As soon as I approached the grounds just after 7.20am I could hear multiple American robins stirring in the big leaf maples, which seemed pretty promising. Soon I was hearing small groups of pine siskins calling away as they passed overhead, further adding to my optimism.
Approaching the start of the woodland trail I hit into my first flock of feeding birds. In among the usual chestnut-backed chickadees, bushtits and red-breasted nuthatches were several yellow-rumped warblers a single orange-crowned warbler and a couple of ruby-crowned kinglet.
A pair of downy woodpeckers picked their way through the garry oaks and 4 northern flickers squabbled noisily as they flew from tree to tree. On the ground, newly arrived golden-crowned and white-crowned sparrows were feeding along the path side, and then I noticed something quite different among them - a white-throated sparrow. This species, while not rare, is at best a scarce passage migrant on Vancouver Island and so I was rather pleased to encounter this individual.
As I continued along my regular route it became apparent that there were quite a few fox sparrows lurking in the denser areas, as well as a few Lincoln's sparrows. Joining the resident spotted towhees in the understory were at least 3 hermit thrushes, though I suspect more were scattered about the site.
Another surprise came in the form of a red-breasted sapsucker which flew low over the area, my first in the Government House grounds.
The distinctive, mournful calls of a varied thrush alerted me to the presence of a single bird sat in a fir - the first of what will doubtless be many in the coming weeks. Few birds sum up the Pacific Northwest better for us Brit birders than these dazzling forest dwellers!
As I rounded a corner at the western end of the woodland I noticed a large greyish bird preening on a branch. I couldn't see its head initially, and assumed it was a barred owl. Just as I raised my binocs for a proper look out popped its head, revealing a couple of intense yellow eyes and a couple of silly 'ears'. A cracking, if somewhat grumpy-looking great-horned owl. Only the second one I've seen in the grounds. This is without question the greyest great-horned owl that I have seen and doubtless belongs to the saturatus subspecies.
Red-necked and horned grebes were both present and as I chatted with fellow birder Daniel Donnecke a trio of elegant western grebes swam by, always a treat to see.
A dozen or so black turnstone were feeding alongside a couple of black oystercatchers off the point end, and the usual gaggle of mixed gulls including California, Heermann's, mew and glaucous-winged were present.
Mallard numbers have built up in the past few days (yippee) as have harlequin ducks and I noticed 4 American wigeon, my first of the autumn, flying over.
Overhead an impressive and steady stream of turkey vultures was moving southwest. Occasionally a group would stop and soar on a thermal before carrying on.
I estimated around 180 passed over me as I walked back to the office from the lake.