Author Topic: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season  (Read 21375 times)

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Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #60 on: September 22, 2014, 09:20:07 PM »
No, Deb, I was sort of waiting for them to do that spinning, but they didn't. They pivoted 180 degrees once in a while. They were picking at some loose bits of seaweed that were floating on the water.

Offline Cawatcher

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #61 on: September 23, 2014, 06:17:45 AM »
Wren what a fantastic series. Thank you for sharing ♥

Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #62 on: September 23, 2014, 08:15:31 PM »
Ten days later, I had some time off and was at last able to return to this territory to see what else migration times would bring.
From one day to the next, you never know what you will encounter.

My trip of September 20 started off slow, with very few birds except a group of Mew Gulls and the usual Harlequins. I paddled around St.John's Point and to the cliffs of Helliwell, where I disturbed a few Pelagic Cormorants who were perching onto rocks the size of my fist, on a quasi-vertical rock face. I hadn't expected to find them there!
September 20, 3:57 pm



The chicks must be flying by now, because we're seeing more cormorants perching on the reefs. There were several on the cliffs here but I kept missing them until I was right below them.
They were panting in the full sun.




Here's one section of cliff with one cormorant on it. Not that obvious, for such a big bird.


Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #63 on: September 23, 2014, 08:30:45 PM »
Still, it wasn't shaping up to be much of a wildlife outing. And I was content just to be winding my way along the shore on a beautiful sunny day, the last day of summer.

And then...

And then I came around a corner and right in front of me was a whole family of river otters.
September 20, 4:16 pm



They stared at me for a few seconds, then one by one they took to the water, spyhopping high to try to figure out what I was.
Except one, who was busy on shore, with a strange blue something!




A fish!
A small Ling Cod! Some of them are blue-green like that. We see the underside of it, with the head pointing down, in that first picture.
I used to think they were a different fish, but my field guide says that Ling Cods occasionally have that colour (the flesh turns white in cooking). Greenlings are a different fish altogether. (I learn something every day.)
That's a pretty big catch for an otter!





Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #64 on: September 23, 2014, 09:02:01 PM »
Around the next corner, I was in the open area between St. John's point, the eastern tip of the island proper, and Flora Islet. This stretch of water, deserted on my way over, was now dotted with birds.

There were a few Common Murres again, too far for good photos.

Some smaller brown birds turned out to be Pigeon Guillemots again. Now that the adults are moulting into winter plumage, I can't tell them apart from the young ones.
September 20, 4:30



Then I thought I was spotting some Marbled Murrelets, but through the lens they looked too big and chunky. Not to mention dark. But smaller than Murres.
A new bird?
My best guess was that I was seeing Rhinoceros Auklets, in winter plumage, or else some fledglings. It was somewhere tucked away in a small fold of my memory that I had seen them mentioned on a checklist for the area, years ago.
Turns out there were some of each, maybe four or five birds altogether, but swimming singly.  
A new bird indeed!
This one is an adult in winter garb. The youngsters have a darker bill.
4:33



Sure dives like an Alcid!
Wings open, feet sticking straight up in the air.
I love how the feet flick up little necklaces of water drops.




It was turning to be an Alcid day!

Offline OpieK

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #65 on: September 24, 2014, 12:24:53 AM »
oh my goodness - necklaces of water!

Offline Cawatcher

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #66 on: September 24, 2014, 06:25:59 AM »
Super Duper shots of the otters!!

Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #67 on: September 24, 2014, 10:15:21 PM »
The outer reefs of Flora Islet were full of birds.
There were hundreds of Black Turnstones. Usually these are not very shy, but this time they took off as I approached. But the Surfbirds, gulls and oystercatchers stayed put.

It amazes me how many species of birds seem quite happy to share a roosting space.
Here we have a Thayer's Gull, some Heermann's Gulls, some Surfbirds (part of a large flock, at least a hundred on that rock, more on nearby reefs) and a Black Oystercatcher (one of about twenty).
September 20, 4:53 pm



The current took me closer and I got some really nice views of the Surfbirds.
4:54







Like many birds, they look somewhat strange when seen head on.









Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #68 on: September 24, 2014, 10:22:25 PM »
Another Surfbird...
September 20, 4:55 pm



An Oystercatcher...




And some lovely Heermann's Gulls. All on that same reef.




Offline gmadeb3

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #69 on: September 25, 2014, 02:33:05 PM »
Great Photos,  in the one Heermanns you can see straight through the nose on its beak.  Wonderful variety
A smile is the universal welcome- Max Eastman

Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #70 on: September 26, 2014, 11:26:00 PM »
After a stop on Flora Islet I met another birder who was kayaking around the area.
We returned together toward Whaling Station and were treated to some more unusual sightings.

Right in front of us, two birds surfaced, realised what we were, and quickly took off. I figured they had to be loons, from the general shape and the way they swam. But not Common Loons: the shape was all wrong. Pacifics then? There seemed to be some lighter colour on their napes, and I had a glimpse of vertical striping. My companion countered that they looked way too dark.
Off those two mysterious birds flew, showing a white belly and proving that they weren't cormorants seen by a wren with too much imagination. But in all that I had had time to snap a few photos.

When I finally saw the pictures on the computer my mouth fell open. "Whaaaaat???"

The birds were Red-throated Loons!
I had glimpsed some of them in the past, at herring season in the middle of feed balls, but had never been able to prove it. These are not officially rare birds around here, according to the litterature; nevertheless few people seem to encounter them. In winter plumage, from a distance, they would be hard to tell apart from Common Loons.
But here they were... Still in their elegant summer garb. Here they are.
September 30, 5:40











Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #71 on: September 27, 2014, 12:27:11 AM »
It's possible that we failed to see the Red-throated Loons earlier because we were both watching a large feed ball closer to Cape Gurney. We approached as far as we dared to without frightening the birds, and waited, immobile, watching. Our luck held and we drifted closer, or they did.

The core of the party, as usual, was a gathering of gulls. One of them in this picture, probably a young Glaucous-winged, is taking off with a small fish.




Further offshore, toward Texada Island, was a large flock of Common Murres. Click on the picture to see them. Among them are at least two Rhinoceros Auklets, recognizable by their smaller size and compact build. The dark bird closest to us, on the left, is also a Rhino. Further out are a few Pacific Loons, whose light-grey napes catch the light.




But right around the gang of gulls were a few Murres and Auklets also, and it is on them that I focused next.


Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #72 on: September 27, 2014, 12:41:07 AM »
Stalking unusual Alcids around the feed ball. And I thought this wasn't going to be a bird outing!

Missed him! See where the murre isn't?
I can't resist those diving shots.  :heart
September 20, 5:45 pm



Ah, there he is again. An adult almost completely moulted into winter plumage.



Rhinoceros Auklet. A youngster with the dark bill, probably, though with this lighting it's hard to tell.
If ravens could swim, they would look a little bit like that.
Note the bump on the bill, where the 'horn' will someday be.




And down he goes. Again the characteristic Alcid dive, wings opened and feet rising up in the air.


Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #73 on: September 27, 2014, 01:53:06 AM »
Another Rhinoceros Auklet, swimming on the edge of the feed ball while the gulls all keep colliding in the middle.
September 20, 5:48 pm



And some more Common Murres. It was thrilling to see them so close.
This may be a fledgling, with some mottled brown on the nape but otherwise much like a winter adult.




This is an adult still in breeding plumage. Catching the light so we can see the eye. Just emerging from a dive and rearranging wings.




And one last-but-definitely-not-least sighting...
Someone had spotted this bird a few days before, so I was on the look out.
Another new bird for me, and an uncommon migrant here... An Ancient Murrelet.
He's the same size and shape as a Marbled Murrelet, but even with naked eye I could tell that the colour pattern was different. This bird also was foraging on the margins of the feed ball.
So, my third new bird this day. I still cannot believe this.
Look how lovely he or she is.



You never know what you're going to see.

Offline Cawatcher

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #74 on: September 27, 2014, 06:55:05 AM »
Wonderful sightings winterwren!