The weather man had forecast strong winds and we managed to dodge most of it until the end of the count at Cowichan Bay where small white caps could be seen coming in from the south east. It did not take long for everyone to hide back in the vehicles.
Today saw only 6 eager counters take part with two of our regular party off gallivanting up island I believe, the men went in one car and the ladies in another just to keep the peace.
The numbers were all over the place this week with adult Swans being up just a few birds and immature going down while the goosies stayed around the same, we did mange one Snow Goose and several Cackling Geese. Most of the swan pack were up on Bench with a few family groups dotted around the valley to make up the numbers.
Eagle numbers went down as did Red-tailed Hawks but we did well for Falcons as we recorded three Merlin’s our first of this season, two Peregrine Falcons and one American Kestrel that has settled in up at the Exhibition grounds.
We only had a few deer this week and on very quick Squirrel that dodged the car wheels up on Herd Road. We looked for Elk in several locations but not hide no hair was seen of them.
What was an amazing miss there was not one Bald Eagle at Quist’s Farm, think this could be a record as we always seem to find some there. There were some duckies in the flooded field with Mallard, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and a handful of Northern Pintail.
Along Richard’s Trail we had a nice treat with a few Varied Thrush and one pied American Robin that showed some small leucistic dotes on it’s body and head. It was along the road further where we got our first Merlin.
The Herd Road flooded fields were loaded with both ducks and geese and I had spotted the Snow goose as we approached along the road. The Peregrine Falcon was once again keeping watch on it’s meal ticket just in case any interlopers tried to home in on it’s patch.
Hwy 18 was a bust with not a single bird to be counted, think next week I will start counting cows as they always seem to be out.
We soon found ourselves back for lunch, where a certain lady’s cookies were sorely missed. Dorothy we miss you please come back soon.
After a quick belly full of food we were off to Boys Road where it was hard going with hardly any raptors and no swans, we did find a confiding Great Blue Heron on the side of Sahilton Road that stood motionless waiting to have it’s picture taken, I totally forgot about it when we came back down the road.
What appeared to be a family group of Trumpeter’s were in the corn fields over on Koksilah Road west, it was here where we first got a glimpse of the girls who had lagged behind getting pictures, they thanked us for waiting for them, which we had no intention of doing anyways.
The next stop was Bench Road where the major flock of swans were located, I was tempted to get out the vehicle get the scope out and look for Tundra Swans but the wind and my bad hip made think twice about that fool hardy endeavor.
We then went to Dougan’s Flats where just one group of Geese were located and so we found ourselves quickly across the highway and down into Cowichan Bay where as I had said earlier it was not a good day day to be out along the Dock Road in the wind. I did spy a Eurasian Wigeon tucked in with all the other ducks in the corner of the estuary, they are not stupid these Europeans – know where to go when things get harsh.
We finished our day along the Cowichan River where we found the ladies who had lost us, they had found a nice big Sealion working the river for a Salmon supper.
That was it our day was done, not the best, but some great sights of birds. Lot’s of pictures this week as I know you like them.
Young Deer by Derrick Marven
Trumpeter Swan by Derrick Marven
Eurasian Wigeon sleeping by Derrick Marven
female Common Merganser by Denny Wagg
Great Blue Heron by Denny Wagg
Merlin by Zan Stenhouse
Trumpeter Swan group by Zan Stenhouse
Geese on ice by Zan Stenhouse
Sealion by Zan Stenhouse
Varied Thrush by Barry Hetschko
Pied American Robin by Barry Hetschko
Muscovy Duck by Barry Hetschko
South Side of Cowichan Bay.
A beautiful afternoon with the mist and clouds swirling around Saltspring Island, Mount Tzouhalem, and Mount Prevost. Four eager birders (John Scull, Willie Harvie, Linda Hill, Bruce Coates, Donna Zipse, and Ken Bendle) with a telescope from the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre counted:
Mute Swan 7; American Wigeon 7; Bufflehead 188; Common Goldeneye 23; Hooded Merganser 3; Iceland Gull (Thayer’s) 2; Glaucous-winged Gull 2; gull sp. 87; Double-crested Cormorant 2; Bald Eagle 2; Belted Kingfisher 1; (and two harbour seals).
Jim and Lyn Wisnia saw the following (along with lots of Steller’s sea lions) on a drizzling Nov. 9 in the Verdier Point area:
Bufflehead 17; Common goldeneye 11; Barrow’s goldeneye 8, Red-breasted merganser 25; Horned grebe 2; Red-necked grebe 3; Mew gull 37; Glaucous-winged gull 6; gull sp. 16; Pacific loon 13; Common loon 3; Double-crested cormorant 1; Cormorant sp. 1;Belted kingfisher 3; Common raven 1.
And in the Mill Bay area:
Canada goose 1; Mute swan 5; American wigeon 57; Mallard 19; Surf scoter 1; Bufflehead 61; Common goldeneye 31; Barrow’s goldeneye 4; Hooded merganser 5; Red-breasted merganser 1; Horned grebe 1; Red-necked grebe 1; Western grebe 2; Mew gull 7; Glaucous winged gull 23; gull sp. 41; Common loon 1; Pelagic cormorant 3; Bald eagle 1; Belted kingfisher 1; Northwestern crow 1.
Cowichan Bay South
In spite of it being Thanksgiving weekend, volunteeers John Scull, Barry Hetchco, Linda Hill, Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, and Olene Russell were joined by Oline’s husband Mike and children Kosian, Koia,Kolyna, Kazka, and Kealey along with Felix Fraillon from France. Some of the counters were inspired by Graham Sorensen’s session last week. The extra birders said they were inspired to come by the WildWings festival.
The unusually large population of birders was not matched by the birds and we had what may be the lowest count ever, perhaps because it was mid afternoon. Hopefully, there were lots of birds at the other local sites. Here’s what we saw:
1 Western Gull; 5 Glaucous-winged Gull; 79 gull sp.; 2 Double-crested Cormorant, 1 Great Blue Heron; 2 Bald Eagle; 1 Belted Kingfisher; 2 Northwestern Crow.
Cowichan Bay North
I was the long counter on the north side having had our dinner on Saturday. The birds were very distant and backlit so lots of unidentified!
10 Double Crested Cormorants; 12 Bonapartes Gulls; 14 Mew Gulls; 135 Unidentified Gulls; 52 American Widgeon; 170 Unidentified Ducks closely hugging the shore by the river; 16 Mallards; 1 Canada Goose swimming alone in the middle of the bay; 2 Mute Swans; 26 White Winged Scoters in a tight group of immatures, females and a few males. Largest group that I can remember seeing, and no Surf Scoters
The next count is at 3 pm on Sunday, November 10.
South Side of Cowichan Bay.
We met by the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre in Hecate Park at 3 pm on a breezy Sunday, September 8. John Scull, Linda Hill, Kathy Coster, Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, and Pamela Williams were joined by Derrick Marven and his telescope. Derrick seemed to be with us to polish his arithmetic and birding skills while waiting for the start of the swan and goose count.
Here are the birds we saw:
32 Mallard; 41 Common Merganser ; 13 Glaucous-winged Gull ; 5 gull sp. ; 3 Double-crested Cormorant; 1 Great Blue Heron;; 1 Osprey ; 6 Northwestern Crow
North side Cowichan Bay
Here is our rather dismal count – Daryl and Kurlene
Double-crested Cormorant, 1; Great Blue Heron, 1; Turkey Vulture, 2; Osprey, 1; Unidentified shorebirds, 100 approx.; Unidentified gulls, 82
Lyn and Jim Wisnia saw the following waterbirds on Sunday evening:
Bonaparte’s gull, 2; Mew gull, 1; Ring-billed gull, 1; Glaucous-winged gull, 6; Gull sp., 85; Double crested cormorant, 4; Great blue heron, 1.
Glaucous-winged gull 9; Gull sp., 15; Pelagic cormorant, 1; Great blue heron, 2; Belted kingfisher, 1.
Cowichan Bay – south side.
It was a joy to see that the osprey have returned as Carol Milo, John Scull, Barry Hetschco, Robin Lawson, and Gail Mitchell met between brief showers at the very civilized time of 1 pm. Since we began these surveys, 57 people have counted birds at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre. The birds were a bit naughty today, with male buffleheads engaging in their courtship display and two ospreys going well beyond courtship. We could see a great many ducks at the head of the estuary, but they were too far away to identify, even with two telescopes.
Canada Goose, 1; Mute Swan,2; Mallard, 2; Bufflehead, 26; Common Merganser, 9; duck sp., 100; gull sp., 11; Double-crested Cormorant, 8; Osprey, 3; Northwestern Crow, 3;
Cowichan Bay – north side.
On a mostly cloudy day, Daryl and Kurlene were treated to the sight of a pair of beautiful Osprey engaged in building their nest on top of the pilings offshore from Khenipsen Rd.
The following birds were seen as well:
Canada Goose, 3; Mute Swan, 4; Mallard, 40; Surf Scoter, 9; Bufflehead, 38; Common Goldeneye, 2; Common Merganser; 6; Turkey Vulture, 10; Osprey, 4; Bald Eagle, 1; Gull sp., 125; Common Raven, 3
Lyn and Jim Wisnia observed in the Verdier Point area
Canada goose, 1; American wigeon, 16; Mallard, 6; Surf scoter, 10; Bufflehead, 3; Common goldeneye, 3; Barrow’s goldeneye, 5; Common merganser, 7; Horned grebe, 1; Red-necked grebe, 1; Western grebe, 320; Mew gull, 209; California gull, 1; Glaucous-winged gull, 52; Gull sp., 31; :Common loon, 1; Brandt’s cormorant, 1; Great blue heron, 1; Turkey vulture, 3 (overhead); Bald eagle, 1; Northwestern crow, 4.
And in the Mill Bay area:
Canada goose, 3; Mute swan, 1; Mallard 7; Surf scoter, 5; Bufflehead, 65; Common goldeneye, 15; Barrow’s goldeneye, 2; Common merganser, 9; Red-breasted merganser, 2; Red-necked grebe, 3; Mew gull, 7; Glaucous-winged gull, 45; Gull sp., 1; Common loon, 1; Great blue heron, 1; Northwestern crow, 3; Common raven, 1.
It was another fine Wednesday morning when 7 counters turned up at the dog park, one counter was almost in fine spring plumage, whilst most of the others still retained their winter coats. We headed straight off and started counting Canada Geese right away at the school and this trend continued for most of the day as we got back to the high numbers that we encountered just before Christmas with #1251 recorded. The same thing went for the Trumpeter Swans who returned to old and new pastures and we got # 515 adults and 66 immature. We also found some Tundra Swans today with 1 immature on Koksilah Road west and close ones on Koksilah east which posed nicely for the camera. On one of our first stops at the site of the ever rising retirement home on York Road we saw Killdeer and Robins and a few golf balls, Barry drove off to let the girls have a look and our new counter of the week Denny who was trying the day for the first time. The girls spotted some Wilson’s Snipe which they bragged about to us in the first car, saying we missed them. That is not true as we often don’t report birds from the lead car just so the laggers get to have something for show and tell, it keeps them happy and keeps them coming. I am sure i will pay dearly for that remark. Somenos Lake had over 40 Ruddy Ducks and a few swans and several Pied-billed Grebes, although the lake still lacks a lot of ducks which we usually find at this time of year. We pushed up to Quist’s where we got our first task of the upward trends in waterfowl that we got today. It is always hard alongside the Hwy as logging trucks try to dislodge our wing mirrors as they hurtle down the road to the mills. There were good numbers of Bald Eagles around and this weeks count we got #25 adults and #8 immature with many unseen up at the CVRD recycle depot which go uncounted each week. Our Red-tailed Hawk numbers bounced back up with #10 seen although accipiter’s were a no show this week, we did add a Peregrine and a Merlin but that was it. We had two Northern Shrikes with one being close enough for a rough shot.
The day belonged to the swans and many good picture opportunities were given as you will see with the attached pictures. We even saw the Trumpeters doing their ring around the rosy dance today, we always enjoy this sight .Not many dickie birds, I think they must be all confused with this weather although it don’t seem to bother the Anna’s Hummingbirds who sat up proud on many sticks around the route.
I find it hard to believe that her we are in March with just 3 more counts to go, it only seemed like a a month ago that we started, but here we are with the Swallows arriving and the Rufous Hummingbirds already hitting Washington State so their arrival should be here within the next two weeks, that’s if it ever stops snowing like it was this Thursday morning.
Our day was good and all had some nice sightings and several of us got some wonderful pictures, big thanks to our drivers Barry and Kurlene for keeping us safe, they do a wonderful job, Barry especially has to put up with a leader that makes him inch back and forth while I count and try for a few snaps, such patience. Such a wonderful bunch of people that i spend the day out in the big natural world..
Breeding pair of Brown Nike’s by Barry Hetschko
Flying Trumpeter’s by Barry Hetschko and Zan Stenhouse
Robin and Snipe ballet by Kurlene Wenberg
Snipe walking on water by Kurlene Wenberg
Bottoms up by Zan Stenhouse
Old Rusty by Zan Stenhouse
Northern Shrike by Derrick Marven
Barry taking light refreshment by Derrick Marven
Adult and Immature Tundra Swan by Derrick Marven
Immature Trumpeter and Tundra together by Derrick Marven
Friends, It is a hard life being a Swan and Goose count leader, you have to make sure that the right people are in the right vehicles and that we have all the gear required to ride around in a nice warm car on a nippy spring morning, for the most part our group knows exactly what to do and are ready to go right on the dot of 10am then sometimes there is a little hiccup when one group decides to change cars and all the gear that was loaded into one car has to reloaded into another. This makes a delay of a few minutes which in birding times can make a hit or miss if you are going after a good bird. This week we saw a new counter who came all the way from Victoria, yes they know about us down in the big city. Emma is our newest and youngest counter and it was nice to see a fresh face on the count. Also this week one of the counters decided that winter was over and arrived in full summer plumage complete with shorts, socks and sandals, such a hardy fellow. After enduring a full day out in the sunshine watching birds and having a laugh with my friends I then have to try and remember all that had taken place that day and try to put into words which people tell me that they wait in anticipation of the weeks report. I do try my hardest but so much happens during each count my poor old brain can’t retain it all. I then have to go through all the pictures submitted and try get put together the full report. I have to put all the numbers into the spreadsheet and get them ready after all this my wife wonders why I have a little nap after dinner in the chair in front of the telly. Not bad I think for a guy that finished bottom of the class each year in secondary school.
This week saw the departure of some of our swans and geese, not sure when they left but we were down to just half of last week’s numbers and with the forecast of hot and sunny weather for this weekend we could find ourselves wanting for the last two counts. We counted #311 Trumpeters and 1 Tundra Swan along with just #670 Canada Geese which was almost half of last weeks total, we did manage to find 23 Snow Geese at Dougan’s Flats and 43 Ruddy Ducks at Somenos Lake. Also at Drinkwater Road 2 male and a female Downy Woodpecker were having a chase around. At the old golf driving range we had a pair of Northwestern Crows who definitely were ready for spring as they were copulating right in front of the stands, no shame in the bird world I’m afraid.
Raptor numbers were good with # 45 Bald Eagles, 11 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Peregrine Falcon only seen by Barry and our first Turkey Vultures of the season with their telltale gliding flight making them easy to pick out. To make sure spring had finally sprung we saw several Tree Swallows with one already sat up on a nest box at Somenos Marsh. This weekend should see a major influx of many swallows. Another little flight master who should turn up this weekend should be the Rufous Hummingbird who has already hit feeders down in Washington State.
We tried hard to find the Elk for Emma but the beasts must have been hiding back in the woods as they were a no show. We did mange to show her plenty of ducks along Lakes Road and a nice display by by Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawk who put the fear into the poor duckies who took flight across the wet fields.
Most of the Swans and Geese were in the west and south end of our count which is what we have found in the latter days of their stay over previous years, not sure why only the birds know.
All in all it was a good day, weather was fine as we have become accustomed to getting on a Wednesday, will we make it through the last tw counts without getting a few rain drops, we will see.
Big thanks to the drivers and to Dorothy who keeps the tally up to date. Those photographers excelled this week so a bumper crop for you to enjoy.
Until next week.
female Brewer’s Blackbird by Derrick Marven
give us a kiss on the cheek Mallard by Derrick Marven
immature Bald Eagle by Zan Stenhouse
Tree Swallow by Zan Stenhouse
Swans getting ready for migration by Zan Stenhouse
soaring Red-tailed Hawk by Zan Stenhouse
Downy Woodpecker by Barry Hetschko
Take off Swans by Barry Hetschko
Eagles in flight by Denny Wagg
Swans in flight by Denny Wagg
Great Blue Heron by Denny Wagg
South side of Cowichan Bay.
Six intrepid birders (who had all remembered to change their clocks) watched sunrise on a cold but beautiful morning by the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre: Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, Bruce Coates, Linda Hill, Gail Mitchell, and John Scull saw two harbour seals, a group of pine siskin, and the following:
Trumpeter Swan, 10; Mallard, 20; Bufflehead, 96; Common Goldeneye, 5; Hooded Merganser, 4; Common Merganser, 5; Duck sp., 100; Gull sp., 15; Double-crested Cormorant, 3; Great Blue Heron, 12; Northwestern Crow, 4.
On a clear cold day with rippled seas at high tide at 10 AM on March 10, 2019, a group of three birders identified 14 species of waterbirds from Khenipsen Road on Cowichan Bay North.
The birders with cold fingers included Daryl Johnson, Kurlene Wenberg, and Carol Hartwig.
Canada Goose, 12; Horned Grebe, 1; Great Blue Heron, 1; Trumpeter Swan, 27; American Widgeon, 4; Mallard, 43; Common Goldeneye, 2; Surf Scoter, 17; White-winged Scoter, 4; Bufflehead, 48; Common Merganser, 2; Red Breasted Merganser, 4; Bald Eagle, 4; Gull sp., 53.
On a calm, clear March 10, Bryon Thompson, Jim Wisnia, and Lyn Wisnia saw in the Verdier Point area:
Surf scoter, 11; Bufflehead, 22; Common goldeneye, 34; Barrow’s goldeneye, 11; Red-breasted merganser, 14; Horned grebe, 14; Western grebe, 275; Mew gull, 26; Glaucous-winged gull, 30; Gull sp., 7; Common loon, 2; Pelagic cormorant, 1’ Cormorant sp. 1; Bald eagle, 2; Belted kingfisher, 2.
And in the Mill Bay area:
Mute swan, 10; American wigeon, 18; Mallard, 6; Surf scoter, 23; Bufflehead, 45; Common goldeneye, 18; Hooded merganser, 4; Common merganser, 6; Red-breasted merganser, 7; Horned grebe, 15; Red-necked grebe, 2; Mew gull, 18; Glaucous-winged gull, 47; Gull sp., 7; Common loon, 5; Pelagic cormorant, 2; Double-crested cormorant, 2; Cormorant sp., 1; Great blue heron, 1; Northwestern crow, 8; Cooper’s hawk, 1.
Today ended the tenth season of our count and with sunny weather that we have come to expect every Wednesday. 8 counters set out from the dog park in two cars, this week we were missing our good friend Barry and our thoughts were with him today on what could be our last Swan and Goose count.
What made this day special was that this was the highest count of Trumpeter Swans recorded on the last day of any season ever with #260 adults and #51 immature, what has made these birds stay so long, well warmland hospitality with good food and friendly people, also the cold snap might have had something to do with it, putting back their feeding, as you may know they have to build up fats for the flight north especially the immature birds.
Our raptor numbers took a hit this week with immature eagle numbers and Red-tailed Hawks making the biggest drop. Again this week we were treated to a Peregrine Falcon showing other species that it weren’t going to be pushed around as it jousted non stop with a bunch of Ravens which attacked and were attacked right above Westholme Road for all to see, well the ones that got out of the vehicles anyways.
We think we spied a big black Bear in a field as we drove by on the west side of town and a Muskrat sat in a ditch until the silly leader pointed too it out the window where upon it dived under the water just as Zan was about to take it’s portrait. Another strange sight today was a cow patty spotted by our resident patty specialist, she’s good at seeing them, having been a regular at A&W, this one was covered in a bright orange/brown flies who seemed to be enjoying this quarter pounder. We saw Killdeer and a few sundry dickie birds, this has been the case from previous weeks passerines have been in low numbers. We got good looks at a Northern Shrike and at the wet fields on Herd Road I tentatively counted over 300 Northern Shoveller, this has to be the largest congregated flock in Canada at this time of year, a wonderful sight along with many other duck species. This area has been especially good to us this year. One of the last birds of the day was our first of the season Rufous Hummingbird on the wires along the Dock Road.
We were lucky to find two Tundra Swans again this week both of which I don’t think we have encountered before after looking and comparing photo’s from previous years. While we were admiring the Tundra Dorothy’s eyes were a wandering and she came on the walkie-talkie to say, you do know there’s a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a post opposite you car, a wonderful specimen it was, as soon as it saw Kurlene’s camera it took off, guess like an ex teacher we also need eyes in the back of our heads.
With the last report comes lot’s of pictures for your enjoyment.
I want to thank all our team for all the good work and fun that we have had over the years, especially Eric and Dorothy who have been on the count since day one, Kurlene, Zan Jane, and Barry and all the dozens of others who have given up time to come out and join us. Big thanks to the drivers who have kept us safe over the years and who have obeyed my every command, well most of the time.
This year saw us get some sponsorship from the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society who gave us a grant for gas, we thank them big time for their kindness. We have over the ten years put a great deal of money in the pockets of the gas giants and our governments. This is one of the reasons that I am not sure whether we will continue as the costs are becoming prohibitive. There are many other ways for us to spend our sunny Wednesdays without using our vehicles so much and still collect some good data for other important bird projects and locations around the valley. Somenos Marsh, Quamichan Lake and Cowichan Bay could all do with a regular citizen science data collection Wednesday.
We as a group will discuss what we are going to do, but be sure there will be many reports coming to you what ever we decide and as long as my fingers work.
Northern Shrike by Kurlene Wenberg
Anna’s Hummingbird by Kurlene Wenberg
Trumpeter Swan with a lump by Zan Stenhouse
Raven and Peregrine Falcon by Zan Stenhouse
Flying Wigeon by Zan Stenhouse
Rufous Hummingbird by Zan Stenhouse
Red-tailed Hawk by Denny Wagg
Canada Geese by Denny Wagg
Tundra Swan by Derrick Marven
Cow patty and flies by Derrick Marven
Belted Kingfisher by Derrick Marven
Goodbye to the swans by Derrick Marven
Immature Bald Eagle
10 counters set out in 3 cars and with gas now sitting just below the $1.40 mark, talk of using bikes next year could be heard although some baulked at this suggestion.
What a day we had, the weather was tremendous although it made it hard to tell immature swans when they were way off.
We had two new counters today, Beverly and Katherine, It was nice to see new faces out with us, I think they had a good time.
To defy all notions we had of a departure by the waterfowl we got high numbers of swans and geese, where did they go last week that is the question. I am sure I saw a couple of Canada Geese with sunglasses out in Dougan’s Flats.
I have a question for you all, what bird would put the fear into four Bald Eagles and chase them off with no problem. The answer later in the report. We got 26 Bald Eagles, 2 Turkey Vultures, 1 very handsome Merlin that sat still on top of a snag on Westholme Road for all but one of us to see, sorry Zan. 7 Red-tailed Hawks and 3 Peregrine Falcons. We got great looks at many birds this week and I hope that the new counters were won over with what we get up to on a Wednesday. Just a few deer this week and sundry farm animals spread out around our route, the piggies on Wilson Road were having a nice sunbath in their mud holes. Smoked side bacon came to mind.
Trumpeter Swans were at #399 adults and # 72 immature, 1 Mute Swan, 1 adult Tundra and 1 immature. Something I picked up on this week was the immature Trumpeters molt from the backside up, see attached picture and how do you tell a sleeping Tundra from a Trumpeter, also see attached picture. There was a lot more vocalizing with the swans and a lot’s of head bobbing and a bit of dancing, it can’t be long before the big flocks test those mighty wings and head north.
It appeared that some sort of plague had gone through the ranks of the counters as many of us where a little horse and the sounds of cough sweets being opened were heard along the route. We do know who started this as she was sick last week, but you know us counters and birders we love to share everything.
Many Tree and Violet-green Swallows were seen with the boxes at Somenos were near to capacity when we went by. A Northern Shrike was seen by a couple, but most missed it.
This week we were treated to one of those wonders of nature, as we came along Herd Road a Peregrine Falcon was spotted circling around near Osbourne Bay Road and then quick as a flash it was off towards the wet fields further east, when we got there there was no sign of it but a massive bunch of ducks were out on the water, lot’s of Northern Shoveller and Ring-necked Duck, then they all started to fidget and some were taking flight as several Bald Eagles were flying out over the water, the photographers attention was drawn to one impressive immature bird. Then all of a sudden this screaming banshee comes across the flooded fields in hot pursuit of a adult Eagle, yes it was the Peregrine with claws and bill at the ready to run up the back of the quickly retreating Bald Eagles, the noise that the Peregrine was making would scare the feathers off even the strongest of birds. It appeared that one of the Eagles had got a duck and the Peregrine was not amused. The Eagle dropped the duck on the road and Barry was lucky to capture another eagle retrieving this poor duckie. One can only imagine how all those ducks must feel when those eagles take it upon themselves to go a hunting.
What a wonderful treat for us all and something I don’t think we will ever encounter again. The things you see when you’re out counting swans and geese, I tell you.
Well here we are nearly at the end of March and just one more count to go for the season, will we return next year, who knows, we have been at it now for 187 counts and 10 seasons. we have collected a great bit of data on our big white and brown birds. We have seen some wonderful things over the years. I personally have been counting swans for more that 25 years now, I guess that’s why I am always trumpeting in my English accent.
Sleeping Tundra Swan by Derrick Marven
moulting Trumpeter Swan by Derrick Marven
Tree Swallows by Barry Hetschko
Bald Eagle and Ducks by Barry Hetschko
Bald Eagle with dinner by Barry Hetschko
Peregrine Falcon by Barry Hetschko
immature Bald Eagle in flight by Zan Stenhouse
immature Bald Eagle hiding by Zan Stenhouse
Red-tailed Hawk by Zan Stenhouse
Trumpeter Swans by Zan Stenhouse
I often wonder how the birds cope in these harsh conditions, we see the swans asleep in the fields I assume they are saving energy, when I go to Art Mann park in the morning the ducks are all huddled together and the gulls look a bit fatter than usual with their feathers all fluffed up. Then I meet our counters at the dog park and they all look a little plump as they have several layers of clothes, Our most senior distinguished counter even had his hood up. Which brings me to the point that it is easy for us humans, we can stay warm by many methods, sadly our feathered friends have to make do with what they have and it is a live or die situation for them.
This brings me to another point about our counters who it seems the more layers they put on the harder it is for them all to fit in the vehicles. When these car manufacturers create their models do they ever think of swan counters in winter, of course not, and so the process of squeeze and push starts at 10:00am at the dog park. In the end they give up trying to get three in the rear seats of these so called big SUV’s and take another car. I being kind do not think it had anything to do with the Christmas holidays and the trouble of trying to hold ones size down.
9 counters left the dog park in three vehicles and we were soon counting geese at the school, Somenos Marsh had Red-tailed Hawk and several Red-winged Blackbirds sitting up on territory. Somenos Lake had a nice flock of Ruddy Ducks and many more Canada Geese. Our numbers this week were not too bad although many locations lacked any swans. I am trying to write this from memory at the moment as I am using my wife’s computer as mine has gone on the blink, so numbers are hard to pull out from the back of my bread box. That’s the brain to those who don’t know what it’s called.
We did see an American Kestrel and Virginia Rails and Wilson’s Snipe, more Red-tailed Hawks this week and back to many more Canada Geese. A group of 20+ Snow Geese at Dougan’s Flats. A large herd of Elk up Hwy 18 brought joy to all the faces and pictures were taken from a fair distance away.
The day was cold and the wind in places was a little brisk but we had a great day. With Just four more counts to go in March we hope that the temperature go’s up a bit. Do you know we have had swallows by now some years.
I am sorry short report this week.
Red-tailed Hawk By Barry Hetschko
Starlings by Barry Hetshcko
Northern Shoveller and Northern Pintail by Barry Hetschko
Elk by Eric Marshall
Virginia Rails By Kurlene Wenberg
Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Bald Eagle by Zan Stenhouse
“Swings and Roundabouts”
That is what it was like today,swans,geese and eagles were down again this week and the unexpected also happened. 8 people left the dog park under sunny Wednesday skies and at the site of the soon to be built new retirement home for swan and goose counters on York Road we had a couple of Killdeer hunkered down in the field. We seemed to have found many birds sleeping this week, I believe it is their way of seeing out this snowy bad weather, just taking it easy and saving energy.
Trumpeter Swan numbers were at a all time low with just #108 adults and #19 immature seen this week, the Canada Goose number went up a bit at # 447. Sadly our raptor numbers dropped way down but we did get a nice American Kestrel on Richards Trail and we finished off our day with a Northern Harrier and a Short-eared Owl on the Dock Road.
In between these ups and downs we found a new species for our count, a species of bird unaccustomed to these freezing temperatures. Along Boy’s Road while admiring a Wilson’s Snipe another funny looking little chicken type bird was running around in the ditch and then suddenly there were two Virginia Rails right beside us. They scampered in and out of the bramble thicket eking out some food of some sort. I failed miserably getting any pictures and I was the closest to the birds, the camera not liking all the brambles to focus on, my best shot being a butt of one of the birds. Our photo’s this week will show how hard it was getting a good picture. Seeing this species in winter is a rare occasion on Vancouver Island and here we were blessed with two.
On Richard’s Trail a small Sheltie running on the road tried to befriend us as we watched all the new lambs, we managed to leave him behind for the girls who succumbed to it’s charms and let it in their car. It belonged to a house near by and was dispatched to it’s owner who was worried about a Bald Eagle that was up in the tree, it appears that the eagle was intently looking at lamb rather than dog for supper.
It was hard going for our task today with many of our so called good spots missing any birds at all. We were not to be put off by all the snow and a group of Snow Geese that the leaders failed to see were found by our lovely ladies who as usual were dragging their feet far behind, thank you girls.
Stark contrast to last week when we saw upwards of 50 Varied Thrush, this week 1 with Richards Trail failing to show us one.
We pushed on not knowing what was just around the corner, sadly there was not much and even the Red-tailed Hawks let us down with just #3 found
How could such a lovely day not show us more, well that’s birding for you. Our day was nearly done as we hit the Dock Road and we were surprised to see so many Trumpeter’s out in the bay, just goes to show they know were they are well off. A flyby Northern Harrier caught us all unawares and Barry who has become the owl spotter found the Short-eared Owl and once again it was well off over the other side of the estuary. I spotted a Eurasian Wigeon and gingerly headed along the old railroad track to get a few pictures getting caught up on the brambles a few times, those devils bite even harder when your legs are cold.
We were done for the day, we did our best that’s all we could ask. I have cheated a little this week and added two pictures from our team that were seen the previous day.
Short-eared Owl by Barry Hetschko
Bald Eagle by Kurlene Wenberg
Virginia Rail by Kurlene Wenberg
Snow Geese and mates by Zan Stenhouse
Resting up by Zan Stenhouse
Swans making snowman by Zan Stenhouse
Wilson’s Snipe by Derrick Marven
Eurasian Wigeon by Derrick Marven
Killdeer by Derrick Marven
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.
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