The first week of 2012 wrapped with a full weekend of birding.
Yesterday, my brother and I started the day with three male Eurasian Wigeons at Demamiel Creek Golf Course in Sooke. This species has been represented this winter by many more individuals than normal, with somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30 currently present in the Victoria area (that I know of). We had no luck locating either the Snow Goose or Ring-necked Pheasant that have been reported lately in Sooke.
From there, we headed to Otter Point, where we scanned the water for an hour and a half, seeing one Black-legged Kittiwake, and numbers of Red-throated Loons, Pacific Loons, Common Murres streaming by in small groups, and many others.
Whiffin Spit itself was quiet, but there were over 500 Pine Siskins along Whiffin Spit Rd and Dufour Rd. Along Possession Pt Rd we located a small flock of siskins, and when they flew a single bird held back before taking off to join the flock. The single bird began calling as it passed over our heads, tipping us off that it was a Common Redpoll. We managed to follow the bird until it landed, and got great looks.
A stakeout at the feeder where the Brambling has been reported lately turned up nothing, and our final stop of the day was Goldstream Park. We quickly located two American Dippers along the river, though Red-breasted Sapsucker, another of my targets, was absent.
This morning my wife and I made the rounds, starting at Swan Lake where we ran into Chris Saunders and David Caudwell. Chris put me onto a Ruddy Duck at the far side of the lake, and before long Ian C called out a Common Redpoll flying over.
Martindale was the next stop. I had been lamenting to my wife that many other birders had managed to easily find the Rusty Blackbird and have it right at the side of the road. No sooner had I finished than we located the Rusty Blackbird, right at the side of the road, within 15 seconds of stopping. On the way back down Martindale Rd we located a Ring-billed Gull with Mew Gulls. Islandview Beach was also quiet, and we walked the trails from one end to the other without locating either Brant or a Northern Shrike.
A quick stop and scan at Elk Lake turned up very few birds, the highlight being a single Western Grebe. At this time last year, there were large flocks of Canvasback and Ruddy Ducks on the lake. So far this year, I have only seen 8 or so Canvasbacks, and zero Ruddy Ducks.
After a so-so lunch at Applebee's, we headed out on the hunt for a certain pale-throated Zonotrichia. Bow Park, which has been a reliable location for them, turned up none. We next headed to Uplands Park, where Ian C had found five of them in December. Near the corner of Lansdowne and Midland, I found one White-throated Sparrow, a tan-striped individual. This has always been one of my favourite sparrows, and I took a fair bit of extra time to watch it moving about the branches of the small tree it was frequenting.
The last stop before taking my wife home was Cattle Point, where there was very little of interest. I was hoping for Rock Sandpiper, but will have to keep trying.
After dropping Thea off at home, I headed for Goldstream Boathouse, where I found four Barrow's Goldeneyes very quickly. From there I headed down into Goldstream Park, where I found American Dipper again along the water, and finally Red-breasted Sapsucker.
With the light fading, I went up in search of a fairly reliable Northern Pygmy-Owl, without luck.
Eight days in, and my new Big Year attempt sits at 120 species, with 10 of those being sparrows! Many years end without this many species of sparrow appearing in Victoria, so I am excited for what is to come!