Sunday, 17 of February of 2019

Swan & Goose count Feb. 13th 2019

Spring lamb

Female common merganser

Northern harrier

Wilson’s snipe

Tundra swans

Red-tailed hawk

Wilson’s snipe

Wilson’s snipe

Swans and geese

Slipping and a sliding, swans were a hiding
Rain was a long time ago.
Little Richard new we were going to get it all those years ago.
This week we had a unexpected guest when my wonderful son Gary decided he wanted to see what I got up to on a Wednesday and he even volunteered to take us around in the safety of his big Dodge 4×4. We sat up high waving at all those people still digging out their driveways, even stopped for a chat a few times. There was just 4 of us today with our other friends unable to get out of their driveways. This heavy snow over the past few days had a major impact on our swan and goose numbers with just #190 Trumpeter Swans, 4 Mute Swans and 2 Tundra’s, the biggest drop was with the Canada Geese who knew better than to hang around in this weather and we only recorded #124.
Raptors fared well with #48 Bald Eagles both Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks and the Red-tailed Hawks bounced back up this week to #9, we also had a single Peregrine Falcon and an elusive to some a female Northern Harrier.
Many photo’s were taken this week of not so often seen species, Gary and I started our count at Art Mann Park and the poor old duckies were sat around in a huddle and they were not amused, a nice pair of Common Mergansers were seen but the old man kept his head down while the female beckoned him out into the water telling him that it felt good on the legs and feet.
Several places we could not visit because of piled up snow and Quist’s farm got a big drive past as it was too dangerous to pull over on the highway. Richard’s Trail was as it’s name says a trail with just enough space for a single vehicle to pass. I saw a new born lamb and those who know me know I have a thing for all animals. It stayed close to it’s mom’s woolly side, it was obviously not a spring lamb as it had nowhere to jump for joy.There were an amazing number of Varied Thrush all along the trail with between 40 and 50 seen in 5 km, all trying to get either salt or grit off the road. I think if we were to have added up all the Varied Thrush we had around our route the total would have been greater than the Canada Geese. As we reached the east end of Richard’s Trail Gary shouted there’s a bird in that bare piece of snowy field and with a quick reverse and a hold up of traffic we had our first Wilson’s Snipe of the day. Many photos were taken as the other travelers waited patiently. This snipe was the first of 3-4 that we uncounted today, with one other being chased off by a crow as it was having it’s picture taken.
We took a little diversion this week up to Tansor crossroads to see if there were any swans around the school and farm fields but we found none. As we passed one big field my son shouted there’s a hawk down on the snow with his wings spread, after going a few houses and turning around in a cleared driveway we slowly made our way back with cameras at the ready and there it was a Sprinkler Hawk sticking up out the snow, this was a first for the swan and goose count and my son Gary can have all the glory for this one, sorry son know-one’s exempt on the swan and goose count.
The best of the day was on Sahilton Road where one Wilson’s Snipe sat motionless right beside the truck while the shutters of both Nikon and Canon played a little tune. I had to hold my camera up in the air while struggling to get a picture from the passenger side and hold and push the shutter all at the same time not knowing what I was photographing. Many shorebirds like Snipe, Killdeer and Dunlin home in on any unfrozen water in these conditions, you just have to find them and we were lucky to get two out of three with a Dunlin eluding us.
Another species that put on a wonderful display for us was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet who enticed both sides of the vehicle, allowing passengers to take his picture, at times displaying his red top notch for all to see.
We spent a lot of time scanning off into large fields hoping to glance some swans hidden down in the snow to no avail.
Our last stop of the day as always was the Dock Road and what has become the norm, it delighted us with a few goodies. a Raccoon looking for some tasty morsels along the banks of the estuary, a flyby Northern Harrier that caused problems for one photographer and an adult and immature Tundra Swans that gave us time to capture their beauty.
We can only hope that in the few weeks we have left on the count that the weather improves greatly from this past week. That was it we had run the route of the storm of 2019 and didn’t we do well.


Photo Credits
Spring Lamb by Derrick Marven
female Common Merganser, by Derrick Marven
flying Northern Harrier, by Derrick Marven
Richard’s Trail Wilson’s Snipe, by Zan Stenhouse
Snowy swans and geese, by Zan Stenhouse
Tundra Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Flying Red-tailed Hawk by Gary Marven
Sahilton Road Wilson’s Snipe x 2 by Gary Marven

Coastal Waterbird count February 10th 2019

A cold and beautiful morning on the south side of Cowican Bay. A bald eagle flew over and a mink entertained us as we began the count. The estuary was mostly frozen, which sent many birds to unusual places. The path was frozen, too, and the air was well below freezing, but that didn’t deter the eight field observers: Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, Jan Kotaska, Wilma Harvie, Gail Mitchell, John Scull, Christina Cutbill, and Barry Hetschko. The large number of “ducks sp.” does not indicate a loss of birding skills on behalf of the crew; the birds were crowded in the open water near the far shore, too far away even for the telescope. The treats for the day were a pair of Killdeer on the shore and 7 Hooded Mergansers.

Here’s what we saw:
Trumpeter Swan 19; American Wigeon 1; Mallard 14; Bufflehead 42; Common Goldeneye 2; Hooded Merganser 7; duck sp. 100; Killdeer 2; Mew Gull 8; Glaucous-winged Gull 2; gull sp. 24; Double-crested Cormorant 10; Belted Kingfisher 1; Northwestern Crow 2

Ray Demarchi and Carol Hartwig, conducted a Coastal Bird Survey on Cowichan Estuary North-Khenipsen Road on a clear, sunny morning. The calm waters of high tide and the clear cold air made our job easy in spotting 11 species for a total of 270 water birds.

They included:
Canada Goose 16; Trumpeter Swan 58; American Wigeon 50; Mallard 43; Green-winged Teal 2; Bufflehead 107; Common Goldeneye 1; Hooded Merganser 4; Common Merganser 1; Glaucous-winged Gull 36; Bald Eagle 2

Lyn and Jim Wisnia braved the chilly winds that drove large numbers of waterfowl to seek shelter in the mouth of Shawnigan Creek in Mill Bay.

Verdier Point
American wigeon 161; Mallard 3; Surf scoter 91; Bufflehead 37; Common goldeneye 45; Barrow’s goldeneye 12; Common/Barrow’s goldeneye 5; Hooded merganser 2; Red-breasted merganser 16; Horned grebe 6; Mew gull 12; Glaucous-winged gull 52; Gull sp. 15.

Mill Bay
Canada goose 231; Mute swan 8; American wigeon 132; Mallard 177; Surf scoter 24; Bufflehead 23; Common goldeneye 9; Barrow’s goldeneye 18; Hooded merganser 10; Common merganser 7; Red-breasted merganser 6; Mew gull 9; Glaucous-winged gull 15; Common loon 1; Cormorant sp. 1; Bald eagle 1; Belted kingfisher 1; Northwestern crow 7.

The next count is planned for 8 am on Sunday, March 10.

Swan & Goose count Feb. 6th 2019

Bald eagle plucking a duck


Tundra swan


Trumpeter swans


Canada geese


Canada geese – on ice


Chatting Trumpeter swans


Ruby-crowned kinglet


Barrow’s goldeneye


Trumpeter swan family

Friends and others,
We started today’s count with 6 people and without a Red-tailed Hawk which Barry has been relied on for finding our first of the day along the dike. It was still a little nippy although the sun was up and starting to gain strength. The fields were all frozen as were most water lying in fields so the going was slow until we hit Somenos Lake which had a nice smattering of ducks with over 50 Ruddy Ducks which was nice although hard to see in the misty bright light. Lots of ducks from the fields off Herd Road had moved over to Quamichan Lake and early on my way to meet my friends I got a nearly close Barrow’s Goldeneye
Our first 4 Trumpeter Swans were seen which started this weeks count off well with #560 seen all day which was right on the average, 4 Tundra Swans, 1 adult and #3 immature were mixed in with cousins and I am sure there could be a few more in the far off crowds. Canada Geese went down at #989 but we did get 1 Greater White-fronted Goose and #14 Cackling Geese which were our first for the year on our count. We found a few Killdeer sunning themselves on a grassy slope up Richard’s Trail and one flyover on Hillbank Road.
Hawk numbers took a tumble this week with the Red-tailed Hawks causing much concern among the ranks, no accipiters or Falcons, we were glad that the Bald Eagle numbers grew a little with more immature this week, some of these birds will soon head off up island for the the Gull and Duck spectacular in Parksville. We were lucky to witness a pair of Bald Eagles chase ducks on the Dock Road and one of the pair got lucky and landed up on an old hydro pole for all to admire and get a few snaps, not so good for the poor old duck, but better this way than with a gun.
We had some nice Ruby-crowned Kinglets working the ditches along Boys Road, amazing what they can find clinging to leaves and branches. Along St. Catherine’s we saw lots of White and Golden-crowned Sparrows at a local feeder and one big black thing which we won’t mention feeding on the seed.
Now about those Red-tailed Hawks who had been so obliging these past weeks, we were long past lunch and gone from the east and well into the last quarter of our count before good old Barry spotted our first on Wilson Road which opened the flood gates slightly and we finished with #5 which was just half our total of last week, maybe they just didn’t like us this week or they were off starting with a bit of nest building, whatever they were doing w wish them well.
The stars of the count this week were the hundreds of American Robins that were on every little bit of unfrozen ground, not sure how many have descended into the valley this week but it could be in the thousands.
I was busy on Richards Trail and Wilson Road getting pictures of some old friends and chatting with one large buddy who gave me a few good snorts of appreciation of what we were doing.
What can i say about the weather, we are some lucky swannies to be out there and having so much fun, we finished off our day along the Dock Road as usual and the Mars bar kid brought out a bag full to offer round to build our strength up for next week.
I am sure there were many other little highlights that I have forgot but my brain is not responding today to my commands, think I might have a virus or something. I am sorry for no real funny stories this week, sadly my buddies are learning to keep their mouths shut in front of me.
With just 7 counts to go for the season if your thinking you’d like to come along best hurry up and make good use of this great citizen science venture that we do.


Photo Credits

Bald Eagle with duck, by Eric Marshall
Tundra Swan by Barry Hetschko
Trumpeter Swans in flight, by Barry Hetschko
Canada Geese in flight, by Zan Stenhouse
Canada Geese on ice, by Zan Stenhouse
Chatting Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, by Zan Stenhouse
Barrow’s Goldeneye, by Derrick Marven
Trumpeter Swan family, by Derrick Marven

Swan & Goose Count January 16th 2019

Tai Chi

Ruddy duck

Red-tailed hawk

Swans and geese

Trumpeter swans

Red-tailed hawk

American Coot

Today just 5 counters turned up on this wonderful winter day, the sun shone and the temperature was great, what more could a swan and goose counter ask for, well. Not 1 but a flock of Snow Geese, not 1 but a flock of Great White-fronted Geese, not 1 but flocks of Trumpeter Swans, we did only have 1 American Kestrel though this week.
It is strange when you try to fit 3 people in the back of one of the SUVs which all advertising tells you it is a 5 passenger vehicle, what they don’t tell you is that this does not count for 3 adults dressed for winter with only two weeks past all the Christmas cheer inside them. Did I mention stuffing, well if you could have seen the state that our rear passengers got into with seatbelts today, all that advertising is false. Poor Dorothy was in tears with laughter as she tried relentlessly to insert her seatbelt into who knows where, Jane had to get out for fear of being speared with this mettle clip. Eric on the other hand was strapped in and was not going to budge out of his bit of space. Barry had to set the child locks in fear that the doors would burst open on a bend.
Back to the birds, my day always starts by checking Quamichan Lake for swans Geese and Eagles before heading to the dog park and this morning i was lucky to see two Ruddy Ducks somewhat close, this species has been in short supply this year. I was even lucky to see a couple of Barrow’s Goldeneye out on the lake.
Barry found out on his walk this morning that the art of Ti Che is enhanced if you have a can of Black label to quench your thirst.
This week saw a drop in numbers for Trumpeter Swans and Canada Geese as the fear of bad weather subsided and birds returned to other pastures. What we got in return was 28 Snow Geese and 15 Greater White-fronted Geese, what a surprise it was to see the 14 speckled bellies which had earlier flown out of Somenos Marsh as witnessed by Barry. The other single bird was up on Hwy 18 with a flock of swans and geese. It was so nice to see such a wonderful flock of waterfowl off of St.Catherine’s Drive although distance was a problem for me as trying to distinguish little white geese from big white swans was hard as the kept moving about.
Earlier when we passed Somenos Marsh a Northern Shrike was sitting right close to the road, sadly Barry was accelerating back into traffic and it was too late to stop for a photo shoot.
We did manage to get back for our break with all intact and the sound of relief as the airlocks were released and the three scrunchies fell out. Then they started eating again and we went through the whole procedure of the seatbelt saga again.
Most of the big numbers of eagles were gone as all raptors appeared to be thinking of other things in this very unseasonable weather, we failed miserably with no accipiters and if it weren’t for our American Kestrel we wouldn’t have had any falcons. We were lucky at Dinsdale’s Farm as we watched a Short-eared Owl and a immature Northern Harrier have a argy-bargy over territory. Too far away for any pictures.
Off the Dock Road we witnessed a pair of Trumpeter Swans come down the river and pass another going the other way, funny they just kept going their own ways with just a small trumpet to say hello?
At the end of the day we had recorded Trumpeter Swans # 456 Canada Goose # 1279 White-fronts # 15 Snow Goose # 28, we all went home well pleased for what we had achieved on this glorious day.
There will be another short video added to the facebook pages of the Cowichan Valley naturalists and the Somenos Marsh groups. It was taken from Westholme Road looking across to the island highway at Quist’s farm

Photo Credits

Barry Hetschko Red-tailed Hawks

Barry Hetschko Tai chi
Derrick Marven Ruddy Duck
Derrick Marven American Coot
Derrick Marven lazy day Trumpeter Swans

Swan & Goose count, Jan.30th 2019

Swans and geese

Cooper’s Hawk

Trumpeter swans

Female California Quail

Lincoln’s sparrow

Great blue heron

When we arrive at the dog park on Wednesday mornings we really have no idea what the valley will show us, we know that there will be a Trumpeter Swan or two, may be a handful of Canada Geese, a few Bald Eagles and if we are lucky a small number of Red-tailed Hawks, other than that who knows. We do welcome all other bits and bobs and sometimes the birds throw us a tasty morsel to make us keep coming around. Today was one of those days we all wish for, I knew it was going to be good when I met Barry at the meeting point and he said look what I just got, not sure if it is rare or not. The camera lit up and there was a stunning picture of a Lincoln’s Sparrow, a species that has been sorely lacking this winter in the valley. I knew then this was the day, so 8 eager birders were off and running, we saw Canada Geese and some Red-winged Blackbirds on territory around Somenos Marsh and by the time we had reached the lake we had put together a tidy number of species. It was at the Lake that we got a nice start with 10 Ruddy Ducks way out, keeping out of harms way. Our first Red-tailed Hawk was up on top of a big fir in the forestry center.
The weather could not have been better as we sped up the highway to Quist’s farm picking up a Bald Eagle or two and another Red-tailed Hawk, at Quist’s we added our first Trumpeter Swans and more Canada Geese, a large flock of American Wigeon took flight and landed in the flooded fields beside us. This week we detoured up Westholme to the Crofton Road and a nice adult Bald Eagle sat up high in a fir, then a small bird landed behind it, I thought robin or Starling and so did Barry but when we positioned ourselves properly this small bird was a Merlin and i can just imagine what it was saying to the eagle “heh baldy get off my spot”
On we went counting all the way down to the Herd Road fields and here where a Bald Eagle sat was a Peregrine Falcon admiring all it’s little finger bites that were swimming below him. Through the scope I did find a Redhead duck although it was way out in among a group of American Wigeon
Good numbers of Trumpeter Swans were found up on Hwy.18 along with many more Canada Geese. We then hit Drinkwater and Auchenachie Roads where a nice Pileated Woodpecker sat up high in a tree. By this time we were a bit behind so I urged Barry to give it a bit of welly sadly we should have waited before we flew off because the slowpokes in the following vehicle scored a Sharp-shinned Hawk.
We had reached halfway and a nice rest at A&W which by this time was full of rugrats who had found a new found wealth and were buying up all that the fast food store had to offer.
As always on our day some juicy little tit-bit comes along, now you know I am hard of hearing and not one to spread gossip so I hope this is right. One of our counters had been having trouble with a pilot who was not lighting her fire anymore, she was so fed up that she had invited a gas mechanic around to see if he was any better at it, he was too slow and wanted paying for it, luckily another friendly man in her life with a fully charged battery had managed to fight off the others and was going to keep her warm. I tell you the things that you hear counting birds. I can’t imagine what she would have got up to if she hadn’t come with us.
Back to birds Corefield Road was our next major birdy spot, here a large group of Trumpeter Swans were very close, I did not want to disturb them so told everyone to stay in the cars. Here I was lucky to find our first of three immature Tundra Swans. See if you can spot it in the picture.
On we went over to the west side which was slow until we hit Bench Road and Trumpeters were spread out in three big groups and in the crowd were two more immature Tundra Swans. A nice Cooper’s Hawk sat on a hydro wire had us screeching to a halt on Wilson Road.
At Dougan’s Flats we got a female American Kestrel the first female we have had for a while. Back over to the east and more swans at St.Catherine’s Road along with several assorted sparrows.
We headed down along Cowichan Bay Road and got our first Peregrine Falcon of the day, the fields at Dinsdale’s just had a few Canada Geese and ducks. The Dock Road was next and up and over the new bridge found us staring at a nice female Northern Harrier and then Barry spotted a goody in the trees out on one of the dikes, me looking the other way thought he had got a Short-eared Owl, but this was better a bold strikingly beautiful Peregrine Falcon of the anatum species. Just too far away for a picture to share with you. Here we also had a Great Blue Heron trying to set up shop in a swallow box, I can see we will have to make the holes bigger for these guys/
At the end of our count we had #554 Trumpeter Swans, #3 Tundra Swans, #1443 Canada Goose and a large smack of hawks and eagles, it don’t get better than that, or could it? Stay tuned for next weeks thrilling episode of the swan and goose count.
That was it we had a wonderful day full of birds and nice weather to go with it.


Photo Credits
Lincoln’s Sparrow by Barry Hetschko
female California Quail by Barry Hetschko
Trumpeter Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Great Blue Heron by Zan Stnehouse
Cooper’s Hawk by Derrick Marven
Swans and Geese by Derrick Marven

Swan & Goose Count Jan.23 2019

Peregrine falcon

Great blue heron


Owl and junco

Northern shrike

Female wood duck

Trumpeter swans

Cooper’s Hawk

Short-eared owl

Seven eager counters met at the dog park with one newbie, Elodie who had heard all about our escapades and was ready to join in the fun, welcome Elodie. We piled into two vehicles and were off flying.
I really don’t know how I do it with the weather, must have something to do with my ancestry being related to Merlin the magician. It was a wonderful day with temperatures reaching up around 13c by mid afternoon. We saw some wonderful birds and did well with our count with high numbers all around. Trumpeter Swans at #582 of which there were #62 immature, Canada Geese #1439 a Redhead, 3 Northern Shrikes, a Short-eared Owl and the raptors were especially obliging this week with #11 Red-tailed Hawks, #40 Bald Eagles, 2 Peregrine Falcons, 2 Cooper’s Hawks one of which was tentatively identified as a Red-tailed Hawk until we got alongside it. We had a chat with Barry’s cousin who we thought was coming with a gun to get us off his property, that was a close one, Barry gave him a nice book to keep him happy and we swiftly retreated after counting the swans. At this same spot I was sure I had found a Tundra Swan, but couldn’t find it to show the others, so Zan and I took loads of pictures and what do you think, we found 2 adults and a immature when seen up on the computer. We give thanks to the inventor of digital photography.
I got up nice and personal with a big old pig who I disturbed from it’s lovely muddy bed, I did apologize for rousing it from a lovely dream of buckets of swill, I patted it on it’s nose which was just caked in mud and old pigsley gave a few encouraging snorts as we parted company.
A Long-eared type Owl was trying to catch a Dark-eyed Junco on Richard’s Trail and there are now several Wood Owls sitting in the trees along this birdy road.
We did run into a adult Bald Eagle that was sitting in a field just looking around, I was personally worried as it is not the sort of place you would see one just sat sitting, so I gave a couple of shouts to make sure it was alright and eventually it took of to chase a goose or two. Good job it did as the fence was one of those tall Elk fences along Hwy18 and I’m not sure we could of encouraged newbie Elodie to climb it.
We did find just one Redhead on the Herd Road flooded fields, I am sure with a good scope and plenty of time all three from last week are still around.
Finishing our wonderful count with a little sunburn, we were treated to super views of a Great Blue Heron sitting at a nest site and a way off in the distance Short-eared Owl, now you can’t get better than that.


Photo Credits
Northern Shrike by Barry Hestchko
Flying female Wood Duck, by Barry Hestchko
Trumpeter’s flying out of the morning mist, by Barry Hestchko
Piggy by Barry Hestchko
Great Blue Heron at nest site, by Zan Stenhouse
Peregrine Falcon by Zan Stenhouse
Long-eared type Owl attacking Junco by Derrick Marven
Short-eared Owl by Derrick Marven
Cooper’s Hawk by Derrick Marven

Swan and Goose count Dec.19th 2018

Swans & Geese on Richard’s Trail


Not so scary scarecrow


Paddling gull


Snow Geese seen on Tuesday


Swans & Geese


Ring-necked Ducks

The Swan and Goose counters can not be put off by some inclement weather, so 8 counters in two cars left the dog park. It was nice to have our good friends Bob and Helen along this week who needed a break from moving and also to freshen up their skills for the upcoming Christmas Bird count. You could tell from the wind that winter was only a couple of days away as in some locations it bit at the joints whenever one got out the car.

Our Trumpeter Swan numbers dropped by about 100 birds this week mostly adults, I guess they heard about the storm coming in and left for better weather. Most swans being up on Bench Road. Canada Geese numbers remained pretty much the same and a nice Greater White-fronted Goose was off Herd Road. Gone were the 14 Snow Geese seen the day before along Willmot Road, but I have added in the picture for your enjoyment.

As I type this today a massive storm has just gone through the valley with trees down and no power. Sirens are going off all over. Oh well we got our count done yesterday just in time.

Eagle numbers dropped way down this week and so did other raptor species, we did add the American Kestrel from Richards Trail and a Merlin flew over A & W as we broke for lunch. Also at our break a flock of 200 Canada Geese passed over and landed in Somenos Marsh so as we had already counted the area they were added to out total.

It appears that my bird identification skills were down this week as a possible Golden Eagle along Herd Road turned out to be a Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk along Boy’s Road turned out to be a immature Bald Eagle, well what can I say I was in with the ladies this week and my mind was very taxed. It is hard to concentrate when you keep getting asked what’s that and what’s this especially when we have gone passed it and I can’t bend my neck around like an owl.

A poor old Scarecrow along Richards Trail was failing in it’s duty as the geese had him surrounded.

Duck numbers are still low but all this rain might help to boost their numbers as the fields are getting really flooded.

Again this week dickie bird numbers were very low with a few Golden-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Junco’s. One of the counters did see a Northern Shrike on the Dock Road but sadly when we all turned around the bird had flown.

There is not much more I

can say about the day, just thanks to all my friends for their help on the count and we will now take a two week break for Christmas and the New Year, so from all of us to all of you have a great winter break and we will be back at it in on January 8th 2019.


Photo Credits

Not so scary Scarecrow, by Derrick Marven

Canada Geese on Richards Trail by Derrick Marven

Paddling gull by Derrick Marven

Snow Geese from Tuesday by Zan Stenhouse

Ring-necked Ducks by Zan Stenhouse

Swans and Geese by Zan Stenhouse

Coastal Waterbird Surveys, 9th December 2018.

Cowichan Bay, South Side.
Rain, cold (5 C) and poor visibility did not deter six hardy counters this morning.
Donna Zipse; Ken Bendle; Barry Hetchsko, Willie Harvie, Steve Mitchell and Gail Mitchell

The highlight was much Bald eagle activity.
Gunshots coming from the end of the estuary were heard throughout the time.

1 Belted Kingfisher, 2 Northwestern Crow, 7 Gull sp., 5 Glaucous winged Gulls,10 Double-crested Cormorant, 8 Bald eagle, 3 Common Goldeneye, 90 Bufflehead, 5 Duck sp., 1 Hooded Merganser, 3 Mute Swan.

Cowichan Bay, North Side – no survey this month.

The birds didn’t mind the rain today, so neither did Jim and Lyn Wisnia.

In the Verdier Point area:
134 American Wigeon, 1 Surf Scoter, 42 Bufflehead, 45 Common Goldeneye, 1 Barrow’s Goldeneye, 12 Hooded Merganser, 7 Horned Grebe, 2 Red-necked Grebe, 1 Pigeon Guillemot, 17 Mew Gull, 8 Glaucous-winged Gull, 1 Gull sp., 3 Common Loon, 1 Brandt’s Cormorant, 1 Pelagic Cormorant, 1 Cormorant sp., 1 Great Blue Heron, 1 Bald Eagle.

In the Mill Bay area:
4 Canada Goose, 11 Mute Swan, 64 Bufflehead, 7 Common Goldeneye, 1 Hooded Merganser, 2 Common Merganser, 13 Red-breasted Merganser, 300+ Western Grebe (probably more beyond 500 m.), 46 Mew Gull, 6, Glaucous-winged Gull, 2 Gull sp., 6 Pacific Loon, 2 Brandt’s Cormorant, 2 Belted Kingfisher.

Swan & Goose count Dec.5th 2018

Bottoms up


Two resting trumpeter swans


Song sparrow


Red-tailed hawk


Male tree


Trumpeter swans in front of Mount Tzouhalem


Trumpeter swan family group


red-tailed hawk eyeing Barry


Northern shrike

Some parts (no pun) of this report are of a mature nature, viewer discretion is advised, no giggling.

Today we were 8 counters and we had a new participant today, Jan who came to the valley from the sunshine coast and what wonderful weather she brought us, brilliant sunshine all the way. Yes it was a tad nippy to start and it was time to discard the thongs and sandals and get out the woolly knickers and big boots.
We had ups and downs today with Swans going up and Eagles going down, we even had a nice dark Peregrine Falcon today which made me get out the scope for a better look as it was a long way off. This was possibly of the “Peales” variety and a dark immature. We even found a Peregrine with no head sitting in a tree. Sadly the Bald Eagles are departing us as the salmon run has ended and their food source is depleted.
I have to say that our Trumpeter Swan numbers may not be correct as we think that maybe the farmer chased a large group off the fields up on Bench just after we had counted them, many of which descended into Cowichan Bay We can never be sure with the birds getting disturbed and flying into a new locations, let’s just say that the numbers are in keeping from previous years and next week will hopefully set the numbers straight. I say we had we had 327 Trumpeters today, so if it’s wrong you can blame me, but that’s what I counted. Once again immature birds were in low numbers with just 29 but we are heading in the right direction.
Several Deer were seen today and even a herd of Goats, a Muscovy Duck for those who want to pad their lifelists was up on Richards Trail and several other sundry farm animals were observed.
One of the best sightings of the day was as we sped along Herd Road and Barry saw a nice Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the corner of Norcross Road, with the ease of a racing car driver Barry took the turn and we were faced with a lovely pale Red-tail Hawk, we don’t get that many opportunities to see one as pale as this. We did get a nice male American Kestrel this week, overall our numbers for Raptors was down.
A lot of still water was frozen and fields were white which made the ducks huddle into small groups, with Richards Trail an exception. Out in Cowichan Bay the numbers of diving ducks remain low. We did encounter 3 Killdeer at Quist’s Farm
We saw Trumpeter Swans in 13 different locations today which was a nice surprise and another good sighting was 3 Greater White-fronted Geese up on Bench Road and 5 Cackling Geese were added to our totals today from two different locations.
Many strange things are seen on our journey around the valley and there are many things to be learned, we all know that in most cases their has to be a male and female species for the said species to survive and I was lucky to see for the first time a male tree, it was a very mature tree, I had never noticed this before even though we have stopped at this location on every count, just amazing what you can catch on camera.
We all had a great day and I for one had a bit of a red face when I got home from the sun, such a wonderful day with my good friends the Swan and Goose counters.
Big thanks to Kurlene and Barry for driving us around and our sponsors the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society
Sorry but there are lot’s of pictures this week.


Photo Credits,
Northern Shrike by Barry Hetschko
Red-tailed Hawk eyeing up Barry Hetschko
Male tree by Derrick Marven
Trumpeter Swans in front of Mt Tzouhalem by Derrick Marven
family group of 3 by Derrick Marven
Pale Red-tailed Hawk by Derrick Marven
Song Sparrow by Zan Stenhouse
Resting Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Bottom up by Zan Stenhouse

Swan & Goose count Nov.21st 2018

Trumpeter Swans – as seen with scope


Trumpeter Swans


Bald Eagle tree


Glaucous Gull


Sea Lion


Somenos Lake


Short-eared Owl


It was one of those days when the weather forecasters did not know it was a Wednesday as the rain hardly left us alone for the whole count and at times it was down right miserable. The Trumpeter Swan numbers went up a little this week, sadly the immature numbers did not do well.
As team leader I am called upon when there to go out in the rain to count all birds, even though I order the other counters to do it, they just give me this funny look and wave. I even donned a pair of Dorothy’s sunglasses in the hope that they would take the hint but nothing doing. You just can’t get good help these days when I’m there.
Trumpeter Swans made a good showing with the vast majority being up on Bench Road where 149 were had of our 188 total. Only 15 immature birds were counted all day and we hope this trend will change soon. The total numbers are up from the past couple of seasons and we would have to go back 3 years to see similar numbers, but it is early days and weather is still warm up north. Canada Goose numbers at 1422 were down a bit from last week and then you would have to go back 3 years to see these high numbers. Most migrants small geese had left with just 9 Cacklers being the only other species counted.
Eagle number were good with the bulk of our numbers being in the Cowichan River corridor where salmon carcasses abound for the picking. A couple of Coopers Hawks and 5 Red-tailed Hawks were added along with a single Peregrine Falcon.
The rain really put the dampers on small birds and it was until the end of the day did we get any excitement to rave about when a immature Glaucous Gull was found on the Cowichan River feeding on dead salmon bit what were floating down the river. A sea lion was also up the river picking as well, it appeared to have a nasty scar on it’s head.
One of the team headed back down the bay after the count and found a nice Short-eared Owl.
There are two pictures of the swans, what you see when you arrive and what you see through the camera when the picture is cropped a bit, what you don’t see is the rain and the poor devil out there counting.
There is not much more I can say about the count except that I think everyone had had enough of the rain and were glad to head home.


Photo Credits

Swans by Derrick Marven
Eagle tree by Derrick Marven
Glaucous Gull by Zan Stenhouse
Sea lion by Zan Stenhouse
Somenos Lake by Barry Hetschko
Short-eared Owl by Kurlene Wenberg

Swan & Goose count Nov. 28th 2018

Great Blue Heron


Bald Eagles in dead tree


Trumpeter Swans


Cackling goose


Peregrine Falcons


Immature Cooper’s Hawk


Northern Harrier


Mew Gulls in flight

This weeks count was supposed to have sunshine and showers but it turned out to be one long shower from start to finish. Bird numbers was very good considering the rain with the raptors coming through big time. Another 3 Peregrine Falcon day, 2 American Kestrels and several other good species. Sadly this week the Trumpeter Swan numbers took a dive #150, not sure what is happening but it appears that this is also happening up in the Comox Valley going on their numbers recorded this week. Our numbers are some of the lowest fourth week counts ever recorded. Even the Canada Goose numbers took a major decline with nearly a 1000 birds disappearing from last weeks count. We did do well for Snow Geese this week with 20 being counted and a nice flock of 15 to finish off our days count. Large numbers of gulls were seen around the valley as the rains and flooded fields caused the worms to come to the surface and cause a feast for the gulls. Eagle number continued to be high as the salmon feast continues with 150 birds in total counted.
We were 7 counters this week in two cars and at times birds were seen from all angles as we traveled around, we use a pair of walkie- talkies to communicate although some times direction and location can sometimes be lost in communication also when the second car gets to far behind and all we hear of them hear is a load of crackle instead of a voice, not sure of the distance these little gems can get, for the most part they serve us well.
Most of the swans were in their usual haunts with just a few more along Sahilton Road which was new for us this week.
Many people have asked what has happened to their garden birds this year with most people asking where’s all the Chickadees. There is a good cone crop this year and they might be feasting on them rather eating up all your handouts.We have noticed on our count the lack of dickie birds so I don’t think it’s just the feeders that are affected. Duck species are also in low numbers with hardly any Green-winged Teal and Northern Pintail in our wetlands.
As we reached the Dock Road yesterday the numbers of diving ducks were very low, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneye and Surf Scoters are down a lot from previous years.
Personally I think we have much to learn about what goes on in nature and most of what we think is conjecture as just when we think we know what’s happening nature throws us a curveball and does the complete opposite.
That was the case yesterday when the weather people said sun and showers, I must admit I did see some bright bits way off in the distance, maybe in the Sooke area.
We did our job and we did see some nice birds. Mission completed.


Photo Credits
Great Blue Heron, by Derrick Marven
Bald Eagles in dead tree, by Derrick Marven
Trumpeter Swans, by Derrick Marven
Cackling Goose, by Derrick Marven
Peregrine Falcons, by Zan Stenhouse
immature Cooper’s Hawk, by Zan Stenhouse
Northern Harrier, by Zan Stenhouse
Mew Gulls in flight, by Zan Stenhouse

Coastal Waterbird Surveys, November 2018

Cowichan Bay South 11th Nov
Donna Zipse. Ken Bendle, Linda Hill, Gail Mitchell, and John Scull met in Hecate Park at 9 am on a clear, crisp, cold morning. The estuary was full of life, with Fox Sparrow and Towhee in the bushes, Mink, Seal, and Otter in the water, and the voices of the Sea Lions. We counted waterbirds, too, seeing:
Mute Swan 2; Trumpeter Swan 7; Bufflehead 159; Common Goldeneye 7; Hooded Merganser 4; Red-necked Grebe 1; Glaucous-winged Gull 2; gull sp.23; Double-crested Cormorant 15; Great Blue Heron 1; Belted Kingfisher 2; Northwestern Crow1.

Cowichan Bay North was calm from 9:10 until 10:15 AM, 11th Nov. when Daryl Johnson, Kurlene Wenberg, and Carol Hartwig found a total of 688 waterbirds of 16 species
on Khenipsen Road North on Cowichan Bay.
Double-crested Cormorants 7; Pelagic Cormorants 10; Great Blue Heron 1; Trumpeter Swan 8; Mute Swan 2; American Wigeon 82; Mallard 15; Surf Scoter 20; Bufflehead 75; Common Goldeneye 240; Bald Eagle 13; Mew Gull 5; Glaucous-winged Gull 36; Gull sp.172;Belted Kingfisher 1; Common Raven 1

On a peaceful and bright Nov. 12 Jim and Lyn Wisnia counted in the Verdier Point area:
American Wigeon 18; Mallard 1; Bufflehead 25; Common Goldeneye 35; Red-breasted Merganser 16; Horned Grebe 8; Western Grebe 385; Mew Gull 7; California Gull 2; Glaucous-winged Gull 9; Gull sp. 2; Common Loon 4; Brandt’s Cormorant 1; Pelagic Cormorant 1; Bald Eagle 2; Northwestern Crow 2.
And in the Mill Bay area:
Canada Goose 1; Mute Swan 8; American Wigeon 20; Surf Scoter 4; Bufflehead 51; Common Goldeneye 17; Red-breasted Merganser 21; Horned Grebe 2; Red-necked Grebe 5; Mew Gull 86; Glaucous-winged Gull 30; Gull sp. 8; Pacific Loon 15; Common Loon 3; Pelagic Cormorant 2; Double-crested Cormorant 3;

The next count is scheduled for 8 am on Sunday, December 9

Swan & Goose count Nov.14th 2018





Canada goose with neckband


Snow goose


Trumpeter swan



This week I was unable to take part due to family commitments, my good friends took up the reins and saw some wonderful sights and good numbers. A 3 Peregrine Falcon day is always a treat.
Some of the photo’s were from just after the count, but who cares, I even have added one for good luck I took while out.
Below is a counters take on the day.


Overnight it had been very wet and even shortly before we were due to meet it was raining; however, much to our surprise the day turned out to be a nice sunny one. Usually Derrick, our worthy leader, sees that the weather is good on Wednesdays and today he was not able to join us but sent an email saying he had made his usual arrangement with the weather gods. Just five of us met at the usual place and we set off in two cars – one was detailed to record the swans and geese and the ladies in the other the raptors.

There were many geese around the marsh area and again at Quist’s Farm. It was not until we reached Dougan’s flats that we found many more geese. At this point one car had stopped and was trying to count a small flock in a large clump of reeds and the other car, which had stopped a few yards further up the road, called to look behind the barn where there was a huge flock. Jim’s Pond was the only other place with geese.

As for finding any swans before lunch we only saw eight in the Westholme area. After our lunch break we found a dozen on Bench Road trying to hide in a dip in the field. So we were thinking our count was going to be a very low one. However, we really hit the jackpot near Blackey’s Farm where there were over 100 in a field – this raised out total of Trumpeters to nearly 140. There were eleven mute swans down on the Bay.

Bald eagles were abundant along the lower reaches of the river along Boys and Sahilton Roads – presumably feeding on the dead salmon in the river where we expect to see them for the next few weeks. A dozen red-tails were seen on our route. From Tom Windsor Drive we could see a bird on one of the distant hydro poles but it was not until one of the photographers managed to get a good shot of it that we could see it was a Peregrine.

All pictures by Zan Stenhouse except the Elk is Derrick’s

Swan & Goose count Nov.7th 2018

Cackling geese


Red-tailed Hawk


Thayer’s Gull


Fox Sparrow


Glaucous-winged Gull




Cackling Goose

Hi to all you Swan enthusiasts
Today saw the start of the 12th annual Swan and Goose count and what a day it was with wonderful sunny skies and warm temperatures. Who would of thought that we would keep going for 12 years, just shows how powerful and loyal citizen science can be.8 counters turned up at the dog park some new and some old faces, but all young at heart. This year we have a sponsor in the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society who have kindly donated some gas money in these times of gouging at the pumps and we thank them with all our heart.
Today’s numbers were surprising with 22 Trumpeter Swans found, 15 Mute Swans many Canada Geese and Cackling Geese and 17 Snow Geese, this is one of the better starting day counts we had for a while. We also had a good number of Raptors with a nice male American Kestrel. Another big surprise was a Dragonfly sp. seen on Koksilah Road west, I think that just shows how warm it was at this late date in the fall. At this same location the bushes and trees have grown up blocking our view of the fields add to this lingering leaves and we could not identify a couple of white blobs in the far off field.
With this first count, photos were at a premium but I’m sure things will improve as time goes on. Barry was off testing water, which is no consolation for a good coffee.
Somenos Lake was very slow with hardly anything out on the water, we worked our way along, many Canada Geese at our first two or three stops and one immature Snow Goose at Quist’s farm. We next got Richard’s Trail where the fields were still dry, but it does look good for the winter counts. Our American Kestrel was sitting on the hydro wires and as we admired this lovely male it took off in a a fast dive across the fields and traveled about 100m and then hit the pasture and came up with what appeared to be a little vole which it took back to the wire for a quick snack. I was amazed that the bird traveled so far and could see this tiny rodent out in the grass, great eyesight indeed.Tom Windsor Drive was next and some white blobs in the distance quickly gout our attention these turned out to be our first 2 Trumpeter Swans and 16 Snow Geese. We left here knowing that we were just getting started for this years count now that we had the first swans under our belt. Things then went slow for our next few stops and we found ourselves having a break at A&W. I guess we got a bit cocky with those first swans as things down in Boy’s and Sahilton Roads we just downright dead, just a couple of Bald Eagles for Dorothy to note and stop the wrist cramp from setting in. Back over to the west-side and something out in the fields on Koksilah Road west avoided our detection because of all the leaves and trees that have grown up over the last two years. Around to Bench and we found our first flock of Trumpeter Swans with 10 adults and 1 immature. Then once again it was all downhill to Cowichan Bay so to speak. Along Cowichan Bay Road we had a group of Mute Swans and added a few more to the flock when viewed from the Dock Road. Another small flock of Trumpeter’s were over beside the mill.
We had done our best and it was time to head home, well maybe not as one of the cars would not start, panic was setting in as the key was wiggled and pulled in and out with nothing firing up. One member suggested we rock the car back and forth which we tried while sitting in it, again nothing, so the big guy got out and got his back up against the open door and gave it a few good rocks and wallah that did the trick. So remember if your car don’t start get out and give it the bear up against the tree treatment.
Home we went with much relief.
Added to the swan count were 10 Bald Eagles and 5 Red-tailed Hawks.
Just remember I am a year older so any mistakes are due to old age.


Photo Credits
Cackling Geese, Derrick Marven & Zan Stenhouse
Red-tailed Hawk, Derrick Marven
Dunlin, by Zan Stenhouse
Fox Sparrow by Zan Stenhouse
Glacous-winged Gull, by Zan Stenhouse
Thayer’s Gull, by Derrick Marven

Coastal Waterbird Survey, September 9, 2018

South Side Cowichan Bay ; In very light rain and some beautiful rainbows, Manon Lafleur, Carol Smithson, Kathy Smithson, Laurie Vasey, Gail Mitchell, Linda Hill and John Scull saw the following birds:
Common merganser, 17; Glaucous-winged gull, 2; Gull sp., 56; Double-crested cormorant, 7; Osprey, 1.

On a rainy day at high tide, Kurlene Wenberg, Daryl Johnson and Carol Hartwig found the following beautiful winged creatures on the North Side of Cowichan Estuary:
Mute swan, 11; Common merganser, 130; Bonaparte’s gull, 35; Glaucous-winged gull, 17; Gull sp., 305; Double-crested cormorant, 1; Great blue heron, 3; Osprey, 2; common raven 2.