Friday, 1 June 2012

A Turn(stone) Up For The Books

It’s been a funny old week.
The weather has taken something of turn for the worse, and despite the fact that it’s now the 1st of June, there is a dank and depressing cloak of mizzle sitting over the Victoria area today.
But while the temperatures may be failing to soar, and that yellow ball in the sky remains mostly hidden, there is at least some compensation for the active birder. Drizzly conditions, even at this time of year, can often result in causing northbound birds to drop from the ether and feed up for a while before continuing their journey.
Of course, grotty weather also famously causes migrating birds to lose their bearings and get lost, which means that all manner of vagrants can show up. So it really pays to get out and see what’s lurking in those bushes, fields and headlands!

While hardly a vagrant, ruddy turnstones are a fairly scarce bird in these parts so I was delighted to spy one picking through the seaweed strewn rocks off Clover Point yesterday evening. Back in the UK, any Brit birder who lives near the coast will be pretty familiar with these common shorebirds.  I would regularly see large numbers on my daily lunchtime walks along Morecambe’s Stone Jetty, pretty much ignoring the turnstones as I scanned through them in search of a purple sandpiper or two.
Over here though, ruddy turnstones are a scarce spring passage bird. Without doubt one of the most spectacular of all waders when in full breeding plumage, the Clover Point bird was an immaculate example of the species. And, the first that I've seen in BC!

Earlier in the day, I had noticed quite an influx of passerine activity around Langford Lake. Yellow warblers seemed to be all over the place, and a couple of smart western tanagers also put in an appearance. Two of the 3 singing black-headed grosbeaks showed nicely, and the rufous hummingbirds in-residence continue to harass every passing bird. Cedar waxwings have arrived too in the last week and at least one pair appear to be on territory.

Olive-sided flycatcher
On Wednesday, I had intended to go to Maber Flats to see if the proposed water pumping had gone ahead and how that had impacted on the nesting black-necked stilts, but with one thing and another I had to postpone that visit. 
I managed to find an hour to check out the Government House after work however and the drizzly conditions had at least resulted in producing a minimum of 3 olive-sided flycatchers and a western wood-pewee. A male Wilson's warbler may have been a late off-passage bird, or perhaps a local breeder? It was good to see a couple of fledged broods of red-breasted nuthatch, comically dangling in a cluster as they fed together, and a couple of young downy woodpeckers were trailing their parents through the canopy of the garry oaks.

My lunchtime wander by the lake today was pretty uneventful, with the exception of a rather tatty looking mourning cloak butterfly (known by the name of Camberwell beauty in Britain, fact-fans) that not only showed well but actually landed on my arm! A Sara's orange-tip was was also in the same area.
After work I escaped to the Government House to see if much was going on. A couple of olive-sided flycatchers were busily catching bugs around the place and at least one, possibly two, western wood-pewees were also in the 'hood. 
A fancy male western tanager brightened up one gloomy corner, but there was little else of note aside from the usual breeding species.

With a reasonable forecast for the weekend ahead, it will be interesting to see what turns up. 

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