Migration is pretty much at its peak right now and I've been reading about some extremely tantalizing rarities from the Lower Mainland and Washington. Many of the recent vagrants have been shorebirds - Washington has had Lesser Sand-Plover (Charadrius mongolus), Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), and Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia) along with Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis), Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus) and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata), while the Lower Mainland has hosted Sharp-tailed, Buff-breasted and Stilt Sandpipers and a Ruff, as well. The Wilson's Plover is just mind-blowing and something that is unlikely to be repeated any time soon, but wayward Asian shorebirds are never out of the question. Heck, we just had our own Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at McIntyre Reservoir less than a week ago! With that in mind, Jeremy K. and I decided to focus our efforts out west with a trip to Port Renfrew with stops at Whiffin Spit and Jordan River along the way.
I could try to reinvent wheel and write a full report of this outing, but Jeremy K. already rolled up his sleeves and did the dirty work. I often dropped my birding intensity to snap off some shots of gulls and anything else that would oblige, so that will be the focus of this post.
Starting at Jordan River, I walked out to the big flock of gulls at the point near the river's outflow into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The lighting wasn't conducive to getting photos of the two adult American Herring Gulls (Larus smithsonianus), so I opted to sneak in on a second-cycle Heermann's Gull (L. heermanni), an adult Glaucous-winged Gull (L. glaucescens), California Gulls (L. californicus) of three different ages.
|This first-cycle California Gull is not always easy to identify at first, but the strongly bicoloured pink-and-black bill with parallel edges and long, black primaries are good indicators.|
|This is a classic adult California Gull. The legs are yellow, the bill has a red spot with a touch of black, the eyes are dark brown, and when in the company of other gulls it is medium in size.|
|Here's another shot of an adult California Gull displaying its red gape nicely during a yawn.|
In Port Renfew, the rather slow birding caused me to seek out more shots. I started with a more worn juvenile California Gull.
|This California Gull appears to be an extremely worn juvenile compared to the two I photographed at Jordan River. This is another great example of how variable this species can be at this age.|
Even if the birding is slow, you can at least appreciate the scenery when you go to Port Renfew. The San Juan River estuary is truly a grand scene. I image crisp mornings with a slight fog or late afternoons with low sun from west create amazing photography conditions.
|I think the government should just install old pilings all along the coastline for tourism. I am pretty sure they always add a certain charm to the scenery.|
While enjoying the estuary's majesty, a Merlin (Falco columbarius) darted in to a patch of alders and was amazing cooperative. This dark little falcon belongs to the coastal subspecies suckleyi, which are sometimes referred to as Black Merlins or Coastal Forest Merlins.
|The inset (top right) shows the "tooth" that falcons have on their bill to dislocate the neck of their prey.|
In the Port Renfrew townsite, I managed to get a less-than-amazing shot of a Wilson's Warbler (Cardellina pusilla) and documented one of the many Eurasian Collared-Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) that have established there.
|If you get a good look at a male Wilson's Warbler, there's no mistaking it! The male's solid, small black cap separates it from all other warblers.|
The last shot of this entry comes from a quick stop we made one our leisurely route back to Langford. We quickly popped in to a pond at the Metchosin Golf Course to see if any shorebirds were working the edge. Instead, we were treated to a lone Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors).
|The dark eyeline, white eye arcs, and bill shape point to this being a Blue-winged Teal as opposed to a Cinnamon.|