Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Begins

The southeast storms have begun, flocks of birds are flying south, the minkes have mostly disappeared, the chum are running, the days are shorter than they are long and the wood-stove is going. All this, and it's not even October yet. The summer has been filled with fantastic sightings but mostly from places other than home. That said, however, I did see minkes from home on 6 occasions this past summer. Orcas, humpbacks, lags and porpoises also passed by on occasion but not as frequently as the minkes did.
A few other noteworthy things happened during the last month. First, the white-crowned sparrows finally fledged 2 chicks on August 24th. I have a feeling there was an earlier failed attempt based on the photos I took of them mating earlier in the summer. Shortly after that, there seemed to be only one sparrow around for the longest time. It would sit in the arbutus tree and sing from dusk till dawn. I figured it had lost it's mate but then in mid August I noticed 2 sparrows. By the 24th there were 4, 2 of which were chicks. The following pictures show one of the parents with food for one of the fledglings and one of the fledglings shortly after it landed in the back of my truck. By early-mid September they were all gone.

Second, on September 24th I caught 3 northwestern garter snakes on Village Island and let them go in my backyard here in Alert Bay. I had been debating whether this was a good idea or not for some time and finally figured it is worth a try as the species already occurs in both places already. The only differences are that the density is much higher at the old village site on village island than it is my backyard and that village island seems to contain different colour morphs while the snakes in my backyard are all mostly brownish. The ones I brought home were a young brown one with a red stripe, a regular coloured brownish all over one and a pure black one that almost looks bluish from certain angles. The red striped snake and the black snake are shown below.

Third, and lastly, I saw a Pacific Golden Plover from home today. With the tide quite high there was not a lot of real estate left for this bird so it was hanging out on and near the seawall. This is the first time I have seen this species from home. Other migratory species seen today include, Greater white-fronted goose, orange-crowned warbler and savannah sparrow.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


At one point yesterday from the kitchen I could see the following species in the yard.
-American Robin
-White-crowned Sparrow
-Yellow-rumped Warbler
-Yellow Warbler
-Wilson's Warbler
-Pine Siskin
-American Crow
-Anna's Hummingbird
-Rufous Hummingbird
-European Starling
It was the first time all year that I'd seen those warbler species and the first time ever that I'd seen a Wilson's warbler from home. Shane was chasing the siskins who were mating while the single Yellow-rumped warbler foraged in the driveway. The hummingbirds only just began feeding at the feeder again. It was the first day I had seen rufous feeding at the feeder all year. Both males and females of both species were seen. The female Anna's dominated the feeder.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


During the first spring living here I was surprised to see white-crowned sparrows in and around the yard as most field guides show their distribution to end about half way up Vancouver Island. While watching them one day the name Shane popped into my head and it seemed a fitting match for them. I had only ever known 2 Shane's in my life as a boy and they were both really nice kids. Later that same day I found out that one of the Shane's that I had known so many years previous had just been killed in a motorcycle accident.

Shane's Life

Shane continues to come back to the yard every spring after being absent from late summer onwards. He becomes increasingly tame as time goes on. Last year, Shane and Shane nested in the hedge next to the fence and had 2 broods. The first was fledged on May 29th and the second on July 28th. On one occasion I was able to watch from 10 feet away as Shane gathered insects from the garden and fed them to a fledging hiding amongst the plants. If you closely in the photos you can see Shane with insects in his beak in one frame and the gape of fledgling with adult Shane off to the side in the next frame.

This year, Shane returned on April 24th along with some Golden-crowned sparrows who did not stay for too long. Sightings were sporadic until just recently when yesterday I witnessed Shane gathering nesting material in the backyard. Today, Shane and Shane were mating in the front yard. (see photos) It is interesting to note that things are happening much later for them this year likely in relation to the cooler weather than usual that we've been having here. As the Pugetensis sub-species of White-crowned Sparrow affectionately referred to as Shane is a common sight from home I expect more blogs on the topic will be published in the future.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


2 Whimbrels flew past today and then landed on the beach out front. They got chased by some crows then landed again. 1 foraged while the other watched the sky nervously. They then flew off to the north. This is the first time I have seen Whimbrels from home. They have been added to the list below. (Photo from past sighting off Stephenson Islands)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring Migration

During the last week of April many migrants returned to their summer home and/or passed by mine on the way. Species seen for the first time this year during the last week were:

White-crowned Sparrow (Pugetensis)
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
House Finch
Orange-crowned Warbler
Minke Whale

Other migratory species seen near home but not from home include:

Rufous Hummingbird
Violet-green Swallow
Bonaparte's Gull
Humpback Whale

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Spotted a mink from the living room so went down to the beach to take some photos. The little animal was quite approachable as it hunted among the rocks for eels. It got mobbed by a crow on a couple different occasions but eventually carried on with it's hunt and managed to catch an eel half the length of it's body. It disappeared under a rock pile with it to feed in peace at which point I left.