Monday, 27 August 2012

MacGillivray's Island

MacGillivray's warbler
It was another morning drive out to Metchosin for me on Saturday, as I headed out for my second visit to the access-restricted Rocky Point Bird Observatory.
I arrived later this week, at around 6.15am and after signing in at the reception I drove off along the winding gravel road that leads to the banding station and census site.
I had a little time for some pre-census birding and I quickly scoped offshore and in the tidal bay but it seemed pretty quiet. 
An osprey was sat out on a hydro pole, keeping a beady eye on the water below but there was a notable lack of seabirds to check. A few rhinoceros auklets were present along with common murres and small numbers of California, glaucous-winged, mew and Heermann’s gulls.
Shorebirds were thin on the ground too, with just black oystercatcher ‘peeping’ loudly around the rocks, and a small number of least sandpipers patrolling the stony beach.

MacGillivray's warbler
The census started at 7.20am. It was significantly cooler than it has been lately and the birds were reluctant to start the day. It was eerily quiet as I trundled around desperate for sights and sounds to add to my paltry list. Only a few red-breasted nuthatches, white-crowned sparrows and chestnut-backed chickadees seemed keen to alert me to their presence initially but once the sun started hitting the trees and enticing insects to stir things started to pick up a wee bit.
Even still there was nothing too exciting to be found over the allotted hour and a half and the warbler count was frankly terrible; 1 Wilson’s. 2 common yellowthroat. 1 Townsend’s. 1 orange-crowned. 
Even the spotted towhees and song sparrows were playing hard to get and only the sporadic small clusters of red crossbill passing overhead kept things interesting. A garrulous Steller’s jay added a bit of spice but it was only once I’d completed my rounds that the birding picked up apace.    
A pair of merlin were charging around, adding a dash of excitement to an otherwise raptor-free morning.
It had been pretty slow-going at the banding station too, but things were starting to pick up.
A personal highlight was seeing one of my all-time favourite American warblers in the hand – MacGillivray’s warbler. I don’t know why I like these geothlypis warblers so much, but ever since I saw my first one (on my first visit to Vancouver Island back in 1993, as it happens) I’ve been rather enamoured by this secretive bird’s subtle beauty.

Pacific-slope flycatcher
Other birds out-of-the-bag, so to speak, included a fine Pacific-slope flycatcher (pictured), willow flycatcher, Swainson’s thrush, white-crowned sparrows, Wilson’s warblers and a few other expected species.
I left Rocky Point late morning, spooking up a pair of spectacular, prehistoric-looking pileated woodpeckers on the way (too late to add to the census!).  
Please note that Rocky Point BO is on private D.O.D. land and access is strictly limited to those with permission. Check out the RPBO website for further information. 

The rest of the weekend was a fairly birdless affair, bar a bit of brief drive-by birding at Clover Point on Sunday afternoon. The highlight was seeing around 50 red-necked phalarope out on the water. Most of these were a fair distance away but one small flock was pretty close and gave great 'scope-views.

This morning (Monday) I stopped off at Summit Hill reservoir en route to work once again.  The 7 lesser yellowlegs were still present and I had the good fortune of getting point-blank, eye-level views of a lovely black-throated gray warbler in the pathside vegetation.
Post-work, I made a trip to Clover Point but it was pretty drab stuff to be honest, the only thing being a smart summer-plumage red-necked grebe
Jenny had walked down to meet me and so we went on to Oak Bay Marina (highlight - 84 black-bellied plover, 6 dowitcher sp. and a surfbird) and Cattle Point (highlight 12 western sandpiper) but there was little to get excited about offshore.   

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