Saturday, 9 June 2012

Birds and Otters and Snakes, Oh My!

On Thursday evening, I met with Lynette Brown and Steven Roias for a spot of local birding.
Lynette’s bins are in the optics hospital, so I was happy to lend her my spare pair (my trusty old Swift Audubons that accompanied me on many twitching and birding forays around Britain, Europe and beyond for many years).

We started out at a breezy Clover Point, and despite our best efforts found little of note. The expected multitude of sub-adult California gulls were much in evidence, among the regular glaucous-winged gulls. Offshore all we could see were pigeon guillemots, pelagic cormorants and the other typical birds to be found here at this time of year. A river otter showed nicely as it inspected the tideline rocks.

We next headed up to the Government House grounds, with migrants on our minds. It wasn’t excessively birdy, but we did come across a couple of Pacific-slope flycatchers (the first I’ve seen in the grounds this spring). At one point I mentioned how I had yet to see a rufous hummingbird within the Government House gardens and woodlands this year, and we had a discussion about the high density of Anna's hummingbirds and how these larger resident birds doubtless out-compete the smaller summer visitors. Coincidentally, we soon came across a rufous hummer... perhaps, while fortune was shining on us we should have talked about how I hadn't seen a black phoebe instead?

My lunchtime trek by Langford Lake yesterday (Friday) started off with a fly-by Eurasian collared dove, soon after which a band-tailed pigeon flapped by. There was nothing much doing on the lake itself, but a lone bald eagle was keeping sentinel from a dead tree on one the small islands. Turkey vultures and a red-tailed hawk were soaring over the forest-clad hillsides. 
A warbling vireo was flitting around gathering caterpillars in the willows near the boardwalk while Swainson's thrush, red-winged blackbird, brown-headed cowbirds and other common birds provided the soundtrack.
A western wood-pewee was actively flycatching from a snag alongside the railway line, and I came across the lovely little herp shown here as I walked along the tracks. I believe it's a western garter snake, but I'll be happy to be corrected if anyone wishes to tell me otherwise. 


  1. Isn't the British Olympic Weightlifting Team sponsored by Swift Audubon ? Their Swift binoculars, of which I was and still am a proud owner, are a vital element in their training... as they are for the Shot Putt also.I think it would have been nore chivalrous to have used the Audubon's yourself, maybe you could have used a shopping trolley to carry them, or perhaps had the helium-fill upgrade ??

  2. Shit, I've put a bloody apo'strophe in Audubons.Maybe I should keep it quiet and nobody will notice.

  3. Hi Jon,

    I think you meant to say Northwestern Garter Snake. Northwestern garters are very common on Vancouver Island. Other garter snakes that habituate Vancouver Island are Common Garter Snake and Western Terrestrial Garter Snake, which is quite different.
    Based on my experience in Campbell River, Northwestern Garter Snakes are common or abundaant. Commons are uncommon, but some places near Campbell River less then 8 km have Commons in high numbers. Western Terrestrials could be classified as rare-- I have only seen three since I was seven or eight.
    I assume abundancies of garter snakes are based on what food sources are available. NW garters probably eat rodents, while I find Commons near areas with frogs of the genus Bufo, including Red-legged and bullfrogs; they actively eat bullfrogs in the CR area. I do not know what Western Terrestrials eat. Hope that wasn't too complicated!
    Sorry for the long-winded comment.