Sunday, November 9, 2014

Great Birds at Underbirded Locations

After yesterday's great birding, Jeremy G and I decided to spend the morning checking out a couple of usually underbirded locations.  Seems the last few years a number of amazing birds have shown up in places birders rarely go anymore, so we figured we would try our luck.

G wasn't deterred by this being his first real day back on the continent after putting the birders of Hawaii on notice, and we met at Macaulay Point at 7am.  I made it a priority to grab a coffee on the way, apparently he hadn't..... nevertheless, we were both keyed up and ready to hit it out of the park.

Macaulay Point is an area that I have only birded twice previously but it has a lot of potential, and birds started showing immediately.  In the marina area inshore was a Red-throated Loon, a Common Murre, and a small number of mixed ducks.  There seems to be a lot of Red-throated Loons around this year, with many close in to shore or in sheltered areas.... a far cry from many years when a single offshore is reason for celebration.

We set up our scopes to scan offshore, with Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, and Double-crested Cormorants very evident.  It wasn`t long before G called out that he had two phalaropes.  Being November, we both figured on which species they would be, and good observation revealed them to be Red Phalaropes, the first really good bird of the day.

The rest of the area yielded a good number of species including Northern Harrier, Bald Eagles, Harlequin Ducks, 15 Bonaparte`s Gulls, a single Thayer`s Gull, and an American Pipit overhead.  Near the end of our walk we heard a Varied Thrush leading off a chorus of ticked off songbirds, and the level of aggravation had us thinking owl in a second.  The habitat led me to think maybe a Long-eared was hiding somewhere, but we couldn`t dig anything out.

After a quick breakfast and coffee stop at the James Bay Starbucks we headed to Beacon Hill Park and Goodacre Lake, where G was hoping to catch up with the Blackburnian Warbler, last seen 6 days ago.

While I was parking G started birding, and texted me immediately with his second great find of the day.

This male Pine Grosbeak was showing very well and being very vocal near the bandstand.  Interestingly, Jeremy had commented a couple of hours earlier how this was going to be the year for low elevation Pines.  After a few minutes of enjoying this bird from every angle it flew off and we lost sight of it in the direction of St Ann`s Academy.

While we never did relocate the Blackburnian, there were enough birds to keep us busy for two and a half hours.  Among the remaining highlights was an intergrade Northern Flicker, which was being constantly harassed by a pure Red-shafted male.  Our first view of the two birds was the Red-shafted powerslamming the intergrade (which at first appeared to be a pure Yellow-shafted) from a branch 8 feet up, and we could clearly hear the thunk as the intergrade was driven into the ground.  We watched their antics for 15 minutes, but try as I might the light was against me in the picture department.

Carrying on we found good numbers of Bushtits, Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Chestnut-backed Chickadees.  

We walked the trail behind the maintenance yard, near where the Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher was a few years back, but only succeeded in turning up two pissed off Anna`s Hummingbirds and a Pacific Wren.  We were almost done the loop when The Naturalest Naturalist scored his hat trick with another good bird.

It is always a treat to see owls, and this roosting Barred Owl was no exception.  It was extremely cooperative, and I managed a few pictures.

Nothing else turned up, though G did stick around a little longer than I did.  I managed a Merlin on the way home, but that is about it.

Until the next time, Good Birding!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

First Class (and first record) Birding

After last week's Blackburnian Warbler (lifer for me, Victoria first record), I have been wondering if anything else mind-numbing would show up.  In light of the fantastic birds just across the water, coupled with the intense wind we have had this week, I figured Jordan River would be a great bet for one or more rarities.

I got to my usual parking spot just before 7:30am, and started with a scan of the water and ever present gull flock.  Among the 60 or so California Gulls were a late Heermann's Gull and a single Mew Gull.  Out on the water were good numbers of White-winged Scoters and Pacific Loons.

Turning my attention inland and working my way gradually from one end of the Jordan River stretch to the other and back, I failed to find anything in the realm of rare, but did get nice looks at Evening Grosbeaks, 95 Red Crossbills, 180 Pine Siskins, and many others.  While unsuccessfully attempting to photograph 4 Red-throated Loons and a Western Grebe that had made their way into the river I heard a familiar call, and up popped this little guy:

Out on the water off the far end of the beach were 7 very close Ancient Murrelets, another Western Grebe, several more Red-throated Loons, 50+ Pacific Loons, and a few other species.

With Jordan turning up nothing stellar, I headed back toward town with plans to check a few likely Cattle Egret/Emperor Goose spots.

At Journey Middle School in Sooke, a flock of 98 Greater White-fronted Geese and 10 Cackling Geese were hanging out on the field, sans Emperor.  Swanwick Rd in Metchosin, a spot I have been just waiting to turn up a Cattle Egret, were another 27 Greater White-fronts and 18 Cackling Geese.

Due to company and a quick work meeting, Swanwick marked the end of my days birding.  Or so I thought.

Just before 3pm I saw a message pop up on BCVIBirds about an Acorn Woodpecker at Cedar Hill Golf Course.  I was chomping at the bit to get out and get this bird, but when our company left I figured I wouldn't have enough light left to get any kind of look.

A last minute decision to go sent me scrambling through traffic, and I reached the parking area at King's Pond around 4:15pm, light fading fast.  I was encouraged by a followup report on BCVI, as well as a text from Jeremy G saying "showing well",  My legs were burning a bit by the time I reached a group of casual looking birders, and was greeted by Hawaii's newest celebrity birder, the Naturalest Naturalist, with "You just missed it!"

Several cuss words may have passed through my mind before G nodded at his scope, which was pointed up into an oak at one hunkered down Acorn Woodpecker.

I managed to rattle off a couple of grainy Victoria Birder style record shots in the near dark of this Victoria 1st record (number 298 for my Victoria list), and number 9 (my second) for BC, before it flew off about 4 minutes later.  Sweet timing on my part, as we only got a very brief glimpse of it flying overhead after that.

Not the worst record shots I have ever taken......

It's always a treat to be part of a Victoria first record, let alone 2 of them in 8 days.  Neither bird was on my radar on my march to 300, so it will sure be interesting to see what the next two will be!

I will be heading out in just under three months to take on some new (for me) birding ground with John Puschock from Zugunruhe Birding Tours on his Lower Rio Grande Tour from Feb 2-8, 2015.  John has put together an incredible deal on this tour, and I am definitely looking forward to beefing up my Life and ABA lists with this one.  Click here for details about this trip, he is also running a second from Feb 8-14.

Good birding!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Photo Round Up

I just noticed how long it has been since I have posted!

There have been a lot of well publicized rarities in Victoria this year, and among them I have managed to catch up with Hudsonian Godwit (lifer), Upland Sandpiper (new for BC), Little Stint (lifer), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (lifer), and most recently, Blackburnian Warbler (lifer).  I have been spending much of what little birding time I get searching Metchosin, Sooke, and Jordan River, in hopes of a rare bunting or hobby, but have yet to come up with anything.

The Blackburnian Warbler puts me at 297 for Victoria.... three more for that magic 300!  I am continually wrong in guessing what the next one will be, so I am going to let it ride for now and take what comes!

While I continue my searches, I figured I would keep things fresh with some pics from the last couple of months.

Bald Eagles, Tyee Spit, Campbell River

Marbled Godwit, Esquimalt Lagoon

Caspian Terns, Esquimalt Lagoon

Great Blue Heron and lunch, Esquimalt Lagoon

Western Sandpiper, Esquimalt Lagoon

Least Sandpiper, Jordan River

And, in the spirit and celebration of the lesser creatures (bugs n slugs, etc), I headed out with Jeremy G, Janean, Thea, and Liam in search of the near-mythical Blue-Grey Taildropper......  while the little slug did not materialize, we did get Yellow-bordered Taildropper:

And two Red-legged Frogs:

A certain naturalist is definitely turning into a bad influence on me.....

Until the next adventure, good birding and rarity finding!