Saturday, 23 of September of 2017

Coastal Waterbird Count, Cowichan Bay, 10th September, 2017.

On the south side of the Bay, Laurie Vasey, Linda Hill, Kathy Coster, John Scull, and Carol Milo were joined by two new volunteers, Daniel Collins and Carol Hannon, for an hour of bird counting and socializing on a beautiful morning in Cowichan Bay. The sea was like glass, reflecting the mountains and the mist.

2 Canada Goose; 5 Double-crested Cormorant; 6 Great Blue Heron; 2 Osprey; 2 Western Gull; 3 Glaucous-winged Gull; 39 other Gulls;
A few purple martins were swooping around, but they wouldn’t land to be counted and a harbour seal passed by.

John Scull

Lovely morning on the North side of the bay, where Kurlene Wenberg and Daryl Johnson
viewed thirteen species of birds on the calm, sunny waters. So many Common Mergansers.
Really a fun challenge to count them!

Mute Swan 27; Mallard 12; Surf Scoter 4; Common Merganser 94; Great Blue Heron 8; Osprey 3; Shorebird species 70; Mew Gull 20; Glaucous-winged Gull 33; other Gull Species 60; Belted Kingfisher 1; Northwestern Crow 1; Common Raven 1

Daryl Johnson

The next count is scheduled for 8 am on Sunday, October 8.

Coastal Waterbird Counts, Cowichan Bay, Sunday 14th May, 2017.

It was a beautiful early morning with the sea a mirror reflecting the clouds and mountains. Linda Hill and John Scull completed the final count of the season. The winter ducks and swans are gone, but the purple martins and common mergansers have arrived in numbers. We saw:
Canada Goose 13; Common Merganser 26; Double-crested Cormorant 6; Great Blue Heron 6; Osprey 2; gull sp. 8; Belted Kingfisher 1; Northwestern Crow 6 ; Purple Martin 21; Starling 7

Early Sunday, found Richard Campbell and Carol Hartwig observing 10 species of waterbirds (not counting Purple Martins or Starlings) for a total of 48 birds from Khenipsen Road, Cowichan Bay North side. The weather was overcast with no precipitation and the Bay was rippled to calm during a falling tide.
Common Loon 1; Great Blue Heron 7; Mute Swan 9; Mallard 16; Bufflehead 2; Common Merganser 6; Bald Eagle 2; Osprey 3; Glaucous-winged Gull 1; Turkey vulture 1; Purple Martin 3; Starling 1.

Annual trip to Qualicum and Parksville, 25th March, 2017

Now I am sure that you’ve all heard the phrase Piggy in the Middle, well after much praying to the sun gods and a reverse rain dance I manged to get us a somewhat sunny day for our annual birding trip for the Herring spawn. I think that the spawn was not all that spectacular this year as we hardly saw any eggs on the beaches. Only a few passing Sealions were seen and no fishing boats.
The 11 birders/photographers arrived in Qualicum at 9:30 and straight away we got one of those special little species that always turns up for the spawn the diminutive Bonaparte’s Gull. Sadly I think we only spotted one with it’s black hood all the rest still in winter plumage, just like some of our party. The rafts of sea ducks were way out but with much scanning we did mange to see most of the expected species although some were in small numbers like: Long-tailed Duck, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter and Loons which were in very small numbers. There was also another problem with the birds being so far out the photographers turned on their own kind and several were seen snapping pics of each other.
One of the stars at the Qualicum lookout was a Sanderling; this species was one that always gave the Old Country Twitchers a problem finding during those days of the Brant Big Day Birding Competition. Another nice species seen was a 1st year Herring Gull that looked massive against the Bony’s and Mew Gulls, it got disturbed and flew before most participants were up and running. Another good gull species was a 1-2nd year Glaucous Gull that fed out in the milling throng.
We had been there a while when Genevieve turned up, this greenhorn to birding was eager to see the masses and we tried our best to show her and the others all the species that were out there. This is always a problem with diving ducks and large flocks because one second they’re there and the next they’re gone and if your not that quick looking through the scope, well too bad.
We moved down one street in the hopes of the birds being closer and it was a bit better but not to the liking of the shutterbugs. A pair of Eurasian-collared Doves sat high up on a dead snag and a few Tree Swallows passed us by.
Our next stop was Kincade Road and good numbers of birds were had. There was still that little chill to the wind and we knew that it was still March and that we should not expect too much from the weather. A Great Blue Heron was added to our total and both Red-winged Blackbirds and House Sparrows were along the road. We scanned the birds in hopes of finding another good bird, sadly none were found so we moved on down to Columbia Beach. Here I’m afraid to say was a disaster as it was hard to even find a bird, there appeared to be more people than birds and they were sparse.
That was it time for our lunch break so off we went for much needed food, that is for some of us who didn’t get up early enough to make a sandwich.We grabbed some goodies and were off to the Parksville community park. I think it should be renamed parking lot as we were unable to find any spots out near the birds so us gimpy ones were dropped off and others shuttled out whilst the drivers parked out near Coombs, well somewhere that far away.
Things were slow here as we munched into our lunches, the ducks were far off across the bay, just one lonely Bald Eagle sat out on the gravel bar and Genevieve went out to chat him up. A few dabbling ducks were off the point all were American Wigeon with one Eurasian type with them which Caroline had spotted but kept it to herself, she’ll learn there are no secrets when I’m around. A single female Yellow-rumped Warbler sat in the tree and was camouflaged which made it hard to get the others to see it. I payed off some dog walker and managed to secure a parking spot for Dave, but it was all too late for the birds and us old timers made the long slog back to the vehicles, while some got in with Dave.
Our next stop was the Plummer Road side of the Englishman River Estuary, the number of gulls on this side was incredible and a massive flock took to the air as a Bald Eagle sailed over looking for that one that does not look too fast. It was here that we scored big time, Kurlene spotted a peep fly in and I got on it straight away and much to my dismay it was a breeding plumage Western Sandpiper an incredibly early arrival, not many have been recorded this early before on Vancouver Island. The other nice sighting was a hybrid American X Eurasian Green-winged Teal, you don’t see many of these around.
We headed around to the beach to have a look and well guess what the Scoters were all close in and a wonderful sighting was had by the happy campers. All this joy was brought to a sudden halt when this funny wet stuff started to descend on us , at first just a few drops which i thought was some gull passing over, but no it was the real stuff and it got a little heavy before that nasty cloud passed over. We all had wonderful looks at the ducks before we headed back south and the next stop the Ugly Dwarf meadows. We scanned from the top of the road but only a couple of Common Ravens were spotted, but down further we were treated to a very unusual sight 3 American Kestrels we had; I have never had three in one location before. A Red-tailed Hawk was spotted our only one of the day. Some of us were now starting to lag and a small flock of Turkey Vultures picked up on this straight away and circled overhead and so we got back in the cars and headed for home.
Our day was done and we had enjoyed some lovely sights and it is always a wonderful trip up that area to view the birds and scenery. Big thanks to all for their friendship and laughter which made for a lovely March day out with nature.Here is the list of bird species seen on our trip:

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal X Eurasian Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Barrow’s Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Black-bellied Plover
Black Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Bonaparte’s Gull
Mew Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer’s Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous Gull
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian-collared Dove
Anna’s Hummingbird
American Kestrel
Northwestern Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
American Robin
Eurasian Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
House Sparrow

58 species


Coastal Waterbird Counts – Sunday 12th March, 2017

Crab dinner


It was cold and windy on the south side of Cowichan Bay as Eric Marshall, Carol Milo, Linda Hill, Wilma Harvie, and Gail Mitchell counted birds while John Scull kept records. Here’s what was counted:

Mute Swan 2 ; Surf Scoter 33; Bufflehead 102; Common Goldeneye 24; Double-crested Cormorant 2; Bald Eagle 1; Western Gull 1; gull sp. 6; Northwestern Crow 2

Daryl Johnson and Kurlene Wenberg saw the following species on the North side of the Bay:

Canada Geese 8; Mute Swan 4; Trumpeter Swan 1; American Wigeon 8; Mallard 3; Surf Scoter 14; White-winged Scoter 6; Bufflehead 20; Common Goldeneye 19; Hooded Merganser 2; Common Merganser 9; Double-Crested Cormorant 2; Great Blue Heron 1; Turkey Vultures 5; Bald Eagle 1; Dunlin 5; Mew Gull 3;Thayer’s Gull 1; Glaucous-winged Gull 16; Common Raven 2

Lyn and Jim Wisnia saw these species:

1.  Verdier Point area:

American Wigeon 10; Surf Scoter 6; Bufflehead 25; Common Golden eye 42; Barrow’s Goldeneye 42; Common MergaNSER 3; Red-breasted Merganser 18; Common Loon 1; Loon sp. 1; Horned Grebe 5; Red-necked Grebe 2; Great Blue Heron 1; Mew Gull 10; Herring Gull 2; Glaucous-winged Gull 31.

2. Mill Bay area:

Mute Swan 2; American Wigeon 7; Surf Scoter 3; Bufflehead 30; Common Goldeneye 29; Barrow’s Goldeneye 5; Hooded Merganser 1; Common Merganser 6; Red-breasted Merganser 1; Common Loon 1; Horned Grebe 7; Bald Eagle 1; Glaucous-winged Gull 27; Gull sp. 1; Northwestern Crow 7; Common Raven 1; Cormorant sp .1.

Total birds for both these two areas: 305

Results can be viewed at

Attached are two pictures taken today by Wilma Harvie

Swan & Goose count March 15th 2017

Trumpeter Swans


Cooper’s Hawk

Red-breasted Sapsucker


Hooded Merganser

Another wonderful day for the counters with finally some warmer weather. Seven counters left the dog park and two others joined us just down the road, when we finished we had 5 counters when we returned, now where did we mislay those other counters, who knows. If you should see any birders wandering around with clipboards please take them in and feed them generous doses of waterfowl videos.
The numbers of Trumpeters continue on a high this week even though the snow has gone, guess their not ready to leave us yet. One thing I have noticed this season is that there has not been much sign of the swans gesturing to each other with head bobbling displays and other seductive movements, maybe it’s still to come.
The day started well with two early birds at the dog park getting a flyover Turkey Vulture and they were swift to show me the picture for confirmation. A few Geese were recorded before we reached the rest stop beside Somenos Marsh, where to my amazement the ladies vehicle exclaimed that there was a seal in the marsh, now there have been a couple of sightings of seals in the lake, but in the marsh is totally different matter. The lead car could see some ripples out under the willows and then a head and back come up, but sadly it was just one of the local Otters who “sealed” the identification with it’s long tail coming up out of the water.
Somenos Lake was very slow with just some loafing Double-crested Cormorants and a bunch of geese. There were a pair of Bald Eagles attending a nest in the far end of the lake, this was our second nest sighting of the day as the other Derrick and I had seen a pair at a nest on Quamichan Lake. On the way back up Drinkwater one of the Red-breasted Sapsuckers was on the maple tree just waiting for unsuspecting photographers to pas by. After trying to drag the girls away from this obliging woodpecker we were off up the highway to Quist’s Farm where a good number of Trumpeters awaited our counting. Old senior in the backseat said there’s an eagle up on the big dead snag and as soon as I looked at it I thought this is different, as we pulled around to the other side I felt that we might be looking at a Golden Eagle but the light was not good. With the scope set up I was still second guessing this bird, it was very tatty but with what appeared to be a golden mantle. It is good that we have such accomplished photographers in our group because having received their snaps I am now convinced we had a second year Golden Eagle.
On we pressed on down along Westholme and Richards Trail, things were slow and not many numbers were added to our lists, an eagle here and red-tail there and a goosy goosy gander or two and that was it. We did have a few swallows flying around which convinced us that this was finally spring. Not sure what channel senior Derrick was watching but he said snow was in the forecast, think he was watching some eastern channel. He had earlier proclaimed to me that he had a bath just before I picked him up, I have to admit that mid-month baths are not for me, I think there are some old cowboy genes in me as once a month is enough. I can’t believe what measures some take to impress the ladies.
Back to the birds, a few Trumpeters were up on Hwy 18 along with a raptor or two. Back down towards A&W for our rest and a few more Geese were picked up along the baseball fields. It was a good thing school was out as we were a bit late getting our lunch and the queues were small. After a short break we were off again to Boy’s Road and as usual the second car lagged along behind, lucky they did as they got a Coopers Hawk our only one of the day. A few Swans were counted but that was it before we headed off over to the west and some very dark beckoning clouds. Finally we started to get more swans and we left Koksilah Road west with 65 total. Bench Road came next and way down the fields was another 45 birds. At this point Dorothy started to sharpen the pencil in anticipation of more to come. Dougan’s Flats added a few more Trumpeters which tried to hide behind a barn but nothing gets past us. Over to St. Catherine’s we ventured and just two handfuls of Trumpeters and a small group of Canadas. Again the ladies dragged their feet as they found our first Northern Harrier of the day.
Jim’s Pond had Northern Shovellers, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks and just a few Canada Geese. Cherry Point Road added over 60 Swans and this was just the buildup to the big flock coming along Koksilah Road east where after much counting we had nearly 190 Trumpeter’s.
Back down through the bay and the tide was out with not much showing. Dinsdale’s Farm pulled in another 105 Canada Geese before we hit the Dock Road. You must have heard that expression dead as a dodo, well the bay was it until just as we were about to leave and our second Northern Harrier payed us a visit.
One thing I did notice today was the lack of any small birds just a few here and there.
That was it; those big black clouds were getting closer it was time to roll up the blanket and put the glasses in the basket and head for home.
Just two more counts to go and we hope that some birds stay around for us to count.

Photo Credits

Hooded Merganser by Barry Hetschko
Red-breasted Sapsucker by Eric Marshall
Coopers Hawk by Zan Stenhouse
family of Trumpeter’s by Zan Stenhouse

Take Care

From Comox Valley: This weeks Trumpeter tally was 1041 adults and 179 juveniles for a total of 1220. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in 2016 was 801 swans.

Swan & Goose count March 8th 2017

Trumpeter swans


Getting the boot


Mount Prevost


Bald Eagle




Glaucous gull

Today was world woman’s day and we were joined by 4 lovely ladies for our count and to keep with equality there were also 4 men. This week we managed to just keep in front of the winter weather, you could see the snow coming down around the hills, but for us it kept its distance. It was not until our last stop did some light rain would catch up with us.
Our numbers for swans and geese were much the same as the last couple of weeks, but the raptors once again took a knock, we did find a American Kestrel in a new location on Hwy 18 so all was not lost.
We searched high and low for a couple of Pink-footed Geese that have been in the valley for a few days but they eluded us on this day.
Our first stop was the Golf Driving range on Beverly Street and right in front of us was a 1st winter Glaucous Gull which has been around in many locations for a few weeks now, quickly many pictures were taken before we moved on.
Somenos Marsh was slow as was the lake, just the local goose flocks were seen. We quickly made our way up the highway gaining a few Bald Eagles on the way until we got to Quist’s Farm and our first good numbers of swans.
This week we run at about 25% ratio of adults to immature which was nice.
As sometimes happens the lead car gave the slip to the others on a couple of occasions, week after week I tell them to keep up, but you know these photographers, they don’t listen, they see a photo op and everything else goes out the window.
Numbers along Westholme Road and Richards Trail were poor and it was not until we reached the rest stop at Hwy 18 did we start to get some good numbers, it was here that Barry spotted the Kestrel far off on a hydro wire. Now if I’m not mistaken, you know how my old memory disc is lately, the Kestrel is possibly the fourth falcon species that we have had at this location along with a Coopers Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk and Bald Eagle, maybe some of you should take a little rest here now and again and just relax with your binoculars and take in the sights.
We finally found ourselves at A&W a bit late and all the rugrats from the school had invaded which forced two of our group to get back in the vehicle and go through the drive-through for quicker service, this all took time and we were late leaving; good job Dorothy was not with us as we would have had to finish off all her cookies this week.
Along Boys Road we went with still not much to be seen, a Red-tailed Hawk and a immature Bald Eagle were counted and only 2 Canada Geese. Over to Sahilton and Corfield Roads managed to get us 35 Swans and that was it
Koksilah Road west came up with another 30+ Trumpeters and a few Geese before we gave the slip on the ladies as we went up Riverside Road without letting them know and the along Koksilah past Bench where we scored a few Swans before catching up with the ladies who to my amazement had counted the Bench Road flock, well done girls.
This past weeks we have encountered on several occasions a single swan all be itself in a field and for the second time on Wilson Road a single bird was had all by his lonesome. Dougan’s Flats had a big flock of geese and a few swans, one which we thought was a bucket until it put it’s head up.
We did encounter a few molting deer this week who’s coats looked a lot like an old fur coat that my dear old mum used to put down for the dog now and again.
Over to St.Catherine’s Road where just 3 swans were waiting to be counted along with some White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, all the California Quail have seemed to have vanished, I think they’ve had enough of this off and on again winter.
Things were now starting to hot up as we reached Telegraph Road and Cherry Point Road with good large flocks of swans and by the time we left over 200 Trumpeter Swans were added to our list, sadly the Pink-footed Geese were nowwhere to be seen, much to the annoyance of one of our party who it seems has been unable to find these birds.
Koksilah Road east added two handfuls of swans and then it was off down to Dinsdale’s Farm for our last big count of the day, over 200 Canada Geese and one lonely Cackler were seen and the first spits of rain was starting.
The Dock Road was chilly and just two Mute Swans and 4 Trumpeters were seen before all counters bundled back in the vehicles as a adult Bald Eagle sat on the osprey platform with a bit of a smirk on its face.
The rain was now getting more than a few drops as the hills around us had a lovely coating of snow, we were just glad that we had stayed in front of the nasty weather for most of the day.
There are now only 3 more counts for the season before both us and the swans get the boot and it awaits us in a field along our route.

Photo credits

Glaucous Gull by Kurlene Wenberg
Squiggle by Barry Hetschko
Getting the boot by Zan Stenhouse
Trumpeter Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Bald Eagle by Christina Cutbill
Mt. Prevost by Barry Hetschko


From Comox Valley: This weeks Trumpeter tally was 950 adults and 203 juveniles for a total of 1153. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in 2016 was 1553 swans.

Swan & Goose Count March 1st 2017

Three happy campers


Swan counters

Two wood owls

Red breasted sapsuckers


Ring necked ducks

It was one of those days when the weather was not sure what it wanted to do, so we got a bit of everything except that white stuff, but there were many little piles left on our trip around today. It sure did feel more like spring as 8 counters headed out from the dog park. It was nice to have our good friend Kurlene back with us this week. Because of the trouble last week we segregated the North Americans from the Brits in two cars, it must have affected the solitary male in the Canuck vehicle as he failed to take a picture with his big lens.
This week we recorded our best numbers for Trumpeter Swans this season with just under 600 birds, we almost had the same number of geese as last week with just 3 birds more at 1056. The raptor numbers put on a good show with 3 Merlins getting top honors along with 8 Red-tailed Hawks. Even the Bald Eagle numbers went up with 32 being seen.
Swans were spread out over many locations this week and we added a new location as there were good numbers seen just down Cherry Point Road, we try not to deviate from our route too much, but it was hard to pass up this good flock.
A Peregrine Falcon and our first Northern Shrike were seen out from the dog park. We started on our way and with just a few birds under our belt we hit Drinkwater Road and who should be boozing it up on the Maple tree but the Red-breasted Sapsucker, we left her in peace and headed down to the lake but sadly we could only find one lonely Trumpeter far off in the distance. Also out on the lake was a handful of Ruddy Ducks. Back off up the road we went and I could see the Sapsucker on the tree so with the window wound down Eric had point blank shots,but hold on what was that hiding around the back of the tree, it was another, a male this time, now we had two at point blank range only now they could not fit in the view finder of the camera, lucky for us Zan was a bit further away in the vehicle behind and captured the occasion.
Quist’s Farm gave us many birds and out in the fields among a flock of Wigeon was a Eurasian cousin. We had a few more Swans along Westholme Road but Richards Trail was a bust until we reached the hydro lines and the American Kestrel was keeping watch over its rodent field.
It was good this week to see that the swans were back feeding again after Mondays big snowfall, this weather has sure not helped their preparations for their journey north, the young birds especially needing to be fully fit.
Hwy 18 had good numbers of swans and geese and it was nice to see the farmer come down the field and go through his gate and leave the birds in peace, a welcome sight in this much publicized assumed problem in the Cowichan Valley
The elk were also in sight again this week but back in the trees this time.
After our break it was over to the Boys and Sahilton areas, not much was found so we headed over to the west side. Both Bench and Wilson Roads had good numbers of Swans but I did not see any sign of a dead swan that reportedly hit the wires.
Dougan’s Flats was devoid of birds and it was not until we hit Telegraph and Cherry Point Roads did we start adding good numbers to our total.
Like many birders we sometimes cause a little problem by stopping on the road to look at birds, this was the case when a lovely Northern Shrike sat up on top of a tree along Willmot Road I put on the hazard lights and opened up the sun roof so that Eric could get a picture, but one irate driver was not happy with what we were doing and pulled right up behind us and then along side, me being a good old boy totally blanked him much to his annoyance as he drove off up the road. Some people have no respect for a swan counter.
We headed down to the bay and as we hit Dinsdale’s Farm a large group of geese was gathered knowing that those peskily hunters were not there to disturb them. Barry exclaimed an Owl and flying over the field was a Short-eared Owl being bothered by a persistent Common Raven but in the end the Raven let the Owl get on with the job at hand.
Our last surprise of the day was the sighting of two immature Mute Swans swimming out near the log booms in the bay, funny we have not seen these birds all season, I just wonder where they have been all this time.

That was it our day was done and a very successful one it was.

Photo Credits
Ring-necked Ducks by Zan Stenhouse
Red-breasted Sapsuckers by Zan Stenhouse
Two Wood Owls by Zan Stenhouse
Swan counters at the lake by Barry Hetschko
Three happy campers by Cristina Cutbill


From Comox Valley: This weeks Trumpeter tally was 942 adults and 201 juveniles for a total of 1143. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in 2016 was 1818 swans.

Swan & Goose count Feb. 22nd 2017

Flying Trumpeter Swans


Flying Cooper’s Hawk


Budding photographer




Red-tailed Hawk


‘Plastic Pileated woodpecker’

“Plastic Pecker”

7 counters turned up at the dog park this morning and we were greeted with a Peregrine Falcon and a adult Bald Eagle, it was then that I knew we were into a good days birding.
Today the weather forecasters got it slightly wrong as it was a beautiful day with above average temperatures which the counters dealt with in many different ways, some even turning into spring plumage, but all agreed it was one to enjoy.
Our raptor numbers were not that impressive today with Bald Eagle numbers dropping drastically, but we did find 7 Red-tailed Hawks including a lovely Western type sitting in the sun along Hwy 1 north at Mays Road, two Peregrine Falcons, 1 Merlin, and 2 Coopers Hawk made up our total.
Trumpeter Swan numbers bounced back up as the fields once again became green and no mist to obscure our vision and we ended up with 385 adults and 73 immature. Canada Goose numbers also rose with 1053 seen, along with 3 Snow Geese off Koksilah Road east. Earlier in the morning I had seen a couple of Greater White-fronted Geese on the baseball fields beside the hwy at Beverly but sadly they did not materialize on the count.
After leaving the dog park our first good bird of the day was a wonderful Western Gull on the school playing fields.
We only saw one neck banded Canada Goose today 008. It has come to our attention that one of our own has been fitted with a neck collar, this collar has a big “J”, if you should see this big tall goose please report it to Linda as she wants to keep tabs on it’s movements. Get well soon John!
Great excitement at the Forest Discovery Center when Christina spotted a Pileated Woodpecker, it sat so still and did not move a feather as she fired off many shots, it was still there in the same spot and had not moved an inch on Thursday morning.
We encountered 2 Ring-necked Pheasants on Richards Trail, but there was no sign of the third that was seen on Monday, but there was a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the hydro pole just down the way, did he? We will never know.
Once again one of the big highlights was seeing the herd of Elk up Hwy 18 with 29 beasts right out in the open. One of the young males was very pale and stood out just like the Glaucous Gull did last week, these fields have held some of the best sightings that we have had on the count over the seasons for all species.
This week we had a new driver who did a wonderful job of keeping the troops on the straight and narrow and was heading for a record early run if hadn’t been for the antic’s of the lady in the back seat who entertained the two Derricks with much laughter and banter taking place. I have never known a lady so well equipped for a swan count and she was very forthcoming sharing her treats with us.
For the most part all the Trumpeter Swans that we encountered this week were feeding heavily, it is that time to fatten up for the great move north, they have had a setback with all the snow, so they are playing catchup. If any are not fully fit for the migration they could succumb to their task.
We finished our count on the Dock Road where the breeze reminded us that we are still in February and we should not let our guard down or be lured into false comforts.

Photo Credits

Red-tailed Hawk by Barry Hetschko
Pileated Woodpecker by Christina Cutbill
Elk by Zan Stenhouse
Budding Photographer by Barry Hetschko
Flying Coopers Hawk by Christina Cutbill
Flying Trumpeter Swans by Zan Stenhouse

Now where did I put that snow shovel?

From the Comox Valley:
This weeks Trumpeter tally, the highest this season, was 883 adults and 248 juveniles for a total of 1131. The previous high number for this season was 1112 on January 17th. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in February 2016 was 1333 swans.

Swan & Goose Count Feb.15th 2017

Cooper’s Hawk

Tundra swans (on right)


Bald eagle


Northern shrike

It is hard to comprehend what we as counters had to put up with today, first of all our numbers of participants was down to just 6 and at one point I wondered if we would be greater than the number of swans seen. At times on the west side of town it was hard to even see the field let alone anything in it. The rain and heat combined with the snow made the mist so bad it reminded me of the pea soupers that I had encountered as a kid back in England.
Our numbers for swans and raptors were way down and only the geese put on a good show.
But all bad weather has a silver lining and for us it was the sighting of several uncommon species.
I won’t dwell on our first few stops as they were not good, but when we reached Quist’s farm we got our tallies off to a good start even if we had blinked while turning a corner we would have missed a group of swans that were so tight to the road and in the mist they just barely appeared. Westholme Road gave us a nice flock of Trumpeters but even these posed a problem as stopping was not easy and I counted them as Barry slowly drifted along the road.
Hwy 18 was next and the only white birds seen was a major flock of gulls, but one big white one stood out, a first or second year Glaucous Gull, and further up the field was a big pale bum that was attached to just one Elk which was facing away from us with it’s head up in the bushes. We never encountered anything else before we reached our break, Malcolm checked out Tansor school and there were no swans up there this week.
After leaving A&W the weather really set in and the rain started in earnest and Boy’s Road was blanketed in mist and nothing was seen, so over to Sahilton we went and here our luck changed again and a couple of groups of swans produced a pair of adult Tundra Swans who put on a wonderful display of courtship while the male took umbridge to a male Trumpeter getting in on the action and gave him a big bite on the tail and some wing flapping and gesturing took place. It was nice to hear the Tundras call as this is totally different to the Trumpeters. As we headed back down the road Christina shouted there’s a hawk but all I could see was this old sock in the tree, but she insisted and so we backed up a bit more and there sitting low was a immature Coopers Hawk who was a little bedraggled with a very tatty tail, a few misty shots were taken before we departed.
It was now time to head west if we could find it, the weather getting worse by the minute. It was impossible to see anything in the fields from Koksilah Road all the way over to Dougan’s Flats. Someone in the back suggested the Chinese restaurant at the Valley View Center would be a better location to look for birds but we pushed on and it was a good thing that we did because as we arrived at St. Catherine’s Road a nice big flock of birds awaited us. A adult Snow Goose was a first sighting and it was quickly followed by a Northern Shrike and then while checking the geese I saw some Greater White-fronted Geese, 11 of them, but sadly they were engulfed into the mist before we got good looks at them along with every other bird in the fields. If we had stopped for some chop suey and rice we would have missed these birds.
After this we were all happy having filled in a few columns of our list, Eric doing a wonderful job with the pencil.
A group of Mute Swans were seen along the Dock Road and that was us done for the day, much earlier than some of our previous counts, but i think everyone was glad to be heading home.
Big thanks to Barry for his excellent driving skills and for keeping us safe on the road.

Photo Credits
All photos by our good friend Barry Hetschko. Because of the bad weather conditions I have added a couple of shots from earlier.

Made of the mist

Coastal WaterBird Survey, Cowichan Bay, February 12th, 2017.

South Side from John Scull

We counted many birds and we had a record number of birders doing the counting on this beautiful cold sunny day. There were still lots of snow and ice in Hecate Park, which made the walk challenging, but nobody slipped. The birders were Christina Cutbill, Sue Fryer, Debbie Easson, David Nowacki, Eric Marshall, Jim Nichol, Dorothy Marshall, Patty Nichol, Linda Hill, Pam Turney, Gail Mitchell, Wilma Harvie and John Scull. 12 species were seen in a total of 582 birds. The birds were:
Mute Swan 11; Surf Scoter 126; Bufflehead 401; Common Goldeneye 20; Barrow’s Goldeneye 1;
Red-necked Grebe 1; Double-crested Cormorant 5; Bald Eagle 3;Western Gull 1;gull sp. 14; Belted Kingfisher 1

North side, from Carol Hartwig:

It was a gloriously sunny day and at 3:30 in the afternoon at high tide on Khenipsen Road, Cowichan Bay North. Daryl Johnson, Howard Brounstein (daughter Anna and husband James), Ray Demarchi and Carol Hartwig observed 7 species of seabirds for a total of 40 birds for the BC Coastal WaterBird Survey. The numbers observed were as follows:
Pelagic Cormorant 1; Surf Scoter 12; Bufflehead 10; Common Goldeneye 7; Bald Eagle 1; Mew Gull 1; Glaucous-winged Gull 8.

The next Coastal Waterbird Count is at 4 pm on Sunday, March 12. Results of all the counts can be viewed at

Swan and Goose Count Feb. 8th 2016

Morning snowbirds.
This weeks count was cancelled because of the weather, we would have been hard pushed to park and access some of our usual spots, safety being the main concern for my friends. This is only the 5th time we have had to cancel which is not too bad in eight years. How quickly we forget that this white stuff is not that unusual for us here on the coast. Most of our gang spent time at home dealing with all those little jobs that they had been putting off, that is except one lady who spent her time sliding down the hills around her place, still young at heart.
I did get a few reports come in from those foolish enough to venture out and most said there were few birds around. Some Trumpeter Swans were close in along the Dock Road along with their cousins the Mutes.
My feeders were doing a roaring trade with several Varied Thrush turning up, these beautiful birds are always a joy to see in the winter. Another unusual sighting was a pair of Merlins copulating on top of a fir at the house opposite, not sure if this was the real thing or a bit or training taking place. Another strange occurrence was a Glaucous-winged Gull coming to a feeder in Mill Bay and eating sunflower seeds, I guess when needs must anything will help those stomach pains.
There were many Shovellers around, these were the southern counterpart and not the Northern ones that are regularly seen on our ponds and estuaries. My wife said she saw one big male on our driveway several times over the past week.
The Northern Mockingbird that has been coming to a garden on 2nd Street in Duncan continues and is fast becoming the longest stayer of this species for BC
The Great Horned Owls are still calling away and news out of Victoria has a female Anna’s Hummingbird feeding young already, just amazing that these little birds carry on as normal in these adverse conditions.
At my feeders I have a Bewicks Wren that has taken too crushed peanuts in a big way right outside our kitchen window, he approaches from the carport and peeks over the feeder to see if there is anything there and if not gives us a filthy look and disappears back down and listens for us to open the window and put some food out for him.

A few photos have been sent in to me by Zan Stenhouse who was one of those that didn’t stop taking pictures, wonderful attitude. Also a photo of a Snowy Owl that Christina Cutbill managed to capture, wonderful sighting.

Anyways time to go my wife thinks she can here another Shoveller calling from across the road.

waiting for the big flood.




Snowy Owl

Swan & Goose count Feb. 1st 2017

“Irish Courage”

I arrived at the dog park to find that already two counters were out taking pictures up on the dike, I was proud of their early arrival and enthusiasm on this day.
Another wonderful day for a swan count with brilliant sunshine and some good birds to boot. 11 counters headed out and although we all left together, it didn’t take long for us to get all strung out along the route, we did run in to each other at certain points; A&W being one of them, food always brings good friends together.
Once again this week both swans and geese were spread out all over the place and the numbers recorded were right on target for the past couple of weeks. Raptor numbers took a big tumble this week with more eagles being seen on TV than on our count. Just 4 Red-tailed hawks which is one less than we had on one road last week, no accipiters were seen and all bar one Falcons were missed. We did manage a American Kestrel on Richards Trail which made a couple of dives down into the fields before returning to it’s hydro line perch.
Another sighting that we had encountered before a few years back was a group of immature swans with bright yellow legs, not sure what causes this abnormality but they sure stand out. The immature swan numbers this week were spot on at 20% of total numbers which is a very good sign although at times some groups lacked any immature birds at all. Early this week some of the adults had been seen doing their little dances, wing flapping and calling at each other, a sign that spring is coming, obviously that they hadn’t seen the weather report.
At times it was hard to get the counters out of the vehicles in this wonderful sunny weather, some concern was shown about wind burn. Our driver, senior Derrick did a wonderful job although along with a few in our vehicle animal identification was sometimes limited, with a flock of geese turning into Mallards in front of our eyes, also much discussion was had about the demise of a hybrid horse/cow in a field although we all agreed it was brown. Some thought it was sunbathing?
Along Richard’s Trail we were lucky to see 3 cock pheasants, me thinks that someone is releasing these birds around the valley as they seem to be popping up everywhere. For the past 20 years they had gradually reduced in numbers down to just a handful and now here we are hearing about them from many locations; it was only this last spring when we saw a whole family with many little uns.
There are times when I am driven to drink by some members of our group who it seems are just along for a good giggle and leave all the work up to just a few of us. It was along Cowichan Bay Road while being told to move forward in our vehicle for the third time while I was counting swans that I broke down and turned to some Irish courage.
We all had a great day and although some species were thin on the ground we persevered and got the job done. Thanks to Dorothy for keeping meticulous numbers although we must find her a good rubber (eraser) for her next count.
I do find it amazing that I can remember all this stuff as time and time again people ask me how many swans were at a location, but sadly once I pass my count on to Dorothy the totals go right out of my head.
We ended the day with 528 Trumpeter Swans, 19 Mute Swans, 1 Cackling Goose, 849 Canada Geese, 37 Bald Eagles, 4 Red-tailed Hawks and 1 American Kestrel



Yellow-legged swans


Great Blue Heron


Irish Courage (can is empty!)


Cock pheasants

Photo credits
Squiggle by Barry Hetschko
Greater yellow-legged Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Great Blue Heron by Zan Stenhouse
Irish Courage by Zan Stenhouse
Me old cock Pheasants by Christina Cutbill

Until the snow comes

In the Comox Valley the Swan Count tallies for January 31st : this weeks Trumpeter tally was 764 adults and 213 juveniles for a total of 977. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in January 2016 was 1391 swans.

Swan & Goose Count Jan. 25th 2017

Golden eagle

Rubber Ducky



Mute swans

Evil Eye

Merry Counters

“Another one bites the dust”

Freddie would be proud of our achievement since we started this project, week after week we persevere under sometimes arduous conditions counting birds as we go. This week I hope we have turned the corner of winter as it was very pleasant when 8 participants set out from the dog park. Not big numbers this week and as we worked our way around the route nothing rare and exotic showed it’s face until the very end. The lakes were still mostly frozen and only small pieces of flooded fields had any water. The raptor count did well this week with 3 Merlins seen, a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a good number of Red-tailed Hawks, 5 of which were in a couple of kilometers along Hwy 18.
Geese numbers were about the same as last week, but the swans dropped down a bit, Malcolm and Karen managed to find our missing birds #100 up at Tansor crossroads, but these birds are out of our count area so are not listed in the final tally. We try to stick to our route where possible as it could become an all day event and I have to be home for my 3:00pm snooze or I get really grumpy. Swans were spread out over most of our route with no big flocks encountered. The same could be said for Geese except for along Boy’s Road where a major flock was seen flying and landing between Boys and Modeste Roads.
This week we were lacking a couple of our giggly photo girls so it was left to Barry to carry the load, I too brought along my little point and shoot and tried my hand at a few portrait photo’s. This did not go down well, you know that look a adult eagle gives you when you get too close, well I got that from Barry. You did sign the waiver didn’t you mate. It was nice to see Christina back aboard after her holiday visits from family members and her camera came in good at the end.
A very rare rubby duckie was spotted in a tree along Telegraph Road, I think it was trying to escape as I heard on the news that they were being recalled, I think the last thing he wanted after migrating all this way was to be sent back to China. Have you ever wondered what happens to all this stuff that gets recalled, what happened to all those air bags?
The best bird of the day was the last when over on a dike from the Dock Road was a Golden Eagle, this bird has been around for a couple or three weeks and has treated many shutterbugs to some wonderful shots, unlucky for us it was just a bit too far away for any decent shots, but we did get a record portrait. Not sure what it is feeding on down there but I think it goes well with orange.
I would just like to remind you who read this little ditty that we travel approx. 85km working our way out towards Crofton and then back down to Dougan’s Lake it takes us about 5 hours in total with a short break at A&W. Our group usually consists of about 8-10 people and we have had about 35 different participants over the years, some from as far away as Ontario and Alberta.

Photo Credits
Golden Eagle by Christina Cutbill
Rubber Duckie by Barry Hetschko
Merlin by Barry Hetschko
Mute Swans by Barry Hetschko
Evil Eye by Derrick Marven
Merry Counters by Derrick Marven

Until the Robins sing

Comox Valley Swan Count tallies for January 24th:. This weeks Trumpeter tally was 830 adults and 175 juveniles for a total of 1005. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in January 2016 was 1561 swans.

Swan & Goose Count Jan.18th 2017

Brewer’s blackbird

Red-breasted sapsucker



Trumpeter swans in flight


Trumpeter swans in field

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

The Good
Today we found the rarest bird ever seen on the Swan & Goose count when a Gyrfalcon zoomed across the fields at the Hwy 18 park and ride, the bird did finally land about a mile away on top of a fir and Barry managed some terrible record shots, now don’t get me wrong we all know how good Barry’s pictures are, but from that distance in pouring rain and dull conditions, what you see is what you get. Even the looks through the scope were nothing special.
Gyrfalcons are very rare on Vancouver Island and this one is only the 5th confirmed record for the Cowichan Valley.
Also this week we had a very good number of Trumpeter Swans with 540 being tallied which is a second highest count of the season.
This was also our 140th count since starting back in 2009. We are now in our eighth year of counting.
With the water flowing freely down the creeks the Eagles returned to some of their favorite trees and a respectable count of 90 birds were seen with many back out of view along the Cowichan River, Most raptor numbers were a little low, but we did get Peregrine Falcon and Merlin and one lucky participant that went back to look for the Gyr after the count photographed a female American Kestrel. Seeing 4 species of falcon in one day in the valley is a major achievement and not bad for BC either.

The Bad
There were six of us that started out from the dog park and I unwisely said I would go along with the girls just to save Barry from their torment, while he looked after Eric and Dorothy. Well talk about going into the giggle factory, these two women are terrors, it is no wonder that men are turned into whimpering dogs whilst in their surroundings, they were so bad I was nearly ready to throw in the towel until I spotted the Falcon. I won’t make that mistake again, from now on I am going to ride along with those that I can trust.

The Ugly
This had to be the weather, I don’t think it has ever been so bad, at times we wished the cold and snow would come back, the rain hit us from all directions and it was a miracle that the count went as well as it did, the fields had started to loose that white look all except out to the west of town and I am sure the swans and geese were glad that some food was becoming available.
Also there was the point when I thought that the seat I was sitting on in the girls car had sprung a leak or that all the giggling had brought tears to my underwear, I was relieved to realize that it was just the bottom of my coat that was soaking wet and each time my rear end sat on it the water squelched out of the bottom and onto the seat of my trousers.

Well that is enough of this weeks antics.

Photo Credits
Gyrfalcon by Barry Hetschko
Trumpeters in Flight by Barry Hetschko
Trumpeter flock in field by Barry Hetschko
Red-breasted Sapsucker by Zan Stenhouse
Brewers Blackbird by Zan Stenhouse

Until we ride again

This weeks Trumpeter tally in the Comox Valley was 903 adults and 209 juveniles for a total of 1112. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in January 2016 was 1313 swans.

Unfortunately another deceased trumpeter swan was found this time on Knight Road in Area 13. The possible cause being a collision with the hydro lines.

Regards, Ernie Stefanik.

Swan and Goose Count Jan.11th 2017

Here we go, another new year and the second half of this season and what a wonderful day full of sunshine and laughter. Six counters headed out from the dog park and one straggler met up with us at Drinkwater Road. A nice Belted Kingfisher stood guard over one of the few remaining open pieces of water near the dog park, they must be really struggling with this freeze. It was wonderful to have our good friend Derrick the Elder back, he has been missing for far to long. His added height helped with counting far off swans. Our other good friend Kurlene was taking it easy at home and watching that feeder whilst bending that knee every thirty seconds.
It was at Drinkwater Road that we got our first Trumpeters; poor devils hunkered down out on the ice dreaming about a fresh green patch of grass, a few Canada Geese, Gulls and Duckies kept them company hoping for an early thaw to this horrendous cold spell. One pair showed some concern to us as they did not move all day, but they were gone on Thursday morning so hopefully all was well. We always seem to worry for the swans when the temperature falls but you have to understand that when they leave to head north they can encounter much colder, frozen and harsh conditions in the great white north even in April.
Along the highway we had a flock of swans opposite Norcross Road which held 39 adults and 25 immature, but they looked a little flighty and I am not sure if we might have got them again at a more southerly location.
Birds were few and far between this week with our Raptor count taking a major hit with numbers being very low. One shining highlight was a Peregrine Falcon that sat up on a dead snag along Koksilah Road east, giving it’s chest a pinkish tinge from the sun.
Our best sighting of the day came along Hwy.18 where the Elk herd was partying along with many geese and Trumpeters, it was wonderful to see the beasts in the bright sunshine, counts of 29 Trumpeter Swan, 220 Canada Geese and 31 Elk were tallied.
Quist Farm had a good assortment of Ducks Swans and Geese and a nice male European Wigeon showed off it’s lovely tanned head.
This week we had a very good percentage of immature to adult swans with 235 adults against 85 immature, I was never very good at this stuff at school, but to me that’s over 30% and our average is usually around 20%.
At A&W during our break I succumbed to a chubby chicken burger as I had missed breakfast at home, I was pleased to know that the poor old chucky was raised without hormones as that’s the last thing my wife wants excited in my body at the moment. On the downside old bob was fed with genetically engineered grains, so if in the coming weeks my writings get a little strange you will know why.
Boy’s, Sahilton and Koksilah Road west were all missing birds and only a few Bald Eagles and a couple of Red-tails put in an appearance. Bench Road was next and a small group of swans were surrounded by a herd of Canada Geese and 26 Cackling Geese. It was easy to see the little Cacklers who appeared to like keeping on the edge of the group. Derrick the Elder made sure that I did not miss any at this location as he climbed up on the back of his truck.
Then it all went downhill literally into Cowichan Bay where 7 Mute Swans, loads of Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and a nice flock of Surf Scoter were just of Hecate Park.
Along the Dock Road there were mixed flocks of walkers some with dogs, photographers, birders and hunters all enjoying the afternoon sunshine, it’s just amazing how the little strip of land brings everyone together. A Northern Harrier was seen by the trailing vehicle whilst we had a Killdeer land beside us on the road and a House Finch sat proud on top of a bramble.
Back down Tzouhalem Road we added a few more eagles and our count was done.
At the end of the day Zan brought a whole new meaning to the consumption of liquid chocolate, it’s all to do with her hot body?

Until the rain falls

Photo Credits:

Belted kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher by Zan Stenhouse


Mink by Zan Stenhouse

DC Cormoranta
Double-crested Cormorant by Zan Stenhouse

Immature white-crowned sparrow

Immaure White-crowned Sparrow by Barry Hetschko

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet by Barry Hetschko
swans on ice

Swans on ice by Barry Hetschko