August 14 2015 – The new moon occurs today. Its will be a ‘full sturgeon moon’ on August 29. It must be good for fish. There are lots of Three-spined Stickleback in Delkatla and they hold against the culvert currents under the Stepping Stones Trail. The fish don’t have scales but are protected by bony plates on the back, flank and belly. Things still eat them, a recent acquaintance explained that, as a child, he fed some to an injured Mallard and although the bird took a while to get it down, it did manage eventually. So bony plates are only a deterrent, not a guarantee of survival.
A large flock of migrating Northern Pintail showed up this week. They don’t nest here and it’s the first sighting of south-bound birds. They were all either female or juvenile birds. Over 200 Canada Geese returned to the Sanctuary, their numbers may increase over the next few months as those from the north start coming south. It was interesting to see them strip the seeds from the tip of the grass, now at full height, as one might strip a corn-cob. They did it quietly. The island geese are dark and smallish, although larger than the Cackling Geese that will arrive soon.
Out at the water-hole a bunch of testy juncos drove off every other species that came in for a drink. We hadn’t actually noticed this before, perhaps because we hadn’t put bird-seed out for a while, but once the feed was out the juncos claimed ownership of the whole garden and drove off a few sparrows and a thirsty Townsend’s Warbler, the yellow and black one. Well, there’s still lots of wild food crop around so the seed has been stored for later.
Just this morning a family of Golden-crowned Kinglets came in for an undisturbed bath and seemed to enjoy every moment. They are one of the smallest forest birds and one of the earliest nesters. Males have a bright yellow crown and this family looked quite grown up.
Shorebird migration continues. Western and Least Sandpipers flit over the mud-flats and just this week a beautiful and rare sandpiper flew overhead and landed in the meadow beside us. It was an Upland Sandpiper. We only ever see one or two of these birds at a time, they fly alone, not in large flocks as do many of the smaller shorebirds. Although they don’t occur here every year, those that do usually show up in mid-August. Looking back on Peter Hamel’s notes, he has records for the bird appearing on exactly the same day, August 25 in 1994, 1995, 2003 and within the last two weeks in August or early September in other years. Little is known about this bird along the west coast other than that they nest in isolation within mountainous areas in Alaska (Houston and Bowen 2001) and in loose colonies elsewhere. They nest mainly in the prairie provinces of Canada and the great plains of the USA. This bird was a little outside its normal range.