasn't attracted much attention from the locals, despite its incredibly rare status as a wintering bird in this part of the world, is that western tanagers are pretty easy to find in spring and summer. So, I suppose it's a bit like finding a wintering sedge warbler at Leighton Moss - certainly noteworthy but not exactly front-page news!

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