Birder's Guide

MAR 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 66 of 91

65 March 2014 | Birder's Guide to Travel route. Clover Point, located only a short distance from downtown Victoria, is a great spot to look for coastal species, in- cluding Harlequin Duck, Rhinoceros Auk- let, and other alcids, as well as many gull and shorebird species. Rarities frequently turn up here, despite the human and ve- hicle traffc. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Snowy Owl, and Snow Bunting are among the uncommon species that have been seen on this tip of land. Cattle Point in nearby Oak Bay provides a view to the east, and is another rarity trap. One of the nicest loop trails near down- town is at Swan Lake in Saanich. This very popular birding spot is primarily riparian with some open feld and marsh habitat. The lake hosts American Bittern, Virginia Rail, Sora, Green Heron, and most of Vic- toria's common species. Anna's Humming- birds are present year-round, and Barred, Short-eared, Barn, and Northern Saw- whet owls are possible under the right conditions. There is a nature house on site, and guided birding walks are offered twice weekly. (Note that what is called a "nature center" in the U.S. is often called a "nature house" in Canada.) The Martindale Valley on the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria is an impor- tant birding destination, especially during the winter. While many landowners allow birders to walk the tractor routes through their farm felds, visitors must respect the "no trespassing" signs where posted. Wa- terfowl, shorebirds, and hedgerow-dwell- ers such as sparrows and warblers can be found by walking the roadsides and trails. Shorebirds probe the muddy felds, and Trumpeter and Tundra swans are anticipat- ed each winter. Northern Shrikes, Western Meadowlarks, and huge mixed focks of Red-winged and Brewer's blackbirds (with the occasional Yellow-headed or Rusty to make it interesting) draw birders to the area. Peregrine Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, and Bald Eagles can be found here, too, and frequently cause the focks to take to the air. Sky Larks were once abundant in these felds, but are now found less often. To the west of Victoria, Esquimalt La- goon and the adjacent Royal Roads Univer- sity grounds attract both birds and birders throughout the year. The area is especially lively in the winter, when the waterfowl have returned. You can circumnavigate the lagoon if you are sure-footed and reason- ably ft. At a birding pace, it takes about fve to six hours, and in the spring can easi- ly turn up more than 70 species. The Royal Roads University campus provides diverse habitats, from old-growth forest and open felds to riparian corridors and shoreline. Purple Martins nest- ing on the dock attest that humans can reverse some population declines. In the 1980s, there were fewer than 10 pairs of Purple Martins in British Co- lumbia. A nest box program was initiated, and now the breeding population in the province is estimated at 950 pairs. Visitors from the east will notice that the nest boxes are not the "apartment" style frequently seen at home. Like many West Coast residents, Purple Martins seem to prefer townhouses over condominiums! Anna's Humming- birds can be found throughout the year, and are joined by Rufous Hummingbirds in the spring. Five species of woodpecker (Downy, Hairy, and Pileated woodpeckers; Red-breasted Sapsucker; and Northern Flicker) and six species of swallow (Violet- green, Tree, Cliff, Northern Rough-winged, and Barn swallows, and Purple Martin) are regularly seen on campus. Most of the southern portion of the island doesn't rise much above sea level, but there are a few hills—including sev- eral with the word "mountain" in their names—and even a few legitimate moun- tains to explore. In the spring, the hilltops Black-throated Gray Warbler. Photo © Glenn Bartley Steller's Jay. Photo © Glenn Bartley Goldstream Provincial Park. Photo © Glenn Bartley 9-Vancouver.indd 65 3/4/14 1:21 PM

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