Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Vancouver and Victoria

Wednesday November 28

The weather forecast for the next few days did not look too promising, with rain expected to begin this afternoon. Our review of the forecasts suggested that today would be our best bet for taking the ferry to Vancouver, so that’s what we did, after a quick visit to Sidney pier.

Leaving the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay at 9:00 AM, we were pleased to see a good number of birds offshore, mostly cormorants, gulls and ducks and a few Pacific Loons. In Active Pass there was a big flurry of activity with at least twenty Bonaparte’s Gulls very close to the ferry as well as three species of alcid: Common Murre, Rhinoceros Auklet and Marbled Murrelet, but unfortunately no Ancient Murrelet.

Our target in Vancouver was a Tropical Kingbird which has been hanging around Boundary Bay for a few weeks. In fact both Ray and Brian had seen it, but not together on a team outing. We toured the various streets which terminate at Boundary Bay, 72nd, 96th, etc., checking out locations where the bird has been seen, but eventually we had to admit defeat. Both Short-eared and Snowy Owls were visible on the shore from the dyke. Rain began around 1 PM and continued on and off for the next few days. There were fewer birds on the return ferry ride and we drove back from Swartz Bay to the home of Mike and Joan Cowley in Victoria, who kindly put us up for the rest of our stay.

Thursday November 29

After yesterday’s lack of success we were determined to get today off to a good start, so we headed to Victoria’s Inner Harbour where Brown Pelicans have been seen recently, an unusual species in Canada at any time, and especially this late in the year. We were very pleased to see at least twelve of these impressive birds feeding hungrily, and some of them came very close to our location by the marina between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Laurel Point Inn [Species no. 507].

Brown Pelicans and gulls in a feeding frenzy, Victoria
Juvenile Brown Pelican
Ogden Point was our next port of call, but with the wind and pounding waves, not surprisingly we found that access to the breakwater was padlocked off. During the rest of the day we alternated between sea-watching from the several points and bays in Victoria, and some inland birding at Panama Flats and Hyacinth Park. We soon found the Harris’s Sparrow and two White-throated Sparrows recently reported at Hyacinth Park, as well as a remarkable leucistic Fox Sparrow.

Leucistic Fox Sparrow, Hyacinth Park, Victoria

Close by a Barred Owl perched on a willow, our best look of the year at this bird.

Barred Owl, Hyacinth Park, Victoria
We concluded the day scoping the offshore, enjoying a break in the rain and no doubt improving our skills at finding and identifying birds bobbing up and down in the waves, but not finding an Ancient Murrelet.

Scoping from Clover Point, Victoria

Friday November 30 

If I were a poet of Brian’s caliber I would try to come up with some verse channeling Coleridge called The Rime of the Ancient Murrelet, and containing the line “water, water, everywhere”. There was indeed no let-up in the rain, and we spent much of the morning scoping the offshore waters for signs of our nemesis, the Ancient Murrelet. We checked a few places we hadn’t visited yesterday, and finished up at Clover Point.

Unfortunately our efforts were in vain, as the pesky alcid remained elusive. The best we could come up with was a Marbled Murrelet at fairly close range.

Marbled Murrelet
Phil had to fly out after lunch, so after a quick visit to Swan Lake in hopes of adding Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher to our BC lists (no luck there either), we headed to the airport. We thus brought to a close what will probably be our last Fur and Feathers 500 out-of-province trip: “Not with a bang but a whimper… [T.S.Eliot]”

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