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Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Migrants Have Arrived

Friday after work I went down to Eagle Cove since a MacGillivray's warbler was reported there a day before. There are so many great places to visit on the island, and for some reason Eagle Cove isn't one I go to all that often. Perhaps that's because in the summer it gets pretty crowded as one of the island's only sandy beaches; it's a popular sun-bathing spot and the shallow, protected waters also make swimming an attractive option, too. On this day there were a few other people there when I arrived, but they all left before I did, and for a while I had this amazing little cove to myself on a beautiful sunny, warm day. For a while I sat in the grass above the beach, where I took this panorama shot (click for a larger view - it's worth it):

The tide was pretty far out, so the tidepooling was excellent. In several places the pools looked almost like ant colonies there was so much bustling activity made up mostly of hermit crabs but also including fish and shrimp. There were lots of mussels, barnacles, and snails as well as a few anemone colonies. In one spot I found a lot of limpets, and these two had their "feet" extended instead of being sucked down onto the rock like I usually see them.

I wasn't able to relocate the MacGillivray's warbler, but there was a decent amount of bird activity in the tunnel-like deciduous woody area on the way down to the beach. Pine siskins and American goldfinches were calling from the upper branches. A gang of northwestern crows was upset about something. In the parking area I was surprised when this Bewick's wren flew out of the bushes and landed on the wheel of my car. It seemed really interested in it or the tire as it spent several minutes hopping around it.

There wasn't a lot of bird activity on the water other than a large flock of gulls. I did see a few surf scoters, a common loon, and a single harlequin duck. There may have been more out in the distance bu the back-lighting made it especially hard to see.

In addition to birds, sunshine, and tidepools, there was a nice variety of wildflowers to see. This one caught my eye in part because I didn't recognize it, but then I found a sign explaining it's a highly invasive species called yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdulon), and they were discouraging people from taking it and helping it spread around the island.

Today after visiting the local farmer's market I headed out to English Camp where there is a particular stretch of trail that every year seems to turn up lots of year birds for me in early May:

Today was no exception. In a few minutes I added black-throated gray warbler (151), house wren (152), and Pacific-slope flycatcher (153) to my year list, and later on my walk I heard my first Wilson's warblers (154) of the year as well. The only one missing that I got here last year was a western tanager. In addition to these new arrivals, I heard and saw orange-crowned warblers, rufous hummingbirds, Cassin's vireos, red-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, pine siskins, and more. It was awesome to just stand there and listen to it all!

I walked partway up Mt. Young and into the open fields on the south side where a trail leads into a Garry oak meadow:

While I saw some spotted coralroot blooming in the woods, there was manroot in blossom all over the place out here:

The bird life changed from the more woodland species to a variety of purple finches, American goldfinches, violet-green swallows, turkey vultures, and white-crowned sparrows. I caught this white-crowned sparrow just as he took flight:

I looped back down to towards the lower part of English Camp in part to check on the opsrey nest, which is dutifully being rebuilt after being blown down again over the winter. Down at the parade grounds there were the usual Canada geese, a trio of black oystercatchers, two pairs of starlings already feeding young in the eaves of one of the old buildings, and still 15 or so bufflehead out in the bay. I walked back up the officer's quarters trail and turned around to take in this stunning view looking back down on the parade grounds:

As warm as it's been in the last two days (I haven't had to put on a jacket or sweatshirt once!), it's supposed to be even warmer tomorrow and I'm sure there will be more time spent outside. Here's hoping I find some more birds among the newly arrived summer residents, and oh yeah, it would be great if those orcas would show up soon, too!


Vera said...

Really enjoyed this blog. You were busy covering a lot of places on the island! I'm glad you had such beautiful weather (we did too!).

Robyn said...

Thanks for the beautiful pictures and reminders of him. I'm from Victoria, BC and boat and visit often in the San Juans. Currently landlocked in Ontario but hope to get back soon. Your pictures are a great inspiration to do that!

Robyn said...

reminder of HOME...not him! lol