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The Somass Estuary

Marsh Wren
While driving out to Port Alberni this morning I was lost in thought and realized that it has been almost twenty years since my obsession for birds was re-ignited. It was while serving my last few months of service in the British Army in Alberta, Canada that I spotted my first Great Gray Owl. This northern specialty  fueled a passion that had been put on the back burner for almost a decade. The discovery of punk music, football, girls and finally beer (in that order) had changed my focus from a school boy egg collector / young naturalist (some what of a contradiction:) to a stereo typical teenager. A few years of work and three years in the army grounded me back to what is important to me; Birds.

Where am I going with this you ask? Well, in some ways I have still not changed from that grubby little nest robber. I still daydream about the amazing discovery that I am about to find! I still set myself up for failure on nearly every excursion. Instead of thinking about what I will possibly see, I constantly focus on the near impossible! For example; today I was headed back to The Somass Estuary in Port Alberni, a forty minute drive from our home in Parksville.
En-route my mind drifted back to the last time I had been at The Somass, it was November 2009 and it was then that Guy Monty and I got a one minute look at an extremely rare bird; Taiga Bean-Goose. So, in a way, it felt like returning to the scene of a crime. The crime being that we could have had but didn't get killer photos of this bird, though Guy did get one record shot. This bird was now on my mind. Hmmmm...could it still be there? Maybe it is! Maybe there are three and one of them might have a neck collar! A neck collar I could read!..and so on and so forth. However, this is just one example but one is all I need to talk about. You get the picture. In reality the nearer I get to any such destination the more my mind comes back to earth. Within the first hour I normally come crashing back to reality and I start thinking straight. "Ok, i'd take a Swamp Sparrow today". Twelve Song Sparrows and four Marsh Wrens later I begin to change again..."come on! Just one Swamp Sparrow"..another four Song Sparrows later."Please..come on" Now, every so often this does work, like today for instance. Song Sparrows were popping up all over the place but I continued to check everyone until I finally got my five second look at a Swamp Sparrow!

Downy Woodpecker
Anyhow, enough jabbering. My time in Port Alberni today was spent at The Somass estuary where I recorded 52 species. The temperature was good but the fog held over the main reservoirs which made searching the scaup flocks challenging. Highlights for the day included a Cackling Goose which was mixed in with a group Canada Geese. Awesome looks at Marsh Wren. One Swamp Sparrow along the main water line. An immature Northern Goshawk that was held up in a Cedar tree,(until I turned up) possibly waiting for one of the seven American Coots to venture into open ground. Four male Canvasback out across the inlet. A close-up view of a Downy Woodpecker, gleaning bugs from the bulrushes and a party of 36 Bushtit.
So, no mega rarities to brag about but I did have a good days birding and that is what it is all about. (ish)



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