Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alaska: Victoria, BC, June 28, 2012

Our last port on the cruise was Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. However, we weren’t due to arrive in port until noon.

We ate in the main dining room and then, as was our custom, went up to the Lido Deck to check out the birds.

We were already in protected waters, with Canada on our starboard and Washington State on our port, so our species were mostly limited to Murrelets, both Marbled and Ancient.

Since birding was slow, we opted to return to our cabin to begin the sad process of packing, getting most of it done well before we docked in Victoria.

Once off ship, we had to wait about a half hour before our shuttle to Budget car rental arrived. During that time we spoke with a tour van driver, who strongly recommended we visit a nature preserve just north of the city called Swan Lake. He told us it was well-marked off 17, the road we needed to take that day.

Once we processed our rental and got oriented to our direction, we headed off to the Victoria airport to find the Sky Lark, a bird which is virtually only found in Victoria on this side of the world.

Once at the airport we drove over to one of the fields to its south. This field held a herd of cows, who rushed to the fence believing we had some sort of treat for them.


When the view cleared we saw several birds on a distant fence, but couldn’t get a clear view of them, even through the scope. However, we DID hear a few Sky Larks calling, although not their beautiful song.

Our impression of the birds led us to believe we probably had the Larks in the scope. But we decided to drive around some of the other fields to see if we could get a clearer view.

I finally got the best view of one by one of the northern fields, when it flew out of the high grass and sat for a few seconds right by the side of the road. Its crest was apparent, as was it’s simplicity.

While stopped at one more field, we saw several popping up and down in the deep grass.

Satisfied we could count this life bird, we left the airport, deciding to take the advice we were given, and headed down 17 for a stop at Swan Lake.

The van driver had made an excellent recommendation. This nature sanctuary had trails through different habitats, a nature center, and a small lake around which was habitat with tall grasses.

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The area was cacophonous with the calls of all types of birds, including Spotted Towhees, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Marsh Wrens, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Pine Siskins. I spotted a female Black-headed Grosbeak high in an oak tree. There were Violet-green and Barn Swallows swooping around the lake, which held Mallards and Canada Geese, which really were Canadian!

I would highly recommend this preserve as a great stop in any birding trip to Victoria, in spite of the fact it isn’t included in the Birder’s Guide to Alaska. This goes to show you locals are sometimes a better source of information than ABA books.

Our final stop was by the cruise ship port, the Ogden Point Breakwater. Here we picked up our final new bird for the trip, a Great Blue Heron.

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We also spent some time admiring the art along the breakwater. Apparently there is also a mural under the water. However, we weren’t keen on diving down to see it!

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We departed from Victoria at 11 p.m. and arrive in Seattle at 7 a.m., so this was our final birding day of our vacation. A summary for the trip will follow.

The list:

Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Bald Eagle
Spotted Sandpiper
Glaucous-winged Gull
Ancient Murrelet
Marbled Murrelet
Rock Pigeon
Downy Woodpecker
Northwestern Crow
Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Marsh Wren
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Black-headed Grosbeak
Spotted Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Fox Sparrow (Sooty)
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin

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