Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Spring birding gathers apace

Exciting news rippled through the local birding community yesterday (Tuesday) following the discovery of a pair of black-necked stilts at Panama Flats. Apparently only the 4th record for the Victoria area, these dainty waders drew a good deal of attention from the region’s birdwatchers. Unfortunately, I was car-sharing with my boss and so a post-work dash wasn’t on the cards… just as well I’ve seen the species before, or I may have been tempted to turn around and head back out there once I’d got home.
As it happens, I took a stroll around the Government House grounds instead. The place was positively dripping with warblers. Every tree seemed to have multiple foraging yellow-rumped warblers, mostly Audubon’s, but a small number of Myrtles present too. Good numbers of orange-crowned warblers were also in the area and their distinctive trilling song could be heard all around the site. Scanning through the many YRs I could only find a pair of Townsend’s warblers among them – no sign of the black-throated grey warblers I’d seen while there early the previous morning.
At least 3 chipping sparrows continued to sing and show well, while off-passage ruby-crowned kinglets were still passing through. A single Lincoln's sparrow popped up and there were still a couple of fox sparrows kicking around.
Hermit thrushes have been a feature this week and several were heard ‘clucking’ from the undergrowth, and occasionally showing well.
Highlight was a Wilson’s warbler – my first of the spring.
Earlier in the day, my daily Langford Lake lunchtime stroll had brought me another first for the year, in the shape of a cliff swallow. It was among 100s of violet-green, barn and tree swallows, plus 2 northern rough-winged swallows that were feeding low over the lake in the drizzle.

Semi-palmated plover, complete with semi-palmations!
This morning, I headed out to work early, allowing a stop at Panama Flats en route. The night had been relatively good for avian departure, so I wasn’t surprised when I arrived to find no sign of the stilts. There was tons of great birding action going on though, and I spent a brilliant hour sifting through the wildfowl and shorebirds.
There were literally 100s of western sandpipers feeding around the place, and around 50 least sandpipers and a dozen smart summer-plumaged dunlin too. I couldn’t locate any stringy semi-palmated sandpipers among the calidrid hordes but I was pleased to come across 4 semi-palmated plovers (photographed, clearly showing the famous semi-palmations!).
A total of 19 greater yellowlegs and 5 dowitcher species were also feeding in the shallows.
9 greater white-fronted geese were busily grazing in the dense grasses on the water’s edge, later eclipsed by a skein of around 200 heading north over the flats.
Wildfowl included the expected shoveler, gadwall, green-winged teal, pintail, mallard and bufflehead, plus a female cinnamon teal. In flight it was clearly this species or blue-winged teal, but once I scoped it on the water it certainly looked like a cinnamon. 
At one point the waders, ducks and swallows went berserk, clearly indicating a raptor of some kind. Scanning the sky for the expected peregrine, I couldn’t locate a suspect. Then I noticed a female northern harrier quartering the water edges for a short time before gaining height and moving off north. 
Sadly work beckoned and I had to abandon my morning’s birding… man, I love spring!

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