Purple Martins Back in Nest Boxes in Pedder Bay

John Costello reported : that he was at the Pearson College wharf recently and noted that the Purple Martins had returned again this season. Note : wire mesh canopy is to prevent seagull predation.

Purple Martins nesting at Pearson College Docks in Pedder Bay


John Costello and James Kennerley-Aug 2013.

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.

Some websites are: http://www.georgiabasin.ca/puma.htm (the official website of Bruce Cousens mentioned above) and  http://rpbo.org/ 

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

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Hirundinidae
Genus: Progne
Species: P. subis
Progne subis
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Winter foraging seabirds still off Taylor Beach

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 .


Images of Tankers and Marine Animals at Race Rocks.

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:


Cormorants and Sealions with a 300 metre tanker in the backgound: photo by Alex Fletcher.


Cormorants and Sealions with tanker in the backgound: photo by Alex Fletcher.

Red-breasted merganser : Mergus serrator


Red-breasted merganser female (Mergus serrator)


Female red-breasted merganser popping up to the surface after a dive . G. Fletcher photos


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Merginae
Genus: Mergus
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.

They may be joined by males in the spring.

Seabirds abundant on Taylor Beach today

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.

merganser females

Group of female Mergansers off the north end of Taylor Beach


Zoomed in view of mergansers- possibly a mix of mainly red-breasted merganser females and common merganser females..


Flying merganser females


Flying merganser females closer–


Buffleheads in large flocks of up to 100 individuals


Flying Buffleheads go past Double -crested Cormorants

shipand cormorants

Double-crested Cormorants with an ocean-going vessel in the background. If all projects for the Pacific North-west go ahead as planned, over 1000 more ships of this size above the high number already using this waterway, will be transiting these waters each year, all carrying bunker and diesel fuel and if Kinder Morgan has its way 350 a year carrying highly toxic dilbit. Click on the oil-spill risk category link below.

See the Census Page on the seabirds showing up in the last few weeks.

Common Loons ( Gavia immer) off shore today

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.

commonloon male

Common Loon off the bluff at the North end of taylor Beach

Nov 8 : Definitely Common Loons–a pair of them are feeding every day off Taylor beach (north end) this week.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Aequornithes
Order: Gaviiformes
Family: Gaviidae Coues, 1903
Genus: Gavia Forster, 1788
Species: G. immer
Gavia immer Morten Thrane Brunnich, 1764)

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) off Taylor Beach


Surf Scoter off Taylor Beach: photo by Garry Fletcher

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)

A western grebe hangs out with a flock of Surf Scoters

A western grebe hangs out with a flock of Surf scoters


Surf Scoters on Taylor beach Oct 28, 2014

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Merginae
Genus: Melanitta
Species: M. perspicillata

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) returns for the winter.

western grebe

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) photo by Garry Fletcher


Western grebe : Taylor Beach Vancouver Island photo by Garry Fletcher

wgrebevert4The Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) overwinter here on Southern Vancouver Island in the protected coastal bays. In the past two weeks they have returned to the waters of Taylor beach.

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.


A western grebe hangs out with a flock of Surf Scoters

A western grebe hangs out with a flock of Surf Scoters

The Western Grebe is classified by the Alberta Government as a Species at Risk. This Field Summary gives further information on it.

night foraging

Research on Foraging indicating a night-feeding pattern is presented in the research of James Clowater, See the link to his thesis at the bottom.

Domain Eukarya
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Sub-Phylum Vertebrata
Class Aves
Order Podicipediformes
Family Podicipedidae
Genus Aechmophorus
Species occidentalis
Common Name: Western Grebe