Monday, 21 December 2015

December 21

The wetter weather has, for the most part, kept me from spending time outdoors (as has studying flora, biogeoclimatic ecological classification, interviews and christmas preparations) but I did participate in 2 christmas bird counts this week.

The Nanoose CBC (held Friday December 18th) was not the most productive with only 22 species being observed. Low numbers were expected as the route our group birded was along logging roads in areas of active logging.  We were able to drive up to 440m in elevation where we were pleased to find a Gray Jay (the only one for the count).  I was informed (and have not yet confirmed) that forestry only pays for timber hauled out, and not what is cut.  Sadly, these clear cut areas had many felled trees that have clearly been left behind.  Hopefully over the years these downed trees will provide the soil with nutrients for new growth.  Personally I feel the forestry industry should be held accountable for all that is cut, not just what is hauled out!

It would appear that the trees in the higher elevations (possibly Mountain Hemlock Ecozone) are either not reachable by foresters, or not profitable to invest in harvesting.

The Parksville CBC (held Sunday December 20th) was significantly more productive than the Nanoose CBC for me.  With 72 species observed, and some impressive numbers of pacific loon (600+) and western grebe (30), it was clear that the ocean is where the action is!  Numbers for scoters was lower than previous years and some dirt birds were also not discovered by our group (rock pigeon and house sparrow for example), but compared to Friday this was very "birdy".

 Snow covered mountainous ridges (with clear cutting beneath)
 Black Scoter
 Surf Scoter
 River Otter enjoying some Sculpin sp
Merlin perched near the blueberry farms.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

November 29th.....Gabriola Island

Today we took a quick trip over to Gabriola Island to do a little hiking.  The island is approximately 60 square kilometres with a population of ~4000.  There appears to be significant green space on the island but driving down the main roads certainly reveals the extent of urban development (predominately personal dwellings).

We visited 3 main sites on the Island: Descanso Bay Regional Park, Malaspina Galleries and Drumbeg Park.

The highlight of the trip was the Orca observed breaching numerous times ~800m south of the shoreline at Drumbeg Park with the only interesting birds seen being Marbled Murrelets.

Below are some photos from the day
Descanso Bay (snorkel gear in the summer time seems like a great idea)

 Descanso Bay (a spot to check come spring)

Heavily eroded rock Malaspina Galleries

 Barrows Goldeneye & Surf Scoter

Marbled Murrelet 

 Dorsal fin of the Orcinus orca

Possibly Antlered Perfume (E. prunastri)
Possibly Beaded Bone (H. enteromorpha)....potentially more than 1 species of lichen here.

Friday, 27 November 2015

November 27th.

I have been neglecting the blogging lately, mostly because I have not seen much I felt worthy of blogging.  That being said, I figured a few photos from various day trips would help fill the void of any followers (LOL).

On November 22 we decided to climb to the summit of Mt Benson in Nanaimo.  From what we could see the warmer weather had resulted in some snow melt which would make the climb a bit easier (especially to get to the top).

This was a "lung buster" of a climb as the majority of the trip up is a steep slope (>45 degrees), and consequently your knees take a beating on the way down.

There was not a large diversity of birds observed this trip, but that is to be expected at the higher elevations this time of year.

The following are some photos of flora or fauna observed

Ragbag Lichen (Platismatia glauca)
Menzies' Wintergreen (Chimaphila menziesii)

Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) at the summit of Mt Benson

 A photo of myself with Nanimo and the Straight of Grogia behind me

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

November 18th

It has been a while since I dedicated some time to birding so with low winds and a clear sky I set out with scope and binos in hand.

I drove up to Qualicom River Estuary hitting the usual spots along the way (Englishman River Estuary, Mouth of French Creek, Qualicom Beach).  Overall it was a productive day with 56 species observed.

The following are some photos from today..

Englishman River Estuary

Surf Scoter

Female California Quail

Male and Female California Quail

Dunlin Rock

Monday, 9 November 2015

November 9 - Western Toad Tracking

Today I was fortunate enough to join a local research project which involves the radio tracking of Western Toads (Anaxyrus boreas).  It has been a while since I radio tracked herptiles, so this was an exciting trip.  Getting to the close proximity of the individuals was not the challenge, but finding them proved to be more challenging than the snakes I had radio tracked back in Ontario.  Regardless, we found a few individuals above ground and after data was collected a quick photograph of this handsome guy was taken.

                                      Western Toad with waistband transmitter

Pacific Treefrogs (Pseudacris regilla) were very vocal today (hearing frogs vocalizing in November is very much a treat for someone from Ontario), and we were were lucky enough to observe one on the ground.

Pacific Treefrog

No interesting birds observed today but I did have my eyes directed on the ground rather than towards the sky.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

November 3...Campbell River

Today I made my way up to Campbell River for an interview and had to be back in Nanaimo for 5 to assist with some amphibian surveys so exploring Campbell River was restricted to a couple quick stops.

We visited the Quinsam River Salmon Hatchery to have a look at some salmon.  This hatchery allows visitors to get good looks at pink, coho and chinook salmon at various stages of their development. 

Salmon making its way over an obstacle 

 Salmon attempting to get over a larger obstacle

Before returning back to Nanaimo, we took the scenic route along the ocean to look for some birds, there wasn't anything outside of the ordinary but there were some pleasant scenic views.

Ohh, there was one bird worth mentioning, I didn't think much of it at first as they are fairly common back in Ontario, but this Snow Bunting is apparently not so commonly reported on Vancouver Island.

Snow Bunting along the beach

Friday, 30 October 2015

October 30th.....A quick look off the balcony resulted in an impressive show from this California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) devouring, what is likely, a chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta).  California Sea Lion are often mis-identified as Stellar Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) as both occur in the area.  Typically, only male California Sea Lion migrate to BC waters during fall/winter and one way to tell the two species apart is coloration.  California Sea Lion are much darker than Stellar Sea Lion, and almost appear black when in the water. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Oct 29, Nanaimo River Estuary

A quick trip to this nearby birding hot spot proved to be eventful this morning.  The drive along the river resulted in 27 Barrows Goldeneye, a rather common winter bird for the area, but a bird that I twitched many times in Ontario and more times than not, got skunked on.

Another common bird for this spot was a Northern Shrike, which many of us watched make a failed attempt at a Dark Eyed Junco (at about 10ft from where we were standing).

The big prize was a Short Eared Owl; with good, but distant views, we were able to observe this owl for a short amount of time.

Having only been in BC for 23 days, I have managed to see 104 species in that time.  There are ~30 birds nearby that I need for the province ticklist, hopefully I pick them up before next year.

Friday, 23 October 2015

October 23 ... Alcid and Gull Blissfullness

On a spur of the moment decision we made our way down to Victoria (the provincial capital) to twitch some Alcids and Gulls that have been reported frequently in this part of the Island. Having been a Southwestern Ontario resident for many years, the chance to see Alcids (sometimes referred to as the penguins of the north) has been a big draw for me to the coastal birding hotspots.

We were fortunate to see: Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet at Cattle Point in the southern part of the Island.  These birds were a significant distance from the shoreline and a spotting scope was required (but a boat would have made the viewing experience significantly better). I apologize for the photos as they are not the best, but the Nikon P600 UltraZoom did the best it could.  Sadly, the Marbeled Murrelet were scared off by a sail boat before photos could be taken...the one that got away!!!

Adult nonbreeding plumage Pigeon Guillemot

Nonbreeding plumage Common Murre

 Adult nonbreeding plumage Rhinoceros Auklet

Other notable birds seen today included a Heermans Gull, Brandt's cormorant and some Surf Birds.

 Heermann's Gull posing nicely


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

October 20th...Scoters, Loons, Grebes and Sea Lions

It has been a few days since I have seen the sun, not because I was indoors, but because the overcast weather has been preventing me from seeing that giant burning ball of gas.  With this great weather, I decided to make it out birding for the morning.  The first stop was Qualicom Beach, a great spot with a significant amount of pull off parking to allow for beach access, or in my case, viewing opportunities with the spotting scope.

There was a significant amount of bird activity in the area, not the greatest diversity in species, but certainly high numbers of birds.

 A quick snapshot of part of the water...this was the view for many kms

A few Black Scoter that got close enough for me to take a photo

 This Black Turnstone was a lifer bird for me, it was great to see one up close.

I observed a total of 5 Sea lion between Little Qualicom River Estuary and Neck Point Park. A couple appeared to be California but there were some Stellar Sea Lion present as well. The individual presented above looks like a California Sea Lion based on its almost black coloration (Stellar are lighter in coloration).

This White Crowned Sparrow was one of the few cooperative photo subjects today.

Only 39 species of bird observed today, but Black Scoter and Black Turnstone were year birds for me, so I cant complain.  There were large numbers of Pacific Loon moving around, with Common Loon seen in good numbers as well.  All 3 scoter species were around in high numbers, with Surf Scoter being the most abundant with White-Winged and Black trailing behind.

The biggest miss today was a Pigeon Guillemot that was reported yesterday at Neck Point....this is a bird I am excited to see, but have missed twice now...hopefully I will have that lifer bird tick sooner than later.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Caudata Surprise

Today was overcast with a bit of rain in the morning, but nothing that would keep us inside.  We decided to try one of the regional parks outside of Nanaimo for something new.  It was not long before we came across these two Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii) which was a great surprise as I had never seen this species before.
Two Ensatina found under some leaf litter

 An interesting note about this species is that they are entirely terrestrial, rarely (if ever) entering standing water (something rare for amphibians).  If threatened, Ensatina will rise up on all four legs and caudal lure (a process where the tail is wiggling to distract a potential predator).  If continually harassed the Ensatina will deliberately brake off its tail at the base leaving the wiggling appendage behind while the salamander escapes.  This individual appeared to have had enough of my interactions that it started to raise the tail.  It was released back to where it was found to prevent appendage loss (the process of regrowing a tail would be calorically costly).

Ensatina arching its tail and secreting a little bit of white noxious poison

After completing this trail we decided to try our luck at the Englishman River Estuary.  Tide was in so we hoped to see a plethora of birds.  American Wigeon were high in numbers, as were Northern Pintails with Black Bellied Plover, Dunlin and Long-Billed Dowitchers being the interesting shorebirds.  Sadly no Black Turnstone to be found or Pacific Golden Plover to be seen, both reported in this location earlier in the month).

Along the ocean side, I was awarded with a good number of Pacific Loon as well as a single Red Throated Loon and an Eared Grebe.  There were many other birds observed but the loons and grebe were the prized sights.  This was my first time visiting this birding location, and I am certain I will visit this location frequently.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

I dedicated this morning to some birding, in an effort to catchup with what species I need for the Island.  Having visited 3 spots: Neck Point Park, Pipers Lagoon and Buttertubs Marsh, I was able to see ~50 species.  This is no great accomplishment as there are many more species of birds in the area..but it is not a bad morning of birding.

Neck Point Park

First, I must say, this is one of the nicest parks I have visited in Nanaimo, there are likely equally as beautiful parks in the area, but I have not yet visited them.  The park has many trails, one that goes along the shore line and many that pass through the park interior.  Possibly, what made this park so pleasant, aside from the birding, was the many vantage points along the shore line to give birders great views.

There were many good birds to be seen as well, with Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani), Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) and California Gull (Larus californicus) topping the list.

 BLOY and HADU hanging out

 PECO showing nicely

 CAGU being very photo friendly

Pipers Lagoon

Although less birdy, this was a pleasant quick hike with a couple nice suprise birds including Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica), and Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta).  There are also a pair of resident bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nesting in the area. 

  BAEA has the best vantage point in the area

 It took a while, but this WEME finally allowed me to photograph it

Buttertubs Marsh

I was starting to get hungry and thirsty, but I wanted to swing by the Marsh (only an 8 minute drive from my place) to see what birds could be found.  Lighting was not ideal for photographing birds, so this section will be shy on bird photos.  That being said, I did take some habitat photos.