Friday, May 11, 2012

Working for the Pot of Gold!

Last night found me in the office at 6:30pm, finishing up on some paperwork and getting ready to head out.  I had spoken with Jeremy Gatten briefly on a weekend birding matter, and he mentioned that it might be a good idea to check out Tower Point.  I have been going to Esquimalt Lagoon every day hoping for the arrival of Marbled Godwits, but without luck, and I have been neglecting other great areas like the Witty's Lagoon complex and other parts of Metchosin.

With the recent wind, Tower Point made perfect sense, you never know what could show up on the rocks or the beach!  Past birds seen there have included most tubenoses, Willet, Green-tailed Towhee, Philadephia Vireo, Sabine's Gull, and more!

I had intended to scan the rocks and beach, and then move on to Albert Head Lagoon and other areas.  My good intentions quickly disappeared when I spotted a shorebird sleeping on the rocks off the point.  Conveniently, it was sleeping on one leg, and had positioned itself facing directly away from me.  From the structure of the bird, it was no doubt a plover, and I orginially assumed it was still in mainly winter plumage from the looks I had.  Every once in a while, it would quickly lift its head before tucking back in, showing the golden-brown cap and thick white supercillium wrapping around a cheek patch.  Combined with the golden-brown back, the bird went from plover spp. to Golden-Plover spp! 

As a drawback of being a Victoria Birder, I am not as familiar with the varying plumages and sexes of the Golden-Plovers as I would like, and was determined to make a study of this one while I had the opportunity.  There was extensive white under the tail, which should have clinched the ID, but I was still under the impression that I was staring at the backside of a mid-moult bird, all the while trying to focus through a scope at 45X that was being blown around by the relentless wind.

After a couple of phone calls and 40 minutes, the bird finally started to forage around the rocks, and when it turned is showed spotty black underneath, running up to a fairly indistinct facial patch.  The supercillium, which I had previously only had spotty looks at, ran around the facial/cheek patch, through the shoulder, and along the entire flanks of the bird, creating a wide strip between the wings and the patchy black underneath.

What I had previously assumed was a moulting bird of some description became an almost full breeding plumaged female Pacific Golden-Plover, only my second in Victoria!  Looking back on it, the long-legged, heavier-billed appearance of the bird could have tipped me off much sooner, as could the extent of the white under the tail, but c'est la vie.  It was a great lesson to add to my plumages of lesser seen migrants library!

Let's see what the wind brings in next!

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