Monday, 2 July 2012

The Magnificent Seven

Lorquin's admiral
For those reading this outside of the maple-tinted world in which I currently reside, yesterday was Canada Day. Which means that today, Monday is a stat (what we Brits would call a 'bank holiday'). Nice.

Sunday, we went out to Island View Beach and took our customary walk up Cordova Spit, also known as Saanichton Spit.
The birding was pretty uneventful but at least it stayed dry and mild, and there were plenty of dragonflies and butterflies to be found, including the fine Lorquin's admiral pictured here. 
Other than 8 fly-by peeps (looked like least sandpipers), we only saw regular stuff such as pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, a common loon, and what-have-you.

Monday, I decided to head out to Maber Flats - I was keen to see the stilts again before they disappear! The place was absolutely buzzing with birds.
Hundreds of swallows were hawking low over the wetlands, while above small parties of purple martin would periodically drop by. A pair of black swift joined the aerial melee on a couple of occasions providing an overdue and very welcome year tick!

Black-necked stilt - adult
Scanning over the flats I could see an adult black-necked stilt, with a trio of snoozing youngsters close by. At the far end of the water, another pair of adults were feeding alongside their grown brood of 4.
Given the fact that this is the first known breeding record of black-necked stilt on Vancouver Island, for them to have got 7 young to fledging stage is really quite remarkable. At one point, a bald eagle passed over causing the family group of 6 to take to the air in unison - quite a sight!

Young black-necked stilts
It's a shame that Maber Flats won't be here to support successive attempts in the future... the outlook for stilts as regular nesters in this part of BC seems far from assured.
Other shorebirds seen here today included 2 least sandpipers, a Wilson's snipe and a greater yellowlegs as well several killdeers and spotted sandpipers - both the latter species with young.
I didn't see anything interesting wildfowl-wise, just multiple mallard broods. 

Marsh wren
Singing marsh wrens were showing well, posing conveniently for a couple of photos, while savannah sparrows, American goldfinches, Brewer's blackbirds and other common passerines provided welcome diversions.  

I've got a sora arse...
The last time I visited Maber Flats I saw my first ever sora. I didn't get great views, but I was at least able to confidently ID the bird from what I briefly saw.
Today, by contrast, I was given several point-blank views of two of these stunning rails. In fact, they were way too close to get decent digiscope shots, and I had to try moving further back to get them in the viewfinder.

Adult sora
This meant that there was always a ton of vegetation between me and the birds, hence the bloody horrible pics here! Next time, I'll take the other camera and hope for repeat showings. It was amazing to get such fabulous views of these often secretive 'meadow chickens'.  

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