On July 26, 2009, in the middle of a rare heat wave, we took a field trip organized by the Victoria Natural History Society to Sidney Spit. The night before there was an unusual (for these parts) electrical storm which included even more unusual orange-coloured skies at sunset–probably resulting from the forest fires in the provincial interior. Still, we enjoyed the display as a backdrop to the lighthouse at the local Thrifty Foods.
After a short and pleasantly cool ferry ride among surf scoters and pigeon guillemots we landed at the dock at Sidney Island –part of Gulf Islands National Park–where there was a village of purple martin homes and we were treated to a fly-by from the residents. Here’s one neighbourhood in the purple martin village.
Towards the middle of Sidney Spit, there were large flocks of gulls that appeared to be our common glaucous-winged. Some of the birders we were with had kindly brought spotting scopes and shared them everyone in the group. Closer examination of the flocks revealed many glaucous-winged, but also the presence of at least several unusual gulls: Heerman’s, Caspian tern, mew gull and California gull were each spotted.
We’d heard that Sidney Island was home to many fallow deer–these are not the native mule deer, and while quite picturesque in a North Pole kind of way with their spots and interesting antlers, they’re known to damage native vegetation. We spotted a group of the deer at the edge of a field quite far away from us. Here’s the best documentation we could get of one of them munching away on a tree:
We heard but didn’t see the Pacific Slope Flycatcher (formerly Western Flycatcher)–it’s GREAT going out with birders! The picnic area at the walk-in camping site is home to about a dozen barn swallow nests.
Another interesting feature of the island is a beach full of broken bricks dating from the early 1900s when the island was home to a brickworks. Hard to believe they’ve been there almost a century.
The little ferry to Sidney Island only operates during the summer so we’re glad we finally made the time to go. Well worth it!