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 69 of 91

68 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 Southern Vancouver Island Race Rocks Lighthouse with Washington's Olympic Mountains as a backdrop. Photo © Aziza Cooper In the town of Duncan, Somenos Marsh is a "must-do". Home to waterfowl, wad- ers, and songbirds, this is one of the larg- est marshes on southern Vancouver Island. More than 220 species have been observed here. Boardwalks and trails make it ac- cessible, and the parking lot right off the main highway makes it easy to fnd. Derek Marven, the Cowichan Valley's birding guru, says that "the diversity from agricul- tural felds to wetlands to lakes to forest to mountains" is what makes this area spe- cial. Duncan is also home to the only sew- age lagoon on the southern island open for waterfowl and gull viewing. Nearby Cowichan Bay is an important birding site, with more than 240 bird spe- cies (including 32 shorebirds) recorded in this small community. Red-eyed Vireo; Short-eared Owl; Mute, Trumpeter, and Tundra swans; Sandhill Crane; and Yellow- billed Loon are all targets of birders visiting the area. Returning to Victoria, you'll pass over the Malahat, the tallest mountain on a major road in the area. Spectacle Lake, near the summit of the mountain, is a good spot to look for higher-altitude birds: Steller's Jay, Gray Jay, Varied Thrush, Northern Pygmy- Owl, Sooty Grouse, and Townsend's and Black-throated Gray warblers (the last two usually only in warmer months). At the base of the Malahat, Goldstream Park's old- growth forest is home to American Dipper, Red-breasted Sapsuck- er, and Bald and Gold- en eagles, and, during the fall, hundreds of gulls. The Goldstream River is a major salm- on spawning location, and, from mid-Novem- ber through December, gulls and eagles gather to feed on the carcass- es. At times, more than 200 eagles have been counted in the estuary near the nature house. Seabirds Whale watching is one of the mainstays of Victoria tourism, and there are several companies offering trips into the Strait of Juan de Fuca/Salish Sea. Although their focus is generally marine mammals, most companies also offer broader nature tours and are happy to check out the birds along the way. It's also possible to charter boats to take you exactly where you'd like to go. De- pending on the time of year, Pacifc, Com- mon, and Red-throated loons; Marbled and Ancient murrelets; Sooty and Pink- footed shearwaters; Western, Red-necked, Horned, and Eared grebes; and several species of gull can be found. The domi- nant gull here is Glaucous-winged (and its hybrids with Herring and Western), but Mew, California, Heermann's, Bonaparte's, and Thayer's gulls are easy to fnd in their respective seasons. If gulls are your goal, September and October offer the greatest diversity. For "true" pelagic birds such as albatrosses, though, you have to leave the shelter of the Olympic Peninsula and head to the Swiftsure Bank and beyond. For those who want to see marine birds but prefer the stability of larger vessels, BC Ferries offers several routes to the nearby Gulf Islands, including a fve-hour "day trip" for less than $15. In the late sum- Varied Thrush. Photo © Glenn Bartley 9-Vancouver.indd 68 3/4/14 1:22 PM

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