Vancouver Island – Part 4

 11 September, 2023

Clover Point, Victoria, BC

     As was our custom every day when in Victoria, we started our day with a visit to Clover Point, that little promontory of tranquility and exquisite wildlife on the edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

     The Trans Canada Trail begins there, wending its way across our vast land until kissing the Atlantic Ocean in Newfoundland, at the opposing end of the country, crossing the Rockies, wending its way across the prairies, through Ontario and the rarified air of francophone Québec, speeding through the Maritime Provinces, finally arriving at its terminus in St. John’s Newfoundland.

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     We are blessed to live in this diverse and interesting country, where people from all around the world have made their home.

     A juvenile Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni) shared the rocky shore with Glaucous-winged (Larus glaucescens) and California Gulls (Larus californicus).

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     The breeding season has ended for Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola), but it is still a distinctive and charming bird in its muted winter attire.

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     Tiny, frenetic Wester Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) were constantly bursting up from the rocks, only to settle again after making a couple of spectacular circuits of the cove. Here they are, dwarfed by an American Crow (Corvus brachyrynchos caurinus), an opportunistic resident of coastal British Columbia.

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     A Pacific Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina richardii) cruised up and down the inshore waters, popping its head up only briefly to snatch a breath.

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     Two Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) posed like well-behaved schoolchildren.

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     I am assuming that anyone who reads my blog is a lover of nature, so you will understand the sheer exhilaration of sharing the morning with these lively flocks of Western Sandpipers.

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     We were constantly entertained by their antics.

      Selwyn is possessed by insatiable curiosity and in turning over rocks found many Yellow Shore Crabs (Hemigrapsus oregonensis), enchanting little creatures that typically live under rocks in intertidal zones.

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     This small crab attains a maximum carapace size of 25 – 34 cm with females being bigger than males. They are common on Vancouver Island and despite their name name exhibit a wide range of colouration.

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     Just one more picture of a Western Sandpiper, I promise.

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     How can I resist?

     Selwyn and Miriam, diligently searching among the tide pools, found this Aggregating Anemone (Anthopteura elegantissima) which squirted water at them in retaliation for being disturbed.

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     Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) is a beautiful little flower, and it warms the heart to see them taking advantage of little patches of suitable soil to brighten up the littoral landscape.

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     A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) found floating wrack a convenient perch from which to launch its lightning attack on unsuspecting fish.

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Chinese Cemetery and Harling Point, Victoria, BC

     Each time that we have visited Victoria, Miriam and I have made it out to Harling Point; this time we were happy to have Victoria and Selwyn with us to add perspective to the location.

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      It seemed entirely appropriate that a stand of glorious California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) greeted us as we passed through the gate.

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     The view across the water was lovely.

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     A distant Common Murre (Uria aalge) refused to come any closer despite our pleas!

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     There seems to be hardly a stretch of coastline on Vancouver Island that does not harbour a few Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) – on the Great Lakes we dance a jig at one sighting in five years!

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     Surfbird (Calidris virgata) is the most unusual of the calidrine sandpipers, having the bill of a plover, and the chunkiness of one too. It was a great pleasure to come across it on several occasions.

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     Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) became such a firm favourite of Selwyn’s I might petition for its renaming. Selwyn’s Oystercatcher has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? No baggage of slave-owning or other undesirable features to engender controversy either.

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     Perhaps the two above are pondering the issue!

     Here are a couple more pictures of this enigmatic species.

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     A lone pleasure craft scudded by, perhaps piloted by a fellow who called in sick to the office this morning!

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     A platoon of cormorants sped over the water, far too distant to identify as to species, however.

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     You may have to take my word for it that the following distant bird is a Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata).

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     A Glaucous-winged Gull was actively searching among the Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) for tasty treats.

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     This one is about to have a seafood breakfast.

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     While we might think only of Savannah Sparrows as inhabitants of grasslands in southern Ontario, as befits their name, the subspecies brooksi is quite at home in the salt marshes of Vancouver Island.

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     American Crow is always on the lookout for an easy meal.

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     As we made our way back to the car we passed a house with hummingbird feeders and blossoms that attracted Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna), and we spent a pleasant half hour in their company, even chatting to the homeowner who was pleased to share her success with four Ontarians.

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     It was lunch time so we headed back to Helm’s Inn where we had food in the fridge, and then left to go to…….

Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site and Fisgard Lighthouse, Colwood, BC

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     Whenever we have visited Fort Rodd one of the first birds to be seen, often in the parking area is Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus).

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     True to form it showed up early, although on this occasion we had to wait until we were past the gate, having paid our admission.

     It was followed up in short order by a Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens).

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     A White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) was perched on a fence.

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     Puget Sound Gumweed (Grindelia integrifolia) was a joy to behold.

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     Grasshoppers are far beyond my field of expertise but I am fairly sure this handsome specimen is Camnula pellucida.

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     There was in general a paucity of birds at this location, but a gaggle of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) imparted a degree of warm familiarity.

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     A White-crowned Sparrow looked askance at us as we made ready to leave.

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Esquimalt Lagoon, Colwood, BC

     It is a very short distance from Fort Rodd to Esquimalt Lagoon, at times an excellent location for a wide range of species.

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     As soon as we disembarked from the car we were greeted by Long-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus) feeding in their characteristic sewing machine fashion.

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     A small flock of Western Sandpipers appeared skittish, settling in one location briefly, and then bursting into the air.

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     Victoria and I were intently watching them while Miriam and Selwyn did a little beachcombing, and suddenly they exploded in front us, as a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) knifed though the air, intent on a kill. It was an unsuccessful assault, but the reason for the shorebirds’ nervousness was apparent.

     The gulls stayed on a sandbar and seemed not to be subject to attack as far as we could see.

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     Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) was common, often hanging around vehicles, no doubt vigilant for crumbs discarded by humans snacking at the water’s edge.

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Brewer’s Blackbird (♀)

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Brewer’s Blackbird ♂

     A Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) no doubt also hoped for a morsel or two.

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     It was time to leave to return to the Helms Inn to relax a little before dinner.

     We ate at The Spaghetti Factory, where Miriam had penne with chicken and I chose Seafood Alfredo. Both were delicious. I didn’t record what Selwyn and Victoria had but I know they were happy with their selection.

     We walked back “home” filled with the unique satisfaction that derives from good birding with good friends. There is no better feeling, of that you may be sure.

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