There are a number of reasons why I decided to take on this project. My first reason has to do with my interest in birds. This began shortly after moving to Victoria ten and a half years ago. With our house backing onto a wooded area, the chirping of birds is a familiar sound all year long. I often glance out the window to see birds of all forms in the yard throughout the day. Frequently I will pull out the Birds of Victoria or Birds of North America reference guides we have on hand. Unfortunately, the drawings in the first aren’t overly helpful for identification and the number of entries in the second is overwhelming. My second reason has to do with a photography course I took a number of years ago. Since that time I have been trying to think of a practical reason to buy a new camera. Taking pictures of birds requires a powerful zoom lens which my previous point-and-shoot camera could not accommodate. Perfect! My final reason was my desire to take on a new project to welcome in 2011. Hence, bird of the day was born.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Martindale Flats

Located in Central Saanich, just off the Pat Bay Highway by Michell's Market, this farming region is a great place for birdwatching. Earlier this year, Tundra and Trumpeter Swans were regularly seen in the fields along Island View Road. I've photographed birds of prey there: an immature Bald Eagle and a Cooper's Hawk. I've seen Mourning Doves and Belted Kingfisher on Dooley Road and singing Meadowlark on Lochside Drive. It is almost always mentioned in the weekly Rare Bird Alert Transcript. In fact, I'm hoping the rain holds off this weekend as some good birds have been reported in the area recently.

Belted Kingfisher

Cooper's Hawk


Immature Bald Eagle in flight

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Greater White-fronted Goose

Anser albifrons

Medium-sized goose
Mostly brown plumage
Long neck
Orange or pink bill
White band around base of bill
Irregular black spots on belly
White line separating belly from wings
White under and uppertail coverts
Dark tail
Orange legs and feet

Listen to its call.

Thanks to a kind gentleman who pointed me in the right direction, I saw these geese in a field off Lochside Trail just north of Blenkinsop Lake earlier today. Their size made them stand out from the larger Canada Geese, which are plentiful in the area. The irregular black spots on the belly, noticable in flight, and the white patch at the base of the bill are the field markings that distinguish them from other geese.

Learn more about the Greater White-fronted Goose.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oak Bay Marina

To the immediate north of the Oak Bay Marina, there is a little park.  A rocky outcrop connects this park to the adjacent beach. This is a great place to see shorebirds: Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Black-oystercatcher.  There always seems to be something interesting there. 

Greater Yellowlegs


Dunlins in flight

Learn more about the Oak Bay Marina.

Monday, March 28, 2011

King's Pond

Located on the north side of Cedar Hill golf course, this fresh-water pond is remarkable for the sheer volume of ducks present. Mallards are by far the largest group, but you'll also regularly see Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads and Woodducks there, as well as the occasional Northern Shoveler.

People frequently scatter seed for the hordes, which invariably causes a small stampede.

This male Ring-necked was having trouble holding his own against the larger ducks during this feeding frenzy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Purple Finch

Carpodacus purpureus

Medium-sized finch
Large, conical bill
Short, forked tail

Purplish-red head, breast, back and rump
Streaked back
Brown wings and tail
Whitish belly

Brown upperparts
Heavily streaked underparts
Dark whisker
Whitish eyebrow

Listen to its song.

A number of times in the past, I have taken photos of a House Finch thinking it was a Purple Finch. Someone told me that the bill was the key field marker; the upper mandible of the former curves downward while the latter has a conical bill. Apparently, it isn't that difficult to tell them apart. Well, I'm not sure if that is entirely true (at least not for me) but, when I saw this bird at my feeder this morning, I was pretty sure I had a winner. The head and foreparts are more uniformly washed with red than the ones I've seen in the past anyway.

Learn more about the Purple Finch.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Esquimalt Lagoon

As you've probably guessed, I've been having a little difficulty finding new birds to photograph lately. So, instead of giving up on my blogging altogether, I've decided to start highlighting some of the good birding locations around Victoria. 

Great Blue Heron

Although I've only been there a few times, I opted to start with Esquimalt Lagoon because of the large number of birds you can see in a relatively small area.

You will find it close to Fort Rodd Park and Fisgard Lighthouse in Colwood. It is a migratory bird sanctuary that is frequented by a variety of gulls,ducks, swans, herons and much more. 

Male Common Goldeneye
Family of Mute Swans

Learn more about Esquimalt Lagoon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Anas strepera

Medium-sized dabbling duck
Finely barred gray body
Rust-brown shoulders
Black rump
White belly
Gray-brown head and neck
Gray bill
White patch in wing

Listen to its call.

I took this photograph at few weeks ago at Viaduct Flats. Unfortunately, although there were a fair number of these ducks in the pond, none of them seemed to favour the shore line. As the signage in the area asks visitors to stay on the designated trails and much of the area was flooded at the time of my visit, it wasn't possible for me to get close enough to take a decent photo. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Learn more about the Gadwall.

Additional photo:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Marsh Wren

Cistothorus palusris

  • Small bird
  • Lightly barred, warm brown upperparts
  • Black-and-white triangular patch on back
  • Whitish underparts
  • Pale brown flanks
  • Long, thin black bill
  • White eyebrown
  • Dark crown
  • Short tail, barred with black
Listen to its song.

I saw a number of these birds in the reeds at Swan Lake this afternoon. They appeared to be building their nests in the marshy area at the side of the lake. Flitting in and out of the reeds, they surreptitiously collected bits of grass and fluff for their homes. Then, suddenly, one would burst into song, which seemed at odds with their furtive behaviour. 

Here's a question for you -- what is the difference between a bulrush and a cattail?

Learn more about the Marsh Wren.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pacific Wren (formerly Winter Wren)

Troglodytes pacificus

Very small songbird
Dark brown upperparts
Buffy-brown breast
Buff eyebrows
Wings and tail barred with black
Short tail, frequently held upright
Short, thin bill

Listen to its song.

This little bird was playing hide-and-seek with me on the grounds of Goward House. I initially saw it out of the corner of my eye as it darted about on the forest floor. I would have lost sight of it had it not started singing energetically. (Their songs have about 36 notes per second on average). Having caught my attention, the bird immediately hid under a pile of brush leading me to search about for it.  I was about to give up hope of finding it and was moving down the path when the bird darted out of its hiding place and began singing again. As before, I approached with my camera raised only to have it dart back into hiding. This went on for quite some time. I swear it was playing some sort of game with me.


Learn more about the Pacific Wren.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

American Dipper

Cinclus mexicanus

Chunky, aquatic songbird
Slate gray body with browner head
Dark, slender bill
Dark eyes
White eyelids
Very short tail

Listen to its song.

Sometimes a bird's behaviour is more important than its appearance when it comes to identification. That was certainly the case in this instance. I saw this rather plain, drab looking bird at Goldstream Provincial Park this afternoon. I probably wouldn't have paid it much attention except that it was standing in the fast moving, but shallow, water. I was watching it stick its head in and out of the water when suddenly it went under. I thought it was drowning, being swept away by the rushing water. I was trying to decide what action to take to save the poor thing when it suddenly popped up again. The bird showed no distress and proceded to repeat this behaviour numerous times, which led me to conclude that it was in no danger afterall. Apparently,  it catches its food underwater by walking on the stream bottom.  
going under


Learn more about the American Dipper.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pelagic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax pelagicus

Small cormorant
Small head
Thin bill
   Glossy black body
   Patches of white on flanks (breeding plumage)
   Dark red on face is hard to see
   Very plain dark brown

Listen to its call.

Whenever I visit Cattle Point, one of these birds always seems to be roosting on top of the large navigational marker in the channel. They appear to be solitary birds, unlike the majority of the others around the area who can be quite gregarious. Sometimes I have seen them in a small group though, perched on the bottom of the marker. 


 Learn more about the Pelagic Cormorant.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Dendroica coronata

Audubon's Warbler - spring male
Small, active bird
Thin, pointed bill (sturdier than most warblers)
Broken eye ring
Yellow rump patch
Small yellow patch at side of chest
White spots in tail
Myrtle:  White throat (may be dull buff in some young birds)
Audubon's:  Yellow throat
    Dark gray head and back
    Small, yellow, crown patch
    Black patches on upper breast extend as streaks onto flanks
    White underparts
    White wing patch
    Brownish-gray head
    Brownish-gray back with black streaks
    Indistinct to absent yellow patch on side of breast
    Blurry dark streaking on breast and flanks
    White wing bars

Listen to its song.

My avian quest took me to Blenkinsop Lake today just as a storm rolled in. Fortunately, I was able to get a couple of photos of this bird before the rain really hit. Although the pictures are pretty blurry due to the poor lighting, the brilliant yellow throat and sides are striking. I didn't notice a yellow rump, but it was probably obscured by the wings in its perched position.

Learn more about the Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Additional photos:
Myrtle Warbler
Audubon Warbler - winter

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hybrid Ducks

Ducks hybridise readily, both in captivity and in the wild. Sometimes wild ducks even crossbreed with escaped domestic ducks. Identifying hybrids is challenging because of the wide variations in colour and markings. Here are a few hybrid ducks I photographed in Beacon Hill Park. Each of them appears to be a cross between a Mallard and a different species. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

Large, plump dove
Long, pointed tail
Small head
Gray-brown to buff-tan
Black spots on wings
Small, dark bill
   Pinkish chest
   Blue-gray crown

Listen to its song.

There had been numerous sightings of these birds on Dooley Road and Lochside Drive recently. After a number of misses, our visits to the area finally coincided.  I found these two birds perched on a telephone wire by the side of the road. 

All my life, I thought these birds were Morning Doves. Maybe they like to come out in the early part of the day. Apparently, it gets its name from its mournful song. Boy, do I feel silly. Stupid homonyms!

Learn more about the Mourning Dove.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Black-bellied Plover

Pluvialis squatarola

Medium-sized shorebird
Short, thick black bill
Short neck
Dark legs
Dark wing tips
Winter adult:
    Gray head 
    White underparts
    Gray, mottled back
Breeding plumage:
    Black from face to belly 

Listen to its call. 

I saw a group of these birds on the rocks at Clover Point yesterday afternoon. They were bigger than the Dunlin feeding close by. The tide was low and they were having quite a feast until three Black Oystercatchers came along and frightened them all away.

No wonder I had difficulty identifying this bird.  There wasn't a black-belly to be seen.  However, in breeding plumage (pictured below), it is black from the face to the belly. 

Learn more about the Black-bellied Plover.