Author Topic: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019  (Read 1485 times)

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Offline winterwren

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Here we go for another year of assorted wildlife observations that don't really fit anywhere else!
You can find last year's thread, and a link to the previous year, here


Offline winterwren

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2018, 07:44:24 PM »
Em reappeared on October 2. She flew in on the wings of a northwesterly gale.

This is what Grassy Point looked like that day.
We're looking at the little bay just to the left of Grassy Point itself (in cam viewer's terms) and toward the west.

October 2, 4 pm







This is what Big Rock looked like...




Offline Tigerlady105

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2018, 08:04:37 PM »
We're ready, wren!   :thumbup:
Commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature; he finds it attached to the rest of the world". ~John Muir

Offline winterwren

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2018, 08:21:00 PM »
There were about 80 gulls resting on Grassy Point. Here are some of them.
For the gull nerds out there: mostly California Gulls, with dark wingtips and yellow or faded-yellow legs (and not tiny like Mew Gulls); a few Glaucous-winged Gulls, more blocky and with grey wingtips. There were a few Thayer's Gulls (ok, they're now called Icelands) but I can't tell for sure if any are in this picture.
Grassy Point, October 2, 3:56 pm



There was also one Red-necked Grebe out on the ocean a ways.

I was about to head home, when I spotted these four characters flying in, skimming those crazy tall waves.
4:06


Harlequins, one female in the lead and three males.
I'd often seen them playing in the waves in that little bay by Grassy Point, but were they heading there now? Surely not. The surf was five feet tall and would have knocked a full-grown human senseless.

Well, think again.
4:10








Offline winterwren

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2018, 08:37:16 PM »
So, by now I've circled back to find some cover behind the fence that borders the access road, and then I've slipped behind a log while all four birds were underwater.

In this photo, the big roller is crashing directly onto shore; there are only a few inches of water in the small space on lower right. That's how close those Harlequins were; they stayed just outside that last roller and sometimes dived right into it - about 20 feet away from that steep pebble beach, sometimes closer.

October 2, 4:12 pm












Offline winterwren

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2018, 09:06:20 PM »
So I've been watching those birds do their death-defying surf diving for a few minutes now. I'm crouched behind a log, laughing my head off in the constant crash and roll and toss of the wind and waves, watching these little feathered beings surface from yet another crazy dive into the foamy water, sometimes seeming to be swallowing something, sometimes not.

October 2, 4:15 pm



Then who should show up but a Red-necked Grebe. Possibly the same one I spotted offshore earlier. Now these ones aren't commonly seen so near shore... And I'd never seen one go surfing with the Harlequins! But evidently they can...




Each giant wave seems ready to wipe them out. (Click on the picture to get a better sense of the size of those waves! Can you hear them?)







But then those birds just pop back up as if nothing special was going on.












Offline NancyM

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2018, 08:55:18 AM »
There were about 80 gulls resting on Grassy Point. Here are some of them.

Grassy Point, October 2, 3:56 pm




Very cool photos, wren. I only ever saw that little bay when it was as smooth as glass so this view of the surf is a  :eceek  contrast.

In the first photo, with the gulls, there is a small someone curled up in the lower right near some yellow gull  feet. A murre or guillemot, maybe?

Offline Tigerlady105

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2018, 07:45:57 PM »
Those birds seem so small in the big waves.  Nice pictures. wren!    :thumbup:
Commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature; he finds it attached to the rest of the world". ~John Muir

Offline winterwren

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2018, 09:55:53 PM »
Nancy, it's another Harlequin. I'd forgotten about that one; thanks for asking.

Offline winterwren

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2018, 08:31:15 PM »
Here's an unusual story from late September. I'm posting it now because I just received some feedback that helps explain what's going on.

So on that day I was kayaking around Norris Rocks. Always hoping to find some unusual migrants, but on that count it was a very quiet trip.
But you never know what you're going to find...

In the fall, winter and spring, we see three kinds of cormorants here: Brandt's, Pelagic, and Double-crested. Only the Pelagics nest nearby. The Brandt's Cormorants nest on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and the Double-crested have a nesting colony on Mitlenatch Island and maybe elsewhere in the Salish Sea.
Anyway: it's not nesting season now!
But as I rounded a corner on the far side of the largest islet, I came upon this strange scene.
September 28, 5:50 pm


These cormorants are just standing there, calmly turning their heads this way and that. An immature Double-crested Cormorant is on the left, holding a chunk of eelgrass; a Brandt's Cormorant has just picked up another strand. Nearby other cormorants of all three species are just standing around, napping, drying their wings or preening.

Here a second Brandt's Cormorant is bending down behind the first one and rummaging in the pile of eelgrass.



And now we have two Brandt's Cormorant and a young Double-crested, all calmly standing around with eelgrass in their bills.




There are several odd things about this scene.
1. Two species are participating.
2. It's not nesting season.
3. Cormorants do not eat eelgrass, they're strictly fish eaters.
4. All the eelgrass seems to have roots. Eelgrass that is drifting around on the tide sometimes has roots, but usually it does not.
5. The pile of eelgrass is the only one around, and is above high tide. This is not something brought in by the tide. It looks as if someone had to dive to the bottom of the water to get this stuff here.

Now as the kayaker with the big eye is drifting closer, the cormorants start thinking about escape and two of them drop their eelgrass.


Then they change their mind and stay put for a while.


Discussing this with Deb on the chat, she suggested that it looked a bit like the Sandhill Cranes' behaviour of tossing corn cobs and twigs up in the air, which she says is believed to be playful behaviour. I had been thinking of that behaviour too.

Then I posted the photos on a local birders' email list and got another really interesting answer from one of the biologists in the group.

He wrote that all three of those species use some eelgrass for their nests, at times uprooting it from the bottom of the water. The handling of nesting material is part of courtship and pair bonding. The males start stockpiling nesting materials in a likely spot before finding a mate. Then the other males come around and steal material from the pile. Once the male cormorant recruits a mate, she can guard the pile while he goes out for more and the stealing stops.

It's not nesting season, though. And Norris Rocks is not a nesting site. What goes on around now is that the days are about the same length as in the spring, when courting starts in earnest. In many species of birds, this triggers some 'low-intensity forms' of courting behaviour. Another member of the group mentioned hearing Robins singing territorial songs recently and posted a beautiful photo of two male Northern Flickers apparently in territorial dispute.

So one of the cormorants started a pile of eelgrass, laboriously harvested underwater. Others picked at it. It didn't go very far. Still made one photographer happy to witness such a strange scene and to learn something new.



Offline Tigerlady105

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2018, 12:37:19 AM »
It's always interesting to read about birds and other wildlife behaviors, wren.  Thank your for sharing this information and your photos with us.    :nod2
Commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature; he finds it attached to the rest of the world". ~John Muir

Offline Cawatcher

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2018, 07:33:39 AM »
What a sighting Wren, that makes sense but still  a puzzlement that it is between 2 species.. A puzzle to solve :)

Offline winterwren

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2018, 12:43:08 PM »
Cali, my mentor wrote that the behaviour is common to all three of our cormorant species... The Double-crested nests are mainly made of sticks, but apparently they use eelgrass also, and some seaweed, and collect them as gifts for their sweeties.

 :eclol It seems that a pile of eelgrass must be fair game to steal, no matter who went out and dived for it!

Offline Cawatcher

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2018, 09:46:08 AM »
Wow Thank you  for that info, Wren. Amazing!

Offline boonibarb

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Re: Hornby Ground Observations that Aren't Eagle Related... 2018-2019
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2018, 11:41:35 AM »
 
i watch for Birds while i am doing my dishes late afternoon.
My kitchen window is all about viewing the garden & Birds while i work.
Usually the Hummingbirds come & go so fast that it isn*t worth getting my camera out, but this female was there preening for the longest time, i think i could have taken pictures for twenty minutes!
With the fall colours in the background she is quite magnificent.
 
october 24 2018 13:39 - female Anna*s Hummingbird
 

 

 

 

 



 
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