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

Swan & Goose count Nov. 27th 2019

Young deer
Trumpeter swan
Eurasian wigeon sleeping
Female common merganser
Great blue heron
Trumpeter swan group
Geese on ice
California sea lion
Varied thrush
Pied American robin
Muscovy duck

The weather man had forecast strong winds and we managed to dodge most of it until the end of the count at Cowichan Bay where small white caps could be seen coming in from the south east. It did not take long for everyone to hide back in the vehicles.
Today saw only 6 eager counters take part with two of our regular party off gallivanting up island I believe, the men went in one car and the ladies in another just to keep the peace.
The numbers were all over the place this week with adult Swans being up just a few birds and immature going down while the goosies stayed around the same, we did mange one Snow Goose and several Cackling Geese. Most of the swan pack were up on Bench with a few family groups dotted around the valley to make up the numbers.
Eagle numbers went down as did Red-tailed Hawks but we did well for Falcons as we recorded three Merlin’s our first of this season, two Peregrine Falcons and one American Kestrel that has settled in up at the Exhibition grounds.
We only had a few deer this week and on very quick Squirrel that dodged the car wheels up on Herd Road. We looked for Elk in several locations but not hide no hair was seen of them.
What was an amazing miss there was not one Bald Eagle at Quist’s Farm, think this could be a record as we always seem to find some there. There were some duckies in the flooded field with Mallard, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and a handful of Northern Pintail.
Along Richard’s Trail we had a nice treat with a few Varied Thrush and one pied American Robin that showed some small leucistic dotes on it’s body and head. It was along the road further where we got our first Merlin.
The Herd Road flooded fields were loaded with both ducks and geese and I had spotted the Snow goose as we approached along the road. The Peregrine Falcon was once again keeping watch on it’s meal ticket just in case any interlopers tried to home in on it’s patch.
Hwy 18 was a bust with not a single bird to be counted, think next week I will start counting cows as they always seem to be out.
We soon found ourselves back for lunch, where a certain lady’s cookies were sorely missed. Dorothy we miss you please come back soon.
After a quick belly full of food we were off to Boys Road where it was hard going with hardly any raptors and no swans, we did find a confiding Great Blue Heron on the side of Sahilton Road that stood motionless waiting to have it’s picture taken, I totally forgot about it when we came back down the road.
What appeared to be a family group of Trumpeter’s were in the corn fields over on Koksilah Road west, it was here where we first got a glimpse of the girls who had lagged behind getting pictures, they thanked us for waiting for them, which we had no intention of doing anyways.
The next stop was Bench Road where the major flock of swans were located, I was tempted to get out the vehicle get the scope out and look for Tundra Swans but the wind and my bad hip made think twice about that fool hardy endeavor.
We then went to Dougan’s Flats where just one group of Geese were located and so we found ourselves quickly across the highway and down into Cowichan Bay where as I had said earlier it was not a good day day to be out along the Dock Road in the wind. I did spy a Eurasian Wigeon tucked in with all the other ducks in the corner of the estuary, they are not stupid these Europeans – know where to go when things get harsh.
We finished our day along the Cowichan River where we found the ladies who had lost us, they had found a nice big Sealion working the river for a Salmon supper.
That was it our day was done, not the best, but some great sights of birds. Lot’s of pictures this week as I know you like them.

Photo Credits
Young Deer by Derrick Marven
Trumpeter Swan by Derrick Marven
Eurasian Wigeon sleeping by Derrick Marven
female Common Merganser by Denny Wagg
Great Blue Heron by Denny Wagg
Merlin by Zan Stenhouse
Trumpeter Swan group by Zan Stenhouse
Geese on ice by Zan Stenhouse
Sealion by Zan Stenhouse
Varied Thrush by Barry Hetschko
Pied American Robin by Barry Hetschko
Muscovy Duck by Barry Hetschko

Swan, Goose & Raptor Count, November 13th 2019

Eric & Helen
Trio – Zan, Barry & Helen
Birders at work
Great blue heron
Immature red-tailed hawk
Immature red-tailed hawk
Bald eagle
Trumpeter swans
Canada geese
The numbers went up and so did the temperature as 8 birders set out on today’s count, two cars were all we needed, now all we had to do was find some birds. Barry had already got a Northern Shrike for the day in Somenos and a whole wack of Canada Geese. I had called in at Quamichan Lake where there was more rowers than birds, something needs to be done about this disturbance or soon before we loose all the birds from this major wintering spot.  I did find the three resident Trumpeter Swans which were pushed way over on the east side of the lake.
We found ourselves first at Somenos Lake where the long staying Western Grebe and 4 Pied-billed Grebes were seen, but no raptors could be found not even the usual Bald Eagle. Several Otters were feeding along the far shore.
Heading north on the highway our first Red-tailed Hawk of the day was on a hydro pole watching for any unsuspecting mice to be thrown out of the passing cars. At Quist’s Farm we got our first Swan a lonesome fellow waiting for all his mates to turn up.. By this time we had only just got to double figures for Canada Geese a very unusual occurrence and where were all the Eagles?
As it turned out we ended up we both good numbers of waterfowl and raptors for the day with most turning up on the second leg of our daily journey; I believe the stop at A&W for lunch makes all the difference to the counters.
Our day ended with 89 Trumpeter Swans, 843 Canada Geese, 70 Cackling Geese, 12 Red-tailed Hawks and 27 Bald Eagles, a few extra raptors were 3 Coopers Hawks, 1 American Kestrel and 1 Peregrine Falcon, so all in all a good days work by the team. Talking of our team today i decided that i would get a few snaps of those that do the count as birds were not that forthcoming in front of the camera. Our team at times can be a little shy so just like trying to get a bird picture you have to stalk them and catch them unawares as to what you’re doing. You’ll see what I got with the attachments
Out in Cowichan Bay I made a seal count #115 which has been made a bit easier without so many log booms out there due to the strike, not sure how many are out there most years but this seems a healthy population. A few Sealions could also be seen out in the waters towards Khenipsen Road hunting for fish.
The day was not bad for numbers with past counts suggesting that over the following couple of weeks the Swans will move in and we hope we will have good numbers all over our area.
Short report this week as i need my beauty sleep. At the moment I am suffering a lot of discomfort in my hip and chasing after birds has had its toll on the joints.




Photo credits
Kurlene the ladies ringleader, by Derrick Marven
Eric Marshall the Jack of all trades, by Derrick Marven
The trio looking every way, by Derrick Marven
Warning bird photographer, by Derrick Marven
Birders at work, by Derrick Marven
Great Blue Heron, by Derrick Marven
Immature Red-tailed Hawk by Zan Stnehouse and Kurlene Wenberg
Bald Eagle by Zan Stenhouse
Trumpeter Swans, by Zan Stenhouse
Geese in flight by Barry Hetschko

Coastal Waterbird Counts – Sunday November 10th, 2019

South Side of Cowichan Bay.

A beautiful afternoon with the mist and clouds swirling around Saltspring Island, Mount Tzouhalem, and Mount Prevost.  Four eager birders (John Scull, Willie Harvie, Linda Hill, Bruce Coates, Donna Zipse, and Ken Bendle) with a telescope from the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre counted:

Mute Swan 7; American Wigeon 7;  Bufflehead 188;  Common Goldeneye 23;  Hooded Merganser 3;  Iceland Gull (Thayer’s) 2;  Glaucous-winged Gull 2;  gull sp. 87;  Double-crested Cormorant 2;  Bald Eagle 2;  Belted Kingfisher 1; (and two harbour seals).

Jim and Lyn Wisnia saw the following (along with lots of Steller’s sea lions) on a drizzling Nov. 9 in the Verdier Point area:

Bufflehead 17; Common goldeneye 11; Barrow’s goldeneye 8, Red-breasted merganser 25; Horned grebe 2; Red-necked grebe 3; Mew gull 37; Glaucous-winged gull 6; gull sp. 16; Pacific loon 13; Common loon 3; Double-crested cormorant 1; Cormorant sp. 1;Belted kingfisher 3; Common raven 1.

And in the Mill Bay area:

Canada goose 1; Mute swan 5; American wigeon 57; Mallard 19; Surf scoter 1; Bufflehead 61; Common goldeneye 31; Barrow’s goldeneye 4; Hooded merganser 5; Red-breasted merganser 1; Horned grebe 1; Red-necked grebe 1; Western grebe 2; Mew gull 7; Glaucous winged gull 23; gull sp. 41; Common loon 1; Pelagic cormorant 3; Bald eagle 1; Belted kingfisher 1; Northwestern crow 1.


Coastal Waterbird Counts – October 13th 2019

Cowichan Bay South

In spite of it being Thanksgiving weekend, volunteeers John Scull, Barry Hetchco, Linda Hill, Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, and Olene Russell were joined by Oline’s husband Mike and children Kosian, Koia,Kolyna, Kazka, and Kealey along with Felix Fraillon from France.  Some of the counters were inspired by Graham Sorensen’s session last week.  The extra birders said they were inspired to come by the WildWings festival.

The unusually large population of birders was not matched by the birds and we had what may be the lowest count ever, perhaps because it was mid afternoon.  Hopefully, there were lots of birds at the other local sites.  Here’s what we saw:

1 Western Gull; 5  Glaucous-winged Gull; 79 gull sp.; 2  Double-crested Cormorant, 1  Great Blue Heron; 2  Bald Eagle; 1  Belted Kingfisher; 2  Northwestern Crow.

John Scull

Cowichan Bay North

I was the long counter on the north side having had our dinner on Saturday.  The birds were very distant and backlit so lots of unidentified!

10 Double Crested Cormorants; 12 Bonapartes Gulls; 14 Mew Gulls; 135 Unidentified Gulls; 52 American Widgeon; 170 Unidentified Ducks closely hugging the shore by the river; 16 Mallards; 1 Canada Goose swimming alone in the middle of the bay; 2 Mute Swans; 26 White Winged Scoters in a tight group of immatures, females and a few males.  Largest group that I can remember seeing, and no Surf Scoters

Kurlene Wenberg

The next count is at 3 pm on Sunday, November 10.


Coastal Waterbird Counts September 8, 2019.

South Side of Cowichan Bay.

We met by the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre in Hecate Park at 3 pm on a breezy Sunday, September 8. John Scull, Linda Hill, Kathy Coster, Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, and Pamela Williams were joined by Derrick Marven and his telescope. Derrick seemed to be with us to polish his arithmetic and birding skills while waiting for the start of the swan and goose count.

Here are the birds we saw:
32 Mallard; 41 Common Merganser ; 13 Glaucous-winged Gull ;  5 gull sp. ;  3 Double-crested Cormorant; 1 Great Blue Heron;;  1 Osprey ;  6 Northwestern Crow

North side Cowichan Bay

Here is our rather dismal count – Daryl and Kurlene

Double-crested Cormorant, 1; Great Blue Heron, 1; Turkey Vulture, 2; Osprey, 1; Unidentified shorebirds, 100 approx.; Unidentified gulls, 82

Lyn and Jim Wisnia saw the following waterbirds on Sunday evening:

Verdier Point

Bonaparte’s gull, 2; Mew gull, 1; Ring-billed gull, 1; Glaucous-winged gull, 6; Gull sp., 85; Double crested cormorant, 4; Great blue heron, 1.

Mill Bay

Glaucous-winged gull 9; Gull sp., 15; Pelagic cormorant, 1; Great blue heron, 2; Belted kingfisher, 1.


Coastal Waterbird Survey, April 14, 2019.

Cowichan Bay – south side.

It was a joy to see that the osprey have returned as Carol Milo, John Scull, Barry Hetschco, Robin Lawson, and Gail Mitchell met between brief showers at the very civilized time of 1 pm.  Since we began these surveys, 57 people have counted birds at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre. The birds were a bit naughty today, with male buffleheads engaging in their courtship display and two ospreys going well beyond courtship.  We could see a great many ducks at the head of the estuary, but they were too far away to identify, even with two telescopes.

We saw:
Canada Goose, 1; Mute Swan,2; Mallard, 2; Bufflehead, 26; Common Merganser, 9; duck sp., 100;  gull sp., 11;  Double-crested Cormorant, 8; Osprey, 3; Northwestern Crow, 3;

Cowichan Bay – north side.

On a mostly cloudy day, Daryl and Kurlene were treated to the sight of a pair of beautiful Osprey engaged in building their nest on top of the pilings offshore from Khenipsen Rd.

The following birds were seen as well:

Canada Goose, 3; Mute Swan, 4; Mallard, 40; Surf Scoter, 9; Bufflehead, 38; Common Goldeneye, 2; Common Merganser; 6; Turkey Vulture, 10; Osprey, 4; Bald Eagle, 1; Gull  sp., 125; Common Raven, 3


Lyn and Jim Wisnia observed in the Verdier Point area

Canada goose, 1; American wigeon, 16; Mallard, 6; Surf scoter, 10; Bufflehead, 3; Common goldeneye, 3; Barrow’s goldeneye, 5; Common merganser, 7; Horned grebe, 1; Red-necked grebe, 1; Western grebe, 320; Mew gull, 209; California gull, 1; Glaucous-winged gull, 52; Gull sp., 31; :Common loon, 1; Brandt’s cormorant, 1; Great blue heron, 1; Turkey vulture, 3 (overhead); Bald eagle, 1; Northwestern crow, 4.

And in the Mill Bay area:

Canada goose, 3; Mute swan, 1; Mallard 7; Surf scoter, 5; Bufflehead, 65; Common goldeneye, 15; Barrow’s goldeneye, 2; Common merganser, 9; Red-breasted merganser, 2; Red-necked grebe, 3; Mew gull, 7; Glaucous-winged gull, 45; Gull sp., 1; Common loon, 1; Great blue heron, 1; Northwestern crow, 3; Common raven, 1.


Swan & Goose Count March 6th 2019

Immature tundra & trumpeter swans
Tundra swans adult & immature
Barry & light refreshment
Northern shrike
Rusty necked trumpeter
Bottoms up
Snipe walking on water
Robin and snipe ballet
Trumpeter swans in flight
Trumpeter swans in flight
Boots – breeding pair

It was another fine Wednesday morning when 7 counters turned up at the dog park, one counter was almost in fine spring plumage, whilst most of the others still retained their winter coats. We headed straight off and started counting Canada Geese right away at the school and this trend continued for most of the day as we got back to the high numbers that we encountered just before Christmas with #1251 recorded. The same thing went for the Trumpeter Swans who returned to old and new pastures and we got # 515 adults and 66 immature. We also found some Tundra Swans today with 1 immature on Koksilah Road west and close ones on Koksilah east which posed nicely for the camera. On one of our first stops at the site of the ever rising retirement home on York Road we saw Killdeer and Robins and a few golf balls, Barry drove off to let the girls have a look and our new counter of the week Denny who was trying the day for the first time. The girls spotted some Wilson’s Snipe which they bragged about to us in the first car, saying we missed them. That is not true as we often don’t report birds from the lead car just so the laggers get to have something for show and tell, it keeps them happy and keeps them coming. I am sure i will pay dearly for that remark. Somenos Lake had over 40 Ruddy Ducks and a few swans and several Pied-billed Grebes, although the lake still lacks a lot of ducks which we usually find at this time of year. We pushed up to Quist’s where we got our first task of the upward trends in waterfowl that we got today. It is always hard alongside the Hwy as logging trucks try to dislodge our wing mirrors as they hurtle down the road to the mills. There were good numbers of Bald Eagles around and this weeks count we got #25 adults and #8 immature with many unseen up at the CVRD recycle depot which go uncounted each week. Our Red-tailed Hawk numbers bounced back up with #10 seen although accipiter’s were a no show this week, we did add a Peregrine and a Merlin but that was it. We had two Northern Shrikes with one being close enough for a rough shot.
The day belonged to the swans and many good picture opportunities were given as you will see with the attached pictures. We even saw the Trumpeters doing their ring around the rosy dance today, we always enjoy this sight .Not many dickie birds, I think they must be all confused with this weather although it don’t seem to bother the Anna’s Hummingbirds who sat up proud on many sticks around the route.
I find it hard to believe that her we are in March with just 3 more counts to go, it only seemed like a a month ago that we started, but here we are with the Swallows arriving and the Rufous Hummingbirds already hitting Washington State so their arrival should be here within the next two weeks, that’s if it ever stops snowing like it was this Thursday morning.
Our day was good and all had some nice sightings and several of us got some wonderful pictures, big thanks to our drivers Barry and Kurlene for keeping us safe, they do a wonderful job, Barry especially has to put up with a leader that makes him inch back and forth while I count and try for a few snaps, such patience. Such a wonderful bunch of people that i spend the day out in the big natural world..


Photo Credits.
Breeding pair of Brown Nike’s by Barry Hetschko
Flying Trumpeter’s by Barry Hetschko and Zan Stenhouse
Robin and Snipe ballet by Kurlene Wenberg
Snipe walking on water by Kurlene Wenberg
Bottoms up by Zan Stenhouse
Old Rusty by Zan Stenhouse
Northern Shrike by Derrick Marven
Barry taking light refreshment by Derrick Marven
Adult and Immature Tundra Swan by Derrick Marven
Immature Trumpeter and Tundra together by Derrick Marven

Swan & Goose Count, March 13th 2019

Great blue heron
Trumpeter swans in flight
Bald eagles in flight
Trumpeter swans
Downy woodpecker
Red-tailed hawk
Trumpeter swans ready to migrate
Female Brewer’s blackbird
Tree swallow
Immature bald eagle


Friends, It is a hard life being a Swan and Goose count leader, you have to make sure that the right people are in the right vehicles and that we have all the gear required to ride around in a nice warm car on a nippy spring morning, for the most part our group knows exactly what to do and are ready to go right on the dot of 10am then sometimes there is a little hiccup when one group decides to change cars and all the gear that was loaded into one car has to reloaded into another. This makes a delay of a few minutes which in birding times can make a hit or miss if you are going after a good bird. This week we saw a new counter who came all the way from Victoria, yes they know about us down in the big city. Emma is our newest and youngest counter and it was nice to see a fresh face on the count. Also this week one of the counters decided that winter was over and arrived in full summer plumage complete with shorts, socks and sandals, such a hardy fellow. After enduring a full day out in the sunshine watching birds and having a laugh with my friends I then have to try and remember all that had taken place that day and try to put into words which people tell me that they wait in anticipation of the weeks report. I do try my hardest but so much happens during each count my poor old brain can’t retain it all. I then have to go through all the pictures submitted and try get put together the full report. I have to put all the numbers into the spreadsheet and get them ready after all this my wife wonders why I have a little nap after dinner in the chair in front of the telly. Not bad I think for a guy that finished bottom of the class each year in secondary school.
This week saw the departure of some of our swans and geese, not sure when they left but we were down to just half of last week’s numbers and with the forecast of hot and sunny weather for this weekend we could find ourselves wanting for the last two counts. We counted #311 Trumpeters and 1 Tundra Swan along with just #670 Canada Geese which was almost half of last weeks total, we did manage to find 23 Snow Geese at Dougan’s Flats and 43 Ruddy Ducks at Somenos Lake. Also at Drinkwater Road 2 male and a female Downy Woodpecker were having a chase around. At the old golf driving range we had a pair of Northwestern Crows who definitely were ready for spring as they were copulating right in front of the stands, no shame in the bird world I’m afraid.
Raptor numbers were good with # 45 Bald Eagles, 11 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Peregrine Falcon only seen by Barry and our first Turkey Vultures of the season with their telltale gliding flight making them easy to pick out. To make sure spring had finally sprung we saw several Tree Swallows with one already sat up on a nest box at Somenos Marsh. This weekend should see a major influx of many swallows. Another little flight master who should turn up this weekend should be the Rufous Hummingbird who has already hit feeders down in Washington State.
We tried hard to find the Elk for Emma but the beasts must have been hiding back in the woods as they were a no show. We did mange to show her plenty of ducks along Lakes Road and a nice display by by Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawk who put the fear into the poor duckies who took flight across the wet fields.
Most of the Swans and Geese were in the west and south end of our count which is what we have found in the latter days of their stay over previous years, not sure why only the birds know.
All in all it was a good day, weather was fine as we have become accustomed to getting on a Wednesday, will we make it through the last tw counts without getting a few rain drops, we will see.
Big thanks to the drivers and to Dorothy who keeps the tally up to date. Those photographers excelled this week so a bumper crop for you to enjoy.
Until next week.

Photo Credits
female Brewer’s Blackbird by Derrick Marven
give us a kiss on the cheek Mallard by Derrick Marven
immature Bald Eagle by Zan Stenhouse
Tree Swallow by Zan Stenhouse
Swans getting ready for migration by Zan Stenhouse
soaring Red-tailed Hawk by Zan Stenhouse
Downy Woodpecker by Barry Hetschko
Take off Swans by Barry Hetschko
Eagles in flight by Denny Wagg
Swans in flight by Denny Wagg
Great Blue Heron by Denny Wagg

Coastal Waterbird Survey March 10th, 2019.

South side of Cowichan Bay.
Six intrepid birders (who had all remembered to change their clocks) watched sunrise on a cold but beautiful morning by the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre: Donna Zipse, Ken Bendle, Bruce Coates, Linda Hill, Gail Mitchell, and John Scull saw two harbour seals, a group of pine siskin, and the following:

Trumpeter Swan, 10; Mallard, 20; Bufflehead, 96; Common Goldeneye, 5; Hooded Merganser, 4; Common Merganser, 5; Duck sp., 100; Gull sp., 15; Double-crested Cormorant, 3; Great Blue Heron, 12; Northwestern Crow, 4.

On a clear cold day with rippled seas at high tide at 10 AM on March 10, 2019, a group of three birders identified 14 species of waterbirds from Khenipsen Road on Cowichan Bay North.
The birders with cold fingers included Daryl Johnson, Kurlene Wenberg, and Carol Hartwig.

Canada Goose, 12; Horned Grebe, 1; Great Blue Heron, 1; Trumpeter Swan, 27; American Widgeon, 4; Mallard, 43; Common Goldeneye, 2; Surf Scoter, 17; White-winged Scoter, 4; Bufflehead, 48; Common Merganser, 2; Red Breasted Merganser, 4; Bald Eagle, 4; Gull sp., 53.

On a calm, clear March 10, Bryon Thompson, Jim Wisnia, and Lyn Wisnia saw in the Verdier Point area:

Surf scoter, 11; Bufflehead, 22; Common goldeneye, 34; Barrow’s goldeneye, 11; Red-breasted merganser, 14; Horned grebe, 14; Western grebe, 275; Mew gull, 26; Glaucous-winged gull, 30; Gull sp., 7; Common loon, 2; Pelagic cormorant, 1’ Cormorant sp. 1; Bald eagle, 2; Belted kingfisher, 2.

And in the Mill Bay area:

Mute swan, 10; American wigeon, 18; Mallard, 6; Surf scoter, 23; Bufflehead, 45; Common goldeneye, 18; Hooded merganser, 4; Common merganser, 6; Red-breasted merganser, 7; Horned grebe, 15; Red-necked grebe, 2; Mew gull, 18; Glaucous-winged gull, 47; Gull sp., 7; Common loon, 5; Pelagic cormorant, 2; Double-crested cormorant, 2; Cormorant sp., 1; Great blue heron, 1; Northwestern crow, 8; Cooper’s hawk, 1.

Swan & Goose count March 27th 2019

Trumpeter swans – goodbye
Belted kingfisher
Flies on cow patty
Tundra swan
Canada geese
Red-tailed hawk
Rufous hummingbird
Wigeon in flight
Peregrine falcon & raven
Trumpeter swan with lump
Anna’s hummingbird
Northern shrike

Today ended the tenth season of our count and with sunny weather that we have come to expect every Wednesday. 8 counters set out from the dog park in two cars, this week we were missing our good friend Barry and our thoughts were with him today on what could be our last Swan and Goose count.
What made this day special was that this was the highest count of Trumpeter Swans recorded on the last day of any season ever with #260 adults and #51 immature, what has made these birds stay so long, well warmland hospitality with good food and friendly people, also the cold snap might have had something to do with it, putting back their feeding, as you may know they have to build up fats for the flight north especially the immature birds.
Our raptor numbers took a hit this week with immature eagle numbers and Red-tailed Hawks making the biggest drop. Again this week we were treated to a Peregrine Falcon showing other species that it weren’t going to be pushed around as it jousted non stop with a bunch of Ravens which attacked and were attacked right above Westholme Road for all to see, well the ones that got out of the vehicles anyways.
We think we spied a big black Bear in a field as we drove by on the west side of town and a Muskrat sat in a ditch until the silly leader pointed too it out the window where upon it dived under the water just as Zan was about to take it’s portrait. Another strange sight today was a cow patty spotted by our resident patty specialist, she’s good at seeing them, having been a regular at A&W, this one was covered in a bright orange/brown flies who seemed to be enjoying this quarter pounder. We saw Killdeer and a few sundry dickie birds, this has been the case from previous weeks passerines have been in low numbers. We got good looks at a Northern Shrike and at the wet fields on Herd Road I tentatively counted over 300 Northern Shoveller, this has to be the largest congregated flock in Canada at this time of year, a wonderful sight along with many other duck species. This area has been especially good to us this year. One of the last birds of the day was our first of the season Rufous Hummingbird on the wires along the Dock Road.
We were lucky to find two Tundra Swans again this week both of which I don’t think we have encountered before after looking and comparing photo’s from previous years. While we were admiring the Tundra Dorothy’s eyes were a wandering and she came on the walkie-talkie to say, you do know there’s a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a post opposite you car, a wonderful specimen it was, as soon as it saw Kurlene’s camera it took off, guess like an ex teacher we also need eyes in the back of our heads.
With the last report comes lot’s of pictures for your enjoyment.

I want to thank all our team for all the good work and fun that we have had over the years, especially Eric and Dorothy who have been on the count since day one, Kurlene, Zan Jane, and Barry and all the dozens of others who have given up time to come out and join us. Big thanks to the drivers who have kept us safe over the years and who have obeyed my every command, well most of the time.
This year saw us get some sponsorship from the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society who gave us a grant for gas, we thank them big time for their kindness. We have over the ten years put a great deal of money in the pockets of the gas giants and our governments. This is one of the reasons that I am not sure whether we will continue as the costs are becoming prohibitive. There are many other ways for us to spend our sunny Wednesdays without using our vehicles so much and still collect some good data for other important bird projects and locations around the valley. Somenos Marsh, Quamichan Lake and Cowichan Bay could all do with a regular citizen science data collection Wednesday.
We as a group will discuss what we are going to do, but be sure there will be many reports coming to you what ever we decide and as long as my fingers work.

Derrick Marven

Photo Credits
Northern Shrike by Kurlene Wenberg
Anna’s Hummingbird by Kurlene Wenberg
Trumpeter Swan with a lump by Zan Stenhouse
Raven and Peregrine Falcon by Zan Stenhouse
Flying Wigeon by Zan Stenhouse
Rufous Hummingbird by Zan Stenhouse
Red-tailed Hawk by Denny Wagg
Canada Geese by Denny Wagg
Tundra Swan by Derrick Marven
Cow patty and flies by Derrick Marven
Belted Kingfisher by Derrick Marven
Goodbye to the swans by Derrick Marven