Wednesday, December 17, 2014

England and Morocco

The last few weeks have been nuts, wrapping up some major project work, testifying as an expert witness at a National Energy Board hearing, and preparing for a winter vacation. Despite the craziness, I did manage to squeak in a touch of birding...I twitched an Acorn Woodpecker at the Cedar Hills Golf Course in Victoria and got it! This species was a first for Vancouver Island and my first sighting of it in Canada. I've seen many in the southeastern United States, and I credit that experience to locating the bird in Victoria, Several birders were on the 'hunt', but none could find it, including myself, after about 45 minutes. After that time the group had disbanded, some staying put in the place where it had been seen most often, and some going off in random locations in search of it. My approach was to search the oaks in the vicinity of where it had been found, keeping a watchful eye for anything that moved. But movement was not what finally revealed its location; it was sound. Acorn Woodpeckers, like may other species, have a distinctive call. I liken the sound to that of a White-breasted Nuthatch, but faster, slighter higher-pitched, and less repetitive. As soon as I heard the dry rattle, I knew I had the bird. I dashed down the trail about 50 meters and there in an oak was a smart-looking Acorn Woodpecker, striking in full sun and against a deep blue sky. Being good birders, my wife and I alerted the other birders still standing on the street about 300 meters away. They all went running to the site and they all got to see the bird.

This week was also interesting. On Sunday, while walking near Glen Lake at night, a Barred Owl flew across the Galloping Goose trail just in front of me. It landed in an alder and posed very well as I lit it up with my headlamp...great views. On Tuesday, when I took my daughter to school, we found a less handsome Barred that had been hit by a car and was being pecked at by a Northwestern Crow. My daughter thought this was very cool. Further down the road, at the junction of Latoria Road and Metchosin Road, I flushed nine Western Meadowlarks from the edge of a field. Western Meadowlarks aren't terribly common on Vancouver Island, and even less-so in the winter. When I have found them it is usually a small group of 3-5, and usually they are best observed at Panama Flats, nearer to Victoria. This was the largest flock I had seen on Vancouver Island since moving here in 2001.

Today, Wednesday, has been a slog...and still is. We`re heading to the UK for the holiday's to visit Joanna's family. Whilst there I will be spending two days birding with Simon in Norfolk, and from December 26 to January 1 I will be birding alone in Morocco. I fly into Marrakech, and will be birding predominantly through the Atlas Mountains and the western Sahara. The next two-and-a-half weeks should prove very interesting. I will try to post relevant birding highlights as they happen...depending on wi-fi availability.

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