Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Endemics, Undemics, and Everything in Between

My wife and I just returned from a week in Mexico and needless to say, I couldn't resist doing a little birding.  Of the seven days, four were assigned to birding and touristing, and only a couple to lounging at the resort in Cancun.

I had a big list of targets and high expectations when we landed in Cancun on March 31, and was greeted at the airport by two old friends from Costa Rica, Great-tailed Grackle and Gray-breasted Martin.  As we landed late, those were my only two birds of the day, and darkness found me without a lifer to start the trip with.  No matter, packing a new a camera and a lens I stole from Jeremy G, I was ready for the week!

After waking up to Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Laughing Gulls the next morning we took advantage of the resort, and spent a few hours exploring the Hotel Zone.  My first two lifers showed within seconds of each other, as we added Tropical Mockingbird and Black Catbird.  Shortly behind them were Vucatan Vireo, Yellow-Green Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, and Prothonotary Warbler.  The entire trip was a nice blend of Yucatan endemics, partial endemics (or, undemics as I have been calling them), southern species, and North American migrants.

Our second full day in Mexico was a day trip to Isla Cozumel.  I had a car rented, a number of areas to check out, and three target species.  Unfortunately the car pickup took longer than we thought it would and the lack of road signs contributed to less birding time than we had expected, but the main spot I had in mind, an abandoned subdivision south of town, delivered for us.

One of two Western Spindalis we found, neither got close enough for a great picture.
The first bird to show was perhaps my most wanted bird, Western Spindalis.  Immediately following that sighting, we had great looks at the distinct Cozumel subspecies of Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher, though none of my pictures turned out well.

Another endemic, Cozumel Emerald, was frequenting the garden of one of two actual houses in the subdivision:

While on Cozumel, we also added Yucatan Woodpecker, White-crowned Pigeon, Yellow-faced Grassquit, and Caribbean Eleania.  We missed Cozumel Vireo, so I will need to go back at some point, but there are definitely worse places to go to!

The next three days were the bulk of birding, as we picked up our second rental car at Cancun Airport in the early morning, and headed off into the Yucatan.  Our plan was to spend some time at Chichen Itza before heading north to Rio Lagartos for an afternoon guided boat birding trip, guided land trip the next day before heading to Coba, then night in Tulum before working our way back to Cancun.

We threw in a couple of roadside stops on the way to Chichen Itza, which added lifer Mangrove Vireo, Plain Chachalaca, Yucatan Jay, Black-throated Green Warbler, Altamira OrioleBlack-headed Saltator, Black-crowned Tityra, and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture.  Chichen Itza was spectacular for the scenery, but the throngs of vendors lining every path between ruins detracted a little.

The trip up to Rio Lagartos added White-tailed Hawk, but the wind was blowing when we arrived.  Our guide, Diego Nunez of Rio Lagartos Adventures, made the decision that we would be better off land birding without sacrificing birds.  We quickly added Mexican Sheartail, American Flamingo, Tri-coloured Heron, Mangrove Cuckoo, Black-headed Trogon, Great Black-Hawk, Zenaida Dove, and a few others.  I will save the photos for the end of the post.  Early the next morning, following a breakfast of croissants with ham and cheese, we headed back out and ran into some more spectacular birding.  Aztex (Olive-throated) Parakeet, Lesser Roadrunner, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Orange Oriole, Painted Bunting, Rose-throated Becard, Yucatan Wren, Common Black-Hawk, Gray-necked Woodrail, White-tipped Dove, White-bellied Emerald, Northern Parula, a Turquoise-browed Motmot colony, Carolina Wren, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, Wood Stork, Limpkin, Green Jay, and more.

That afternoon we drove to Coba, where the ruins were also spectacular.  Green Vine Snake was one of the first highlights, but we added very few birds.  My lifer Masked Tityra was a nice add.    A night in Tulum followed, and we spent the next day working our way back to Cancun.  We added very few birds, but found Olive Sparrow and Yellow-lored Parrot north of Chemuyil, and  Gartered TrogonWedge-tailed Sabrewing, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Red-throated Ant-Tanager, the final lifer of the trip, at Dr Alfredo Marin Botanical Gardens.

The last day and a bit we spent relaxing at the resort and exploring the Hotel Zone, but didn`t add much else.

All in all, Mexico turned up 158 species, including 65 lifers.  Cancun turned out to be a great base of operations, and if only there weren`t so many other places to visit, I would go back in a heartbeat!  Now, for some more pictures!

Tricoloured Heron at Rio Lagartos

Four of the 1000 or so American Flamingos we found
Lifer Least Tern at Rio Larartos
Yucatan Wren near Rio Lagartos
Another view of the Yucatan Wren
The Lesser Roadrunner wouldn`t give up a better shot
My favourite bird of the trip, Turquoise-browed Motmot, which also wouldn`t give up a good picture.
Common Black-Hawk
Green Vine Snake at Coba
White-winged Dove
Black-headed Trogon
Green Jay at the Doctor Alfredo Botanical Garden
What would Mexico be without Iguanas......
Or monkeys......

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Killdeer For The Win!

Not words I ever thought I would say, but come a little after 6:00pm on Sunday I was indeed, and I wasn't the only one.

Ever since Jeremy G, Russ C, Ian C, and I topped the Canada November Big Day record last year with 122 species, we have been looking for an opportunity to bring down another, and the existing Canadian March record of 105 looked ripe for the taking.  Russ and Ian were unavailable, so Jeremy G and I decided to venture out on March 16th to take a run.

As per usual, we met at the Langford Tim Horton's for a fuel up before heading into the dark for owls.  Between the wind, rain, and running water, owls were a wash, so we headed to Sooke with the hopes of getting a jump on a few much needed species before it was really light.

Our first stop was the Journey Middle School field, an area where Greater White-fronted Geese have been consistent.  We located Canada Geese and Cackling Geese at the Demamiel Creek Golf Course beside the school, but no others.  Driving back down Throup Rd I noticed some shapes in the pre-dawn light, in a field at the corner of Throup and Church.  A quick scan revealed Sooke's flock of Greater White-fronts!  From there we headed to Whiffin Spit where we added the usuals, as well as Western Meadowlark and Horned Lark!  These two great birds have been present for some time, but we dipped on a long-staying Savannah Sparrow.  In the intense wind, we also had six Brant being blown sideways over the spit.  Sooke kept the hits coming as Billings Spit turned up one, then two, then seven Herring Gulls, much to the amazement of the Jeremies.

Another... and another.... and another.....
Billings Spit also provided Barrow's Goldeneyes, and a couple of Eurasian Collared-Doves, a species that has been scarce in Victoria lately.  The Goodridge Peninsula added a few more species, and then we turned for Victoria.

The Tim Hortons below Skirt Mountain was our next stop, where we added Steller's Jay, Golden Eagle, and coffee.  Goldstream Park itself added an easy American Dipper, and a couple of Asian tourists (mother and daughter) that provided our morning entertainment first by taking pictures of us, and then by alternately posing for several shots with us.  The Jeremies are going to China!  A little before 10am, and we were flying high at 57 species with Metchosin next on the list.

Metchosin was a must-have on two fronts.  Firstly, our only reliable (and, as it turned out, our only) California Quail of the day were found at the end of Swanwick Rd.  Secondly, Taylor Beach is a great spot to scope for seabirds, and it definitely delivered!  Red-throated, Pacific, and Common Loons, Horned, Red-necked, and a huge raft of Western Grebes were seen, as well as a few others.  Despite the amazing lighting, we couldn't pull a Clark's Grebe out of the raft.  On the way back to Victoria we lucked into what we thought would likely be our only Turkey Vulture of the day, hunkered down in a tree, and also a bushel more of Collared-Doves.  So much for scarce.

The only thing that beats a long-staying Mega on a Big Day is a newly discovered Mega, but in the absence of that we opted to try for the Esquimalt Lagoon Eastern Phoebe.  We puddle slogged, we waited, we hoped, and we dipped, but the Aquattro area and Esquimalt Lagoon added more species, including Wilson's Snipe and our only Lincoln's SparrowWestern Gulls, Common Murre, and Mute and Trumpeter Swans of the day.  Oh, and Collared-Doves!

Quick stops at Portage Inlet, Beacon Hill Park, and Clover Point yielded a few adds, the hightlight being three male and one female Eurasian Wigeons.

A pair together, the female showing a much darker head than the grey of it's American counterpart (below)

Female American Wigeon

Harling Point, which you can read all about on The Naturalest Naturalist, yielded a Savannah Sparrow and another Herring Gull, plus a few alcids.  Lacking shorebirds, we set our sights on Oak Bay, with a first stop at Turkey Head and Queen's Park.  Much to our dismay, the shorebirds were on a distant isle, and all we could make out were Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers.  The ever-present Surfbirds and Greater Yellowlegs were nowhere to be seen.  Cattle Point was up next, and we had no problems finding a large flock of Surfbirds.  One or two Rock Sandpipers have been hanging around as well, but we had no luck pulling them out of the mixed shorebird flock.  Finally, G called time, and I took one last scan, panning across the rock and wait... what the...... a smaller bird with a longer, down-curved bill popped into view.  "G, got it!" I called out, and he came to get his look at the Rock Sandpiper.  Tick.  Species 91, and what a beauty.  14 to tie, 15 to break!

We added a few more species along the water the headed to King's Pond, where we hoped to add a few.  Aside from the sharply plumaged Wood Ducks, we didn't get much, but I did get a little more practice with my new camera, and a 70-300 lens that Jeremy G may get back one day.

At this point we were getting desperate for woodpeckers, so after a fruitless search of the Galey fields for Sandhill Crane we headed to Lohbrunner, just north of Blenkinsop Lake, where Jeremy G had Pileated the day before.  Twas not to be, but we did add more Turkey Vultures and our first Violet-Green Swallows of the day.  Swan Lake added Red-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Coot, and Tree Swallows.

Species number 100 came at Panama Flats, where we added a pair of Ruddy Ducks!  This species has shown at various locations around Victoria this winter, but is never expected.  The pressure was on from there, as we were very cognizant of the amount of light we had left.  We figured that Martindale Flats would be the area that would add our last six species, as a number of misses have been seen in the area recently.

Snow Goose and Thayer's Gull were easy finds in the field south of the Lochside Pig Farm, but we had two frustrating misses in the form of a possible calling Brown-headed Cowbird that we couldn't pin down, and a possible juvie Ring-billed Gull that had enough mud caked on it to eliminate certain identification.  Three more Snow Geese were along Lochside between Island View and Martindale, and after a bit of searching a Northern Shrike showed itself along Puckle Rd.  103 species and the pressure was mounting to add a few more before we lost daylight.  A pair of Black Scoters were visible off of the north end of Island View beach, and we went into panic mode, racking our brains as to what species we could possbily add.

A Mourning Dove along Shady Creek tied us up and, minds racing, we headed for the Central Saanich Bulb Fields in hopes of adding Sky Lark for the record.  Despite extensive searching the birds eluded us, until Jeremy G suggested checking the lower field for Killdeer.  Killdeer?  Really?  A record broken courtesy of a species we should have added 10 hours earlier?  Alright, worth the try.  No sooner had we gotten out of the car then a Killdeer materialized against the dirt field, followed by another.  Record ours!  A further search of these fields failed to turn up anything new, and we headed out to Brentwood Bay and Gore Park in search of the Hairy Woodpeckers and Purple Finches that Jeremy G had found there the previous day.  We dipped on both, and light faded to dark while we stopped at various locations to listen to the dusk chorus.

With the record in hand we cruised along Willis Point Rd, and stops produced Barred and Great Horned Owl, but none of the much hoped for smaller owl species.

C'est la vie.  With the many misses on the day, there is a lot of potential to top this high mark by a fair margin, so perhaps we will have to try again next year.  In the meantime, there are a few other months that have BC or Canadian Big Day records just begging to be topped.  If you are up for it, come along for the 15 to 24 hours of the most fun you will ever have with a pair of binoculars!

It has been an amazing bird year so far for me, with Hooded Oriole and my lifer Dickcissel up island, my lifer Thick-billed Murre in Westport in January, and the exciting Pinteal Chase in Nanaimo.  While I wonder what will be next to show up on this little rock of ours, I am headed to Cancun at the end of next week, and will be spending a couple of nights away from the resort searching for birds in Rio Lagartos, Coba, Tulum, and others.  Stay tuned for a report, and good birding to all! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rock Wren in a Winter Wonderland

Well, a Victoria-style Winter Wonderland anyway....

Yesterday I found myself finished up with work and everything with a couple of hours of light to spare, so I headed up to Christmas Hill to see if I could locate the Rock Wren.  A couple of very cold hours later, no go on the wren.

I decided to head back up this morning to make another attempt for this long sought after and oft missed critter, and was a little dismayed by the typical Victoria winter weather - cold, fog, and rain.  I found myself doing something out of my norm in that instead of leaving the morning Tims in the car, I hauled it up the hill with me.  I know a lot of birders tote coffee in the field, but I usually don't want to juggle binos with an extra large java, and then have to carry the cup back from wherever I am.  Today seemed like a good time for an exception, so up came the coffee.

At the top of the higher summit of Christmas Hill, which seems to be the most reliable location for the bird, the weather wasn't looking any less like a West Coast Christmas.

I had half expected to be greeted by the wren busily foraging out in the open, but there was no sign of it anywhere.  I decided to head down to the lower summit where it had originally been discovered, in hopes that it had returned.  Yesterday I made the summit to summit trek no less than 8 times back and forth, in vain each time.

It was no more wreny at the lower summit than it had been up top, so I turned to head back up the hill, grumbling something along the lines of "stupid wren", which had been my mantra the previous day as well.

Back up top, a familiar face was scanning the rocks, and I saw him freeze.  As the story goes, Marlon had spotted me and turned to walk over when the wren flushed right in front of him, and ducked down the slope.  He relocated the bird and eventually I was on it, a great new Victoria area bird (#291).

As usual, no award winning photography courtesy of the Victoria Birder, but a long distance phone shot:

Marlon and I enjoyed nearly continuous views of the bird for almost an hour as it worked the summit, foraging very cooperatively out in the open, the looks I had originally dreamed of having.

One of these days I'll have to go for a big boy camera, but there are already more than enough great birders around who are great photographers, the Naturalest Naturalist for example.  Now if only he was in town for half of the great birds that show up....

Thanks Courtney for a great find!

Good winter birding, see you all on the Christmas Bird Count circuit!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Don't Forget Your Hood!

If today had a theme, it was the weather.....  For simplicity's sake, and to cut down on my typing, feel free to automatically add "... and then it rained" to the end of every paragraph.

I have been itching to head out west for the last week or so, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, an incredible number of southern birds have been turning up along the Pacific Coast much more north than usual.  Secondly, the winds have been blowing onshore.  Thirdly, I have been watching the weather and crossing my fingers that the rain and fog would conspire to push something down and then keep it down.  Lastly, fall migration at Jordan River and points west is a magical time, worthy of much more attention and coverage than it actually receives.

The first opportunity for me to head out being today, my wife and I saddled up a little later than I had hoped and, after the usual Tim Hortons fuel up, headed first for Whiffin Spit.  It was fairly quiet on the spit until we found the Black Turnstone flock, which was very active and moving from one side of the spit to the next.  Quite quickly, my wife informed me that there was something different on the shore.  There stood the Pacific Golden-Plover that has been around for a few days.  Tick.  We added five more species of shorebird, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Western Sandpiper, Black Oystercatcher, and Spotted Sandpiper, plus the female Bufflehead that has been around for quite some time, sitting on its usual log.  Not a bad start to the day!  Another coffee stop and off to Jordan.

I became a little discouraged as we drove into rain nearing Jordan, but reminded myself that I had pretty much asked for it.  I had visions of rarities dancing through my brain along the route.  Would I finally find my Rose-breasted Grosbeak?  Indigo Bunting?  Dare I dream of Asians?  The rain picked when we pulled into the gravel parking area in Jordan River, so I scanned the gull flocks... California, Mew, Glaucous-winged.... I'm sure I could have dug out a Herring had I the patience, but miraculously the rain stopped, and I crossed the road to my favourite three trees on Vancouver Island.  Small alders they may be, but they are an incredible migrant trap!

Finding nothing in the trees I circled around the back through the old WFP buildings.  Fox Sparrows were in numbers, and it looked like White-crowned Sparrows had had a banner breeding year.  There is a small clearing that opens up off the private driveway on the west side of this little patch, and I walked in there, drawn by the calls of Cedar Waxwings.  Immediately three birds flushed up in the blackberries.  Two more Fox Sparrows and a wait... what the hell is that?  The third set off bells, as it definitely didn't belong.  No sooner did I get a look than it disappeared in a flash of yellow-green.  No amount of pishing would draw it back out, and the waxwings and warblers had moved to the tree closest to the road so I circled back and met Thea, who had lost track of me.

Scanning intently into the tree I started counting the waxwings, which included a lot of young birds, and a few Yellow Warblers, when a different bird caught my eye, the bird which had played games with me a few minutes earlier.  Getting a fantastic look this time, I immediately noticed a longish, downcurved bill.  My first though was "Oriole-ish" and my second, "hey, you're not from around here, are you?"  A thorough look showed the bird to be slightly larger than the surrounding waxwings, with drab olive-ish uppers and uniform yellow-green underparts.  The bird sat upright and looked fairly slim, and the tail appeared long for the bird it was attached to.  Of course, my camera was in the car, and I sent Thea to fetch it while I studied the bird.  I had my suspicions, but would need Mr. Sibley to verify the potential lifer.  As soon as the camera was firmly in my hand the bird hopped into a very leafy part of the tree then took off east.  Another phrase familiar to birders was uttered at that moment, "Dammit, don't lose that bird, watch where it lands!"   Of course, we never saw it land.  It's long tail was apparent in flight as well as it headed east over the bay and disappeared into the trees on the other side.

Checking two different field guides back at the car, my suspicions were confirmed, a female/juvie type HOODED ORIOLE!  Not just a lifer but a spectacular one for Vancouver Island, Jordan River had done it again!

This small patch of trees has hosted 2 Lazuli Buntings and 2 Oriole species this year alone.
We hung around hoping for a return but none was to be seen, so we headed further west to Port Renfrew (and then it rained..).
The wind and rain were absolutely horrible between Jordan River and Port Renfrew, but again tapered off a little when we parked along the river and walked into the campsite.  Very few birds were to be found but we did have a Bonaparte's Gull, 35 Black Turnstones, and a Horned Grebe among precious few other species.  My main aim was to bird Botanical Beach, gateway to the open ocean and past host of such birds as Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Lark Bunting.  The thick fog didn't deter us (it will keep the birds on the ground, right???) but no sooner had we started down the path than the rain became torrential.  I am definitely not a fairweather birder, but this had me running back toward the car, screw it!  Lunch and a dry off at Coastal Kitchen was most welcome, and we departed Port Renfrew still in the grips of a tropical style monsoon.
View from the bridge... maybe the rain will stop?
From the beach.... not exactly stellar weather.

Jordan was clear, sunny even, on the way back in but there were few new birds to be found.  A lone Greater Scaup was in the river, and Pacific-Slope Flycatcher and American Goldfinch made appearances. 
We decided that since we were in the neighbourhood we would scan from Gordon's Beach and Otter Point in hopes of pelicans, shearwaters, or the like.  Again, it wasn't to be, and we settled for Common Murres, good numbers of Marbled Murrelets in their winter finery, and Pigeon Guillemots in their winter drabbery.  Many gulls were around as well, but nothing exciting.  Two gulls that looked very Western-ish were at Otter Point, but I suspect they were a couple of the usual, dirty mutts.
The grey weather continued, looking out toward Sheringham
Our last stop was Esquimalt Lagoon where we found very few birds but ran into Daniel D.  Good birding conversation is always a great way to end a day!
All in all, a great day out west, even considering the bone-chilling weather.  I can only imagine what else would turn up in Jordan River or Port Renfrew if more local birders took the time to visit!
Good birding,

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Knot Getting Away This Time

It's getting a little tough to add new birds to my Victoria List, nevermind a couple in a week, but I figured I would give it a try.  Earlier this week I added Franklin's Gull, a long standing Victoria nemesis, at Esquimalt Lagoon.  I figured I might as well take a shot today at an equally aggravating nemesis, Red Knot.  A couple have been hanging around off of Oak Bay this week, and one has been seen fairly regularly at the foot of Bowker Ave.

The weather wasn't particularly attractive this morning, which was just fine by me.  Instead of prowling the beaches, many of the fairweather dogwalkers choose to stay home and leave the shorebirds alone.

The light rain and fog didn't seem to have much of an impact on the birds either.  Immediately after stepping down onto the sand at Bowker, I was greeted by Black Turnstones, Black Oystercatchers, Surfbirds, and Black-bellied Plovers.  A little further down the beach I found more plovers, and then a Short-billed Dowitcher popped up.  My hopes were getting a little higher at this point, and more birds were flying in, until a pair of kayakers pulled close to one of the rocks and sent most of the shorebirds flying back out to the island.  Glancing back down the beach I noticed that, in true shorebird fashion, a second dowitcher had popped up, and a Greater Yellowlegs had joined the party.  Since these critters can pop up out of nowhere, I figured a more thorough search was in order.  To my surprise the two dowitchers were joined by another two! 

Around the corner toward Glenlyon-Norfolk School, there were only gulls present, and as I turned to head back to where my scope was setup a small flock of shorebirds flew in.  The flock was made up of 6 plovers, a dowitcher, and..... finally after 15 years of misses.....


My Victoria Checklist Area Red Knot, species number 288 on said list!  I watched the bird for the better part of 45 minutes until I decided to head back to the Westshore.  Always a treat to be able to enjoy a great bird!

Esquimalt Lagoon was my other stop of the morning, as I'm still hoping for a stray Elegant Tern, a species that has invaded the Washington side of the strait....  It wasn't to be.  There were no terns at all present among the Heermann's, California, Mew, and mutt gulls.  No shorebirds either, except a distant calling Killdeer and a couple of Black Turnstones.

Midway down the Lagoon, at "the hump", a small gull slept, nestled in with a few others.  The Franklin's Gull that had been checklist area bird #287 a few days earlier was still present, and sat still for a few shoddy phone-through-foggy-scope pics.

As always, I aim to get bad pics of great birds, and these don't threaten that!  All in all, a great day of birding.  A great week in fact, when I can add two Victoria birds in a few days.  The last time that happened was in 2011, and I can't imagine it will happen again anytime soon, if at all!  Now that I have the last two missing birds that can be loosely considered "annual", I have no idea what is next!
Things are picking up nicely out there, get out and make the most of it!  Our next Elegant Tern is just across the water.....

Monday, September 2, 2013

Westward Bound

One of my favourite local areas to bird is to head westward, to Sooke and beyond.  I've always thought the areas to the west to be under birded, especially given the potential for great rarities along rather small stretches of beach and forest.

With all of the jaw-dropping rarities being seen just south of us by our American counterparts, Jeremy G and I figured points west would be a great idea yesterday, and after meeting at our usual muster point, a certain Langford Tim Horton's at the usual ungodly hour, we headed first for Whiffin Spit, hoping to beat the human traffic and find some shorebirds.

A short-lived peep flock was the first sighting as we headed down the spit, and the usual suspects quickly showed - White-crowned Sparrow, Harlequin Duck, and a lone (early) female Bufflehead which made us wonder if it was the same one we had seen there last month.  The tide was well out and we walked down onto the slick rocks, hoping for some shorebird love.  Black Turnstones soon materialized out of the rocks, and before long Jeremy G was onto the stunning Ruddy Turnstone that had been seen for a few days.  What a treat to lock onto this great semi-rarity so early in the day!

Finding little else at Whiffin we headed further west.  Around Otter Point the second treat materialized when a Black Bear came out of the trees and crossed the road in front of us.  These may be commonplace in many areas of the island, but I can count on one set of fingers the number of times I have seen them on the south island.

Rounding the final corner into Jordan River I half expected to see a flock of Elegant Terns resting on the road, given the great start to the day, but it wasn't to be.  Instead, we were drawn to the small patch of brambles and trees across from the parking lot, which were so full of birds that we hardly knew where to look first.  Cassin's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, and Orange-crowned Warbler were all well-represented.  A larger bird immediately caught our attention when it flew into the top of one of the trees, and binoculars quickly revealed it to be a Lazuli Bunting

We ended up spending 5 hours exploring Jordan River and found great numbers of migrants everywhere.  In addition to the above we found a couple of Bewick's Wrens (a great bird for Jordan), Hutton's Vireos, Lincoln`s Sparrow, Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Swainson's Thrushes, MacGillivray's Warblers, and Pacific-Slope, Willow, and Hammond's Flycatchers, plus many more.  Gull numbers were good as well with five species in attendance, including a lone Herring Gull, and a Greater White-fronted Goose was seen in the river.  Out in the surf, 500+ Red-necked Phalaopes were a continual sight, and small numbers of alcids drifted past.

We left Jordan River with 72 species in the bag and headed to Muir Creek, which was fairly quiet except for a flock of Yoga Participants off in the woods somewhere, and a good collection of Barn Swallows which included one Cliff Swallow and one Northern Rough-winged Swallow.  At Muir Creek I also (with much help) scored a lifer bug, Saffron-winged Meadowhawk.

A swing through the usual Metchosin areas at Lindholm Rd and Swanwick Rd yielded little.  Albert Head Lagoon padded the species total a little, providing Mute Swan, Greater Yellowlegs, and two early American Wigeons.  We spent a fair amount of time scanning a large collection of gulls well out on the water, which didn`t yield anything different, until Jeremy G called my attention to the one bird neither of us had paid attention to - a lone gull 20ft from shore.  How long the bird had been puttering around in front of us I don`t know, but how the Ring-billed Gull had managed to stay under the radar still puzzles me.  Perhaps it was the lure of tern or jaeger potential out in the heat haze.....

The last stop was Esquimalt Lagoon, where we held out hope for a mega of some sort.  My much-desired Elegant Terns weren`t there either, but we did finally add Least Sandpiper after 11 hours of birding, as well as a lone tern of the wrong type, Caspian Tern.

All in all we netted 93 species, a great total considering the total lack of woodpeckers and only 4 species of raptor.  Migrant numbers were amazing, and it was the perfect day for a more leisurely approach to birding.

It is shaping up to be a great fall birding season, and with all of the great stuff across the strait, who knows what`s lurking around our neighbourhood!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's That Time of the Year Again!

Yes, it's Baillie Birdathon time!

It looks like I will be solo this year for my Mother's Day Big Day, due to some notable field work induced absences, but my Baillie Week started off with a bang when a Lewis's Woodpecker was located at Highrock Park in Esquimalt, of all the random places.

I was in the office, watching posts come in and hoping the bird would stick. By the time my last meeting was finished, I zipped home to change, and made record time getting to Esquimalt. After all the rush and hustle, it took a mere three minutes from time of car parking until I spotted the beautiful Lewis's Woodpecker atop a snag, hawking insects. This has long been a big miss for me in the Victoria Checklist area, a long overdue tick.

Anyway, back to the Baillie Birdathon. I haven't decided on my exact routing yet, but given the incredible birds that have been showing, it is sure to be a great day! If anyone wants to join for the full 24 (midnight to as close to midnight I can get without falling asleep) or for a part, let me know!

To sponsor me, or any member of Rocky Point Bird Observatory's team, head over to our Birdathon Page and click on the link for any of our participants. Remember, 75% of everything raised stays right here with RPBO, let's make this the biggest year yet! We also have several local politicians birding for Rocky Point again this year!

Good birding, stay tuned for the results!