Sunday, 25 November 2012

Palm Friday

Northern harrier
Amongst the confusion and chaos that inevitably occurs in the process of moving home, I have been thankful to find a few moments of escape in the past few days. On Friday I chose to abandon my recent obsession with all things oceanic and headed for the wonderful Panama Flats. My main target was to find a Eurasian teal in with the multitude of green-winged teal (despite the fact that I'll be doing it the other way round in week's time!). Of course, the optimist in me was really searching through the females in search of a Baikal teal. Well if a citrine wagtail can show up on Vancouver Island, so can pretty much anything...
As I got out of the car I glanced over toward the wee sparrow-fest taking place by the path at Hyacinth Park. One each of tan- and white-striped white-throated sparrow were feeding alongside golden-crowned, white-crowned, song and house sparrows plus several fox sparrows, including the 'resident' partial albino bird. This really is a striking individual, with at least 70% of its feathers being pure white. I didn't see hide nor hair of the Harris's sparrow unfortunately.
With water levels now at an impressive height, the flats are teeming with birds. On the downside the volume of water is such that access is fairly restricted even with wellies. As a result, a full circular walk of the perimeter is impossible and I could only make it to the southeastern quadrant if I was prepared to fully retrace my steps back to Hyacinth. The good news is that I had time and I was able to give the whole site a fairly decent bit of coverage over the 3 hours or so that I was there.
I scoured the dabblers but failed to locate any Euro-teal although I did spy 4 Eurasian wigeon in among the mass of American wigeon. Pintail numbers continue to impress, and alongside the many mallard there were also a few northern shoveler and gadwall. Bufflehead and American coot were present in small numbers and a lone drake ruddy duck was on the southwest quadrant pool.
As I trudged along the muddy bank path I flushed half a dozen Wilson's snipe from a boggy patch. By the end of my visit this number had doubled, although I expect that the true figures far eclipsed those seen. 

Red-tailed hawk
Raptors were few with just one northern harrier (pictured above), bald eagle and 2 red-tailed hawk seen. One of the red-tails appeared to have an over-long deformed bill (pictured).
Along the eastern edge of the flats I came across large numbers of foraging sparrows including good numbers of Lincoln's sparrows. Among a group of these near the grey building I was delighted to see a cracking adult swamp sparrow who charmed me with stunning out-in-the-open views.
A group of bushtits actively feeding by the path close to the Gladioli entrance (well, it would be an entrance if it wasn't under 2 feet of water) looked promising and I scanned through the darting birds in the hope of spotting something more transient. After a couple of minutes of being diverted by ruby-crowned kinglets I finally noticed a warbler. Hmmm, an eastern 'Taiga' orange-crowned warbler by the looks of it. Then it was gone. The flock moved away and I was stood staring into a birdless vista.

Western meadowlark
Determined to make sure that the grey-headed warbler was in fact 'just' an orange-crowned I chased down the roving bushtits and after a few anxious moments I was able to confirm its identity. Then another warbler popped up. This was no orange-crowned; it was clearly a palm warbler. Nice! It gave decent views for about 10 seconds before dashing off and vanishing into the undergrowth.
Only the second palm warbler that I've seen on the island, my first being one that I found at the Nanaimo River Estuary soon after my arrival on the island in 2009. In fact, checking the dates the two birds were only 3 days apart!
The flock once again moved off and faced with the discovery that I was flooded in I turned about face and walked the whole way round again. En route back to Hyacinth I did get to see swamp sparrow again and a dazzling western meadowlark (pictured) made a welcome appearance. 

3 comments:

  1. Hey up Jon

    Given your "other way around teal" comment are you Blighty bound? Have to see if I can make one of my rare(ish) forays to the wrong side of the pennines whilst you;re around!

    All the best

    Greg

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  2. Hello John
    It looks like attempts to email you failed so I'll try it this way

    When do you want your newspaper column back!!!

    See you soon - looks like you will probably see the lesser yellowlegs before I do, assuming the short bit of frost hasnt shifted it!

    Regards

    Pete

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  3. I saw a lot of these birds right outside my window. It was so awesome! I love living in Victoria!

    William | Windows Victoria BC

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