I sometimes look back and think why did I ever start counting birds, I know the data comes in very useful, but I was a regular bird watcher once and chased rarities all over the provinces like a mad thing. Today made me realize why I and others do it when you pull up on the side of the road and those big white Trumpeter Swans are sitting there calling and feeding and glisten in the bright sunshine. I see those juveniles changing color knowing that these are the next generation getting ready to head north and all the time I know that once these magnificent birds were on the threshold of becoming extinct. That’s when it hits us as to why we go out on a Wednesday, wind, rain or shine to collect data so that these birds will never be subjected to the persecution that they once were.
Nine counters set out in three cars and just like last week it was tough going for the first few stops and with our famous scribe back behind me writing the data, we were soon getting some numbers; welcome back Dorothy. She had dumped her husband just so she could get re-acquainted with Barry and I meanwhile Eric saw fit to dump all his passengers off at lunch as he was missing his dear wife, so we had to let her go with him. We seemed to have lost the third car somewhere along Richards Trail; sorry about that but you must keep up; if we don’t hit A&W by noon the troops bellies start to rumble.
Today was another record setting day as the Trumpeter Swan numbers went up again and we nailed 500 spot on for the day and added 5 Mute and 1 Tundra Swan. Hawk and Eagle numbers took a tumble and we had only 2 American Kestrel and a, very late in the day, Merlin sitting above my house as the lads dropped me off. Barry added a new one to his ever growing list of birds caught pooping, when a Red-tailed Hawk obliged on Tom Windsor Drive with a nice looking flow before taking off, good job i had my window shut. While counting swans along Hwy. 18 we noticed a large kettle of birds over Mt. Prevost, most of which appeared to be Common Ravens, by the time I got the camera on them they had glided off the back slope. This week saw our first Lambs of the year at Dougan’s; they were being closely watched over by the barn cat just in case any predator came along.
One reason our hawk numbers were down was we were missing our star spotters this week as Zan and Kurlene who were off today, Yes, I admit we missed them.
It appears everyone one of us were not paying attention when a immature Northern Harrier glided right in front of us down in Cowichan Bay, would have made a nice addition to our photo’s this week. One of the American Kestrels was sitting nicely on top of a hydro pole right where we park along Herd Road, but soon took off at the sight of us, but luckily landed in a tree to pose for Barry
Our day came to an end in bright sunshine as we scanned over Cowichan Bay, Barry had reminded us that this time last year we were buried under a load of snow; well this is Vancouver Island and one never knows what your going to get from one year to the next, but we will take a day like today anytime.
We had a wonderful turnout of 10 counters, some of whom loved the sunlight on the clouds behind Swuqus (Mount Prevost) but were less enamored of the icy wind blowing off the bay. A flying beaver took off during the count, but the birds were not particularly disturbed by it, and there were lots of birds:
5 Mute Swan; 36 Trumpeter Swan; 189 Bufflehead; 9 Common Goldeneye; 1 Hooded Merganser ; 6 Horned Grebe; 1 Western Gull; 1 Thayer’s Gull; 8 Glaucous-winged Gull ; 24 gull sp.; 4 Double-crested Cormorant; 2 Northwestern Crow;
The intrepid observers were: Derek Gibson, Thomas George, Steve Mitchell, John Scull, Wilma Harvie, Eric Marshall, Gail Mitchell, Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, Dorothy Marshall, a harbour seal that joined us for a while and cameo appearances by Christina Cutbill and Eve Savory.
On February 9, 2020, Kurlene Wenberg and Carol Hartwig observed the following 11 species of waterbirds as the light dimmed late in the afternoon:
8 Double-crested Cormorant; 4 Pelagic Cormorant; 11 Canada Geese; 87 Trumpeter Swan; 27 Mallard; 2 Greater Scaup; 2 White-winged Scoter; 24 Bufflehead; 33 Common Goldeneye; 4 Common Merganzer; 3 Dunlin; 10 Mew Gull; 4 Glaucous-winged Gull; 75 Gull sp.;
Jim and Lyn Wisnia enjoyed the calm, sunny Sunday afternoon.
They observed in the Verdier Point area:
1 Surf scoter; 28 Bufflehead; 15 Goldeneye; 7 Barrow’s goldeneye; 7 Red-breasted merganser; 9 Horned grebe; 2 Red-necked grebe; 2 Western grebe; 8 Mew gull; 10 Glaucous-winged gull; 15 Gull sp.; 1 Pacific loon; 1 Common loon; 3 Brandt’s cormorant; 1 Belted kingfisher; 1 Common raven.
In the Mill Bay area:
5 American wigeon; 10 Surf scoter; 14 Bufflehead; 8 Common goldeneye; 10 Barrow’s goldeneye; 2 Hooded merganser; 7 Common merganser; 3 Red-breasted merganser; 2 Red-necked grebe; 1 Western grebe; 14 Glaucous-winged gull; 36 Gull sp.; 1 Common loon; 1 Brandt’s cormorant; 1 Pelagic cormorant; 1 Belted kingfisher; 3 Northwestern crow.
Ruddy Ducks by Barry Hetschko
What a day we had 8 counters were subjected to early wet conditions to heat and sun by lunch, no real surprises although 7 Snow Geese on Dinsdale’s Farm were nice, these birds had been around for a few days. This year we have been having trouble finding swans in the north end of our route and today was no exception, not sure why the birds have left these areas.The majority of swans were on Bench Road where in excess of 200 were seen. Immature birds are in low numbers this year which could mean a bad breeding season for them. With the birds being so far off in the fields it makes it hard for me to locate any Tundra Swans.
As you might have guessed the count did not take place because I did not do a snow dance after checking all the steps I thought better not try that, So there was a big dump of snow today. What you will get today is a halftime report as we are half way through this seasons count period
Trumpeter Swan numbers have been very good and were keeping pace with last years numbers that is until we hit January when although the group got good numbers they were down from last year, we have to wait and see what next week brings.
Canada Goose numbers have been on par with last year although the frozen ground I’m sure will have a impact on them as they will quickly leave our area to find food further south.
Raptor numbers have been low with Bald Eagles numbers going down a lot from last year. A lack of food for these big birds is definitely the cause, with not many Salmon or sea ducks to prey upon. Red-tailed Hawks have done well with an average of around 10 a week which is way up from last year. Falcon numbers have been good and American Kestrel appears to be very abundant in the valley this year. The Coopers Hawk have shown up on more counts than usual with good numbers of immature birds.
We have hit a bit of a wall with small birds, don’t know what we are doing wrong but they don’t seem to be around our route this year, we have spied a few Northern Shrikes which is always a treat. Owls have been the same as last year with zero being found on the count.
That’s about it, the sun is shining today not sure if it thinks it’s Wednesday, we live in hope that it shines next week when we count.
Until we ride again
Cowichan Bay, southside.
I forgot to send out a reminder last week and everyone else forgot to check the calendar at www.naturecowichan.net, so only Linda Hill and I were there to do the count without a telescope. It was chilly and overcast, but the sea was perfectly still, reflecting the sky and the mountains, e were accompanied on our walk along the shore by two river otters. We saw:
71 Bufflehead; 11 Common Goldeneye; 2 Hooded Merganser; 20 duck sp.; 1 Western Grebe;14 Gull sp.; 5 Double-crested Cormorant; 1 Belted Kingfisher; 1 Northwestern Crow; 28 Rock Dove.
With choppy water in Saanich Inlet Bryon Thompson observed the following waterbirds in the Verdier Point area:
American wigeon, 31; Bufflehead, 20; Common goldeneye, 8; Barrow’s goldeneye, 6; Red-breasted merganser, 9; horned grebe, 40; Glaucous-winged gull, 5; Gull sp., 1; Common loon, 1; Brandt’s cormorant, 1; Pelagic cormorant, 1.
In still choppy Mill Bay:
Mute swan, 1; Mallard, 8; Surf scoter, 24; Bufflehead, 51; Common goldeneye, 26; Barrow’s goldeneye, 1; Hooded merganser, 4; Glaucous-winged gull, 22; Brandt’s cormorant, 2; Double-crested cormorant, 4
It appears by the numbers that I should phone in sick more often as the Trumpeter Swan numbers were the best of the season and 13 Red-tailed Hawks equaled our high count for the term. I am not sure what i did to deserve this horrible cold although a did spend the day with another woman on January 1st who was coughing and sneezing all the time, “Tania” Got to stay away from these young woman. Big thanks to the crew for their hard work and i hope i will be fit enough to join them next week with a snow shovel.
Below is Eric’s take on the day. I do hope our good friend Dorothy has a speedy recovery as I don’t know what we will do without her cookies.
As the group met at the Dog Park we found that our worthy leader was laid low with a flu bug so we had to sort out who was going to count the swans and geese and who would record the numbers of raptors. Gayle, a keen naturalist from Ontario joined the group for the day – she will be staying in Cowichan Bay for a few weeks so we may see on another count. We set off in two cars promptly at 10 am on a cool morning but unlike the previous day there was no rain – Derrick is very good at seeing that the weather is good for our counting days. As we arrived at Somenos Lake the water sampling party from the Somenos Marsh Society was heading out so we asked them not to disturb the swans until we had counted them. A pied-billed grebe was the only other bird that we saw on the lake. We had been instructed to take the turning towards Crofton and on the road there we counted almost 90 swans and 250 geese in the Westholme area. Richards Trail yielded another 450 geese. The ponds on Herd Road lacked any swans and 130 geese seen by the side of the water. While stopped at the Park & Ride on Hwy #18 a lady from the other car dashed up and asked if we had seen the red-tailed eagle – I think she must have been hungry and confused as it was close to lunch time – she really meant red-tailed hawk.
While having our lunch break at A & W a merlin was seen nearby and an immature eagle flew overhead. We had thought that eagles would be abundant on the trees by the river next to Boys Road but only two were seen. On Sahilton Road there were three groups of swans hiding in the dips in the field. Over on Koksilah Road there were swans hiding in the fields and pools just below the hill there – Barry walked back from our stopping place to attempt to get a good count as we could not do so from the cars on the road. More swans were seen further along this road. Koksilah Road East held a large flock of geese and a small one was on the Dindale Farm fields. From Dock Road we could see over by the north shore some three groups of swans which appeared to be all trumpeters and just a separate group of four mutes was a little further upstream. The fields on the opposite side of the road to Blackey’s farm held a large flock of swans.
Thirteen red-railed hawks were seen. Two northern harriers and 2 peregrines and 3 kestrels were added to our totals.
Swans and Geese X 3 by Denny Wagg
Mallards by Denny Wagg
Ring-necked Duck by ZanStenhouse
Swans, Goose and Wigeon by Zan Stenhouse
Swans and Geese by Zan Stenhouse
One wet Hawk by Zan Stenhouse
There is no weather forecaster in Canada that can beat the force of a Swan and Goose counter doing the no rain dance, with rain in the forecast and me still suffering and hardly able to walk i called upon Barry; little did we know that Barry had just returned from Dancing with the Stars and did a wonderful job, not only didn’t it rain we even got a sunny break and the temperatures were nice.
7 counters left the dog park in two vehicles and it took a while to get something for Dorothy to scribble down on her return, a Red-tail here and a Bald Eagle there my book was getting some work. Then the gang descended on Somenos Lake while I sat in the car and watched a Bewick’s Wren working it’s way around some trees looking for spiders no doubt. The group returned with Trumpeters, Canada’s and Cacklers on their list.
There was what I think a first for the group today when a Red-brested Sapsucker sat working on it’s favorite tree on Drinkwater Road, never before have I thought that all counters had taken a picture of a bird, well not for a long time anyways. Funny sighting at the same tree was an Anna’s Hummingbird which appeared to be either taking sap or collecting small flies
Our numbers this week went up with more than double of Trumpeter Swans at #253 adults and#33 immature, Canada Geese went down slightly and we didn’t find any other species other than a few Cacklers at #5. Hawk numbers were good and both Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks bounced back up from last weeks slump. We had #4 Coopers Hawk,#1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, #1 Peregrine Falcon and again this week #3 Merlin.
I did see a Golden-crowned Kinglet on Richards Trail working it’s way through a Cedar.
Don’t remember any Deer this week, but Zan was lucky to find a nice group of Elk on the way in to the count at the Hwy 18 park and ride
The numbers for Trumpeter’s this week were pretty much the same as the corresponding count last year with many birds still up island enjoying this very dry unseasonable weather.
At the end of the day on the Dock Road a Northern Shrike was spotted and we had a monster flock of swans and geese fly over, I am sure these were the group from up on Bench and had been disturbed
We left the Dock Road after a couple of mini Mars bars thanks to Zan and headed our way home adding a few more birds on the way.
Loving Swans by Derrick Marven
Loafing at Quamichan Lake by Derrick Marven
Anna’s “sapsucker”Hummingbird by Barry Hetschko
Red-breasted Sapsucker by Eric Marshall
Cooper’s Hawk by Eric Marshall
Trumpeter pair by Denny Wagg
Merlin by Zan Stenhouse
Elk by Zan Stenhouse
The conductor by Zan Stenhouse
Only Linda Hill and I were there to do the count without a telescope. It was chilly and overcast, but the sea was perfectly still, reflecting the sky and the mountains, We were accompanied on our walk along the shore by two river otters. We saw on the south side of Cowichan Bay:
71 Bufflehead; 11 Common Goldeneye; 2 Hooded Merganser; 20 duck sp.; 1 Western Grebe; 14 gull sp.; 5 Double-crested Cormorant; 1 Belted Kingfisher; 1 Northwestern Crow; 28 Rock Doves
With calm sea state at high tide, Kurlene Wenberg observed these 7 waterbird species on the north side of Cowichan Bay:
11 Double-crested Cormorant; 6 Trumpeter Swan; 302 American Wigeon; 33 Bufflehead; 16 Common Goldeneye; 2 Common Merganser; 8 Gull Sp.
On a pleasantly cloudy December 8 evening, Jim & Lyn Wisnia observed in the Verdier Point area:
11 Surf scoter; 43 Bufflehead; 47 Common goldeneye; 14 Barrow’s goldeneye; 1 Hooded merganser; 39 Red-breasted merganser; 2 Pied-billed grebe; 14 Horned grebe; 2 Marbled murrelet; 14 Mew gull; 13 Glaucous-winged gull; 13 Gull sp.; 4 Pacific loon; 3 Common loon; 1 Brandt’s cormorant; 2 Pelagic cormorant; 1 Double-crested cormorant; 1 Northwestern crow; 3 Common raven.
The Marbled Murrelets made up for the lack of Western Grebes.
As the evening darkened in the Mill Bay area:
126 American wigeon; 3 Surf scoter; 28 Bufflehead; 1 Common goldeneye; 2 Barrow’s goldeneye; 2 Mew gull; 22 Glaucous-winged gull; 4 Gull sp.; 80 Canada goose; 7 Mute swan; 51 Mallard; 4 Goldeneye sp.;
The weather man had forecast strong winds and we managed to dodge most of it until the end of the count at Cowichan Bay where small white caps could be seen coming in from the south east. It did not take long for everyone to hide back in the vehicles.
Today saw only 6 eager counters take part with two of our regular party off gallivanting up island I believe, the men went in one car and the ladies in another just to keep the peace.
The numbers were all over the place this week with adult Swans being up just a few birds and immature going down while the goosies stayed around the same, we did mange one Snow Goose and several Cackling Geese. Most of the swan pack were up on Bench with a few family groups dotted around the valley to make up the numbers.
Eagle numbers went down as did Red-tailed Hawks but we did well for Falcons as we recorded three Merlin’s our first of this season, two Peregrine Falcons and one American Kestrel that has settled in up at the Exhibition grounds.
We only had a few deer this week and on very quick Squirrel that dodged the car wheels up on Herd Road. We looked for Elk in several locations but not hide no hair was seen of them.
What was an amazing miss there was not one Bald Eagle at Quist’s Farm, think this could be a record as we always seem to find some there. There were some duckies in the flooded field with Mallard, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and a handful of Northern Pintail.
Along Richard’s Trail we had a nice treat with a few Varied Thrush and one pied American Robin that showed some small leucistic dotes on it’s body and head. It was along the road further where we got our first Merlin.
The Herd Road flooded fields were loaded with both ducks and geese and I had spotted the Snow goose as we approached along the road. The Peregrine Falcon was once again keeping watch on it’s meal ticket just in case any interlopers tried to home in on it’s patch.
Hwy 18 was a bust with not a single bird to be counted, think next week I will start counting cows as they always seem to be out.
We soon found ourselves back for lunch, where a certain lady’s cookies were sorely missed. Dorothy we miss you please come back soon.
After a quick belly full of food we were off to Boys Road where it was hard going with hardly any raptors and no swans, we did find a confiding Great Blue Heron on the side of Sahilton Road that stood motionless waiting to have it’s picture taken, I totally forgot about it when we came back down the road.
What appeared to be a family group of Trumpeter’s were in the corn fields over on Koksilah Road west, it was here where we first got a glimpse of the girls who had lagged behind getting pictures, they thanked us for waiting for them, which we had no intention of doing anyways.
The next stop was Bench Road where the major flock of swans were located, I was tempted to get out the vehicle get the scope out and look for Tundra Swans but the wind and my bad hip made think twice about that fool hardy endeavor.
We then went to Dougan’s Flats where just one group of Geese were located and so we found ourselves quickly across the highway and down into Cowichan Bay where as I had said earlier it was not a good day day to be out along the Dock Road in the wind. I did spy a Eurasian Wigeon tucked in with all the other ducks in the corner of the estuary, they are not stupid these Europeans – know where to go when things get harsh.
We finished our day along the Cowichan River where we found the ladies who had lost us, they had found a nice big Sealion working the river for a Salmon supper.
That was it our day was done, not the best, but some great sights of birds. Lot’s of pictures this week as I know you like them.
Young Deer by Derrick Marven
Trumpeter Swan by Derrick Marven
Eurasian Wigeon sleeping by Derrick Marven
female Common Merganser by Denny Wagg
Great Blue Heron by Denny Wagg
Merlin by Zan Stenhouse
Trumpeter Swan group by Zan Stenhouse
Geese on ice by Zan Stenhouse
Sealion by Zan Stenhouse
Varied Thrush by Barry Hetschko
Pied American Robin by Barry Hetschko
Muscovy Duck by Barry Hetschko