A crowd of just over 30 participants gathered at the still cold hour of 8 a.m. recently, to listen to the knowledgeable bird expert, Geoffrey Newell. The reason for the early start was to hear more bird calls. In fact it is possible to hear between fifty and sixty different species of birds here.
Newell, despite his young age, is a master at recognizing the bird songs and reproducing them. The group watched many birds from the starting point, including an immature eagle that Newell identified as being three years old. It swept across us to land on a rock offshore, but was quickly chased off by an adult eagle protecting its hunting ground. The different types of seagulls were identified: whilst explaining the Californian gull and the Olympic seagull and all the hybrid variants, a sea lion swam by: an unusual sight off Cattle point.
There are 24 different species of rare plants here. David Newell, Geoffrey’s father, spotted a rare plant, the Macoun’s Meadowfoam, a vulnerable species with tiny white flower buds. Walking across the road into Uplands Park proper, there were many Camus plants that will bloom in a few weeks, alongside the Spring Gold (Lomatium), a flowering plant in the carrot family. This will be a sea of blue and yellow, necessitating a repeat visit.
It has only been 50 years or so that bushtits appeared here, and sure enough the group spotted one building a nest. The migratory Rufous hummingbird may now be seen around Victoria, although the group didn’t see any, only the year ‘round Anna’s variety. Apparently the Rufous that have migrated here at the moment are all male; In the next few weeks the females will arrive, about one month after the males. The adult Rufous will stay until July. The immature Rufus will be with us for all of August before flying off to join the adults.
The group saw and heard many birds, the rarest being a barred owl – an unusual sight during the day – and the most beautiful, a Flicker woodpecker. These birds were located among Norway maples in the vicinity of the long gone BC Cattle company farmland. We heard a redwing blackbird which sings like their American cousin but adds an “eh” on the end of its trill to prove they are Canadian. We heard the common Bewick’s wren which has over 30 different song trills to confuse us – but not Newell.
There were many tips that came out of the questions posed to the guide. For example – no chasing off crows: although they affect the number of hummingbirds in the garden, they also hunt smaller rodents.
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