Tuesday 22 November 2016

Dipping Twitching and Birding!

Nov 21 2016 Various Locations, Victoria
 Vancouver Island BC Canada

My evening started off quietly enough and then the phone rang. Was I interested in going to Victoria to chase the field sparrow? I really hadn't thought about going but within an hour, three other birders and myself had arranged to meet next morning at the Ladner bus loop and then car poll to the ferry. Now all I had to do was get my head around getting up next morning at 4.45 a.m.

The ferry ride over produced the usual birds

Active Pass, British Columbia, CA

Nov 21, 2016 7:45 AM - 8:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 kilometer(s)
Comments:     aboard the Ferry
8 species

White-winged Scoter  1
Bufflehead  20
Bald Eagle  1
Bonaparte's Gull  20
Mew Gull  20
California Gull  15
Glaucous-winged Gull  20
Belted Kingfisher  1

As mentioned the main reason to visit Vancouver Island was for the field sparrow and possibly the yellow-billed loon at the same location. Before I go any further I will say we saw neither. It didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves, besides it was warm and sunny and not the type of day to be indoors.

I have been on a few twitches and most had been successful so observing the demeanour of my fellow twitchers was interesting. There was no tire kicking nor an outpouring of birdy expletives, just a resignation to the fact we had been dealt a blank...we had dipped. For an explanation of birding slang see link below:

There must have been twenty other birders when we arrived at Esquimalt Lagoon. We thought everything looked good for the sparrow. Between searching I spent a few moments photographing the bufflehead and loons, even a house finch landed right beside me. The light was perfect. 

Esquimalt Lagoon.

House finch.

Along the lagoon several flocks of bufflehead fed in the shallow water. Each group seemed to have a dominant male who would make his presence known by chasing off younger males from his harem. A flock of white-crowned sparrows were the only birds that looked remotely like our field sparrow. When I started to photograph this house finch I could see a large group of birders approaching me, when they realized it was "just a finch" they melted away as quickly as they had arrived. Why bother one of them inferred! Bird photographers, twitchers, listers... it takes all kinds!
We searched for nearly three hours before deciding to move on.
Female bufflehead

Male bufflehead

Red-throated loon

Esquimalt Lagoon, Capital, British Columbia, CA
Nov 21, 2016 9:45 AM - 12:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.75 kilometer(s)
Comments:     searching for the Field Sparrow
27 species (+2 other taxa)

Cackling Goose  2
American Wigeon  60
Mallard  40
Northern Pintail  30
Surf Scoter  30
Bufflehead  150
Red-breasted Merganser  30
Red-throated Loon  2
Horned Grebe  15
Red-necked Grebe  6
cormorant sp.  20
Great Blue Heron  3
Turkey Vulture  5
Bald Eagle  1
Pigeon Guillemot  1
Marbled Murrelet  4
Bonaparte's Gull  20
California Gull  1
Glaucous-winged Gull  50
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  6
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  24
Northwestern Crow  5
European Starling  20
White-crowned Sparrow  6
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  12
Western Meadowlark  1
Brewer's Blackbird  20
House Finch  3

Ogden Point, Victoria.

This is an uncropped full frame shot from the D500 from about 200 metres. I have cropped the same shot below.
Common Murre.
Below are some more  distant ID shots from Ogden Point taken hand held with the Nikon 200mm-500mm and D500. If not for anything else they do give the opportunity to study the bird back at home. 

Common murre.
Same thing with the common murre, a huge crop just for blogging 

Rhinoceros auklet.
The auklet was little closer but shooting down from the pier is not the most desirable angle. As with all forms of photography and birding lots of practice, a little luck and bucket loads of patience will eventually pay off for those who persevere.

Black turnstone.

Victoria-Ogden Point Breakwater, Capital, British Columbia, CA

Nov 21, 2016 12:30 PM - 1:45 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.5 kilometer(s)
11 species

Bufflehead  20
Red-throated Loon  1
Black Turnstone  15
Sanderling  1
Red Phalarope  1    
( long distant pictures taken by most of our group)
Common Murre  2
Marbled Murrelet  4
Ancient Murrelet  1
Rhinoceros Auklet  10
Bonaparte's Gull  1
Mew Gull  8

Clover Point, Victoria.

There were plenty of ducks at Clover Point including quite a few stunning Harlequins. I couldn't get down to a lower angle because the rising tide but so far it is the best place I have found to photograph these incredible birds. 
Male harlequin duck.

Harlequin Duck  8
Surf Scoter  20
Long-tailed Duck  20
Bufflehead  30
Red-breasted Merganser  15
Red-throated Loon  1
Pacific Loon  4
Common Loon  1
Horned Grebe  15
Red-necked Grebe  6
Red Phalarope  3     3 singles seen out on the water using a scope from shore showing pale grey Phalarope with relatively heavy bill
Common Murre  2
Pigeon Guillemot  1
Marbled Murrelet  2
Rhinoceros Auklet  3
Bonaparte's Gull  4
Mew Gull  20
Glaucous-winged Gull  20
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  50

Victoria Airport--Canora Rd. overlook, Capital, British Columbia, CA
Nov 21, 2016 3:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Protocol: Stationary
5 species

Red-tailed Hawk  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
American Kestrel  1
Northwestern Crow  12
Western Meadowlark  5

Despite not finding the field sparrow or the yellow-billed loon we had a fantastic day of birding...until next time read this link below.


"It's never too late to start twitching"
John Gordon
BC Canada


  1. That's one thing twitchers have to deal with is the dipping. It's never fun but part of it and kudos to you all for making the most out of your Victoria visit. Your harlequin shots are particularly beautiful. The great thing about birding is even though you dipped on a twitch you still got to have fun with a bunch of friends and see good birds. The community we have here is pretty special. Take good care.

    1. I totally agree.The birding community is the best, full of knowledgeable and interesting characters. Take care and thanks for taking the time to read the blog. Good birding.

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  3. Thanks for taking the time to look.