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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nanaimo/Gabriola Birding on FB!

Myliss Johnson has started a FaceBook page for people to share photos and messages about birds on Gabriola and in Nanaimo. I am, obviously, delighted! Thank you for making this brilliant idea happen, Myliss. If you have a FaceBook account, you can participate by joining at!/groups/NanaimoandGabriolaBirding/

I look forward to sharing photos and enjoying yours!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two Great Blue Herons of Gabriola

Great Blue Heron Dies
On October 22, in the Sounder, I read about the three raccoons found dead and the Great Blue Heron found shot with a BB gun or pellet gun on the north end of the island. The heron was still alive but died of its injuries a day later at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington. The GROWLS volunteer that took it to Errington suspected it was near starvation after being unable to hunt for two or three weeks.

Great Blue Heron found in islander's back yard.
Photo by Barry Boettger.

Great Blue Heron Lives!
Then, October 23, GROWLS volunteers and friends gathered to release a different Great Blue Heron that had been rescued by GROWLS volunteers some time ago and taken to North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington. There, the heron was treated and recovered nicely. On the 23rd it was returned to Gabriola to be released close to where it was found, near Sandwell Beach.  

Great Blue Heron being released from cage.
Photo by Tawny Maclachlan Capon.

Freeddom once again!
Photo by Tawny Maclachlan Capon.

Into the wild blue yonder. Blessings to you.
Photo by Tawny Maclachlan Capon.
So, while many people on the island actively honour and care for our wildlife, others - or at least one other - is killing them. So sad.
Thank you to GROWLS and North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Beached Birds at Brickyard?

Once a month I walk the shore of Brickyard Beach checking for dead birds. No, I don't have some kind of avian vampire streak that raises its head with the new moon. I do the monthly beach walk as a volunteer participant in The BC Beached Bird Survey, a research project of Bird Studies Canada.

What's a Beached Bird Survey?
The BC Beached Bird Survey collects baseline information on the causes and rates of seabird mortality. Volunteers do monthly beach walks along selected beaches (such as Brickyard) looking for seabird carcasses that have washed up.

Dennis walking the wrack line at Brickyard Beach

Causes of Seabird Mortality
Seabird can die from oil spills, entanglement in fishing gear, predation and because of habitat loss and climate change. Good indicators of marine ecosystem health, they can serve as an early detection system for changes in ocean conditions and oil spills. You can read more about the program here:

Sometimes Dennis accompanies me on the walk. I was glad he did last month because we found a dead female mallard just at the shoreline. (It's very helpful to have two people on the survey when you find a dead bird; one person does the measurements and photos and one records the data.)

Dead female mallard

After taking measurements and photos we tagged the bird's wing. The tag tells us that this particular bird has already been identified so we don't count it again next time, skewing the data. If we do encounter the same bird again, we submit data on the rate of deterioration and scavenging to Bird Studies Canada.

Tagged mallard

If you happen to see a dead bird at Brickyard Beach with a tag attached to it, you'll know it's been identified and is being tracked by the BC Beached Bird Survey. If you have any questions feel free to comment below. And for more information about the Beached Bird Survey in general, please email or call 1-877-349-2473.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Bevy of Bathing Birds

This morning as I sat in the living room eating my Granola and looking out the window, a flurry of activity erupted at the bird bath in the front yard. I got up, went to the window, tried to make out what all the commotion was. Good grief! Two flickers, seven starlings, and several robins -- all fighting for space in one bird bath! I grabbed my camera and tried to take some photos from inside the house. (I didn't want to scare them off opening the door.) But I was so astounded I could barely focus. The pics didn't turn out well because of the distance and lack of light but the one below will at least (hopefully) give you an idea of the scene ...

If you look closely (and especially if you have one of those devices that lets you enlarge
the image indefintely!) you'll see five starlings IN the birdbath, one on the ground, one robin waiting in line and another robin standing slightly back of the bath, watching. Two flickers had just left. 

Until today I don't remember seeing more than 2 or 3 small songbirds or a robin in the bath at once. So this was pretty extraordinary. There hadn't been any starlings around the yard for over a month so I suppose these young guys were on their way somewhere, saw the birdbath, and decided to fly in for a quick visit because it's been so dry lately.

Certainly both our birdbaths have been well-used, much more so than usual, over the past couple of weeks. So I'm refilling them every morning with the water we collect in a bucket as the shower water warms up. I kind of like the idea that I'm passing on my shower water to the birds for their shower during this October dry spell.

Now for a few other birdbath photos from around the yard:
Young robin in the backyard bird bath this spring

Dark-eyed junco mid-bath - not a very flattering shot
Three finches drinking

If you have a bird bath, please remember to keep it full and clean right now.