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Biggest Twitch
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American Dipper heads today’s cast of birds.  At dawn it was cold, very cold, but the clear sky promised warm sunshine to come and there was no wind, ideal. We began our birding at Goldstream Provincial Park only a few minutes from the motel. The car-park was in a steep sided valley, heavily wooded with a fast flowing stream. It reminded us of parts of Wales, especially the temperature, chilly. We concentrated on the stream as we wanted a very special bird here, American Dipper. Movement caught our eye beneath willows, pair of Goosander, (Common Merganser ), then disturbance mid-channel, a River Otter, we were again treated to close views. Song Sparrows, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers all showed off and Brown Creeper and Chestnut-backed Chickadee came in to some enthusiastic pishing.  Suddenly a brown blob shot past us low over the water, Dipper! Luckily it landed and fed happily in the tumbling waters allowing us to soak up this dapper bird, new for the year and a lifer.   We searched the adjacent woodland in the hope of glimpsing a Varied Thrush but sadly, no luck so we moved on to Whiffen Spit.  This area near Sooke comprises a narrow shingle spit that runs across the mouth of a large inlet.  We walked out to the point enjoying great views of Harlequin Ducks and Buffleheads in the now wonderfully warm sunshine.  Yet another River Otter was devouring a large fish on the beach oblivious to us and the dog-walkers.  The views from here were stunning with snow-capped mountains and beautiful forest all around us.  Further offshore we saw Surf and White-winged Scoter, Marbled Murrelets and Rhinoceros Auklets.  We scanned hard for whales, but still no sign of one.  Our quest for the mythical Varied Thrush then took us to Sooke Mountain Provincial Park, an area of beautiful upland forest where we hiked for several miles.  We recorded a good selection of birds including Townsend’s Warbler, Cassin’s Vireo, Red Crossbill, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bald Eagles right overhead and dozens of American Robins, but not a single Varied Thrush.From here we headed east to Royal Roads on the outskirts of Victoria.  A large lagoon lay behind a shingle beach, a popular place on a Sunday afternoon but despite the numbers of people, the area held plenty of birds.  Even before we had parked, a Hooded Merganser popped up on the lagoon nearby.  We walked along the shingle ridge checking the lagoon and the bay offshore.  Great birding here with close up views of many species.  Waders included Least and Western Sandpipers and stunningly plumaged Dunlin, with much more rufous colour on the upper parts than European birds.  A single Trumpeter Swan loafed about with a small flock of Mute Swans, some distant Goldeneye had us excited briefly as we hoped they might be Barrow’s but the scope soon revealed that they were Common Goldeneye.  Caspian Terns plunge dived for fish and a large gull roost contained Glaucous-winged and Mew Gulls.  Offshore, a party of six Long-tailed Ducks floated serenely on the glass-like water and were joined by Pigeon Guillemots, Red-necked Grebes and both Surf and White-winged Scoters.  But still no whales!Tomorrow we head back to the mainland and our last chance for Varied Thrush before we head across to Cape May on the East Coast on Wednesday.  So if anyone has any top tips for birding Cape May, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!
Bird Species total: 2171
Posted 10pm, 4th May, View Royal, Vancouver Island


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