Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Birding Esquimalt Lagoon in Victoria BC

Esquimalt Lagoon, looking Southwest towards the Juan de Fuca Strait
 I've spent the last 10 days traveling around the West coast of Canada... and it was awesome! The trip started off in Victoria BC and continued to Vancouver, then East to the Okanogan Valley, then Revelstoke, Banff National Park and then the trip ended in Calgary Alberta. I racked up about 35 lifers, which was good considering it wasn't an all out birding vacation. I did all the touristy things with my wife and son but tried to get up early and hit the local birding hotspots. I've never been to Canada's West Coast before. A friend of mine from Windsor has been bugging me to go out to BC for three years now, so I figured it was time to go this summer. My one target species was a Lewis's Woodpecker for this whole trip... and I found one by accident. Interesting story! Some blog postings I hope to writeup soon would be:

Birding Esquimalt Lagoon in Victoria BC
Birding the Okanogan Valley in BC (Lewis's Woodpecker Story)
Birding the Okanogan Valley in BC (White lake area)
Birding in Revelstoke National Park (Skunk Cabage Trail )
Birding in Lake Louise Banff Alberta
Birding in Calgary (Ingelwood Bird Sactuary)

In Victoria BC, which is on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island, there is a Navy Base called Esquimalt. There is an adjacent small lagoon (Esquimalt Lagoon) which is an IBA and I figured that while visiting my friend, I would stop by and check it out. I did some ebird.ca research on local hotspots in Victoria and was saddened to see that in mid-July, there was not much happening at this lagoon!

Upon arrival at the lagoon, it first appeared that nothing was really around. A few gulls, pigeons, Canada Geese were present but not much else. This "natural area" seemed to be hardened by dog-walkers and man-made gravel that may have been added to prevent erosion. Then, a closer look around had revealed that the gulls were Glaucous-Winged, the blackbirds were Brewer's Blackbirds, and obligatory Bald Eagles and Belted Kingfishers were perched on bordering trees.

Black Turnstones and Black Oystercatchers were supposed to be year-round residents, and neither were found until my last evening there. I found Black Oystercatchers, Long billed Dowitcher, and even a Pigeon Guillemot which I new was an "Auck" when I found it but was a lifer I had to look up in the old field guide. A flock of shorebirds flew by and I took some photos, but I was unable to confidently identify them. Western Sandpipers perhaps?

Other exciting lifers found adjacent to the Lagoon were Chestnut-Backed Chickadees and Spotted Towhee.

Vancouver Birding

Swan Lake Nature Area (http://www.swanlake.bc.ca/)

-This was a nice little location in Victoria with a great visitor center and one of the few places I spoke to an employee that was knowledgeable on the topic of birding.   Bushtit and Bewick's Wren along with many hummingbirds were seen. I swear I saw a Black headed Grosbeck, but I'm not certain enough to call it a lifer.

Stanley Park (http://vancouver.ca/parks/parks/stanley/)
-Pelagic Cormorant

Goldstream Park (http://www.goldstreampark.com/)
-Western (Winter) Wren... does this count as a lifer?

Lynn Canyon Park  (http://lynncanyon.ca/)
-Missed out on American Dippers nesting near visitor center!

Buchart Gardens (http://www.butchartgardens.com)
-Violet-green Swallow

Ferry Ride from Victoria to Vancouver (http://www.bcferries.com/)
-A few unidentified shorebirds
-Brandt's Cormorant

Maplewood bird sanctuary in North Vancouver - (http://birdinginvancouver.wordpress.com/site-guides/maplewood-conservation-area/)
-Western Pewee (Pacific Slope?)
-Rufous Hummingbird
I saw hummingbirds everyday on this vacation, but this is the only decent photo I was able to obtain...

There is so much more I could talk about, but I will end this posting here. My birding trip to the Okanogan Valley was mind-blowing... possibly the best day of birding in my two years of birding.  I will try to write up that posting shortly!

Good birding,

PS: Here is a lifer summary just from Victoria and Vancouver:

243-Brewer's Blackbird
244-Long billed Dowitcher
245-Black Oystercatcher
246-Chestnut backed Chickadee
247-Spotted Towhee
248-Glaucous-winged Gull
250-Bewick's Wren
251-Rufous Hummingbird
252-Pigeon Guillemot
253-Green Violet Swift
254-Brandts Cormorant
255-Pelagic Cormorant
256-Pacific Slope Flycatcher
257-Common Raven
258-Northwestern Crow
259-Pacific Wren


  1. Fabulous list!!! Congratulations on all the sightings, and the photos are great, too. Did you see any non-Glaucous gulls? Might have been Westerns... and no crows? Northwestern Crow is abundant on Vancouver Island. It's basically the only NA location where you can reliably count it.

    Also, no matter which system you use to list, the western Winter Wren is indeed considered separate from eastern. I think eBird calls it "Pacific Wren".

    Well done! I look forward to seeing more!

  2. I am envious of your list! Glad to have you back...I was getting blog withdrawal!

  3. Guys, thanks for the nice comments. Stuart, I took your advice and made some modifications on my list. I did add the NW Crows and later, a California Gull.

    Blake, thanks for the comment as well. I consider myself a follower of the Blakemannian blogging style.



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