Birding in British Columbia
Fall is migration season and birds pause at the southern tip of Vancouver Island before crossing Juan de Fuca strait.
Now that there is a morning chill in the air, it takes a little more time for the songbirds and warblers to "warm-up." Most of the bird chatter you hear at this time is year is often a bird's 'call' rather then it's 'song.' Listen carefully and you may be able to distinguish the differences between species.
At the same time, watch for the juveniles of all species. This can be a confusing time as many young birds look nothing like there parents and often, they look like another species all together. One of the better clues to look for when observing a questionable bird at this time of year is to note whether the feathers look "fresh" or if they are more weathered and somewhat tattered. If they look fresh, chances are that you are observing a juvenile bird.
On the warmer, sunnier days, keep an eye out for migrating raptors. The unique geography of Vancouver Island tends to funnel migrating raptors down to the southern most tip of the island and up to 14 species of raptor have been recorded here during migration. Migrating raptors will kettle in large numbers as they try to gain altitude and wait for favorable conditions before attempting to cross the straight of Juan de Fuca. One of our known birding wonders is the large concentration of Turkey Vulture that gather annually over East Sooke Park. On some days, you can observe 200-300 birds kettling over the park. On rare occasions when condition are right, the number of kettling Turkey Vultures can soar to over 1000.
American Pipit are moving through the farm fields and along the beachs. Martindale, Island View Beach, and the Saanich bulb fields host large flocks of these birds as they move through.
Sky Larks have now grouped together in loose flocks and will spend much of there day foraging in the fields. Listen for the 'chirrup' all as the move. The Victoria International Airport remains the best spot to observe Sky Larks. Scan the fields below Mills Rd. on the north side of the airport for this species.
Various Gull species can be found all around our coastline. Watch for Heermann's, Mew, Bonaparte's, California, Glaucous-winged, and Western (including the Western X Glaucous-winged hybrids.) Large flocks can bee seen from shore and they are known to gather at Clover Pt., Macauley Pt./ Saxe Pt, and off Witty's Lagoon. As well, many individual birds can be seen from most viewpoints along the waterfront.
Winter Songbirds, Waterfowl, and Raptors should increase in numbers as the season changes.
Places to go:
It has been offered that the fringe of trees and bushes near southern Vancouver Island shorelines can offer the most productive fall birding. This is because species fallout here after an aborted attempt to cross Juan de Fuca Straight or other bodies of water. Try East Sooke Park, Whiffen Spit, Witty's Lagoon, Esquimalt Lagoon and various spots along Dallas Rd. on the Victoria Waterfront.
Take a trip to East Sooke Park for Hawk watching. Both Aylard Farm and the Hawk Watch observation point offer great viewing opportunities (if the weather cooperates).
Look for shorebirds at Loon Bay (in Oak Bay), McMicking Pt., Clover Point, Esquimalt Lagoon, Witty's Lagoon, and Whiffin Spit.
Try a birding trip to Sidney Spit Provincial Park on Sidney Island. Besides the possible shorebirds, you will be treated to a number of Alcids and Cormorant species on the ride to and from the island.
Try a walk through the Martindale Valley and on to Island View beach. Birder's can expect to find American pipits, yellow-rumped warblers, raptors, and many other species.