Text and Photos by Doug Cooper
Now that spring is beginning to drop hints of its arrival, I thought I would send out this update on my nature observations at the sanctuary over the fall and winter months.
Winter is the time to see Varied Thrushes at the sanctuary, although they often see me first and fly off out of camera range. I never tire of watching them fling leaves about in their search for tasty morsels on the forest floor. For a short example, see https://youtu.be/5W1GAQVmDQc.
I’ve been seeing Hermit Thrushes off and on at the sanctuary this winter. I usually see them only during the spring and fall migration.
It was unfortunately a dull day recently when I encountered this male Anna’s Hummingbird in all his glory. Those of you who are artists, what colour would describe his head and gorget as being? I suspect there are three or four pairs of Anna’s in the sanctuary. This is the time of year they begin to construct their nests and lay their eggs, and I’m hoping to track a next down.
This was a winter for Pine Siskins at the sanctuary, and many other places as well. They were competing for food sources such as alder cones with the more usual winter flocks of American Goldfinches. Occasionally I would see a siskin in with the goldfinches or vice versa, but usually the flocks seemed to keep segregated. A flock of either species working on the seed capsules of the London plane trees would almost make it seem as it was snowing, as they separated the seeds from the chaff. I did my best to look for a redpoll mixed in with either species, but had no luck.
It was good year for Wood Ducks, too, with a count of 50 reported by one eBirder on the 15th of November. I myself reported 37 on the 27th of December. I believe there were Wood Duck nest boxes on the island at one time. I shall explore with the PNE the option of putting some up again.
There have been single Hutton’s Vireos present off and on during the fall and winter. I’ve almost got to the point where I can reliably recognize their calls/songs, and I am beginning also to get a feeling for their “jizz”. Wikipedia defines “jizz” as: “the overall impression or appearance of a bird garnered from such features as shape, posture, flying style or other habitual movements, size and colouration combined with voice, habitat and location”. I’m sure I have passed off Hutton’s Vireos in the past as examples of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, as the two species do look quite alike. For me, it’s the so-called “bull head” and more upright posture, and the call, of the vireo that alerts me as to it not being a kinglet. These two photos from the sanctuary show that the two species can test your identification skills.
The Bald Eagles have built another nest on the south side of Hastings St, and this year it looks little more substantial than some of their efforts in the past. Let’s hope they raise another nestling or two to the point of successful fledging.
While I’m on the subject of nesting raptors, there’s been an adult Cooper’s Hawk present and calling at the sanctuary recently. It may be one of the juvenile-plumaged pair that nested on the east side of the sanctuary last year, and whom has moulted into its adult feathers. Here’s another short video I took a few days ago: https://youtu.be/-GCadE-ikS4. The adult was calling on the 19th of Feb and the juvenile-plumaged Cooper’s Hawk, from Feb 16th, appeared quite large and may have been a female.
Well, that’s pretty well it from my perspective for the fall and winter at the sanctuary. Now come on spring, and vaccines.