Both the Common loon and the Pacific Loon are feeding regularly just offshore of Taylor beach these days. Seems rather late as one would think they should be up north nesting soon. Their food preference is probably the forage fish that lay eggs on shore.
Four new purple martin boxes were installed on the pilings of the Pearspn College docks in Pedder Bay on August 6, 2013. The team was Fred Beinhauer, John Costello, the late Tom Gillespie, and James Kennerley , a student from Pearson College.
This is now the second year that they have inhabited the houses and raised offspring. Locally, the Rocky Point Bird Observatory has assumed responsibility for Purple Martin colonies on South Van Island. The RPBO coordinator is Wallis Moore Reid. Courtney Edwards agreed to be the PC colony steward. Her office is right on the wharf where the boxes are located.
The overall effort in BC is administered by the Purple Martin Recovery Society. Bruce Cousens out of Nanaimo is the Biologist who is the driving force behind the project.
RESEARCH ARTICLE: Conserv Genet DOI 10.1007/s10592-007-9358-3
High genetic diversity in the blue-listed British Columbia population of the purple martin maintained by multiple sources of immigrants Allan J. Baker, Annette D. Greenslade, Laura M. Darling and J. Cam Finlay
Species: P. subis
On my daily walks on Taylor Beach since the fall, I have noticed that there has been a constant presence of the diving ducks off shore which rely on the forage fish from Taylor Beach. It will be interesting to see when they depart to go to their nesting grounds, usually to the North on Inland lakes.
Today a common loon, several red-breasted mergansers, buffleheads and surf scoters are still scattered over the waterfront.
No estimate is available on the number of diving birds that winter along the waterfront around the southern end of Vancouver Island depending on forage fish for survival but the sum total would probably be considerable given what we are regularly seeing in this area off Taylor Beach. In our efforts as intervenors on behalf of Friends of Ecological reserves, we have been aware and questioned the importance of the over-wintering population of seabirds in the area which would be severely affected in the event of a catastrophic oil spill. Unfortunately the level of environmental impact assessment by the pipeline and oil transport company in this area which is a few miles from the intended vessel traffic lane does not exist.
In our recent Round 2 intormation requests , we tried to get KM/ Trans Mountain to acknowledge the importance of modelling a spill of their toxic diluted bitumin off Victoria. They have refused to do so so far .
SInce Taylor beach is a spawning beach for two forage fish, Pacific Smelt and sand lance which provide food for these marine birds, one might reflect on the way we humans use and abuse the beach, the habitat of the forage fish. Numerous randomly placed beach fires and horse traffic which punches up the beach are concerns which should be addressed in Metchosin .
The vessel traffic lane in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is very narrow and it llies within 3 to 5 nautical miles of the boundary of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. The ecoguardians at the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve have contributed photos of the local fauna, with tankers in the background and we have posted them on this page:
Species: M. serrator
Common name : Red-breasted Merganser
Mergansers nest in the fresh-water lakes of the north and then migrate to the Pacific Coastal waters where they feed on small forage fish in the winter. In the past few weeks a large flock of female red-breasted and possibly mixed common mergansers has been working the waters off Taylor Beach.
I had thought that the Mergansers which started showing up on Taylor Beach this past week were Common Merganser females. Now I am not so sure, as most of them lok more like Red-breasted merganser females . Click for enlargement.
See the Census Page on the seabirds showing up in the last few weeks.
Nov 5: Yesterday there were several loons offshore from Taylor Beach. They normally stay over 100 m off shore, so photography without a telephoto is challenging. I think the following images are of two Common Loons (Gavia immer) in various stages of maturity.
Nov 8 : Definitely Common Loons–a pair of them are feeding every day off Taylor beach (north end) this week.
Family: Gaviidae Coues, 1903
Genus: Gavia Forster, 1788
Species: G. immer
Gavia immer Morten Thrane Brunnich, 1764)
From September on through winter we see flocks of Surf Scoters feeding offshore on Taylor Beach . Today they were 100 metres offshore. They usually do not approach the shore as closely as the grebes and loons.
“The British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Land and Parks (BC Conservation Data Centre 2000) has designated them as a “Blue Listed” species. Blue List taxa are of special concern because of characteristics that make them particularly sensitive to disturbance from human activities or natural events. Blue-listed taxa are at risk, but are not extirpated, endangered or threatened (Master 1991). “(SFU biology)
They are one species which is having a difficult time due to habitat loss for nesting, and are also vulnerable in the event of Oil Spills here in the Strait of Georgia and Strait of Juan de Fuca.
From the Race Rocks website it was noted that three pairs were seen in Pedder Bay throughout January and February of 2006. Although our observations here have them diving and feeding throughout daylight hours, past research has shown that they also feed at night: following trails of bioluminescence as the fish swim through the water. (see reference below) It may surprize some to know that this is one of the few prairie-wetland nesting birds which do not migrate South during the winter, but instead migrate West over the Rocky Mountains to the Coastal Bays of Vancouver Island.
The Western Grebe is classified by the Alberta Government as a Species at Risk. This Field Summary gives further information on it.
|Common Name:||Western Grebe|
These photos were taken by G. Fletcher off the shore of Taylor Beach on Oct 10/14 Unfortunately I didn’t have a telephoto along!
The tentative identification is the Horned grebe.
The following is quoted from From the Species at Risk Registry
“Horned Grebe: Scientific Name: Podiceps auritus
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2009
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status
Threats NOte Bolded sentence:
The factors limiting Horned Grebe populations in Canada are not known, but several possible causes for the decline have been identified, including degradation of wetland breeding habitat and droughts. Permanent loss of wetlands to agriculture and development threaten Horned Grebe populations. Temporary loss of wetlands during droughts can also negatively impact Horned Grebe populations, and the length and frequency of droughts in the Prairies is expected to increase in the future, due to climate change. Eutrophication, i.e., the alteration of an aquatic environment linked to a significant input of nutrients that increases the production of algae and aquatic plants, as well as degradation of nesting sites from the accumulation of fertilizers used in agriculture or other contaminants could also threaten populations. In the Prairies, the major expansion of some predators, including Common Ravens, Black-billed Magpies and racoons, could be a factor causing a decline in the Western population. Type E botulism has been reported in the Great Lakes since the late 1990s and may be an important source of mortality for both resident and migrating waterbirds. Oil spills on their wintering grounds can also threaten Horned Grebe populations. At sea, these birds are particularly vulnerable, since they spend most of their time on the water. Competition with Pied-billed Grebes for breeding habitat could be a limiting factor for the Western population. Similarly, Red-necked Grebes may exclude Horned Grebes from nesting on some ponds. Finally, Horned Grebes become entangled and drown in nets in some commercial fishing areas. It is estimated that 3000 grebes and loons are netted annually by fishers on the southern part of Lake Winnipegosis in Manitoba. On the Great Lakes, birds are killed annually in fishing nets during both spring and fall migrations.