Saturday, 22 September 2012

All Confusing On The Western Front

On Thursday morning I popped down to Clover Point for a pre-work amble; migrants on my mind.
Scanning the partly submerged rocks off the end of the point I could see that were still good numbers of Heermann's gulls hanging around.
Post-breeding mew gulls are becoming increasingly numerous now, as expected. 
Out on the kelp there was a bird that looked like a pretty credible 3rd winter western gull. When I first saw it appeared extremely dark-mantled and my mind raced through slaty-backed gull features.
By all accounts just about all the 'westerns' that occur in this part of the world are likely to have at least some glaucous-winged gull genes mixed in as the two readily hybridise. Many are fairly easy to identify as mutts, but others show a fairly convincing suite of features, which doesn't help in the slightest... 

The dark head and heavy breast streaking seems a little at odds with pure western, from what I have read, so any comments from readers would be most welcome!
Far less controversial was my first Thayer's gull of the season, sat among a huddle of roosting glaucous-winged and California gulls.
As for off-passage passerine migrants, just a couple of American pipits and a few savannah sparrows were encountered.
Shorebirds were limited to several black oystercatchers and a trio of foraging black turnstone.
Harlequin ducks are now back in force, with double figures present. The newly moulted drakes are really something to behold!

Later, at Langford Lake at lunchtime I came across my first ruby-crowned kinglet of the fall, in among a flock of bushtits, and 2 hooded mergansers were back on the lake.
A quick stop at Summit Hill Reservoir on my way home revealed one each of greater and lesser yellowlegs, a killdeer and a pair of western sandpiper. 3 shoveler were paddling around. 

On Friday morning as I arrived at work in Langford, there was a small flock of c.15 Vaux's swifts feeding overhead, just below some murky clouds.

I had a leisurely trundle around the Government House grounds on Saturday morning and there was quite a bit of activity going on. One small flock of birds feeding in the garry oaks included the expected chestnut-backed chickadees, golden-crowned kinglets and red-breasted nuthatches, plus 2 western tanagers, a warbling vireo and a Pacific-slope flycatcher.
There seems to have been a bit of an influx of northern flickers with multiple birds around the site. The return of 'wintering' finches continues with my first golden-crowned sparrows of the autumn, plus a few more dark-eyed juncos passing through.

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