Swan & Goose count Feb. 22nd 2017

Flying Trumpeter Swans


Flying Cooper’s Hawk


Budding photographer




Red-tailed Hawk


‘Plastic Pileated woodpecker’

“Plastic Pecker”

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

Photo Credits

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

Now where did I put that snow shovel?

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

Swan & Goose Count Feb.15th 2017

Cooper’s Hawk

Tundra swans (on right)


Bald eagle


Northern shrike

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

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

Made of the mist

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

South Side from John Scull

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

North side, from Carol Hartwig:

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

The next Coastal Waterbird Count is at 4 pm on Sunday, March 12. Results of all the counts can be viewed at http://www.birdscanada.org/volunteer/bccws/

Swan and Goose Count Feb. 8th 2016

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

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

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

waiting for the big flood.




Snowy Owl

Swan & Goose count Feb. 1st 2017

“Irish Courage”

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



Yellow-legged swans


Great Blue Heron


Irish Courage (can is empty!)


Cock pheasants

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

Until the snow comes

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

Swan & Goose Count Jan. 25th 2017

Golden eagle

Rubber Ducky



Mute swans

Evil Eye

Merry Counters

“Another one bites the dust”

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

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

Until the Robins sing

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

Swan & Goose Count Jan.18th 2017

Brewer’s blackbird

Red-breasted sapsucker



Trumpeter swans in flight


Trumpeter swans in field

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

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

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

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

Well that is enough of this weeks antics.

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

Until we ride again

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

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

Regards, Ernie Stefanik.

Swan and Goose Count Jan.11th 2017

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

Until the rain falls

Photo Credits:

Belted kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher by Zan Stenhouse


Mink by Zan Stenhouse

DC Cormoranta
Double-crested Cormorant by Zan Stenhouse

Immature white-crowned sparrow

Immaure White-crowned Sparrow by Barry Hetschko

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet by Barry Hetschko
swans on ice

Swans on ice by Barry Hetschko

Coastal Bird Survey, Cowichan Bay, January 8, 2017

The snow falling on the south side of Cowichan Bay was heavy enough to be very beautiful but not heavy enough to obscure our view of the birds except for some distant cormorants. We had lots of birders enjoying the weather: Adam, Jackie, Malcolm, and Fiona Taylor; Jane Bailey, Linda Hill, Carol Milo, John Scull, and a visitor from the Netherlands, Paul Reijnen.
We could hear shotgun blasts which sounded to be coming from Blackley Farm. This seemed to have the effect of relocating lots of birds to our survey area and we counted 514 birds of 12 species:
Mute Swan, 7; Trumpeter Swan, 1; Greater Scaup, 16; Surf Scoter, 69; Bufflehead, 321; Common Goldeneye, 54; Common Merganser,1 ; Double-crested Cormorant,1; Bald Eagle,1; Thayer’s Gull, 13; Gull spp. 25; Cormorant sp. 6.
John Scull

It was a miserable snowy day at 12:00 noon at high tide on Khenipsen Road, Cowichan Bay North. Daryl Johnson, Kathy Coster, Richard Campbell and Carol Hartwig observed 10 species of seabirds for a total of 50 birds for the BC Coastal Bird Survey. The numbers observed were as follows:
Surf Scoter, 6; Bufflehead, 16; Common Goldeneye, 7; Common Loon, 1; Pied-billed Grebe, 1; Horned Grebe, 1; Brandt’s Cormorant, 8; Bald Eagle, 2; Glaucous-winged Gull, 7; Belted Kingfisher, 1.
Carol Hartwig

Swan and Goose count Dec. 21st 2016

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl


Carol singers

Carol singers





Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk


Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Seven eager counters turned up on this the first day of winter, did I say winter, so what was that we had last week? It was a lovely day with no wind and a nice bit of sunshine and for sure the swans knew it was winter as they turned up in good numbers. It is funny that we all were a little worried about the lack of swans and here we are this week with big numbers, so the birds know when it is time to come to the Cowichan Valley. With just over 550 Swans counted today.
We headed off and straight away we started counting Geese on the school fields and the golf driving range, two neck banded geese were seen 031P and 050P. Goose numbers were down a couple of hundred this week, but on Sunday good numbers were seen around the Manley Park area to the south of our count, guess they didn’t want to be added to our sheets.
A lovely adult Northern Shrike was seen in Somenos as we passed by and our first Red-tailed Hawk of the day sat proud in the Cottonwoods at the Open Air Classroom. The Somenos Lake was still half frozen and the geese had found a piece hard enough to hold a gathering and standing in the middle with it’s reddish pink legs and no head was a Greater White-fronted Goose who obviously had been out all night partying with the Canada’s and was sleeping it off. As we headed back up Drinkwater Road the first photo op of the day was had when a Red-breasted Sapsucker was getting drunk on a Maple tree, this bird has been seen at this location on numerous occasions and has several good wells going. After posing nicely for us we were gone up the highway adding more birds to our list, Bald Eagle numbers started to grow on the list and several sat up in the trees at Quists’s farm. Just a handful of Trumpeter’s were found along Westholme Road and Richard Trail had a few more. As we entered Tom Windsor Drive a female deer and her fawn crossed the road and Barry saw his second photo opportunity, sadly the female deer didn’t see it that way and disappeared into the woods, the fawn thought otherwise and glanced back and gave Barry the old come on. As we headed along Herd Road an immature Coopers Hawk caught our eye and with an about turn in the middle of the road its picture was had for the record. It was slim pickings from here on in to our rest at A&W, but refreshed with cookies and apple turnovers and some lovely choccies, thanks Zan, we were off to Boy’s Road and the main thrux of our numbers for the day, eagles and swans were all over the place and for the first time this season we were in the blue so to speak. We left this area with over 300 swans and almost 150 eagles, we were happy campers now. Over on the west side of town we started slowly with just a few more eagles to tally until we hit Bench Road and way down in the fields more swans were seen funny though for some reason these did not make it onto the tally sheet, but I am sure this will be remedied before I finish this report or heads will roll. Dougan’s Flats had Geese and just a handful of Swans, St.Cattherine’s only had sparrows to look at. Koksilah Road east had it’s first swans of the year and most were counted from Willmot Road. Down through Cowichan Bay we went and our first Mute Swans were encountered. More Eagles sat at Dinsdale’s Farm and some of these have had more pictures taken than some celebrities.
The Dock Road came next and our next big photo op as a Short-eared Owl cruised across the field and landed on a post in front of us, what struck me was how several walkers walked past this bird and never noticed it, oh well we can’t all be fanatics were Owls are concerned. Two Northern Harriers were seen in the bay to round off our raptor count.

You know how it is this time of year you hear

all sorts of joyous songs, well I’m sure somewhere along the way I heard carol singers, something about a partridge in a pear tree.

That was it our day was done and we were as happy as a pigs in clover.

Photo credits

Red-breasted Sapsucker by Kurlene Wenberg
Coopers Hawk by Barry Hetscho
Fawn by Barry Hetscho
Carol singers by Zan Stenhouse
Short-eared Owl by Kurlene Wenberg

A wonderful Christmas to you all and special thanks to my good counting buddies who without them this count would not be possible.

PS – our next regular Wednesday count will be Jan. 11th, 2017.
Don’t forget the Christmas Bird Count – Jan. 1st – contact Derrick if you want to join in.

From Comox Valley: Swan Count tallies for December 20th . This weeks Trumpeter tally was 732 adults and 183 juveniles for a total of 915. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in 2015 was 1556 swans.

Swan & Goose Count Dec.14th 2016

Trumpeter Swans with unusual beaks

Trumpeter family with unusual beaks


First year bald eagle

First year bald eagle


Adult bald eagle

Adult bald eagle


Eurasian wigeon

Eurasian wigeon


Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Many years ago I used to do surveys with a very good friend Dr.J.Murray Speirs in Ontario mostly in the winter, well today it felt like I was back there in Ontario as it was frigid as the 7 swan counters headed out from the dog park. The fields around the schools were whiter than white with not a blade of grass to be seen, this in turn caused the birds to look elsewhere for sustenance. A few had kept a bit of water open near the rest stop at Somenos and both Trumpeter Swans and Geese got our tally sheet going. One family of swans had two immature with strange bill color which I believe is the second time we have encountered this over the years, their plumage was a little more white than the other immature pointing to an advanced molt or some other strange occurrence. Somenos Lake had many geese working the edges of the water and a few Ruddy Ducks were far off on the other side.
We headed up the highway and on arrival at Quist’s farm the eagles were all over the trees, just a few of the many seen today as they also appeared to not like this nippy spell of weather. A very strange sighting was had out on the farm field, a small green colored bird with a wash of yellow was jumping up and down out on the snow, it was quickly joined by a second they were a pair of Ruby-crowned Kinglets picking up some small bugs, maybe snow fleas or some other fly type that had some sort of protein in them. It always amazes me how these little ones survive when it gets like this, maybe they don’t, but I’m sure their bodies don’t go to waste with all the Crows and Ravens around.
Westholme Road was next and a few swans were spotted in the last unfrozen piece of water, they would surely have to find a new spot after this evening’s cold. We turned onto Richards Trail and we were soon confronted with a small sparrow like bird pecking away at something on the road, just as I alerted Barry that it was a Hermit Thrush it jumped up on a branch beside us, we edged a little closer and the lens started to beat on my head and one keeper picture was had and Barry had a lifer shot. The girls who were behind us just managed to see the bird as we inched over the other side of the road.
We pottered along the trail but not much was seen on the frozen tundra, just a few duckies eking out a living in the last remaining puddles of water, A Red-tailed Hawk was seen and a Bald Eagle sat high in a conifer waiting for a duckie to make a wrong move. We headed on down to Herd Road and out onto Hwy 18 where once again we were lucky to see some Elk which this week were a little closer and one big male sat looking over the herd of about 18 beasts.
After our break we went to Boys Road where the main crop of Bald Eagles were located and many different plumage birds were encountered from the very dark 1st year birds to the multi colored 3 and 4 year olds. This week saw our highest count of eagles of the season. Sadly the same can’t be said for the swans as the numbers dropped again with way less than half of last weeks total with 85 adults and 15 immature. Maybe it’s me who drives them off as last week with me absent the group found plenty, or could it be this weather that has dispersed the birds far and wide.
This week Deb brought the largest box of choccies I have ever seen, 30 odd different flavors, which when shared had mixed reviews as some got some nice centers and others not so, thanks Deb.
After drifting along Koksilah Road west and only finding a couple of Steller’s Jays we found ourselves up on Bench Road where the major flock of geese have relocated. The goose numbers have been steady through the last three weeks with many birds coming and going, it is always nice to have a Snow or White-front in the bunch, that way when they disappear you know that others have followed. This week saw a pure flock of 21 Cacklers up off Koksilah Road east, now they weren’t here lat week.
Cowichan Bay had it’s usual Mute Swans and a few more Trumpeters and along the Dock Road we got our solitary Northern Harrier for the day, one of the shutterbugs got a nice picture of a Eurasian Wigeon.
We headed around to Khenipsen Road to get a few more swans that were tucked in up the marsh and added to our ever increasing Bald Eagle numbers.
Our day was done, we tried our best, but just like the birds the counters were ready for some warmer climes.
Just one more count before we take our holiday break.

Photo credits
Hermit Thrush by Barry Hetschko
Eurasian Wigeon by Zan Stenhouse
adult Bald Eagle by Kurlene Wenberg
1st Year Bald Eagle by Zan Stenhouse
Trumpeter Swan family by Zan Stenhouse

Derrick frozen toes

Comox Valley Swan Count tallies for December 13th . This weeks Trumpeter tally was 571 adults and 114 juveniles for a total of 685. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in 2015 was 1313 swans and in 2014 the total was 1280 swans.

Coastal Waterbird Survey, Cowichan Bay, December 11th, 2016

Carol Milo reports that on the south side of Cowichan Bay on Dec. 11th she (on her own), at high tide counted 7 species of seabirds for a total of 135 birds:
2 Double crested cormorant; 40 Canada Geese; 70 bufflehead; 8 common goldeneye, 4 Barrow’s goldeneye; 1 herring gull & 10 glaucous winged gulls.

On Khenipsen Road, Cowichan Bay North was a cold, overcast day with no recipitation. Kurlene Wenberg, Daryl Johnson and Carol Hartwig observed 9 species of seabirds for a total of 740 birds for the BC Coastal Bird Survey:
1 Common Loon; 64 Trumpeter Swan; 30 White-winged Scoter; 89 Surf Scoter; 138 Bufflehead; 172 Common Goldeneye; 24 Bald eagle; 220 Unidentified gull sp.; 2 Common Raven

Carol Milo & Carol Hartwig

Swan & Goose count Dec.7th 2016




Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk


Wood duck

Wood duck




Because of circumstances beyond my control I had to sit out on today’s count, but like all good leaders l made sure that the sun shone down on the troops today. I guessed today’s count was going to be a long one as sun and photographers go hand in hand. Time doesn’t matter to them one bit. I knew that Eric and Dorothy would have to be a tough leaders and make sure things run smoothly.
I did sit in my window this morning as the sun came up I watched as two flocks of Trumpeter’s headed south, could this be the day when those hefty numbers from years gone by returned?

Here is Kurlene’s report, thanks K.

It was a chilly day for both swans and counters on Wednesday and 8 hardy souls showed up for the count dressed for survival. I was a bit late after being frozen out of my car but after much banging , yanking, and finally crawling over seats I made it just in the nick of time. Alas we were without our intrepid leader, the master counter of all things feathered, so it was all on our shoulders to carry the load. Dorothy had things organized in no time and we were off with instructions, tally sheets and pencils. The swan car was in the lead with the raptor car and Malcolm (who is a very precise counter, he would make a great understudy, Derrick) and Karen close behind. We had a good number of geese in the field around the school and golf range. Just as we were pulling away from checking the fields at the marsh a Northern Shrike flew up onto a tree beside the road, the swan car missed it unfortunately. Somenos Lake had 6 Trumpeters and Quists had Canada geese and two Snow geese . On Westholme we hit a good number of Swans tucked away in the marsh, 66 adults and 16 immatures.

Richard’s Trail held a few more swans and a Peregrin Falcon being mobbed by Ravens. They made his perch on the top of a tree a misery until he finally sped off towards the marsh and spread the misery by scaring up the ducks………..the old “kick the cat” syndrome I figured! Now this is when the raptor car started to fall behind again. Deb spotted something fly up to a tree beside the road so we had to stop and investigate. After some discussion we decided it was a Merlin, took photo id’s, did our entry and low and behold the swan car is out of sight. We tried to catch up but our job is raptors and unlike swans and geese, large white or brown birds together in a field, raptors hide in branches, have many different plumages and generally try to disguise themselves. Much more time consuming job………….well that’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it. Anyway with no swan car in sight we continued on and Zan spotted a herd of elk in a field, photos had to be taken and more hawks had to be identified. So now we’re really behind and didn’t catch up until A&W.

After our break we were off to Boys Rd /Sahilton area and at this point we briefly and unintentionally switched targets with the Swan car spotting the hawks and eagles and we spotted the Swans. Now I supposed I shouldn’t mention the swan car had driven right by this group of 7 adult and 5 immature swans without noticing them hidden in the field, but who can resist! We found a nice group of swans and geese on Bench Road and Eric did a great job of counting 122 adult swans and 30 immatures mixed in with 450 geese. At this point I”m not sure what happened but we somehow managed to lose the swan car for the rest of the trip. We didn’t see hide nor hair of them until the last stop on Dock Road. So hopefully our leader will be back next week to take over the counting, we can barely keep up when we’re not counting and it’s apparently hopeless when we are!! Kurlene

Now back to me.
As I stood in front of the judge I just knew I was in big trouble, I am sure if any of you have been in this position you know how it feels. The judge asked what do you have to say for yourself, I replied I am very sorry yer honor I in no way wanted to be here in front of you, I would much rather be out with my buddies counting swans. Counting swans she said, surely your not that guy that writes those reports about counting, I lowered my head and confessed, with that she said case dismissed.
When I returned home I was relieved that I had got off so lucky and vowed never to let it happen again. You don’t know how bad it feels to miss a day out with my friends counting birds.
The group must have got the hang of it this week as they doubled the previous swan count for the season. Well done.

Photo Credits
Snowman by Barry Hetschko
Wood Duck by Barry Hetschko
Red-tailed Hawk by Kurlene Wenberg
Elk flock by Zan Stenhouse

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Swan & Goose Count Nov.30th, 2016

White-fronted geese

White-fronted geese


Great blue heron 'Otis'

Great blue heron ‘Otis’


Battle for the perch

Battle for the perch


Herring gull

Herring gull

I have to admit that I am becoming a little concerned about the lack of Trumpeter Swans in the valley at this late time, we are well below our norm. Having seen data from other areas we are the only ones that appear to be missing large numbers. We will just have to see what unfolds over the next few weeks as the cold and nasties are coming.
We did manage to raise our previous weeks number with a total of 135 of which 109 were adults so our immature to adult ratio is good at 25%. Geese numbers went up which is normal as we enter December.
Eagle numbers dropped a bit this week although many were up the Cowichan as the raging river pushes all the scraps back down.
8 birders set out in two vehicles this week and we hadn’t gone far when a nice surprise awaited us at the golf driving range a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese right up by the club house, what a start for us on this mild last day of November. Yes I did it again, lovely day with some very nice temperatures, although you could tell at times that the wind had that cold nip about it.
A very patient Great Blue Heron sat on the dock at Somenos Lake, because of it’s seating arrangements I have called it Otis, I am sure some of you remember the song.
As you know I have tried to educate our team on bird identification but I fear that sometimes some of the group just don’t get it. The big white ones are Swans and the smaller brown ones are Geese, you can’t get much clearer than that, or can you? Even when in flight this color difference stands out like a sore thumb, oh! well it is still early days and I’m sure they’ll get it sooner or later.
We went and had a peek for an Elk that I had spotted the day before but alas just two of it’s smaller cousins were visible.
Three Snow Geese were on Lakes Road and they stayed all day until our return.
We managed two Merlins again this week with one zooming across Tom Windsor and the other perched on top of a tree on Sherman Road. We were lacking a few Red-tailed Hawks but a nice dark western type was perched on Hillbank Road, he soon flew off when he saw the camera. A lovely male Northern Harrier was also on Tom Windsor Drive.
A nice pair of Herring Gulls were on the Dock Road and there were hundreds of other species out on the bay.

Sorry but that’s all I can do for this week as my brain is sending the wrong directions to my fingers;spell check can’t keep pace.

Photo credits
Greater White-fronted Geese by Zan Stenhouse
Otis Redding by Zan Stenhouse
Battle for the perch by Barry Hetshco
Herring Gull by Barry Hetshco

Until next time

PS: This weeks Trumpeter tally from Comox Valley was 565 adults and 161 juveniles for a total of 726. In comparison, the total tally for the same period in 2015 was 1454 swans and in 2014 the total was 864 swans.

Swan & Goose count Nov.23rd 2016




Swans flying

Swans flying


Red-tailed kite

Red-tailed kite


Purple finch

Purple finch


Barred owl

Barred owl


Some say I have a gift for this and others just think I’m lucky, but the way I slipped that wonderful count day in among two stinkers, well you be the judge. This week saw a bumper crop of counters with three vehicles heading off with 10 counters and picking up Carol who had decided to get a head start on things at Somenos. At the golf driving range we got a nice group of Canada Geese three of which had neck collars, it is wonderful that the owners allow the geese to cut the grass for them, saves them a lot of time and energy, plus their mowers would get bogged down in the mud. The goose collars were 008F, 050F and 071F all of these are from the mid island program who get sent down to eat our grass instead of theirs. Our next stop got our first Trumpeters beside the creek at Somenos 16 adults were feeding in among the Canary grass. Then it was off to Somenos Lake where we got a couple of Eagles and a Milo sp. There were just a few Geese on the far side so we were off again Hwy bound and a Red-tailed Hawk was sitting on a dead snag waiting to be counted, it was hard going with Quist’s Farm devoid of count birds, but all was not lost as 4 Trumpeter’s flew over heading south. Westholme Road produced a couple of Ring-billed Gulls mixed in with about 100 Mews. We once again stopped at a new spot at this nice ladies house and was greeted by a big shaggy woofter carrying a football, so we gave him a few dribbles with the ball and he was one happy dog. We managed another 16 Trumpeters before we moved on to Richards Trail here we got 12 adults and 1 immature, but the highlight was very acrobatic American Kestrel that put on a great show for the counters. As most of you know by now the sight of a nice bird brings everyone to a stop and the shutterbugs are out and clicking, we are grateful for their wonderful images that adorn my report. Off we went again and along Herd Road was a major flock of Geese with two Snow Geese in attendance. We were now well behind on time and so Barry gave it some welly and we went down Hwy18 getting a couple of Red-tailed Hawks as we went. We arrived at A&W with the sad news that they will be stopping selling chickens drumsticks as of next week, not sure what a couple of the counters will do as they appear to live on these things. Because we were late arriving all the rugrats from the school were there and so it was an extended break which turned out very good as I counted a Red-tail Hawk a Northern Harrier and several Bald Eagles going up on the thermals.
Off we set for Boy’s Road and the trees were adorned with many Bald Eagles, last season at the same time we had about three times as many eagles, so it’s not just the Trumpeters that are missing. We always miss many Bald Eagles that are out of sight along the rivers. Are these two species working together to frustrate the counters? A local Barred Owl was seen before we headed off. Sahilton Road added a few more Eagles and that was it. It was here that we started to loose those ladies who like to straggle behind and add all sorts of rare species for the list, this week they tried to hoodwink me with some far off owl, but I’m afraid that fuzzy picture did not fool me, you see I’m a wise old owl. All of the west side was a bust with just two Trumpeters up on Bench Road, our first of the year for this location. At this point others tried to take over the lead position, this is not allowed and i see we will have to put our foot down and put a stop to this.
St.Catherine’s Road was next with a large flock of geese being in attendance, many trying to hide behind the far off trees so a little leader guess counting was done, but still there were at least 250 out there. Koksilah Road east gave us our first geese of the season at this location with 20 birds added.
As we came down through the back of Cowichan Bay Dorothy who had been doing a wonderful job with the tally sheet left it in the hands of Eric and she headed off looking for a little puddle, which she had found last week. Those Bay people do the funniest things.
Dinsdale’s Farm and a wonderful sight of 7 incoming Swans was captured by the camera folks and a small group of geese huddled in the far off field. There was this strange guy out in the field who I thought was one of those fungi people looking for some rare and hallucinating species, but it appears he was a bird watcher and he had found the first record of a Red-tailed Kite for Canada, Barry managed to get wonderful shot of this incredible find.
Down the Dock Road we headed and 2 Eurasian Wigeon were mixed in with their American cousins. Our first Mute Swans were added and a few more Trumpeters were far off over the other side of the mill.
Our day was done and we had 75 Trumpeter Swans for our hard work, way down from previous years at this time, but still nearly 3 times more than last week. The same went for the Bald Eagles, so things are looking up.

Photo credits
American Kestrel, Christina Cutbill
Barred Owl, Kurlene Wenberg
7 Swans a Flying, Zan Stenhouse
Purple Finch, Barry Hetschko
Red-tailed Kite, Barry Hetschko

Take Care