Swan & Goose count 2017- 2018 season

Today (28th March) marked the end of the counting season it also happened to be our 170th count since we started our quest. You will notice the theme of today’s count is all about the swans because that is why we started this back on March 22nd 2009. Many counters have come and gone and there is just a few of us who it seems are gluttons for punishment and have kept this swan count going. Many have driven us around some more than others and i thank them for keeping us safe. We have been blessed with some wonderful sights over the years, which if we had not been out there counting we would have missed all that this wonderful world has to offer. I for one have enjoyed my fellow counters company and the laughs that we have shared. I hope through my weekly reports I have given some insights into what we do and I hope that I have spread a little joy and laughter into your life.

Now for the update on our swans and how they have fared over the years. The first year we had highs of 813 adults and 174 immature birds and over the seasons this has gone up and down with what appears to be a real downturn over the past 3 years. Our highs this year were 674 adults and 94 immature, so you can see that the numbers have gone down, what is most disconcerting is the drop in young birds and this trend has continued over the last few seasons. If you look at our highest counts in February 2011, where we had 924 adults and 224 immature, we have had some drastic drops in numbers since then. A lot of the birds have now started to move further south with many spending time in the Saanich area where once they were scarce. For the last 3 years our numbers have steadied with no major fluctuations and we can only hope that this continues although i would like to see more young birds staying in our area through the winters. At the end of this season we have failed to get into triple figures for immature birds this I worry about.

Now for the update on our geese and how they have fared over the years. The first year we had a high of 1192 and a last week count of 258 and just like the swans this has gone up and down over the years This years high was 1607 and the last week count was 127. What i take from this is that near to breeding season the birds do what most birds do and migrate north. So the next time you read all that nonsense that is printed in our local rags about the goose population growing and the need for more hunting to bring down the numbers and whatever, they are talking out the tops of their heads. Most of the geese like the swans only spend the winter here and the impact on the environment is negligible.

For the past few years more and more Trumpeter Swans are roosting in Cowichan Bay which is good for the swans maybe, there are many problems with the main one being lead shot which is laying in the mud of the bay from years of hunting, also industry is becoming more visible. This is a very important estuary that needs our protection if the swans have decided to call this theirs for the future.
Somenos Lake is one of the main roosting spots and continues to welcome birds most nights. Quamichan Lake is a mystery as not many Trumpeters use this lake for roosting even though it is very large, why this is i don’t have the answer, only that the lake must be missing something. Birds also roost up at Quist’s Farm when the water levels are reasonably high.

We have not seen much mortality of swans just a few deaths here and there mostly it appears from hydro strikes and we must do more to encourage hydro to put up deflectors on their wires in the regularly used areas. As for disturbance this happens every year and I don’t blame the farmers for trying to protect their crops but chasing birds is against the law and should be stopped. We need our government to come through with some compensation money for the hardest hit farms and for land that is owned by government and so called nature friendly groups to start getting their tenant farmers to plant crops for the swans, thus saving the impact on private lands. A prime example of what happened this year was in Cowichan Bay where we failed to find hardly any birds using the Nature Trust land because of the farming practices which were allowed to take place. Why on earth did Nature Trust buy the land if their not going help the birds? They also allow hunting on their lands on Vancouver Island, to me this is not very nature friendly and yet they are always asking naturalists to donate money to their cause?
It is time for us all to pull together as nature in all forms is slowly diminishing and if we are to save something for those that follow we must act with urgency.

Lastly i would like to thank all my friends that have come along over the years, it has been a real pleasure riding along with you and the laughs we have enjoyed and the wonderful sights and sounds we have all had.

Enjoy these last count pictures, lot’s of them, they being all swan types and credit for these should go to, Barry Hetschko, Derrick Marven, Zan Stenhouse and Kurlene Wenberg, these friends have treated you to some wonderful shots of our weekly exploits. For Dorothy Marshall for keeping our numbers during our counts and to Eric, Paul and Elizabeth for making sure that the reports were sent out to you all.

Unitil we swan off again

Swan & Goose count Mar.28th 2018

Common merganser


Peregrine falcon

Woolly bear

Great blue heron

Today was the last count of the season and 8 people set out with much munchies to eat thanks to Jane and birthday girl Helen. As expected numbers were low with just 63 Trumpeter Swans, 1 Tundra and 3 Mutes. Weather was just perfect and light was great for pictures if only we could have found something to photograph. We did see a herd of American Wigeon and if you look at the picture maybe you can find the three male Eurasian Wigeon that was with them. We did have a nice Peregrine Falcon and a far off female American Kestrel. The first Woolly Bear of the season and if you don’t know what they turn into and how they predict the weather try here:
We all had a great time today and once again enjoyed wonderful weather.
I am not going into great detail with this report and it is very short as you will receive a full report on the swans within the next couple of days with loads of pictures.
Thank you to all my buddies for all their help on the counts.


Photo credits

Peregrine Falcon by Barry Hetschko
Great Blue Heron by Zan Stenhouse
Woolly Bear by Zan Stenhouse
American Wigeon by Derrick Marven
female Common Merganser by Derrick Marven

Swan & Goose count March 21st 2018


Pig with piglets


Soaring eagle

White-throated sparrow

Cooper’s hawk

Tree swallows

It was literally a real swine of a day, the numbers dwindled, the sun and heat was unbearable and we never really saw any good birds to take pictures of. We knew that the Trumpeters would leave eventually but it is always sad to see them go as they have brightened our lives for the past 19 weeks. I wonder where all the Canada Geese went as i saw plenty leaving Somenos early in the morning, wherever they were we never got them. One of the regular spots had a tractor riding around in it, maybe the were not into old noisy Fordson’s.
7 counters left the dog park a little late as one member was up the road chasing a White-throated Sparrow, this migrant species has been scarce this winter.
Hawk and Eagle numbers were pretty much the same with 9 Red-tailed hawks equaling our season high total. Several pairs of Bald Eagles were seen around nest sites and 3 Turkey Vultures were a sure sign that they are on the move. A couple of Cooper’s Hawks, a Merlin and a far off American Kestrel rounded off the raptor count.
I did hear (yes I heard) both Dark-eyed Junco’s and Yellow-rumped Warblers singing and those Red-winged Blackbirds, well they started a couple of weeks ago. A Red-tailed Hawk made a kamikaze dive from about a 1000′ way down to who knows where, I think he had a girlfriend down there some where and he was just showing off.
The star of the day was Barry’s dear mom who came along just to see what we had corrupted her son into doing, of course she was very impressed that we had taken him under our wings and keeping him out of trouble. I can now see where Barry gets his pleasant personality from. It was a shame that we did not have more birds to show her or one of our weekly stunners.
Trumpeter Swan numbers were as follows, adults 178, immature 22 and 4 Mute Swans, add to this just 278 Canada Geese. I am guessing that by next week most of these birds will be gone.
A nice Cooper’s Hawk sat out in the open for about 5 seconds much to the annoyance of the photographers. It was left up to the four-legged critters for me to get a good picture, along Richard’s Trail the lambs were having a little nap with mum and down on Wilson’s Road Barry spotted a couple of lovely ladies wallowing behind a house, these big beauties were being fed some freshly cut grass by the owner of the property and I asked Barry to stop so that I could take a picture. The owner was a very nice lady who allowed me onto her property, I took several shots and as I was about to leave she beckoned me behind the barn. Unaccustomed of me going with a lady behind a barn I wondered what she had in mind, well to my surprise there was another mum back there with a few little ones, what a lovely little family they were with several different colors. As I left I asked the lady what the first two pregnant sows weighed and she said around 700 lbs a piece, wow that’s a lot of pig.
We moved on adding a few birds here and there and it was not long before we found ourselves along the Dock Road in Cowichan Bay and taking pictures of Mute Swans,. The wind was still a little nippy coming up the channel so we didn’t hang around long. Suddenly I spotted something in one of the roadside trees, put the bins up only to see a bare shaded branch, we inched forward and then there a singing Western Meadowlark, it stayed for a few seconds before it got disturbed by some young rugrats who seem to spend more time out of school than in it.
The doodlers following on behind in the second car missed the Meadowlark but got a Northern Shrike and a Northern Harrier.
We had done our best, sadly this time of year can leave us wanting for something better, give it a couple of weeks and the trees will be full of new and exciting migrants to keep the shutters working.
That was it our day was over and with just one more count for the season we hope that a few Swans remain to give Dorothy something to put on the sheet next week.


Photo Credits
Piggies by Derrick Marven
Cuddly Lambs by Derrick Marven
Soaring Bald Eagle by Zan Stenhouse
White-throated Sparrow by Zan Stenhouse
Tree Swallows by Barry Hetschko
Cooper’s Hawk by Barry Hetschko

Our trip up island Saturday Marsh 17th, 2018

King Eider is 2537th from the left

King eider watchers

Harlequin ducks

black bellied plover

Our annual trip to Qualicum Beach and Parksville was a huge success, the real shame was that only 5 people attended, this is very disappointing as some of us give up our day to show others what nature has to offer.
Our trip up was very easy with traffic at a minimum. Trumpeter Swans were spotted and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks and many Bald Eagles. On the way home we also saw several Turkey Vultures soaring.
I told Eric to meet us at the viewing stand in Qualicum Beach, well when we got there someone had taken it away which left us stranded on the forshore. The township is building a super duper stand, covered and everything for those days when the weather is angry. The weather was far from hostile today with warm temperatures and calm seas. We scoped and scanned and saw many Common and Pacific Loons and a handful of Horned Grebes, one far off Red-necked Grebe was seen. Many California Gulls in nice spring plumage were had but sadly we failed to find the dapper little Bonapart’s Gull this year, maybe we were a tad early. We left and headed for a spot further south where the rare and elusive King Eider had been hanging out, when we arrived there were several birders already set up looking and we heard that the bird had been seen earlier, please view the picture to see what was entailed in finding the beast. Two young ladies who had been looking for a while exclaimed “we got it” and it was not long before we all got very distant looks at this wonderful male bird, see picture of the best I could get. We were joined by two of British Columbia’s well known birders one of which is one of the top lister’s for both Canada and BC. Mike Bentley who I hadn’t seen for such a long time I failed to recognize him, Mike was once a regular participant on the Duncan Christmas Bird Count. Great rafts of Scoters drifted back and forth with only a handful of Black Scoter making it hard to add to our day list which was around 45 species.
After a while we moved back up the coast to enjoy many more sightings of ducks gulls and a few flyby sightings of Brant, who’s numbers were very low so far this year. Not many shorebirds this year with just one Black Oystercatcher and a couple of Black-bellied Plovers.
We sat and had our lunch while looking out over the calm waters as a few Sealions passed us by, there was a distinct lack of Herring this year with the beaches easy to walk along with out getting covered in roe. Harlequin Ducks were in good numbers and posed nicely for one eager photographer. This same guy got some long sort after gull pictures for his collection, he is so gullible.
We moved south into Parksville only to find the tide was out, this didn’t stop the birds from being seen as pairs of Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail and American Wigeon drifted by, one nice Eurasian Wigeon was in the flock
Not many Cormorants this year although good number of both Common and Pacific Loons we seen. I got the feeling there was a lack of food. Were we too early as our trip usually goes a couple of weeks later, i guess only time will tell if the Herring come or not. Not sure what the fisherman are going to do with many relying on this catch for the livelihood.
Our last stop was Ugly Dwarf meadows were greenhouses are sprouting up and destroying what was once nice fields to look for early migrants.
The 5 of us had a wonderful day and some lovely sights and as we drove home in the late afternoon a shower of rain started. Shame the rest of you missed our great day maybe next year.


Coastal Waterbird Surveys, Sunday March 11th, 2018.

Cowichan Bay South

The birders on this beautiful sunny morning were Linda Hill, Kathy Coster, Wilma Harvie, Gail Mitchell, John Scull, and his visiting son Charley Scull. The tides were strange, with high tide at 2:30 am and slack water until 11 am. The birds we saw were:
30 American Wigeon; 4 Mallard; 110 Bufflehead; 5 Common Goldeneye; 1 Barrow’s Goldeneye; 3 Hooded Merganser; 5 Common Merganser; 100 duck sp.; 12 Double-crested Cormorant; 23 Great Blue Heron; 14 gull sp.; 11 Northwestern Crow;

We also saw but failed to identify a distant grebe.

Cowichan Bay North

On a beautiful sunny Sunday Bob Nation and Kurlene Wenberg saw the following birds:

12 Canada Goose; 1 Mute Swan; 4 Trumpeter Swan; 4American Wigeon; 52 Mallard; 1 White-winged Scoter; 29 Bufflehead; 4 Common Goldeneye; 2 Hooded Merganser; 5 Common Merganser; 2 Duck species; 2 Great Blue Heron; 41 Gull species; 1 Northwestern Crow.

On calm, partly cloudy day, Bryon Thompson and Freda Eckstein counted:

In the Verdier Point area:

1 Eurasian wigeon; 20 American wigeon; 15 Mallard; 3 Surf scoter; 32 Bufflehead; 11 Common goldeneye; 47 Barrow’s goldeneye; 2 Common merganser; 10 Red-breasted merganser; 1 Pacific loon; 4 Common loon; 48 Horned grebe; 1 Double-crested cormorant; 2 Bald eagle; 9 Mew gull; 8 Glaucous-winged gull.

In the Mill Bay area:

10 Mute Swan; 3 Canada Goose; 14. Mallard; 6. Bufflehead; 156 Common Goldeneye; 26 Barrow’s Goldeneye; 6 Common Merganser; 1 Common Loon; 8 Horned Grebe; 2 Great Blue Heron; 2 Mew Gull; 2 Herring Gull; 8 Glaucous-winged Gull; 22 Unidentified gull

Swan & Goose count Mar.14th 2018

Eurasian wigeons

Bald eagle

Red-tailed hawk

Hooded merganser

Resting trumpter swan

Northern shrike

Anna’s hummingbird

If I was to predict the number of Swans and Geese that we would find today on the count like the weathermen predicted the weather I would have ended up with egg on my face. 80% chance of rain they said and what did we get, one of the best days of sunshine and temperature of the season. I am just glad I’m a naturalist and leaving the weather to the gods and my ever improving “stop the rain dance”.
We left the dog park with two cars and 6 people and by half time we had 3 cars and 9 people. I have to admit we got a little behind on the early part of the circuit due mainly the fault of a Red-tailed Hawk who sat beside the road wanting us to count and photograph it, well spotted by Jane. Me being a sucker for such things obliged by getting out the vehicle and wandering back up Westholme Road. Just before this there was the Eurasian Wigeon at Quist’s Farm which had a female with him this week, now if you look at your field guides you will note that this is not a easy bird to identify and showing the counters this bird which was 200 yards across a field in among about 100 other American cousins well I would like to see a weatherman perform with this task. Big thanks to Zan for capturing this picture of the two.
This week we lost a good number of adult Swans they getting the jump on the supposedly torrent of rain, just 397 adults, surprisingly we had 87 immature, which went up. Eagle numbers were stable and 8 Red-tailed Hawks was a good number for the year. The Canada Goosies who are already pairing up were right on target at 822 with Dougan’s Flats once again having the big flock at 400 birds. Only 3 Mute Swans in Cowichan Bay as their numbers continue to drop. We had one flyover Falcon off Cherry Point Road and a nice Northern Harrier along the Dock Road. 2 Northern Shrikes this week, they should be leaving us any minute. We saw several Anna’s Hummingbirds today, one being very obliging at Somenos Lake.
Disaster struck us at our lunch stop where we found A&W closed off as repairs were underway, many people driving up in their cars only to find the car park blocked off. Were they going to go and suffer hormones and steroids at one of the other fast food joints? I would watch out on the roads tomorrow if this bunch are out on the highway. One of our own was in tears, what was she going to do without her Buddy Burger and fries? She had to be consoled with a bowl of what I can only describe as expensive leftovers from another local eatery.
Back to birds, it was now way past some of our snooze time and with not much to show on our tally sheet we were off to Boys and Sahilton Roads where we found the fields bare of any birds and only a Red-tailed Hawk as consolation. Over to Koksilah Road west and the same thing no big white birds. Barry had now made up all the lost time as we sped over to Bench Road only to find just 15 Trumpeters, Wilson Rad was empty except for a nice flock of piggies which always brings a smile to my face as I love these guys. Dougan’s Flats had all the geese and not a single swan. Back over the Hwy. to St.Catherine’s Drive where we were aghast to see Swans all over, Barry maneuvered the vehicle into several positions for me to count. I have to admit I must have missed some behind the trees and with the ever whitening immature birds in bright sunlight, well you try and spot them. This stop had saved our bacon, I did mention I love pigs didn’t I ? Cherry Point Road added a few more swans and then Koksilah Road east came through with another 56 birds, they weren’t dancing this week. I now think that the dancing of last week was maybe some saying goodbye to those who left, one usually has a little party for those departing.
We hit Cowichan Bay where the breeze reminded us that we were not out of the woods yet, as a Northern Harrier used the wind to glide and weave across the estuary.
That was it’ we were now down to just two more remaining counts, so if you’re going to come you better jump to it.


Photo Credits
Anna’s Hummingbird by Barry Hetschko
Northern Shrike by Barry Hetschko
Resting Trumpeter by Derrick Marven
Hooded Merganser by Derrick Marven
Red-tailed Hawk by Derrick Marven
Bald Eagle by Zan Stenhouse
Eurasian Wigeons by Zan Stenhouse

Swan & Goose count Mar.7th 2018

Do-si-do Trumpters

Do-si-do trumpters #2


River otter

Peregrine falcon


Double-crested cormorant

Fixer-upper bushtit nest

Today was a day of Do-si-do, farming smells and Otter nonsense, 6 eager counters faced what I thought was a lovely day although two of our team needed some goose fat rubbed into their bodies to stay warm, fishes blood comes to mind. This week we had a new lead driver in Jane and what a wonderful job she did getting us round unscathed and following directions to a T. Even Barry had a job to keep up.
This week we had a small drop in the number of Trumpeter Swans down to just under 650, having read the reports from up island it looks as if some have started that long journey already. Even the Canada Goose numbers went down a bit although these guys tend to move around a lot more and could have been in a field not visited by the team. Raptor numbers were not bad and a very obliging Peregrine Falcon with a bold face mask was nice to see.
It was an amazing day for watching some really nice sights of nature, a young doe standing in a field watching us watching her, some amazing dance moves by the Trumpeter Swans, a River Otter that appeared to have taken up aerobics as it gyrated away in Cowichan Bay and thanks to Barry a study picture on how to tell both American and European male Wigeons apart. This week we had a first of the season when I just happened to mention we could get a Turkey Vulture, I waved the magic pencil and Barry spots two circling over at Herd and the Highway, next week we will try for something a little more rare and exotic.
Again this week most of our hot-spots had birds to count, so things went very smoothly with no major problems except at Bench Road where a truck was parked in the field and two people were walking across the field with clipboards, the swans did not like this at all and some smaller groups started to lift off. This couple continued across the field until two of the major flocks took to the air. This conduct even if this is on your property contravenes the Migratory Bird Act as disturbance of migratory birds carries a hefty fine, we did take pictures and will forward this to the appropriate authorities should we witness this again, this should not happen in this day and age of fast diminishing numbers of birds world wide.
The farmers were out spreading their cheer around the fields and several times we saw their large wheeled drays traveling along the road and at one spot that lovely farmyard aroma came wafting in the car, not being a farmer I can never get used to this smell but it does help with the growth of the fields. I did notice the fields that had already seen a cover of this liquid did not have any swans on them, so farmers there you go this might be a deterrent.
We arrived at Koksilah Road east where a good number of swans were gathered in the fields and it was here where we witnessed the Do-si-do swan dance and oh did they put on a great display for us, even Bob a member of the shiny shoe shuffle group had to be impressed by some of the swans moves. What the purpose of these dances are, i am not sure, whether it is a bonding thing or a pre-migration dance who knows. It is a bit like the stop rain dance I do every Tuesday night in hopes of a good day for Wednesdays count, only I don’t have any partners to join me.
In Cowichan Bay as has been the norm this year we were witness to some of our best sightings with a River Otter who was on the far bank writhing and wriggling around on the grass leaving it’s scent for any unsuspecting animal to come and put there foot in it. Many pictures were taken of this wonderful piece of nature happenings.
Just off to our our left I spotted a male Eurasian Wigeon which sent Barry off down the trail to get a few snaps. Many people ask me how do your tell the difference between Eurasian and American, well I think Barry’s wonderful picture explains it just perfect, well done mate.
Our day was done and as we wind down to the last three counts of the season our big white friends are starting their long haul north and we wish them well and a safe journey.


Photo Credits
Double-crested Cormorant by Barry Hetschko
Fixer upper Bushtit nest, by Barry Hetschko
Wigeon by Barry Hetschkodo
Peregrine Falcon by Zan Stenhouse
River Otter by Zan Stenhouse
Doe by Derrick Marven
Do-si-do by Derrick Marven

Swan & Goose Count, Feb.28th 2018

Northernn harrier

Tundra & trumpeter swan

Ruby-crowned kiglet

Hooded merganser

Tundra & trumpter swan

Mallards & gadwall


You know that when things are going well there always comes a time when they don’t, we have been blessed with incredible weather on Wednesdays for as long as I can remember and today it came and bit us in the bum. The rain was trying even before the left the dog park and the wind had this nasty little bite to it. This did not stop 7 hardy counters setting out on what turned out to be a good day bird wise that’s if you leave out Red-tailed Hawks who I guess hide when the weather goes topsy-turvy. The Trumpeter Swans put on a good show down only slightly from our highs of the past two weeks, this was countered with the finding of 3 immature Tundra Swans. Eagle numbers were steady and as mentioned only 2 Red-tailed Hawks. I think the girls in the second vehicle carry around falcons in their car as us leaders never get to see them as was the case this week as we drove Hwy 1 north, we go by the Exhibition grounds and get a Red-tailed Hawk they come by and get a Kestrel. Me thinks I will have to check out their vehicle before we set off next week.
Somenos Lake had a pair of Ruddy Ducks much to the delight of Kurlene who needed them for her year list. I had checked Quamichan Lake on the way out for Bald Eagles and saw a Hooded Merganser with a dew drip on it’s bill I knew then this was a day for the weak and aged to stay in the vehicles. great I thought I fit that criteria, well no, someone has to count, something the others tend to pass off on me. Poor Barry suffered from finger shutter freeze and could only get a few duckies on his camera, don’t worry my buddy it happens to us all.
The going was tough and birds were spread out all over the place, many flocks of swans being way off across the fields trying to find a good hedge to get behind. One exception to this was Quist’s farm where along Westholme Road our first Tundra was found and close enough for some half decent shots through the rain. We pushed on along Richards Trail where a nice piece of property has come up for sale if you like ducks to watch and count this has to be the ideal spot for you. No hunting allowed.
We were well ahead of time as we reached our lunch break and what a surprise as Jane came out into the rain to bring us some lovely cup cakes which went down well with A&W fries and sour gummy worms; what a mixture a bit like the birds that we see, all-sorts. Many people came and went as we huddled under the tailgate giving us that strange look and commenting to each other, they must be birders.
Boys and Sahilton Roads gave us a few birds to add and the much anticipated crowd on Corfield Road had flown the coop, so we headed west with Koksilah Road not adding a thing except a couple of eagles. It was left up to Bench Road to give Dorothy something to get her pencil going and 185 Trumpeter Swans and 100 Canada Geese did the trick. Then Dougan’s Flats had a large flock of Canada’s numbering in excess of 450. St. Catherine’s Road once again came through with swans spread out all over, some even taking a bath in a puddled part of the field; we left with slightly over 145 trumpeters counted, sadly not many dickie birds here which is usually our number one spot for sparrows and such. Koksilah Road east was our next good spot and it was here we had two very different looking immature Tundra Swans, one almost white and the other showing a much delayed molt with a bright part to its bill. These two we just far enough away and on the crest of the field to make it hard to get good shots.
We headed on the home stretch and found a couple of Mute Swans on the Koksilah River beside Dinsdale’s Farm and two more on the Dock Road. It was here that we had what I think was a nice surprise as we found a Northern Harrier sitting on an old fence post, they have been hard to come by of late, the bird sometimes trying to hide it’s face from the rain and sometimes giving us a filthy look.
It was a great way to end our day as no one wanted to venture out along the Dock Road as rollers with whitecaps were coming in from Skinner Point.
Thanks to my buddies for staying the course on what was the worst weather day of the season.


Photo Credits
Mallards and Gadwall by Barry Hetschko
Tundra Swan by Eric Marshall
Hooded Merganser by Derrick Marven
Ruby-crowned Kinglet by Zan Stenhouse
Tundra with Trumpeter by Zan Stenhouse
Northern Harrier by Zan Stenhouse

Swan & Goose count, Feb 21st 2018

There are times when it is best to bite your tongue when someone says something bad, as was the case this day when one of the 7 counters present said the “S” word, one should always think before opening his or her mouth, didn’t he realize that this was a Wednesday. We took off under dull skies with a bitter wind blowing, it was dry though.
This week we broke an old established record going back to 2011 as we recorded 674 adult Trumpeter Swans, add to this 78 immature for a grand total of 752. This was the highest count of adults since March 2011, great stuff indeed.
Even the Bald Eagle numbers went up with 28 adults and 6 immature. One very nice raptor that nearly eluded the cameras was a dark phase immature Red-tailed Hawk which is rare here in the valley with only a few records, thanks to Barry for letting me post his pictures as they are slightly below the standard to which we have become accustomed too from him. The bird enticed us as it flew in circles just far enough away to be a pest, but then it started a glide towards us only to veer off and go over the trees, what a blighter to treat us like that. We also had 2 Peregrine Falcons an obliging Merlin and 2 Coopers Hawks to add to another 6 Red-tailed Hawks. Who ever said you need good weather to see Raptors. On the other side of the coin, the young Trumpeters are really changing color making it a hard time counting them, good job their heads are the last thing to go white as if they stick their necks up I get them. If asleep, well that’s a different matter. A Eurasian Wigeon was again at Quist’s Farm and a single Killdeer was spotted on Cherry Point Road.
Now back to this weather and our second point of call, who would expect to see swallows on a day like this? Well they have been known to come early and we were lucky to get three different species hawking over Somenos Lake. 3 Violet-Green, 2 Tree and 2 Barn Swallows were trying their hardest to pick out some tasty bugs just above the water. This I’m sure set the trend for the rest of the day as we slipped and slid along the gantry back to the cars where some of our group were glad of the warmth of the vehicles, one member of our group could never ever wear enough clothes to keep her warm, good job she has chocolate on hand to ease the cold.
Once again this week the swans were spread out in many locations and all were visible even those who were at a great distance. It was just as I had finished scanning some swans that Barry said don’t put the scope away there is something in the trees about 5 miles away, with the scope at nearly full throttle we could just make out our first Peregrine Falcon; the other being on Koksilah Road.
The big “S’ had followed us around with much falling on the hillsides, we did get a bit of dandruff here and there but nothing worth worrying about. As we went down Drinkwater Road I shouted look did you see that, which in turn caused Barry to slam on the breaks and slide on the gravel, which in turn woke up the passengers in the back seat who were having a little nap. I apologized for sighting the sun and causing the others to think that I had seen some rare species; well on this day it was.
After lunch we carried on counting swans here and there and I knew it was going to be a good count, one long distance sighting was a immature Tundra Swan up on Bench Road, there well could have been an adult out there, just too far away to be sure; maybe next week.
As our day came close to ending we found ourselves on Willmot Road where a young eagle sat down low in a tree, we stopped and observed and then moved on, suddenly Dorothy started to shout “shrike shrike!”, we were to far along when we were told that it was sitting right beside us in a bush, we radioed the following car and as they pulled along side the Northern Shrike for some snaps the beast took off cross the field. Oh well you can’t get them all.
We ended our day on the dock road as the “S” started in earnest and a Great Blue Heron sat up high on the Osprey platform, I wondered if it had heard about a major dump and was getting some elevation, not wanting to get it half way up it’s legs.
That was it great day counting and birding and what we saw we were truly thankful.


Eurasian wigeon

Uphill swans


Highrise Great Blue Heron

Spot the immature swan

Dark phase red-tailed hawk

Dark phase red-tailed hawk

Photo Credits
High-rise Heron by Derrick Marven
Spot the immature swan by Derrick Marven
Eurasian Wigeon by Kurlene Wenberg
Merlin by Zan Stenhouse
Uphill Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Dark phase Red-tailed Hawks by Barry Hetschko

Coastal Waterbird Surveys – 11th February 2018

The next survey will be at 9 am on Sunday, March 11.

Cowichan Bay:
Kathy Coster, Linda Hill, Gail Mitchell, Barry Hetchko, John Scull, and Leslie Hodgson were joined by Dorothy and Eric Marshall on a beautiful midday in Hecate Park to survey the south side of Cowichan Bay.
2 Mute swan; 2 Mallard; 9 Surf scoter; 67 Bufflehead; 19 Common goldeneye; 7 Hooded merganser; 5 Double-crested cormorant; 1 Great blue heron; 3 Bald eagles; 22 Gull sp.; 5 Northwestern crows.

On the north side of the Bay Bob Nation, Kurlene Wenberg, and Daryl Johnson saw the following birds:

2 Canada Goose; 2 Mute Swan; 11, Trumpeter Swan; 15 American Wigeon; 26 Mallard; 13 Surf Scoter; 1 White-winged Scoter; 28 Bufflehead; 2 Common Goldeneye; 1 Common Merganser; 1 Red-throated Loon; 3 Horned Grebe; 1 Bald Eagle; 5 Mew Gull; 2 Glaucous-winged Gull; 54 Gull sp.; 1 Northwestern Crow; 1 Common Raven

South Cowichan:
On a chilly Sunday afternoon Jim and Lyn Wisnia counted in the Verdier Point area:
16 American wigeon; 22 surf scoter; 21 bufflehead; 43 common goldeneye; 15 Barrow’s goldeneye; 1 common merganser; 4 red-breasted merganser; 1 pie-billed grebe; 5 horned grebe; 1 red-necked grebe; 10 mew gull; 6 glaucous-winged gull.

In the Mill Bay area:
5 mute swan; 25 American wigeon; 36 surf scoter; 18 bufflehead; 17 common goldeneye; 3 Barrow’s goldeneye; 4 hooded merganser; 13 common merganser; 11 red-breasted merganser; 4 common loon; 33 mew gull; 6 glaucous-winged gull; 6 gull sp.; 2 northwestern crow.

Swan & Goose count Feb.14th 2018

Immature Red-tailed hawk


Western gull


Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans

Ring-necked duck flying

Norwegian Fjord ponies

Neck collar 071F

It was Wednesday and of course the weather was just perfect with sunny skies and great visibility. In spite of this Barry and I were left out in the cold on this Valentines day as we were the only counters to turn up. We had purchased Valentines day chocolates and cards for our lady friends but we were left high and dry on this day of record numbers of Trumpeter Swans. We did meet up with our good friends Dorothy and Eric at lunch but by this time we had eaten all the chocolates and stashed the cards for next year. Trumpeter Swans at 730 was a new high for the season and for several years and the Canada Geese sank back down to 839, they seem to go up and down each week, maybe the extra goose hunting days were to blame for this drop in numbers this time. Raptor numbers were about the same with all accipiters gone from our eyes except one bird that shot over Tom Windsor Drive that had to be registered as just a hawk species, it had a long tail though.
I was a bit late this morning as when I was supposed to be counting birds at Quamichan Lake I ended up taking pictures of gulls and I know how much you like gulls so I have added a picture to keep you happy.
Just like last week birds were spread out all over the area with hot spots being Quist’s Farm, Bench Road and the Sahilton / Corfield Road areas. I can’t say that we saw any good birds except one lovely immature Red-tailed Hawk which is very rare in winter in our area. I think I could count on one hand how many I have seen in 30 years of birding on Vancouver Island. We of course took many pictures of the very co-operative bird. For the most part the swans were far off and with the immatures now starting to turn white I have to admit I couldn’t see any Tundra Swans among the white flocks, that doesn’t mean there were none there though.
I was glad that Dorothy took over the data writing as I am not that good and multi tasking three things at once, I need my eyes fixed on what is sitting in the trees although Barry has a sharp eye for spotting all sorts of things.
We did try and take a nice picture of a pair of Dorothy’s favorite ponies, they were more intent on feeding than posing for the camera.
Without our ladies to take pictures we were now suffering with just a few shots between us, it was time to take some swan pictures because that’s what we are all about. We did manage a nice closeup of Canada Goose number 071F on the golf driving range and there were also several geese with leg bands having discarded their neck collars during these hot spring days. It has been mentioned that the glue came unstuck on the collars and they fell off.
We managed a nice Merlin along Cowichan Bay Road which was our only Falcon. It was again slow for passerines but I did mange to pish up a good smattering of mixed species on St. Catherine’s Road with the now breeding plumage’s of the House Finch’s standing out in the cottonwood. Do you know that spellcheck does not know what a passerine is or a pish, who put this thing together, definitely not a bird scholar.
Our day was done and I was feeling a bit sick after eating all those chocolates. So it was off home to spend the rest of the day with my number one Valentine, when I arrived she informed me that a Northern Shrike was sitting in the climbing rose bush, alas it was too late and it flew before the camera could get out of the bag.

Photo Credits
Flying Ring-necked Duck by Barry Hetschko
My little Ponies by Barry Hetschko
071F by Barry Hetschko
Merlin by Brry Hetschko
immature Red-tailed Hawk by Derrick Marven
Western Gull by Derrick Marven
Swans by all of us.

Enjoy our Spring

Swan & Goose count Feb.8th 2018

Trumpeter swan

Injured trumpeter being rescued

Northern shrike

Tundra swans


Anna’s humingbird

Great blue heron


Sheep and lambs

Northern pintail

Such lucky counters to be out on a day when the weather man said rain and it didn’t happen, just overcast, which is just how I like it for counting birds. Big crowd this week as 10 people showed up; the word as gone around that we are having to much fun with citizen science.
The Trumpeter Swans were spread out right across our area today with most spots showing white. Raptors were as usual with a nice American Kestrel and a Merlin to add.
We also saw one poor Trumpeter Swan that appeared to have hit hydro lines on Modeste Road and a nice couple were there attending the poor bird and had already sent out for the recovery troops from the Falconry Center and as we left they had retrieved the bird, well done to all involved.
Did you know that Richards Trail area is one of the best spots for seeing different types of Raptors we are now up to 6 different species for the season. One thing I have tried so hard to embed into the counters is the use of adult or immature, some have learned but others continue to say mature and immature, now for someone who is a little mutton jeff, that’s deaf to you valley people that sounds the same and I have to ask what was that, hopefully they will all come around to help this old boy out.
Signs of spring were all over with lambs a bleeting, Winter Aconites and Snowdrops in full bloom, this is far removed from this date last year when we were under some deep snow in the valley.
This weeks count saw an increase in Trumpeter Swans and some Tundras to add to our lists. Canada Geese were stable and several species of Ducks were seen including a nice Eurasian Wigeon at Quist’s Farm. Northern Pintail seem to be very absent so far this year so it was nice to see a few closeup on Westholme Road. Here I forced the others to endure a bit of Gull watching as I needed to get some pictures of Mew Gulls for my friends back east. Another suspect Gull was along the Dock Road which quickly got my attention sadly it was too far away for a positive ID but it was big and dark backed; something gull nuts like to encounter.
One other species that we have had good luck with this year are Killdeer with more than 20 seen today in several spots. Barry manged a great photo of one at Somenos. We had two Northern Shrikes this week and the trailing car got one on film.
Corfield Road had many swans and almost straight away I spotted an immature Tundra Swan standing close and at least two or possibly three adults, we have not had much luck locating these this year so this was nice surprise.
Most of the west side of town was still low in numbers with only Bench Road having a nice flock to count. Dougan’s Flats continued this week to be bare so we quickly headed east back over to St.Catherine’s where many Trumpeters were way down the field and a local Anna’s Hummingbird put on a show for some.
Cherry Point Road had nothing except a nice Northern Shrike for the car that was lagging behind and Koksilah Road east came through with both good flocks of Trumpeters and Canada Geese.
Down through the Cowichan Bay saw some local Cormorants out on the pilings. Earlier in the morning I witnessed a group of Great Blue Herons flying around in circles downtown over the stores, I wonder of they are getting ready for the upcoming season with some stick gathering and general buddy association.
The Dock Road gave us our first Mute Swans of the day and a handful of Trumpeters to complete our list. Several Bald Eagles were out on what appeared to be a very low tide, me thinks they were looking at gulls just like me.
We were done a great day to be outdoors with my friends. Lot’s of pictures this week so enjoy what these great people see.

Photo Credits
Spring Lambs by Eric Marshall
Red-breasted Sapsucker by Eric Marshall
Killdeer by Barry Hetschko
Great Blue Heron by Barry Hetschko
Annas Hummingbird by Kurlene Wenberg
Merlin by Kurlene Wenberg
Tundra Swan by Zan Stenhouse
Northern Shrike by Zan Stenhouse
Swan catchers by Zan Stenhouse
Excising Trumpeter by Derrick Marven

Northern pintail by Zan Stenhouse

Swan & Goose Count, Jan. 31st 2018



Mute swan


Tundra swan




Trumpeter swans


Cooper’s Hawk


Northern shovellers


Oh! what a day as 6 counters headed out into the floods. Swans turned into Geese, Sealions headed inland, naturalists headed for higher ground and at North Cowichan headquarters councilors were seen doing the stop the rain dance. and the counters kept going, what a wonderful group they are. Unperturbed by all the goings on, we had a great day, cold and wet, no problem for us.
Adult Trumpeter Swan numbers dropped by 130 and the immature birds stayed just the same as the past few weeks, did these adults leave, i wonder. Canada Geese on the other hand went up by 300, did these two species swap feathers? We had a nice group of Cackling Geese and even a immature Tundra Swan. Bald Eagles numbers went down after that little influx last week and a two Peregrine Falcon day is always welcome.
We headed off from the dog park counting geese along the way, we missed the Sealion that was frolicking in the car park at Somenos as good birders that we are we are always looking up. Once again our best stop on the outward half was Quist’s Farm where we had over 60 Trumpeter’s and a gaggle of geese. I had a quick glimpse at a snipe while Killdeer played around in the mud. Westholme Road gave us a few more swans and a large flock of gulls which always gets my attention, most of these were Mew Gulls which had come down to feast on water logged worms. Along Richards Trail a lovely adult Coopers Hawk was seen displaying it’s tail up in a tree, trying it’s hardest to get dry. The water had really risen in the fields and not much was had. Our next major find was a large group of Canada geese along Herd Road totaling over 300. Hwy 18 gave a few more Trumpeters and Canada Geese. By now we were seeing a few spits of rain so we headed for A&W for our break.
Boy’s Road came next and only a single Red-tailed Hawk was was spotted, gone were all the eagles and even the dickie birds were hiding and the same went for Modeste Road with another Red-tail seen. Sahilton Road again had the swans digging deep in the fields and just under 100 were counted. There must be a lot of roots and new shoots in these fields as the swans have been hold up in these fields for several weeks now.
We then headed west and nothing was seen until we hit Bench Road where the fields contained just under 150 Trumpeters and a few Canada Geese. As we headed down Phipps Road i spotted a very white immature bird which turned out to be a Tundra Swan, this got the photographers excited and many shots were taken. As we headed south on the highway a certain Mary Street naturalist was seen fleeing for higher ground, this species was identified by certain stickers adorning the back bumper, but she was gone in seconds at break neck speed as we went off to count down in Dougans Flats. Here we found the mother load of Canada Geese with them was at least 25 Cacklers what a sight I got out to take a picture of the little ones. There is a old saying ” there is safety in numbers” I am not so sure this is true because a Peregrine Falcon flew over which got the goosies attention and it was quickly followed by a Bald Eagle, well this caused a mass panic as over 3/4’s of the 700 geese took to the air, what a tremendous sight as they headed off down the fields, so much for counting them one at a time and as for pictures none were taken. Back over the other side of the highway and St.Catherines Road gave us some big white birds to count and just under 90 were added to our slowly growing list. Cherry Point Road gave us a few more and Koksilah Road east added another 50+ Trumpeters. We were now on the homeward stretch, down through Cowichan Bay the water was this dirty brown color and the Double-crested Cormorants sat up on the pilings not wanting to get down in that water. The Dock Road let us have 6 Mute Swans and a pair of Northern Harriers were seen, this species does not do well in flooded fields and have been hard to find of late. A few more geese were added along Tzouhalem Road and our day was done.
At one secret location we saw a wonderful herd of Elk, this spot will remain with us just in case.
Until we ride again stay dry and warm.

Photo Credits
Northern Shoveller’s by Zan Stenhouse
Tundra Swan by Eric Marshall
Cooper’s Hawk by Barry Hetschko
Trumpeter Swans by Barry Hetschko
Killdeer by Eric Marshall
Elk by Derrick Marven
Mute Swan by Derrick Marven

2017 Duncan Christmas Bird Count -Jan. 1st 2018.

This year we had great weather with no rain or snow, the temperature early in the day was a little nippy but by mid-day had warmed up nicely.

We had 118 species seen with some rare sightings. This is our highest species total since 2007. The Northern Mockingbird obliged by staying around for more than a year, one wonders if will last out to next year’s count. A Bohemian Waxwing was found in a flock of its smaller cousins, the Cedar Waxwings, along Maple Bay Road in a Holly farm, this is the second year running for us to find this rare species for Vancouver Island. A flock of 21 Common Redpolls delighted the group counting in Cowichan Bay. It appears that this species has made a major influx this winter onto Vancouver Island with sightings at many locations.

Our overall count found 22,010 birds, which was slightly up from last year but sadly still well below our average.

We had around 35 people out counting and another 10 watching their feeders. It appears that the flu bug knocked our participants down this year as it ravaged the lower island.

The whole of Somenos Marsh was still frozen dragging the duck number down, surprisingly Quamichan Lake stayed open but lacked large numbers of ducks with not many Ruddy Ducks this year, this following on from getting skunked last year with this lovely little diving duck. Our count had established itself as the highest count in Canada for Ruddies but now we are an also ran.

Below are just some of the highlights by groups of birds.


Most dabbling duck numbers were down with not many Green-winged Teal or Northern Pintail, we did manage to find 2 Eurasian Wigeon among the ever diminishing American Wigeon. Bufflehead numbers crashed with less than half our normal count. Lesser Scaup numbers were way down with the Sewage lagoons have the lion’s share. We did well for loons although their numbers remain low from many years ago.

Hawks & Eagles

This year saw a record number of Coopers Hawks with 20 recorded. Eagles were average and we only had 2 Northern Harriers which is low, they seemed to have vacated our area big time this year, we need more vermin. 1 American Kestrel was surprising as the swan and goose people seem to find them every week. Other Falcons did well with 5 each of Merlin and Peregrine.


This was a big disappointment with just 4 Killdeer and 9 Black Turnstones. On the bright side we had 16 Wilson’s Snipe with one lucky group finding a nice flock.


Gone are the days of major numbers found on our count, Mew Gull number went up nicely and a single California Gull was found  and the same group found a 1st winter Glaucous Gull. 82 Bonaparte’s Gulls were found between us and Saltspring and 3 Ring-billed Gulls made up the numbers.


Not bad for owls with 8 found, a Barn Owl was nice and so was a Short-eared Owl

Hummingbirds and Woodpeckers

Anna’s Hummingbirds went up from last year and the woodpeckers were around the same although still low from past years with one counter finding it hard to find a Northern Flicker for his list

Shrikes and Corvids

Northern Shrikes was a record with 9 found and Common Ravens were right on average. Northwestern Crows on the other hand dropped drastically, not sure what caused this but the large late afternoon flocks of yesteryear are no more.

Chickadees, Wrens and Kinglets

This is where our numbers tumbled with low counts across the board for all species. Brown Creepers being absent off many lists

Thrushes and Starlings

Robins, Varied Thrushes and Starlings were all in low numbers, Varied Thrush go up and down each count, this is two years running of low numbers. One Hermit Thrush was had.


Here the numbers went up a bit with reasonably good counts of most species and a Swamp Sparrow and 2 Lincoln’s were a nice addition. It is strange the way the Lincoln’s Sparrows which were so abundant just before Christmas appeared to have left.


Red-winged Blackbirds continue to drop in our area although the Brewers are stable and came through with a good average count. We did have a Western Meadowlark for the count week and I know for certain they were out there on count day, must try to encourage the counters to paddle out in those wet fields.


Most finches were right on average although Pine Siskins took a major hit with this little finch being so irruptive some years and absent in others. The Common Redpolls were a great find and added nicely to our species count.

Lastly House Sparrows

Their numbers continue low from three to four years ago when we had record numbers, maybe the record Coopers Hawks have played a part in this.

Overall a great count with happy faces all around at the roundup where we were spoilt rotten by the ladies with lots of food and hot drinks, big thanks to all for their help and we will hopefully see you all again next year.

Derrick Marven

A copy of data sheet of the bird count is avialble on requesr from ericmarshall@shaw.ca as an Excel or pdf file.

Swan & Goose count Jan.25th 2018

How many killdeer?


Immature trumpeter swan


Adult & immature trumpeter swans


Trumpter swan with muddy head


Another muddy headed trumpeter swan


Paired bald eagles


Wilson’s snipe


Tundra swan in flight


House finch


Golden-crowned sparrow

At the dog park there was much happiness and laughter, not sure if it was my return of the lovely sunny weather that came with me. 7 eager counters set out and 1 other joined us later. A few geese here and a few geese there got our tally sheet moving under the watchful eye of Dorothy, Barry and Kurlene did the driving and this was much appreciated, we put ourselves in their hands week after week and we thank them deeply for what they do. Found one goose with a neck band this week: 071F. I thought I saw one with a leg band at the golf driving range but it soon disappeared into the crowd. A Red-tailed hawk has been standing guard for the past few days near the corner of Beverly Street and the highway, that was our first addition of the day. Zan took a picture of a flyover swan along the creek dike which appeared to show a small yellow teardrop below it’s eye, was it a Tundra, well maybe? A lovely pair of cuddling Bald Eagles awaited our arrival at Somenos Lake, yes it’s that time of year when you meet up with that old girlfriend and tell her what you’ve been doing since you left her last year. Our immature Bald Eagle numbers took a dive this week as many are left to fend for themselves and are chased off by the adults as two’s company three’s a crowd. At Quist’s Farm many swans and geese were counted and a game of hide and seek took place with up to 17 killdeer and 3 Wilson’s Snipe hid among the low vegetation, I am sure there could have been more just sitting there watching our every move. Westholme Road gave us some nice closeup looks at both adult and immature swans and many photo’s were obtained. Richard’s Trail was well flooded and we added a few more geese. A far off American Kestrel sat down on the hydro lines and then dropped down in the grass. We have done really well for Kestrel this year, one of the best that I can remember for the valley. Herd Road now unfrozen added a few more swans and a good bunch of geese and Tom Windsor Drive added even more geese and our first Great Blue Heron and a diving Belted Kingfisher. Highway 18 gave another 35 swans and that was about it until our break with just a few soaring Bald Eagles to add.
Our swan number were good this week at 660 just down a little from the past couple of weeks and our Canada Geese numbers shot back up at 1303 with the unfrozen fields giving up there bounty.
Boys Road was slow with just a couple of Red-tailed Hawks. Sahilton Road once again had the swans delving deep into the mud to get some new shoots to feed on, this is the first time that I have witnessed this action by the swans and to watch them push their heads way down and come back up with mud all over their bills and face is just mind boggling. This week we got a few pictures to show what they look like.
We now headed out west and only to find a major hydro crew doing work along Koksilah Road so nothing showing there, Riverside Road came next and here Dorothy tried to turn some big concrete blocks into swans, we were having none of that. Bench Road gave us some nice numbers of swans and 226 were counted. Dougan’s Flats had good number of geese but no swans. St. Catherine’s had nothing except some dickie birds that avoided my slow focusing camera, good job Eric’s was faster. On a hunch I sent the ladies, along with Bob, off to Cherry Point Road where they boosted our swan count up tremendously with way over 200 to bolster our total.
That was about it except a handful of Mute Swans along the Dock Road. No accipiters or other falcons this week, just a lovely day to be out with no rain.
Thanks to my good friends for giving me snacks to keep me going, it appeared that being at home being waited on by my dear wife has taken it’s toll on me as I was ready to drop at the end.
Many photos this week, enjoy
Derrick Marven

Photo Credits
Golden-crowned Sparrow by Eric Marshall
House Finch by Eric Marshall
Tundra Swan flyover by Zan Stenhouse
Wilson’s Snipe by Zan Stenhouse
Bald Eagles by Zan Stenhouse
Trumpeter Swans mud pack by Barry Hetschko and Eric Marshall
Adult and immature Trumpeter Swans by Derrick Marven
How many Killdeer by Derrick Marven