Esquimalt Lagoon is on site at Birds of a Feather B&B a short 15 to 20 minute drive from downtown Victoria. It is federally designated as a Migratory Wild Bird Sanctuary. For avid bird watching of Shorebirds and Water Birds, Esquimalt Lagoon - and nearby Witty's Lagoon - offer some of the best birding opportunities on southern Vancouver Island.
Victoria's moderate climate - the most temperate in all Canada - makes this Migratory Wild Bird Sanctuary a natural favourite for over 70 species of Shorebirds and Water birds to spend the winter months.
Victoria's Bird migration goes well beyond Water & Shorebirds. East Sooke Park is renowned for it's annual hawk migration from mid September to late October; Goldstream Park is the winter home to countless Bald Eagles.
Esquimalt Lagoon Migratory Wild Bird Sanctuary is surrounded by natural forests, the Pacific Ocean, the Historic Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse and the Hatley Castle on the beautifully natural grounds and gardens of Royal Roads University - where peacocks & deer have free reign of the campus.
‘Vagrant’ songbird wings its way to Island
BY SANDRA MCCULLOCH Times Colonist staff
December 08, 2007 (republished with permission)
A single bobolink, a medium-sized songbird normally found in open grasslands, has been drawing birdwatchers from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland to a Saanich field.
Bill Dancer, 71, first spotted the bobolink on Nov. 27 while out birdwatching with friends on the Vantreight gladiola bulb fields.
“Some of us went up there to see sky larks and western meadowlarks but we found the bobolink,” said Dancer, who is retired from the Canadian Coast Guard.
“I didn’t know what it was because I hadn’t seen it before, so I went and asked the experts.”
Bobolinks normally spend summers on the Prairies and the Interior then travel south of the equator every autumn and return in the spring, a round trip of 20,000 kilometres.
Dancer, a life-long birdwatcher, is familiar with bobolinks from living back east, but the plumage on this one looked different. The bird undergoes two complete moults each year, completely changing its feathers on both the breeding and wintering grounds.
The bobolink is distinctive, with its black, white and yellow feathers. It measures 15 to 21 centimetres from beak to tail and has a wingspan of 27 centimetres. Breeding males have a black front and white back, while females and nonbreeding males are drab, striped and straw-coloured. Its song is a rolling, bubbling, jangling series of notes given in flight.
The bobolink that Dancer spotted “was like a big sparrow with yellow flashes through its eyes and a kind of yellow breast with no stripes on it.”
Bobolinks are extremely rare on Vancouver Island, said Mike Yip, a Nanoose bird expert and author of several birding books.
“They breed in the Okanagan and across the southern Prairies to the East Coast,” said Yip in an e-mail.
“They normally migrate straight south to their wintering grounds in central South America. Approximately one bird in five years manages to stray over to Vancouver Island.”
Dancer agrees the lone bobolink was “just a vagrant. There have been many vagrants through this year. We had a bluegrey gnat-catcher, and I believe that’s the third time one has been seen here.
“We had a tropical king bird, a sharptailed sandpiper, ash-throated flycatcher. It’s one of these vagrant years, I suppose. It’s probably just the way the weather systems have worked out.”
Spotting the bobolink was a highlight in Dancer’s birding experience.
“I’ve watched birds all my life because they’re interesting in their own right, there are many varieties of them and it costs you little or nothing to do.”
He’s part of a group of birders who gather every Tuesday to wander through different parts of Greater Victoria with binoculars and identification books in hand. The point of birding is partly a shared interest in birds and a wish to share enthusiasm for birding among the group, said Dancer.
“You’re there because you like to bird but also because you make a lot of friends,” said Dancer.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
Victoria's position along the Pacific flyway makes it prime territory for bird watching
Jim Gibson, Times Colonist staff
Published: Saturday, March 11, 2006
(republished with permission)
Ann Scarfe is sure the barred owl is somewhere in the aspen grove down the slope behind the Swan Lake Nature House.
Swan Lake Sanctuary's program manager leads the way after a quick run-through of the do's and don'ts of binocular use -- always loop them around your neck, avoid looking at the sun and never walk while viewing.
"He was here Tuesday," says Scarfe, scanning the trees. Then she spots the owl.
It takes a while for the untrained eye to distinguish the owl through the lattice work of branches -- it could just as easily be a mottled cache of leaves in the crux of a tree. It takes almost as long to focus the binoculars on the sleepy owl, all puffed up against the wind.
Scarfe then takes a path heading to the lake. En route, she points out owl droppings and stray feathers from duck dinners enjoyed by six bald eagles that recently spent a week in the area.
Birding involves almost as much listening as watching. Scarfe identifies a meowing sound as a spotted towhee -- when it finally appears, it looks to the inexperienced eye like some sort of robin relative. The occasional clicking overhead comes from the wings of hummingbirds zooming in to feed on flowering Indian plum and scoop spiderwebs from fir branches to build their nests.
Herons are heard, but not seen by the water. It's too windy -- Scarfe suspects they've taken refuge in shoreline reeds. A cormorant perches mid-lake, while several more navigate the chop. A Cooper's hawk drops down on the lakeside path, decides whatever caught his eye isn't worth it, and flies off.
Birding for Scarfe isn't just making ticks on a checklist, but taking the time to observe species in their natural habitat. "You watch [their] behaviour," says Scarfe, and "all the cares of the world go away."
Victoria is prime birding territory, mainly because it's located on the Pacific flyway, one of three principal migratory routes in North America. It's difficult to pinpoint the size of the birding community here or nationally, however. Most of the Victoria Natural History Club's 800 members are birders, but that doesn't include those who simply like to watch what's happening at their backyard birdfeeders.
The birder numbers are sizable enough for Tanner's Books in Sidney to stock upwards of six monthly birding magazines. Novelist Graeme Gibson's non-fiction The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany has continued to turn up on Maclean's magazine's bestsellers list months after its fall release.
"Doesn't that tell you something?" says Scarfe.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006
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