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.


Monday, 12 October 2015

A quick walk along the footpath behind Maffeo Sutton Park did not result in a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities, that being said, we did get good looks at a few mew gulls(Larus canus) as well as this pair of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina).

 They appear to be rather affectionate towards each other

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Thanksgiving Day Hike

Today I took Amanda to the Cowichan Lake trail, a popular location for accessing the fishing runs along the Cowichan river.  Our goal was to find some amphibians, mainly salamanders but we would be happy with toads and frogs.  Sadly, we were only able to find a couple western red-back salamanders (Plethodon vehiculum).

We arrived at the trail a bit later in the day and the forest was not particularly  birdy.  There where many Golden-Crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) and Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) to be heard and seen.

However, we were fortunate enough to get good looks at this Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius), despite it being somewhat camera shy.

Other birds seen on this trip included:

Pacific Wren
Belted Kingfisher
Pileated Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Common Raven
Great Blue Heron
American Robin
Brown Creeper

Friday, 9 October 2015

Today I was fortunate enough to have a local fishing enthusiast let me tag along and get familiar with the Cowichan River.  Having spent many years fishing the brown trout fishery on the grand river in Ontario I was not prepared for the beauty the Cowichan river had to offer. Fishing a cobblestone river with mountains in the background is only something I have read about and not experienced myself.

Furthermore, the trail to the river passes through a forest which was exceptionally green with moss covered trees, moss on the forest floor, an abundance of ferns as well as various fungi.

The weather fluctuated from rainy to very rainy all day, given the rain it was not shocking to see a variety of amphibians.  Being a salamander enthusiast, I was excited when my fishing partner mentioned seeing a salamander while eating lunch (I was fishing of time for food) but was deeply saddened when we could not re-find it (this was a fishing trip so we could not spend too much time herping).  We did come across a western toad (Bufo boreas) as well as what I am sure was an adult red-legged frog (Rana aurora)...unfortunately I was not fast enough at catching it for a photo to confirm.

The fishing was not fantastic but I did manage to hook a rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), however I never got it in the net. My fishing partner landed 3 with this 14" being the highlight.

Bird species seen on this trip include:

American Dipper
Pacific Wren
Common Merganser

Thursday, 8 October 2015

A walk in the park.

This afternoon we (Amanda, the dog and I) decided to take a walk around Maffeo Sutton Park. There was not a significant amount of bird activity but we did get good looks at a Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), Golden-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) as well as other common birds in the area.
Harlequin Duck
Golden-Crowned Sparrow
Horned Grebe

Other birds seen this trip were:

Hutton's Vireo
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Great Blue Heron
Belted Kingfisher
Spotted Towhee
House Sparrow
Bewick's Wren
Thayers Gull
Northwestern Crow
Common Raven

Having spent the majority of my life in the fairly flat regions of south-western Ontario, seeing these mountains around Banff Alberta was an experience that is challenging to describe in photos will have to suffice.

A quick look off the balcony this morning resulted in the discovery of a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus), a rather common bird for the area.

Shortly after, I had the pleasure of watching a small group of river otters (Lutra canadensis) hunt in the bay, a great treat for someone who just moved from South Western Ontario.

Other birds seen from the balcony include:

Anna's Hummingbird
Thayers Gull
Spotted Towhee
Chestnut backed chickadee
Double-crested cormorant
Northwestern Crow
Common Raven
Great Blue Heron
Belted Kingfisher