Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Coho Trip Penguins Surprise

Jenny and I decided to commemorate our long-dead queen Vicky by being utterly traitorous and heading across the straits to the US for the long weekend. (Brit birders and non-birders alike may not be aware, but Monday was 'Victoria Day' over here). We had never been to Port Angeles before, and so we thought it was definitely worth exploring.
The 90 minute journey across the water was great, aboard the MV Coho. Seabirds were sadly few, with just the commoner pelagic species species seen heading out there, and again on the return journey. There were good numbers of rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots and common murres, plus smaller numbers of marbled murrelet and common loon seen. A tantalising sighting of 2 distant birds flying away from me appeared very much like common/Arctic sized terns but sadly they went unidentified. They were at least heading toward the island, so you never know... 
Small flocks of red-necked phalaropes were a delight to see as they scattered before the bow. There were also plenty of harbour porpoise breaking the surface of the flat calm water. California sealions and harbour seals also joined the oceanic menagerie.

There wasn't really much birding done once we hit dry land to be honest, and the few things that I did spot were much the usual birds we'd find in the Victoria area. We really enjoyed the trip and discovered some cool little shops and some excellent beers. I would like to do the ferry journey in better sea birding conditions though, I must say.
Talking of seabirds, one of the really brilliant things about this visit was my discovering a mint condition copy of Davis and Renner's book 'Penguins' in a used bookstore. Priced at a staggeringly good $3.99 I was thrilled to find it in the rather meager natural history section. Better still was the fact that when I enquired as to whether this shop offered discounts to Canadian residents (I wasn't just being cheeky, many local stores partake in a scheme to entice Canadian shoppers to part with their loot) I was told that yes, they do. I could either have 15% off the gnome salt and pepper shakers that Jenny had chosen (don't ask...) or, get this, I could have any used book for free! So, naturally I chose the better deal and got my penguin book gratis. Happy Victoria Day indeed!

Arriving back in BC on Monday afternoon I took a trek over to the Government House, aware that while we were gone the Victoria area had been awash with really good birds! Tufted puffins seen from my fairly regular haunt of McMicking Point, western kingbird and lazuli bunting at Christmas Hill and Brewer's sparrow near Swan Lake - surely something exciting was waiting for me in the garry oaks of Rockland? Apparently not.

Black-tailed deer
There was lots of brown-headed cowbird action going on, with birds chasing one another all over the place but otherwise there was nothing out of the ordinary. There were a few young bucks hanging around, all looking resplendent with their antlers in velvet.

 This evening I had another pootle around the grounds after work, and found myself dazzled by two fabulous male western tanagers. No matter how often I see these gaudy tropicalesque birds I never fail to have my breath taken away by their sheer beauty. Wish I could say the same about the cowbirds...

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