Tuesday, 22 March 2011

West Coast Sailing 2: Seabirds Feeding

As we cruised around the Gulf Islands there was lots of chance to practice some seabird identification.  Brant are moving through the area at the moment and six birds sat on the water in a open channel between two islands.  They allowed us to approach quite close before taking off to the north, flashing the white “V” on their rumps. 

While I didn’t manage to get a picture of the Brant, I did have lots of opportunity to watch this Surf Scoter feeding on the edge of the dock where we moored on the third night.  The bird was plucking mussels off the concrete below the waterline and crunching down with that wonderful multicoloured beak.

Surf Scoter, Melanitta perspicillata

Another treat was Rhinoceros Auklets.  There were several rafts of these little alcids particularly around Swartz Bay and Fulford Harbour.  I wasn’t able to see any with fully developed horns but their “whiskers” stood out against their black plumage.  Pigeon Guillemots and Common Murres were also distinctive and were actively fishing – bobbing along on the surface then spreading their wings and quickly diving below the surface.
Pigeon Guillemot, Cepphus columba
As could be seen from my previous post, South Pender Island was a great spot for bold birds that seemed accustomed to people up close.  This female Red-breasted Merganser was peeking under the water then popping her head up to check that I wasn’t getting too close for comfort.  The ID of Red-breasted comes from the punk mohawk this bird is sporting.  The female Common Merganser is basically the same, minus mohawk.  If you feel I’m off on this identification, please let me know in the comments – it’s all part of the learning process!
Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator 
More in two days – this time on to the infamous “LBJ’s”

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