Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Rails and Railways

Harling Point, Oak Bay
On Sunday I did my Coastal Waterbird Survey from Gonzales Point to Harling Point in Oak Bay . Although the optimum season for the survey runs from fall to spring, it's interesting to see which species can be found during the summer months.
Offshore there was quite a bit of activity with lots of rhinoceros auklets, pelagic and double-crested cormorants, as well as the ubiquitous glaucous-winged gulls, all hitting into a common food source. Despite growing numbers of California gulls at nearby Clover Point, I only found a single bird on the entire count stretch.
Several non-breeding harlequin ducks were present at McMicking Point, while the only shorebirds seen were the resident black oystercatchers.
As the summer progresses I will doubtless see the steady movement of southbound waders, and if I’m lucky something more unusual might well appear along the commoner bird species.

The abandoned railway line by Langford Lake
My daily trundle alongside Langford Lake on Monday was vastly improved by the fact that the sun came out and as a result, so did the insects. Another mourning cloak flitted by, as did a dazzling western tiger swallowtail while a couple of fast moving dragonflies evaded specific identification.
As I walked along the old rail line adjacent to he footpath, three black-headed grosbeaks continued to sing, with two showing well in the glorious sunshine. Also singing but keeping resolutely hidden from view were a couple of Swainson’s thrushes. Closer to the office, an adult chipping sparrow was gathering food for a fledged youngster nearby.

Panama Flats, Victoria
By late afternoon the clouds had rolled in and it looked as thought some rain might be on the way. Regardless, I headed for Panama Flats after work just to see what was going on there. I was pleased to see that there is still quite a bit of water around, and as a result a reasonable selection of birds.
At least 3 pairs of spotted sandpiper were noted, and a trio of fledged killdeer were keeping their noisy parents on edge. 
There were plenty of Canada geese with goslings at various stages of development and numerous mallard broods were scattered around the site. Unseasonal wildfowl was represented by a couple of pairs of gadwall and, perhaps more surprisingly, a pair of blue-winged teal remain on site.
A Virginia rail, unlike good Victorian children, was heard and not seen as it squeeled away from the depths of the dense vegetation surrounding the small deep pool just south of the grey building.
Just as I was leaving the Flats I noticed the distinctive shapes of two purple martins moving high toward the site. As they approached I was surprised to see a pair of violet-green swallows intercept them, scolding the larger swallows until they drifted off back in the direction from which they’d come. A brief but welcome sight, these were the first purps that I’ve seen this year!

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