Author Topic: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season  (Read 24996 times)

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Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #45 on: May 22, 2014, 02:44:34 PM »
This is the terrain where we were paddling that day, following the bottom of the cliffs of Helliwell Park within touching distance.




In most areas, the bottom part of the cliff forms a shallow, sloping shelf. I caught some movement along that... And was treated to the rare sighting of a small flock of Wandering Tattlers. Of course I had no idea of what they were until I got home and hit the books. They were about the size of a Greater Yellowlegs without the great legs. They bobbed their little rumps up and down while foraging like Spotted Sandpipers do. They were definitely something I had never seen before.

There were five of them, foraging on that small shelf, moving as a loose flock, but I never managed to get more than two at a time.
Helliwell Park, May 6, 12:48


It turns out that they are rarely seen around here, because they usually migrate through the west side of Vancouver Island. But most of the sightings are near Flora Islet - a scant kilometre away from where we were - and at Ogden Point near Victoria.

They let me drift pretty close. If I blinked, they became invisible against the rocks, and before I knew it I had drifted too close, and off they flew, to land a little further along the shore. We played hide and seek that way for a while and I managed a few nice pictures.

12:51



I've included this next picture just so you can see what I was up against. There are two Wandering Tattlers in that picture. Can you see them?
12:55



Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #46 on: May 22, 2014, 02:53:45 PM »
More pictures of the Wandering Tattlers, on their migration to their nesting grounds in Alaska.

Helliwell Park, May 6, 12:56



This is a very strange angle, with the head turned but an eye visible. The texture of the legs and feet came out well in this one.
1:04


 :eclove



Offline madrona

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #47 on: May 22, 2014, 02:55:15 PM »
There are two Wandering Tattlers in that picture. Can you see them?


I like a challenge!  I could only see them when I looked at the full size photo.   :mhihi

Thanks for these interesting photos and accounts, wren. 
   Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to
      rather than what we are separate from. - Terry Tempest Williams

Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #48 on: June 04, 2014, 11:10:14 PM »
This territory is among the best places to see migrating sea birds and shore birds.

On another outing I saw a flock of about 20 shore birds, flying around Flora Islet. It took me a while to catch up with them and get close enough for identification.

Western Sandpipers are fairly common here, but I'm told people often get them confused with other shore birds. This is the first time I manage to photograph some of them and to be reasonably sure of their identity.  Definitely it's the first time I see them in breeding plumage. I'm hoping my identification is correct.
May 10, 6:22












Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #49 on: June 04, 2014, 11:14:20 PM »
On the same outing, I finally got a decent photo of this Savannah Sparrow, a regular on Flora Islet together with House Finches, Starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds.

May 11, 5;22 pm




Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #50 on: July 28, 2014, 09:43:30 PM »
I have made 3 visits to this nest and have not yet found any sign of an eaglet in it. But it's so hard to see!
I also had a good look at this pair's old nest.

I was just about convinced that there were no little Helliwells this year, but two days ago the neighbour of Nest 20, who knows very well what an eaglet sounds like, reported that he thought he heard one not far from this nest. So I'll have to go have another look in the area.

Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #51 on: September 02, 2014, 05:28:29 PM »
On August 8, we paddled the Big Canoe past this territory and stopped on Flora Islet.
On the beach was a large grey shape.
The Elephant Seal is back!

August 8, 6:54 pm



Look how smooth he looks, greyer than he used to be.
Booni found out why. She noticed little chunks of dried pelt all over the beach.
He has been moulting! This is his nice new skin.




He also has some new scuff marks under his chin and on his neck, possibly from the trials of mating season.
They look worse in this next photo because there is some sand clinging to him.
We left him to his nap. See you next time!
7:11

Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #52 on: September 19, 2014, 11:27:36 PM »
On September 9 I paddled out to the boundary of Helliwell Park; there I saw a few flocks of shore birds, notably about a dozen Black-bellied Plovers, which you don't see in flocks outside of migration times. The day had turned grey and the light was running out, so I didn't get any good pictures.

The next day I returned; the hour was earlier, the light was much better, I had a picnic supper with me, and there was no wind. A perfect time to dawdle and drift and see what I could see.
I was hoping to find these plovers again, but of course it rarely turns out the way you expect. This turned out, initially at least, to be a seagull day. The special prize was the Heermann's Gulls, who only pass by for a few days in the spring and fall.

This picture shows a California Gull in the foreground, with yellow legs, a black and a red dot on the bill, and wings and tail sticking out a long way back. Behind this one, the gull with the black legs is a Heermann's. They're unmistakable once you see their bill! Next back is another California (yellow legs), and in the top right corner is a Glaucous-winged, with the grey wing tips.
Helliwell Park boundary, September 10, 5:06 pm



Now these are two Heermann's Gulls. See what I mean? What a lovely red bill.







Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #53 on: September 19, 2014, 11:43:55 PM »
As I approached Flora Islet I saw my first Red-necked Grebe of the season.
September 10, 5:15 pm



I'm seeing quite a few juvenile Pigeon Guillemots this year... Here's one of them.




And here's another. Different markings. There were at least three of them around.
5:33




Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #54 on: September 20, 2014, 10:30:19 PM »
I had a picnic supper on Flora Islet, and soon I wasn't the only one eating!

A school of feed fishes surfaced right below me! (Between me and the sun, unfortunately.) All the surrounding gulls, large and small, threw themselves at the spot. It seemed pretty dangerous, all those sharp bills, with more gulls diving head first into the fray.
On the periphery there were also some Common Murres, which I had never seen so close to land! They didn't need to get themselves in harm's way, because unlike the gulls they can dive as deep as they want. So they just went under and grabbed their meal from below.
September 10, 6:17 pm



Young and old, big and small, they're all here. Many of then are those handsome Heermann's Gulls, who have stopped over on their migration. In the middle of all the madness, a little Mew Gull is looking at us with a completely serene expression.
6:19



On the centre left of this next photo, we can see a young Glaucous-winged Gull with a bill full of fish!
Click on the picture to see better. The fish could be small herring, or smelt or anchovies.  I'm not sure what kind of fish they are.
6:20



As quickly as it started, the madness ends. Everyone flies off to the next meal.





Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #55 on: September 20, 2014, 10:42:59 PM »
A little while later I find a whole lot of Heermann's Gulls on the outer reefs, digesting their meal.
September 10, 6:45 pm



I'm seeing surprisingly few youngsters this year. One of them is just right of the centre of this photo. He is grey-brown overall, and has a pale-orange bill with a black tip.
6:48



This looks like a two-year-old, with still some orange on the bill.
7:04



Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #56 on: September 21, 2014, 09:34:53 PM »
There has been a sailboat wrecked on the last reef past Flora Islet since the first weekend of September. I paddled over there to have a look. Contrary to rumours, I have not seen or smelled any trace of spilled fuel in the area. I'm just surprised that this boat didn't get refloated and towed off on the next high tide.

But I lost all interest in human follies when a flock of what looked like shore birds came chattering all around me... and then landed on the water!
Now, I had never seen these birds, but I knew right away what they must be...
Phalaropes!

September 10, 6:56 pm



I had to look them up to figure out what kind of phalarope, though. Looks to me like all of them were juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes.

I love the back feathers on this view; they look so elegant (click on the picture for more details).



They took off, landed again, a few times like that. Each time they let me drift pretty close. The last photos I took are the best because at last the sun was behind me.



After that I was content just to watch them, swimming about and picking at the surface of the water with those lovely thin bills. Then after another minute they flew off.

Offline winterwren

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #57 on: September 21, 2014, 10:07:08 PM »
That feeding frenzy I witnessed earlier that trip was the first time I saw Common Murres so close to land. As I returned from the outer reefs, there they were again, near Flora and the big gravel bar.

There were dozens of them! and up till that time, I had never seen them so close.
September 10, 7:15 pm



The sun was setting and I spent a while stalking them, trying to catch some in the scant remaining light.
Here's a small group, with two adults side by side, making it look like one has a horned bill. (A prophetic thought, as it turned out, heh heh heh... But that's another story for another day!)
I initially thought that the ones with the brown neck were fledglings, but Sibley tells us that they are adults in transition to winter plumage. The one with the white neck is a nonbreeder or an adult who has attained winter plumage already.


Offline OpieK

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #58 on: September 21, 2014, 10:59:28 PM »
Thank you so much for teaching us, Wren, and your photos are so detailed - I love those white feathers that "fan" up on the phalaropes

Offline gmadeb3

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Re: Nest #22 - Helliwell Park - 2013-2014 season
« Reply #59 on: September 22, 2014, 08:11:21 PM »
Wren,  did the phalaropes spin in circles?  These pictures are so neat to see,  the water looks amazing also.  Thanks for taking us along with you  :heart
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