Monday, 16 July 2012

More Flats Birding

I didn’t get much birding in over the weekend, but I did manage an hour or so at Panama Flats late Saturday morning and a spell at Maber Flats in the afternoon.

Greater yellowlegs
At Panama there was a little shorebird activity with up to 200 ‘peeps’ present. A careful scan through revealed a relatively equal mix of least and western sandpipers with nothing else obvious amongst them.
5 greater yellowlegs were busily feeding in the diminishing pools, as were 5 long-billed dowitchers. Spotted sandpipers and killdeers of course, were also very much in evidence.
There was quite a lot of odonata activity around the site with cardinal meadowhawks and common whitetails especially noticeable, along with various damselflies.

Yet another stilt photo...
On my way to collect Jenny from the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay later in the day, I was able to squeeze in a convenient stop at Maber Flats en route.
All 11 black-necked stilts were still in the area, and showing well – an adult is pictured here.
Off-passage shorebirds were surprisingly thin on the ground with just a handful of least sandpipers, 7 greater yellowlegs and 4 silent dowitchers.

Cinnamon teal brood

As I scanned through the mass of moulting mallards on the bank I picked out a couple of juvenile cinnamon teal, and soon added a further pair of youngster and an adult. The adult actually looked more like an eclipse drake, but I suspect it was perhaps just a bright female with her 4 offspring. The photo here shows the 5 teal snoozing.  

Back in the UK, Brit birders will often recognise the distinctive sounds made by swallows when they detect a Eurasian hobby, or other predator on the hunt. This same sound is heard here in Canada too, primarily from barn swallows, and the high-pitched chatter and sudden swirling movements of the hirundines is a good clue to imminent arrival of an aerial threat. At Maber Flats on Saturday, this excitement preceded the speedy appearance of a merlin that caused considerable mayhem among the swallows as it whizzed through the site, making a couple of unsuccessful attempts at snatching a bird or two.
The many Brewer’s blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds and starlings foraging on the mud of the flats seemed unperturbed by the action overhead…

A short while later, while I was waiting at Swartz Bay, I added another raptor to the day’s tally – a peregrine that sailed leisurely over the ferry terminal.     

Heermann's & California gull
On Sunday, I just got out for a brief spell. I noticed that it was exactly a year ago that I had first come across the wandering tattler at Ogden Point, and while I thought it unlikely that it would show up on the same date, it was certainly worth having a look. 
As it happens, it wasn’t really. 
Other than a great-blue heron and 3 pigeon guillemots the harbour was pretty quiet and I could only see a small party of 8 western sandpipers on the nearby beach. A quick stop at Clover Point wasn’t much more productive with just 7 Heermann’s gulls among the many California and glaucous-winged gulls.

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