|Englishman River Estuary|
After the Christmas festivities I was ready to sneak out for an hour to see what was around. And yes, I was very exited to try out my new Christmas presents:) I got a little spoiled this year, getting a new pair of Columbia hiking pants from my son Conor and a pair of Keen hiking boots from Lori. The estuary was fairly quiet with a sprinkling of the usual subjects such as Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Norhtern Flicker, Red-winged Blackbird, Dark-eyed Junco and Pacific Wren. The river channel had Common Merganser, Mallard, Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and Great Blue Heron.
The beach access initially seemed very un-birdy but I decided to find a nice spot and just hang around for a while which produced two new year birds and a nice group of geese. Viewing the sand-spit opposite Parksville park I counted 33 Pacific Black Brant with another 9 individuals arriving, making 42 Brant in all. The straight was a little choppy which made things slightly challenging but there was a good selection of grebes, loons and sea-ducks to go through. Common Goldeneye were numerous with Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Bufflehead and Surf Scoter filling in the gaps. Two small rafts of gulls were made up of Mew and Glaucous-winged. While scanning I spotted 8 Pacific Loon offshore and two Double-crested Cormorant. My first surprise was a pair of Western Grebe and my second was an Eared Grebe! Both species were year birds for me, though this is only the second time I have seen Eared Grebe on Vancouver Island. My first sighting was at Deep Bay about three years ago.Just before I headed home I got a nice fly-by group of shorebirds including: 14 Black-bellied Plover, 12 Dunlin and 3 Black Turnstone.