Saturday, 31 March 2012

Spaghetti Western

This morning I toured around the Metchosin area in hopes of catching up with a couple spring birds.  My first stops provided a combination of lingering winter fare and resident birds.

Gadwalls (Anas strepera), such as this male, are a resident species of waterfowl to the Victoria area

My luck changed near Weir's Beach when I heard the distinctive whir of a Rufous Hummingbird's (Selasphorus rufus) wings.  I scanned through a patch of flowering Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) and spotted a male darting from flower to flower.

With a bit of persistence, I eventually managed this capture of the male Rufous Hummingbird visiting a Salmonberry blossom

The Salmonberry flowers were looking so vivid and fresh that I couldn't help but take an extra shot or two.  I'm sure you'll agree it was worth the effort!

The flowering of Salmonberry is perfectly synchronized with the arrival of Rufous Hummingbirds

I detoured over to the Goodrich Peninsula in hopes of finding Mountain Bluebirds (Sialia currucoides) due to their presence a couple kilometres away at Whiffin Spit.  There were no bluebirds to be found, but I did have my first Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) and migrating Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) of the year.  Fox Sparrows (Passerella iliaca)were in abundance again at this location, including a couple singing males.

One of the Fox Sparrows was kind enough to pose for a minute on one of the many Himalayan Blackberry (R. armeniacus) shrubs

I finished my day off at Esquimalt Lagoon where I decided to take some photos of a couple birds that would likely be identified as Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis) to the laybirder.  I personally have no idea where the spectrum of northern Western Gulls (ssp. occidentalis) stops and hybrids with Glaucous-winged Gulls (L. glaucescens) - also known as Olympic Gulls due to their prevalence around the Olympic Peninsula - begin in terms of mantle shade.  Personally, I felt these were Spaghetti Westerns.  That's really just a term I made up, but I think it's suitable.  In birding, if someone deceptively reports a bird, it is termed "stringing".  During big days (a competition to see who can find the most birds in a day), I'm sure a few stringy Western Gulls sneak onto lists.  Spaghetti is stringy, hence Spaghetti Western.  The birds I saw today appear quite similar to a typical Western Gull, but the mantle shade is a touch paler, the primaries (wingtips) don't quite seem truly black, and the orbital ring appears to have a touch of pink mixed in the yellowish tone.  It is subtle but it would be more apparent if it was side-by-side-by-side with a Western and a Glaucous-winged for an idyllic comparison.  Here are two examples of Olympic Gulls:

The hot Jerry Springer topic in the bird world is: interspecies relationships

This one's bill is a little more orange, but the wingtips are a bit greyer

If I get the chance in the next while, I'll try to get a photo of what I believe to be a pure Western Gull for comparison.  Enough of the gulls, though. Also at the lagoon, there is a big flock of blackbirds and starlings and they are quite entertaining to watch.  Surprisingly, there was a nice adult male Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) in the mix, but it flew a second after I noticed it.  I did, however, get a couple shots of male Brewer's Blackbirds (Euphagus cyanocephalus), so that will be the finale for this entry.

For something called a "blackbird", they have a lot of nice colours coming off those feathers

No comments:

Post a Comment