Autumn Bird Report

Sora (Porzana carolina)

Congratulations golfers! We have reached the century mark!

In our quest to document the diversity of life on or over the Highland Pacific Golf Course, three sightings of birds that are new to the list have recently been confirmed, bringing us to an impressive 100 species in total. 

The hidden pond to the left (north) of Highland 6 fairway harboured two of these birds:  On July 26, a Solitary Sandpiper, a bird that nests in the boreal wetlands of Canada and Alaska, was seen just long enough to note its size, whitish barred tail, and brief flight pattern, followed by its indicative bobbing behaviour as it landed.  This is an “Uncommon” migrant for our area (just my second personal sighting for Vancouver Island), but Species No. 98 for our list.

On September 8, a different shorebird was seen in the same pond. It issued a brief, sharp “kreep” call as it flew a short distance to land at water’s edge. Scope views of its orange-brown plumage, white eyebrow and extremely long and straight, blackish bill (the bill more than twice the length of its head) indicated it was one of our two Dowitcher species…Short-billed or Long-billed Dowitcher. These two birds usually confuse most birders.  The predominant orange plumage with dark bars, of the breast and flanks, and the spectacular bill length convinced me that it was a Long-billed Dowitcher, Species NO. 100.

Prior to that, though, on August 26, a single Sora (see photo) became Species No. 99. This highly secretive, small rail nests in local marshlands, and like its relative the Virginia Rail, is seldom detected. A single Sora (probably the same bird) was there again on September 8. A quiet sit, with eyes on the reeds at the south end of the pond, may produce a sighting. Look for its bright yellow bill.

Technically, it is still summer here, but most of our seasonal and “neo-tropical migrants” have now left the golf course. Gone are the swallows, martins, White-crowned Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, most of the warblers and others. Some Arctic- and Subarctic-nesting shorebirds will still move through, but the golf course is generally very quiet. A lone Green-winged Teal appeared; look for more migrant ducks and geese now, some of which will stay with us until spring.

And speaking of diversity, a Black Bear was encountered by golfers on Pacific 5 early on September 8, and another has been digging into a ground-nesting wasp nest atop the rock outcrop to the left of Highland 4 fairway.

Happy birding HP golfers!

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