Monday, December 5, 2011

Row Boat Birding and Island Exploring

We recently acquired a small aluminum row boat. It is proving to be a wonderful way to get out and see birds in their habitat, rather than standing on shore peering at them through a scope from several kilometeres away. Now that we are living on the shore of the Salish Sea, we are finding ourselves checking the weather first thing after getting out of bed, to see if it looks safe for rowing offshore.
Today Donna and I rowed out to Gerald Island, which is a small uninhabited island just over a kilometer offshore from Moorecroft Regional Park, in Nanoose. Coming and going, we saw a fair diversity of gulls, loons, sea ducks, grebes and alcids. Once on shore at Gerald Island, we were surprised at the numbers of passerines, which were higher than what we are used to at Moorecroft, a short distance away. Undoubtedly, this is due to the habitat on Gerald Island, which is largely made up of thickets of Nootka Rose and Oceanspray, broken bands of Douglas Fir Big-Leaf Maple and Arbutus forest, and large rock outcrops covered by mosses, various low growing plants, and the occasional Rocky Mountain Juniper tree, whereas Moorecroft is primarily dense conifer forest.
Although the overall bird diversity on Gerald Island was low, we did encounter an unexpected species, with four White-winged Crossbills calling from atop a fir tree. This species does occur on Vancouver Island in low numbers, but sightings are only rarely reported, especially on the east coast of the island south of Campbell River.
Birds noted on and around Gerald Island today;
Harlequin Duck: 11
Surf Scoter: 4
White-winged Scoter: 2
Long-tailed Duck: 2
Bufflehead: 18
Common Merganser: 2
Red-breasted Merganser: 9
Pacific Loon: 112
Common loon: 10
Horned Grebe: 4
Red-necked Grebe" 8
Western Grebe: 32
Brandt's Cormorant: 5
Double-crested Cormorant: 3
Pelagic Cormorant: 9
Bald Eagle: 5
Merlin: 1
Mew Gull: 39
California Gull: 14 (all albertensis type)
Herring Gull: 3
Thayer's Gull: 11
Glaucous-winged Gull: 59
Common Murre: 6
Pigeon Guillemot: 1
Marbled Murrelet: 18
Belted Kingfisher: 1
Northern Flicker: 6
Red-breasted Sapsucker: 1
Northwestern Crow: 3
Common Raven: 1
Bewick's Wren: 3
Winter Wren: 14
Golden-crowned Kinglet: 59
Ruby-crowned Kinglet: 11
American Robin: 28
European Starling: 3
Spotted Towhee: 10
Fox Sparrow: 21
Song Sparrow: 25
Dark-eyed Junco: 53
Purple Finch: 6
Red Crossbill: 27
White-winged Crossbill: 4

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