Honouring John Scull – April 21, 2020

John at Low Tide Day 2019
Low Tide Day
Monthly Shorebird Count, Feb. 2013
Estuary Nature Centre, Dec. 2012

John Scull came to the Cowichan Valley in the early 70’s and has been working ever since to make it a better place for all of its inhabitants.

John helped resurrect the Naturalists Club in 1983 along with Syd Watts, Sheila Sanders and Keith Muir. He managed our publicity for many years and continues to serve on the board.  With his partner Linda he started the Young Naturalists (now Nature Kids) in 2001 and continues to advise them to the present day. With Bill Austin he initiated the annual May Low-Tide Day in Cowichan Bay in 1999. Last year, during the 20th anniversary, John showed up with the other “Muddy Buddies” to play his ukulele. They often play at the annual winter solstice celebration and other special events.

He was a founding member of the Cowichan Community Land Trust which began as a CVNS committee some 30 years ago. John also helped develop the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre where he was a regular volunteer with his grand-daughter Nakita. He began monthly water-bird counts at the Nature Centre in 2011 as a way of involving the public in being citizen scientists. In 2007, John set up and continues to maintain the Nature Cowichan Website, which gathers Somenos Marsh, the Land Trust, the Naturalists, Young Naturalists (now Nature Kids) and the Estuary Center under one umbrella. As Facebook and other social media evolved John kept pace.

John and Linda’s efforts to create a better world can be seen at all levels. As individuals they have solar panels and a clothes-line, an electric car and bicycles. In the community, his participation in Mental Health, education of children with learning disabilities, the Arcadian Day Care, Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University), Providence Farm and Social Planning Cowichan augmented activity on behalf of all the non-human inhabitants.  On the larger scale John has advocated the Earth Charter and Project Drawdown among many other things.

Whether leading nature walks or recognizing a need and just quietly setting up a group to address it, we are grateful to John, not only for what he has done, but for what he has inspired in others. In his own words:

“The messages from Drawdown and COVID  19 are the same:  If we all work together and care for each other, there is no limit to what human ingenuity can accomplish. I hope you all will carry on working and playing together to build a world that works for all living beings: an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet”


Swan, Goose & Raptor count March 11th 2020

It takes a lot of determination and perseverance to be a swan counter because sometimes we go and we don’t see much at all and then all of a sudden some birds pop up and all are happy. It was a bit like that today as we went to many locations and found the cupboard was bare. 8 counters set out from the dog park and once again this week things were not good for the first few stops. We did see a few Swallows flying at Somenos and a few hardy Robins picking for worms. Somenos Lake had a good bunch of Geese but that was it. Zan on her way in today had counted the swans at Mt.Sicker Road so we did not cross the hwy and turned down and along to Westholme Road. We looked and looked but failed to find anything good. We tried to turn a couple of young Bald Eagles into Goldens but failed miserably. Even the American Kestrels failed to show them selves today so all we ended up with for the day were about the same number as last week Bald Eagles and a very low 5 Red-tailed Hawks, pretty poor I would say. Herd Road fields were covered in ducks and geese which brightened our day a bit. Having said bright, yes it was another sunny Wednesday, but that wind cut through our feathers and some who had molted into summer plumage felt that sharp chill. We soon found ourselves at A&W for lunch where french fries and cookies were tempted to us all, even got some smarties as well. I try all week to cut back on food and then come Wednesday all those ounces I had lost come rushing back on again.
This week the Trumpeter Swan numbers took a dive by about 100 birds as the migration starts; we did find a nice bunch of immatures that were starting to turn color along Hwy 18 and they were dully photographed by all as you will see. Funny that some of our previous years best spots for swans have seen a complete absence of birds, it makes one wonder what could possibly be missing from these fields this year or is that other fields have better fodder, I guess we will never know. Bench Road once again had the largest gathering and also along Koksilah Road east.
Barry on his pre-count walk found some goodies including a nice Lincoln’s Sparrow and a group of Starling checking out one of the swallow boxes. I don’t think they will all fit in there..
Just a couple of Deer and one dead Gray Squirrel were all the animals today; we did try to revive the Squirrel with a little tap from my boot but it was a gonner, we did offer it up to Barry for a stew but he declined. We did see a lot of Skunk Cabbage today and lot’s of other blooms coming on.
On our trip around our route we have around 10 or more eagle nests some of these have birds warming eggs already.
I guess I should mention the chocolate near the end, Zan always seems to have a bar or two to share, guess that’s why she carries all those bags. More inches were added to the waistline.
We are now on the home stretch with just two more counts to go for the season, we will miss our little gatherings, but spring is upon us, so much is to be seen and appreciated.
Lot’s of pics today, so hold on to your horses as they all load up.
Trumpeter Swans by us all
Brewers Blackbirds by Derrick Marven
I’m behind you by Derrick Marven
Starlings buying a new home by Barry Hetschko
Northern Shrike by Barry Hetschko
Heron Meadow by Barry Hetschko
Lincoln’s Sparrow by Barry Hetschko
female Red-winged Blackbird by Zan Stenhouse
Golden-crowned Sparrow by Zan Stenhouse
Canada Goose pair by Zan Stenhouse and Denny Wagg
Eagle Nest by Zan Stenhouse
Heron by Denny Wagg

Great Blue Heron
Eagle’s nest
Canada geese
Trumpeter swans
Trumpeter swans
Lincoln sparrow
Northern shrike
Trumpeter swans
Golden-crowned sparrow
Female red-winged blackbird
I’m behind you
Trumpeter swans
Heron meadow
Brewer’s blackbird



Swan, Goose & Raptor count Mar.4th 2020

Red-tailed Hawk
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel with Kermit
Lesser Scaup
Trumpeter swans – Tundra on far left
Great Blue Heron
It was a strange old day with most things going down and the sun going up once more; well it was a Wednesday so what do you expect. 9 birders set out from the dog park and for the second time ever I had my son along for the day. Those young eyes paid dividends as he spotted a few nice birds along the way and his driving was not bad either. We had to squash 3 girls into the back of his 4×4 and getting up into the vehicle did pose a few problems, but with a little sliding and pushing once in, every thing was fine.
Swan numbers went down a little this week as I am sure the early starters headed out for the fields further north. Geese numbers took a tumble again, I just wonder where they all keep going, some geese have already started to pair up and will be nesting very soon. Immature Bald Eagle numbers went down as more and more get chased away by adults from the breeding areas and more than likely some are heading up island for the Herring spawn.
4 American Kestrel again this week with Zan spotting two at the rest stop at hwy. 18 on her way in. One Kestrel toyed with the photographers on Herd Road as it had caught a frog and kept moving away every time we got close, but that’s why we got the long lenses for these occasions.
A new species was recorded this week and I’m not sure the exact name of the bird, it sounded like Shut-that Window or something like that. The girls in the back called it out so many times but I was unable to spot one from the front.  I have checked the AOU checklist but can’t seem to find a match, I do know that Gary likes his fresh air and likes to drive with his elbow out the window. The wind was playing hell with my hearing aid, Not sure what I was hearing.
A day totally different from last week with just one Northern Shrike and that was seen on the second to last stop. This week we saw plenty of California Quail and a few more sparrows and Junco’s.
Jim’s Pond had some nice Lesser Scaup in the sun and a fly in Double-crested Cormorant which disappeared as soon as it landed. Cowichan Bay had a few remaining diving ducks and a few more Green-winged Teal had moved in. American Wigeon were in good number at several locations and I only saw 3 Ruddy Ducks at the Herd Road fields.
Things are starting to wind down and only three counts to go and if this weather persists more and more swans and geese will head out.
Just a short report this week as my honey do list is longer than the bird list and is going up as the birds go down. I am using my new laptop so please excuse any glaring wrong doings.
Not many photographs this week, we must try harder.
Photo Credits
Lesser Scaup by Zan Stenhouse
Kestrel with Kermit by Zan Stenhouse
Great Blue Heron on the hunt By Zan Stenhouse
Tundra Swan far left by Zan Stenhouse
Bald Eagle by Gary Marven
Red-tailed Hawk by Gary Marven

Swan, Goose & Raptor count Feb.19th 2020

One-eyed goose
Sheep & lambs
Mt Prevost & ravens
Trumpeter swans
More trumpeter swans
Pooping red-tailed hawk
American kestrel
Anna’s hummingbird

I sometimes look back and think why did I ever start counting birds, I know the data comes in very useful, but I was a regular bird watcher once and chased rarities all over the provinces like a mad thing. Today made me realize why I and others do it when you pull up on the side of the road and those big white Trumpeter Swans are sitting there calling and feeding and  glisten in the bright sunshine. I see those juveniles changing color knowing that these are the next generation getting ready to head north and all the time I know that once these magnificent birds were on the threshold of becoming extinct. That’s when it hits us as to why we go out on a Wednesday, wind, rain or shine to collect data so that these birds will never be subjected to the persecution that they once were.

Nine counters set out in three cars and just like last week it was tough going for the first few stops and with our famous scribe back behind me writing the data, we were soon getting some numbers; welcome back Dorothy. She had dumped her husband just so she could get re-acquainted with  Barry and I meanwhile Eric saw fit to dump all his passengers off at  lunch as he was missing his dear wife, so we had to let her go with him. We seemed to have lost the third car somewhere along Richards Trail; sorry about that but you must keep up; if we don’t hit A&W by noon the troops bellies start to rumble.

Today was another record setting day as the Trumpeter Swan numbers went up again and we nailed 500 spot  on for the day and added 5 Mute and 1 Tundra Swan. Hawk and Eagle numbers took a tumble and we had only 2 American Kestrel and a, very late in the day, Merlin sitting above my house as the lads dropped me off. Barry added a new one to his ever growing list of birds caught pooping, when a Red-tailed Hawk obliged on Tom Windsor Drive with a  nice looking flow before taking off, good job i had my window shut. While counting swans along Hwy. 18 we noticed a large kettle of birds over Mt. Prevost, most of which appeared to be Common Ravens, by the time I  got the camera on them they had glided off the back slope. This week saw our first Lambs of the year at Dougan’s; they were being closely watched over by the barn cat just in case any predator came along.

One reason our hawk numbers were down was we were missing our star spotters this week as Zan and Kurlene who were off today, Yes, I admit we missed them.

It appears everyone one of us were not paying attention when a immature Northern Harrier glided right in front of us down in Cowichan Bay, would have made a nice addition to our photo’s this week. One of the American Kestrels was sitting nicely on top of a hydro pole right where we park along Herd Road, but soon took off at  the sight of us, but luckily landed in a tree to pose for Barry

Our day came to an end in bright sunshine as we scanned over Cowichan Bay, Barry had reminded us that this time last year we were buried under a load of snow; well this is Vancouver Island and one never knows what your going to get from one year to the next, but we will take a day like today anytime.

Photo Credits
Anna’s Hummingbird by Denny Wagg
American Kestrel by Barry Hetschko
Tundra Swan by Barry Hetschko
pooping Red-tailed Hawk by Barry Hetschko
Trumpeter Swans by Derrick Marven
Mt. Prevost and Ravens by Derrick Marven
Lambs by Derrick Marven
One eyed Goose by Derrick Marven

Coastal Waterbird Count – 10th Feb. 2020

South side:

We had a wonderful turnout of 10 counters, some of whom loved the sunlight on the clouds behind Swuqus (Mount Prevost) but were less enamored of the icy wind blowing off the bay.  A flying beaver took off during the count, but the birds were not particularly disturbed by it, and there were lots of birds:

5 Mute Swan; 36 Trumpeter Swan; 189 Bufflehead;   9 Common Goldeneye;   1 Hooded Merganser ;   6 Horned Grebe;  1 Western Gull;  1 Thayer’s Gull;  8 Glaucous-winged Gull ; 24 gull sp.;   4 Double-crested Cormorant;  2 Northwestern Crow;

The intrepid observers were: Derek Gibson, Thomas George, Steve Mitchell, John Scull, Wilma Harvie, Eric Marshall, Gail Mitchell, Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, Dorothy Marshall, a harbour seal that joined us for a while and cameo appearances by Christina Cutbill and Eve Savory.

North side:

On February 9, 2020, Kurlene Wenberg and Carol Hartwig observed the following 11 species of waterbirds as the light dimmed late in the afternoon:

8 Double-crested Cormorant; 4 Pelagic Cormorant; 11 Canada Geese; 87 Trumpeter Swan; 27 Mallard; 2 Greater Scaup; 2 White-winged Scoter; 24 Bufflehead; 33 Common Goldeneye; 4 Common Merganzer; 3 Dunlin; 10 Mew Gull; 4 Glaucous-winged Gull; 75 Gull sp.;

Jim and Lyn Wisnia enjoyed the calm, sunny Sunday afternoon.

They observed in the Verdier Point area:

1 Surf scoter; 28 Bufflehead; 15 Goldeneye; 7 Barrow’s goldeneye; 7 Red-breasted merganser; 9 Horned grebe; 2 Red-necked grebe; 2 Western grebe; 8 Mew gull; 10 Glaucous-winged gull; 15 Gull sp.; 1 Pacific loon; 1 Common loon; 3 Brandt’s cormorant; 1 Belted kingfisher; 1 Common raven.

In the Mill Bay area:

5 American wigeon; 10 Surf scoter; 14 Bufflehead; 8 Common goldeneye; 10 Barrow’s goldeneye; 2 Hooded merganser; 7 Common  merganser; 3 Red-breasted merganser; 2 Red-necked grebe; 1 Western grebe; 14 Glaucous-winged gull; 36 Gull sp.; 1 Common loon; 1 Brandt’s cormorant; 1 Pelagic cormorant; 1 Belted kingfisher; 3 Northwestern crow.


Swan, Goose & Raptor count February 5th 2020

Short-eared owl
Trumpeter swans
Trumpeter swan
Red-headed Trumpeter swans
Trumpeter swans in flight
Northern Shovellers
Ruddy ducks
Today was Bob’s Day  and I dedicate this weeks report to all the Bob’s that watch birds. This week we had our own Bob Nation along for the trip and my did he bring us luck, with a record count of swans for this season over 400 and 4 Tundra Swans to boot. 6  Snow Geese and over 1300 Canada Geese rounded out our count sheet. Once again this week Eric was in charge of keeping the tally as Dorothy can’t bring herself to come out in the rain, I am hoping that when the sun shines we will see her return, if not I will be requiring a doctors note.
6 dry counters left the dog park and we were soon counting hawks and eagles, this week also saw a record count for the season of 14 Red-tailed Hawks added to this was a drop in Bald Eagles, 2 American Kestrels, 2 Merlin and several Cooper’s Hawks and accipiter sp., we must start brushing up on our hawk identification as too many are going unresolved.
My day started with an omen at Quamichan Lake where a nice Ruddy Duck was close to the flooded car park, little did we know that we were going to find 5 more in the most unlikely spot of the Herd Road flooded fields.
We encountered a fair bit of flood damage this week around our route but none that would stop us from completing our count.
Strange sight up on Koksilah Road west where walking up this track in the farmers field was 6 female Deer all together in a herd, safety in numbers I guess or keeping tight to stay out of the way of marauding males.
123 Seals were counted out on the mini log boom of Cowichan Bay, been a while since I have seen this many out there, life must be good, can’t see that they are finding much to eat as the ducks were in very low numbers again. male and female Bald Eagles were perched together getting ready for the upcoming breeding season
Our biggest flock of swans this week and the group that held the Tundras was on Bench Road where 315 Trumpeter’s were counted among these were 49 immature our best count this season. I did get a report from one of our southern correspondents about a group of 120+ swans down on Cameron-Taggert on Tuesday, but they are out of our count route but are worth noting.
The best of the day was saved for the end of the count when  we found 3 Short-eared Owls all sitting up in low trees, Bob had worked his magic on this namesake day.
Photo Credits
Red-headed Trumpeter Swans by Barry Hetschko
Northern Shovellers by Barry Hetschko
Flying Swans by  Barry Hetschko

Ruddy Ducks by Barry Hetschko

Trumpeter Swans by Derrick Marven
Short-eared Owl by Derrick Marven
American Kestrels  by Zan Stenhouse

Swan, Goose & Raptor count Jan. 29, 2020

What a day we had 8 counters were subjected to early wet conditions to heat and sun by lunch, no real surprises although 7  Snow Geese on Dinsdale’s Farm were nice, these birds had been around for a few days. This year we have been having trouble finding swans in the north end of our route and today was no exception, not sure why the birds have left these areas.The majority of swans were on Bench Road where in excess of 200 were  seen. Immature birds are in low numbers this year which could mean a bad breeding season for them. With the birds being so far off in the fields it makes it hard for me to locate any Tundra Swans.

Surprise this week was when Eric at lunchtime produced a nice big box of cookies, we were not aware that he had hidden talents like cooky making, I have to say that they were on par with what our absent friend Dorothy makes, maybe a competition is in the making.
A group of Dunlin was spied by me a I scanned across the Cowichan Bay, never did relocate them to show the group. Duck numbers were once again low in the bay, this is of some concern, maybe all this rain is the cause.
As we headed down Cowichan  Bay Road a couple of Mute Swans were seen and we added a few more out in the bay. While scanning across to see if I could find a perched owl I spotted a funny looking lump close to the ground on a small stork, this I thought was the Short-eared Owl, but it turned out to be a female Northern Harrier. Eagle numbers were up with more immature this week, we also had a fly by Coopers Hawk, a American Kestrel and a Merlin.
As you are aware a lot of flooding has taken place with many fields under water, some very deep fields keeping many duck species away, so it was a surprise at the Herd Road flooded fields to see a  good gathering of Green-winged Teal, one of  the largest groups I have seen in a long time.
Photographs were in short supply this week as we found it hard to get close to most birds,one Red-tailed Hawk which sat very close to Westholme Road was a good example of our luck this week as Barry inched closer so I could rattle off some good shots a big box van roared passed us just as my camera got the lovely in focus, I managed a few tatty tail feathers on the right hand side of the frame as the bird vacated it’s close perch.
With the flooding on Tzouhalem Road we had to do a bit of juggling to get to some of the spots near the Cowichan River and when we got there all we could find was a Downy Woodpecker and a few duckies.
Our day was done and we were thankful for the afternoon sun, lot’s of people were out walking and we even saw one of our past counters Christina working the Dock Road, a very rare sight these days on our count.
Photo Credits
Mew Gulls and Thayers by Derrick Marven
Hooded Mergansers by Denny Wagg
Downy Woodpecker by Denny Wagg

More gulls
More gulls
Hooded mergansers
Hooded mergansers
Downy woodpecker

Swan, Goose & raptor count Jan. 23rd 2020

Northwesternn crow
Wet brewer’s blackbird
Trumpeter swans
More trumpeter swans
Bald eagle
Red-tailed hawk
Worm-eating gull
More trumpeter swans
More trumpeter swans
Wet day bird counting
I really don’t know what to say about this week, although snow was not an issue as last week, this week we needed Noah on our team as the heavens opened, Barry commented that he had never known a a Wednesday when it rained right through the whole count. As usual some members of our depleted team thought it was safer to stay in the vehicle while the more foolish of the team ventured out into the deluge. I mentioned our poor team numbers because what with broken wrist and flu like symptoms that had been passed down from some younger member and another team player running off at A&W we ended up with just 6 fool hardy people. One counter had come all the way from Ontario to join in the fun and to get away from those eastern weather systems, Hah little did she know what we had in store for her.
The Swans put on a brave face and numbers were just about level from our previous count on the 8th at just over 400 birds, Goose numbers went down a long way, their not stupid they know when to leave, no way were they getting their feet wet.
Raptor numbers took a bit of a hit with no Falcons and only one Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawks fared well and so did Bald Eagles but they did look sad sitting in the trees looking sorry for themselves.
A handful of Deer were spotted and I was the lucky one to catch a glimpse of a River Otter in Cowichan Bay
We ran into a couple of road works on the way which made us late for lunch but there was no worry about rushing this week as Barry and Kurlene got us around with no trouble, such great drivers.
No dickie birds were spotted except for a few on St.Catherine’s coming into a feeder where we spotted both Golden and White-crowned Sparrows, a Spotted Towhee and a Song Sparrow. A group of California Quail had got themselves marooned on the wrong side of the Dock Road, they had their backs against the water and had to wait for the vehicles to pass to scuttle back across to the safety of the brambles.
As the day come to an end I sent Barry out into the rain to count the final few swans you see he had a hat and a brolly.
At the beginning of this rambling message i mentioned I didn’t know what to say about today, well I think the lovely picture taken by our good buddy Zan of a Brewer’s Blackbird just about sums it all up.
Until the sun returns.
Photo Credits
Swans x2 by Derrick Marven
Worm eating gull by Derrick Marven
Red-tailed Hawk by Zan Stenhouse
Bald Eagle by Zan Stenhouse
More Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Mum and Baby Trumpeter by Zan Stenhouse
One wet Brewer’s Blackbird by Zan Sttenhouse

Swan, goose and raptor count, 15th Jan., 2020

As you might have guessed the count did not take place because I did not do a snow dance after checking all the steps I thought better not try that, So there was a big dump of snow today. What you will get today is a halftime report as we are half way through this seasons count period
Trumpeter Swan numbers have been very good and were keeping pace with last years numbers that is until we hit January when although the group got good numbers they were down from last year, we have to wait and see what next week brings.
Canada Goose numbers have been on par with last year although the frozen ground I’m sure will have a impact on them as they will quickly leave our area to find food further south.
Raptor numbers have been low with Bald Eagles numbers going down a lot from last year. A lack of food for these big birds is definitely the cause, with not many Salmon or sea ducks to prey upon. Red-tailed Hawks have done well with an average of around 10 a week which is way up from last year. Falcon numbers have been good and American Kestrel appears to be very abundant in the valley this year. The Coopers Hawk have shown up on more counts than usual with good numbers of immature birds.
We have hit a bit of a wall with small birds, don’t know what we are doing wrong but they don’t seem to be around our route this year, we have spied a few Northern Shrikes which is always a treat. Owls have been the same as last year with zero being found on the count.
That’s about it, the sun is shining today not sure if it thinks it’s Wednesday, we live in hope that it shines next week when we count.
Until we ride again

Coastal Waterbird Surveys, Jan. 12th, 2020

Cowichan Bay, southside.

I forgot to send out a reminder last week and everyone else forgot to check the calendar at www.naturecowichan.net, so only Linda Hill and I were there to do the count without a telescope.  It was chilly and overcast, but the sea was perfectly still, reflecting the sky and the mountains, e were accompanied on our walk along the shore by two river otters.  We saw:

71 Bufflehead; 11 Common Goldeneye;  2 Hooded Merganser; 20 duck sp.;  1 Western Grebe;14 Gull sp.; 5 Double-crested Cormorant; 1 Belted Kingfisher; 1 Northwestern Crow; 28 Rock Dove.

John Scull

With choppy water in Saanich Inlet Bryon Thompson observed the following waterbirds in the Verdier Point area:

American wigeon, 31; Bufflehead, 20; Common goldeneye, 8; Barrow’s goldeneye, 6; Red-breasted merganser, 9; horned grebe, 40; Glaucous-winged gull, 5; Gull sp., 1; Common loon, 1; Brandt’s cormorant, 1; Pelagic cormorant, 1.

In still choppy Mill Bay:

Mute swan, 1; Mallard, 8; Surf scoter, 24; Bufflehead, 51; Common goldeneye, 26; Barrow’s goldeneye, 1; Hooded merganser, 4; Glaucous-winged gull, 22; Brandt’s cormorant, 2; Double-crested cormorant, 4

Jim Wisnia

Swan, Goose & Raptor Count January 8th 2020

Swans and geese
Trumpeter swans
Wet hawk
Ring necked ducks
Swans and geese
Swans and geese
More swans and geese

It appears by the numbers that I should phone in sick more often as the Trumpeter Swan numbers were the best of the season and 13 Red-tailed Hawks equaled our high count for the term. I am not sure what i did to deserve this horrible cold although a did spend the day with another woman on January 1st who was coughing and sneezing all the time, “Tania” Got to stay away from these young woman. Big thanks to the crew for their hard work and i hope i will be fit enough to join them next week with a snow shovel.

Below is Eric’s take on the day. I do hope our good friend Dorothy has a speedy recovery as I don’t know what we will do without her cookies.


As the group met at the Dog Park we found that our worthy leader was laid low with a flu bug so we had to sort out who was going to count the swans and geese and who would record the numbers of raptors. Gayle, a keen naturalist from Ontario joined the group for the day – she will be staying in Cowichan Bay for a few weeks so we may see on another count. We set off in two cars promptly at 10 am on a cool morning but unlike the previous day there was no rain – Derrick is very good at seeing that the weather is good for our counting days. As we arrived at Somenos Lake the water sampling party from the Somenos Marsh Society was heading out so we asked them not to disturb the swans until we had counted them. A pied-billed grebe was the only other bird that we saw on the lake. We had been instructed to take the turning towards Crofton and on the road there we counted almost 90 swans and 250 geese in the Westholme area. Richards Trail yielded another 450 geese. The ponds on Herd Road lacked any swans and 130 geese seen by the side of the water. While stopped at the Park & Ride on Hwy #18 a lady from the other car dashed up and asked if we had seen the red-tailed eagle – I think she must have been hungry and confused as it was close to lunch time – she really meant red-tailed hawk.

While having our lunch break at A & W a merlin was seen nearby and an immature eagle flew overhead. We had thought that eagles would be abundant on the trees by the river next to Boys Road but only two were seen. On Sahilton Road there were three groups of swans hiding in the dips in the field. Over on Koksilah Road there were swans hiding in the fields and pools just below the hill there – Barry walked back from our stopping place to attempt to get a good count as we could not do so from the cars on the road. More swans were seen further along this road. Koksilah Road East held a large flock of geese and a small one was on the Dindale Farm fields. From Dock Road we could see over by the north shore some three groups of swans which appeared to be all trumpeters and just a separate group of four mutes was a little further upstream. The fields on the opposite side of the road to Blackey’s farm held a large flock of swans.

Thirteen red-railed hawks were seen. Two northern harriers and 2 peregrines and 3 kestrels were added to our totals.


Photo Credits

Swans and Geese X 3 by Denny Wagg

Mallards by Denny Wagg

Ring-necked Duck by ZanStenhouse

Swans, Goose and Wigeon by Zan Stenhouse

Swans and Geese by Zan Stenhouse

One wet Hawk by Zan Stenhouse

Swan, Goose & Raptor count Dec.11th 2019

River otter
River otter
Swans in the mist

Bull elk

It is hard to imagine a Wednesday without sun but today 6 birders endured a day without our sunglasses, not only that, we got some well needed rain to go with it. Barry is not much of a “no rain dancer” and so I guess we payed the price for his two left feet and all those good days we had.
We left the dog park in two vehicles in high hopes of seeing some big numbers this week, sadly the only species that increased was Canada Geese at #1597 this is our highest count this season added to this was over 60 Cackling Geese with one major flock of birds off Sahilton Road, they saw all the binoculars looking at them and moved further out in the fields. It was so strange to see all these geese without any swans with them.
A newcomer joined our ranks this week Genevva fresh from the snowy Okanagan, she was unaware that all newbies had to bring treats for the leader. I will have to put a reminder in the newsletter. We showed her Merlin, Eurasian Wigeon and a bull Elk so I think she will be back for more. She’s good at spotting lumps in trees, not all were birds I might add.
Trumpeter Swan numbers went down a bit #231 and I have to admit that the count up on Bench Road was very hard with the rain and mist and such that I could not tell the difference between adults and immature so they all went down as mummies and daddies. This location held 95% of all Trumpeters seen today. I am sure there were few more laying down that I could not see.
A 3 American Kestrel day doesn’t happen too often with all birds being within a few kms of each other, must be a good rodent area around the Herd Road corridor. A Merlin flew over at A&W and a single Peregrine was still stuck in a tree on Herd Road, i wonder if this bird ever leaves this perch as it always seems to be there. Must have something to do with all the ducks in the fields below the tree.
This morning I forgot my camera and hurried back home before we all met, there must have been a reason for this as both  I and Barry failed to get one picture between us, so the attached pics are all down to the lovely Zan.
Bald Eagle numbers were steady with more birds perched at different locations around our route, I am not sure they are doing so well, we need more rain so that the gulls and duckies take to the fields thus making for a more varied diet. I might add that in the corresponding count last year we had almost double the number of eagles.
I passed a box of Smarties to the girls, then got a complaint that they were all green; little did they know that I took all the good ones out. Well I never packaged them and also they don’t look like the Smarties I had when i was a kid, they appear to be a different color and they have shrunk like so much you buy in the store these days; girls, if you don’t like them give to the crows at A&W, they will eat anything.Smarties are made without hormones!
I would like to write that we had seen some more bird species but other than a few Junco’s and Starlings. but that was it.
Our day was winding down and the rain was getting wetter has we headed through Cowichan Bay village where, lucky for us, a River Otter was having a good scratch and tidy up right in front of the viewing platform. The Dock Road was a dead loss with hardly anything out on the water, it was one of those days. We had done our duty and the birds had been counted. We live to count another day, let’s hope it’s sunny next time.
Photo Credits
All by Zan Stenhouse

Swan, Goose & Raptor count Dec.4th 2019

Loving swans
Loafing at Quamichan Lake
Anna’s Humming bird on Sap-sucker’s tree
Red-breasted sapsucker
Cooper’s hawk
Trumpeter pair
The conductor

There is no weather forecaster in Canada that can beat the force of a Swan and Goose counter doing the no rain dance, with rain in the forecast and me still suffering and hardly able to walk i called upon Barry; little did we know that Barry had just returned from Dancing with the Stars and did a wonderful job, not only didn’t it rain we even got a sunny break and the temperatures were nice.
7 counters left the dog park in two vehicles and it took a while to get something for Dorothy to scribble down on her return, a Red-tail here and a Bald Eagle there my book was getting some work. Then the gang descended on Somenos Lake while I sat in the car and watched a Bewick’s Wren working it’s way around some trees looking for spiders no doubt. The group returned with Trumpeters, Canada’s and Cacklers on their list.
There was what I think a first for the group today when a Red-brested Sapsucker sat working on it’s favorite tree on Drinkwater Road, never before have I thought that all counters had taken a picture of a bird, well not for a long time anyways. Funny sighting at the same tree was an Anna’s Hummingbird which appeared to be either taking sap or collecting small flies
Our numbers this week went up with more than double of Trumpeter Swans at #253 adults and#33 immature, Canada Geese went down slightly and we didn’t find any other species other than a few Cacklers at #5. Hawk numbers were good and both Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks bounced back up from last weeks slump. We had #4 Coopers Hawk,#1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, #1 Peregrine Falcon and again this week #3 Merlin.
I did see a Golden-crowned Kinglet on Richards Trail working it’s way through a Cedar.
Don’t remember any Deer this week, but Zan was lucky to find a nice group of Elk on the way in to the count at the Hwy 18 park and ride
The numbers for Trumpeter’s this week were pretty much the same as the corresponding count last year with many birds still up island enjoying this very dry unseasonable weather.
At the end of the day on the Dock Road a Northern Shrike was spotted and we had a monster flock of swans and geese fly over, I am sure these were the group from up on Bench and had been disturbed
We left the Dock Road after a couple of mini Mars bars thanks to Zan and headed our way home adding a few more birds on the way.


Photo credits
Loving Swans by Derrick Marven
Loafing at Quamichan Lake by Derrick Marven
Anna’s “sapsucker”Hummingbird by Barry Hetschko
Red-breasted Sapsucker by Eric Marshall
Cooper’s Hawk by Eric Marshall
Trumpeter pair by Denny Wagg
Merlin by Zan Stenhouse
Elk by Zan Stenhouse
The conductor by Zan Stenhouse

Coastal Waterbird Surveys, Sunday December 8th, 2019.

Only Linda Hill and I were there to do the count without a telescope.  It was chilly and overcast, but the sea was perfectly still, reflecting the sky and the mountains,  We were accompanied on our walk along the shore by two river otters.  We saw on the south side of Cowichan Bay:

71 Bufflehead; 11 Common Goldeneye;  2 Hooded Merganser; 20 duck sp.;  1 Western Grebe; 14 gull sp.;  5 Double-crested Cormorant;  1 Belted Kingfisher;  1 Northwestern Crow; 28 Rock Doves

John Scull

With calm sea state at high tide, Kurlene Wenberg observed these 7 waterbird species on the north side of Cowichan Bay:

11 Double-crested Cormorant; 6 Trumpeter Swan; 302 American Wigeon; 33 Bufflehead; 16 Common Goldeneye; 2 Common Merganser; 8 Gull Sp.

On a pleasantly cloudy December 8 evening, Jim & Lyn Wisnia observed in the Verdier Point area:

11 Surf scoter; 43 Bufflehead; 47 Common goldeneye; 14 Barrow’s goldeneye; 1 Hooded merganser; 39 Red-breasted merganser; 2 Pied-billed grebe; 14 Horned grebe; 2 Marbled murrelet; 14 Mew gull; 13 Glaucous-winged gull; 13 Gull sp.; 4 Pacific loon; 3 Common loon; 1 Brandt’s cormorant; 2 Pelagic cormorant; 1 Double-crested cormorant; 1 Northwestern crow; 3 Common raven.

The Marbled Murrelets made up for the lack of Western Grebes.

As the evening darkened in the Mill Bay area:

126 American wigeon; 3 Surf scoter; 28 Bufflehead; 1 Common goldeneye; 2 Barrow’s goldeneye; 2 Mew gull; 22 Glaucous-winged gull; 4 Gull sp.; 80 Canada goose; 7 Mute swan; 51 Mallard; 4 Goldeneye sp.;


Swan and Goose count Nov. 20th 2019

Barrow’s goldeneye
Peregrine falcon
Peregrine falcon
Gull with sea lion
Flying trumpeter swans
Red-tailed hawk
American kestrel
Belted kingfisher
Yes it was another sunny Wednesday, a little nippy to start but then that sun packed a lot of heat. 7 people left the dog park in two vehicles, we did manage to get rid of 3 along the way as they had more pressing things to do than count birds, how could they? Our first real port of call was Somenos Lake where old gimpy had to stay in the vehicle with his poorly hip while the counters went off and found nothing, you send them off and they come back empty handed, I tell you, you can’t get good help these days. I did see a hummer and a Song Sparrow while waiting.
Many people have commented on the lack of Swans over the past weeks, when I have looked back over the records this is not unusual, down somewhat from our early days when there were more swans. Over the last few years this is the norm. This week we found 120 Trumpeters, 1467 Canada Geese, 6 Cackling Geese and 2 Snow Geese. I believe there were more Cacklers in the groups of geese but when they are a long ways off and hanging close together we don’t have the time to spend checking each one.
The Bald Eagles posted a similar pattern as previous years although I do have concern that our numbers will not increase over the coming weeks because of the lack of food. A big percentage of the birds counted were in one spot a wet puddle in one field which was having a free bath Wednesday special, with both adults and immature cleaning up, again they were a long ways off and I am sure there were a few more out there.
On our way to lunch we came towards Beverly Street on the highway and Barry spotted a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on one of the swallow boxes, he quickly had the camera out the window and got a good picture. I can’t imagine what the cars behind and beside us thought was going on as this big lens came zooming out the window. Not something you see most days while sitting at the lights.
After lunch Barry and I found ourselves with two new customers in the back seats, these two were in charge of Dorothy’s tally sheet who had wondered off at A&W, it was a good job they had all their fingers and toes to add up on. I have always wondered why the rubber on the end of the pencil wore down so quick. In the end they did a good job and it did not take long for me to sort out the numbers. That’s what I get the big bucks for.
Most of the big flock of swans and geese were in the Sahilton Road area as was a Peregrine Falcon that was keeping an eye on proceedings and all the Mallards, the falcon was one of four we found today with two other Peregrines and an obliging American Kestrel.
Once again this week it was not  a day for dickie birds with ever decreasing numbers noted, I blame the weather, it’s too good, the birds are out and about having fun instead of waiting around for us to come along and take their pictures.
We were lucky near the end of the count with a Northern Shrike and the Kestrel, sadly no Mute Swans and because the leader forgot his scope the duckies out on Cowichan Bay just got a glance over with the binoculars.
We all had a good time and the chocolate lady came through again, not sure where she keeps getting these bars of chocolate but we welcome them none the less. Not sure if we will all fit in the vehicles by the end of the season.
Photo Credits
Barrow’s Goldeneye by Derrick Marven
Peregrine Falcon by Zan Stenhouse
Gull, what Sealion by Zan Stenhouse
Flying Swans by Barry Hetschko.
Red-tailed Hawk by Barry Hetschko
American Kestrel by Barry Hetschko