three young olive-sided flycatchers

The Olive-sided Flycatchers' young have fledged. I've observed three juveniles so far. 
Here's a photo of them all lined-up on a branch, with a parent perched above them:
Here's that same tree, end right, with only the parent visible as a speck on the treetop.

song sparrow on garden gate

damselflies, dragonfly, butterfly

pacific forktails?

cardinal meadowhawk

Lorquin's Admiral

snake swimming

today's bird checklist

A casual half-hour's (10.30 am to 11.00 am) observation around the cottage, over the ridge, and in the alders and immature fir down by the ponds:

2 American Robins
4 Towhees
1 Stellar's Jay
2 or possibly 3 Olive-sided Flycatchers (2 seen and 3rd heard simultaneously)
2 or more Willow Flycatchers (possibly tending to nest/young)
1 or more Pacific-slope Flycatchers (heard only)
1 or more Yellow Warblers (heard only)
2 Ravens (traveling together)
1 Immature Bald Eagle
2 Turkey Vultures
2 White-crowned Sparrows (immature)
2 or more Anna's Hummingbirds
2 or more Rufous Hummingbird
2 or more Northern Flickers
2 House Wrens with young in nest

The most prominent bird calls are from the Olive-sided Flycatchers, followed by the Flickers, the Jays, the Pacific-slope Flycatchers and the Willow Flycatchers.

pacific-slope (western) and willow flycatchers

Two more birds with distinctive calls...

The Pacific-slope Flycatcher sounds like he's trying to get your attention, with a whistled  "tsee-EET". It also has a three note song - a bit like Cassin's Vireo only less musical - that sounds like it can't decide which note should come next. Here's a link to a video of it's call - the last call in the segment is the one that usually gets your attention. Also, a couple of youtube videos.

Here's the Pacific-slope Flycatcher's three note song as accompaniment to cervine rumination:

The Willow Flycatcher has a brrr-ip call followed by a wolf-whistled like call.  It also has a single, whit call similar to the Swainson's Thrush (see blog entry below). Unlike the Pacific-slope Flycatcher, which is yellow-green, the Willow Flycatcher is drab olive-grey.

Both birds are much smaller than the Olive-sided flycatcher, but are often in plain sight at the top of immature fir trees etc, presumably because it's easier to catch flies that way.

white-throated sparrow

Here's a bird easily identified by it's song - one of my favourites.

The SS Conservancy checklist gives the white-throated sparrow as an uncommon, winter bird. The white crowned sparrow, which looks very similar, is the common summertime bird, known to breed locally.

Telling the two species' fledglings and immature birds apart seems to me to be the real trick. Here are pictures from the National Geographic site.

White-throated sparrows:

White-crowned sparrows:

telling songbirds apart

While trying my best to identify birds from brief glimpses, I find it eaier to identify them by their songs and calls. For example, how to tell: Cassin's, Warlbing and Hutton's Vireos apart, along with Ruby-crowned Kinglets (in the winter), Orange-crowned Warblers, female Yellow Warblers, and (most commonly seen around the property) the Pacific-slope Flycatcher?

Cassin's Vireo:

Warbling Vireo:

Hutton's Vireo

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (usually hides its bright red crown):

Orange-crowned Warbler (again, the orange crown is difficult to see):

Female Yellow Warbler:

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

canadian tiger swallowtail with canada thistle

... otherwise known as papilio canadensis and cirsium arvense

dwarfland grove, new planting

blue elderberry tree (sambucus caerulea)

three elderberry in semi-circle

mature blue elderberry

oregon ash (fraxinus latifolia)

mature oregon ash

ash to the left, west end of pond - three elderberry to the right, north side of pond

don't be fooled by jay mimicry

Steller's and Gray Jays are the most amazing mimics. Here are clips of: a Steller's mimicking a Red-Tailed Hawk and then an Osprey; followed by a Gray Jay (a much rarer bird on Salt Spring) mimicking a crow.

olive-sided flycatcher, red-listed

Another bird with a distinctive call - a three-note "quick three beers" song, and a rapid, scolding three- then two-beat "wheat-wheat-wheat, wheat-wheat" - the olive-sided flycatcher species has undergone a moderately rapid decline and therefore qualifies as as Near Threatened. The reasons for this decline are unknown - possibly habitat loss in its wintering grounds in South and Central America.

Here are a couple of you tube clips: the first with the "quick three beers" song, followed by the "wheat-wheat-wheat" call; the second some basic footage, to help with identification. The olive colour shows up much more vividly in real life, even through binoculars.

The resident birds - a breeding pair - spend much of their time fly-spotting and catching from the tops of perching trees, like the one at the centre-right of this photo. Bare at the tip and upper branches, their prefered trees are ideal for keeping watch over flying insect activity, as well as their nesting site. To the rear of these trees is a hollow, marshy area with alder and seasonal ponds. The precise location of the nest is not confirmed, but activity focuses there.

Below is a close up of the same ridge of trees. Sorry for the poor detail, but that dark figure at the very tip is an Olive-sided Flycatcher - probably the male. (You'll just have to trust me.)

NOTICE: as of 24 July 2013, the pair are no longer alone! So far I've been able to distinguish two other flycatchers, which I presume are their fledged young. Their "wheat-wheat" calls are neither as confident nor as clear as the adult pair, and they seem much more lively, zooming off up the mountainside and back.

swainson's thrush song

For most of the summer, whenever I've gone down to the pond, a little grey bird with a white chest has flitted through the dense canopy of alder above me, whistling a single note. This bird has been too quick to get a clear view for identification; but I've finally found out that its whit call is unique to the Swainson's Thrush. Listen for it in the second half of this video clip: finally, I figured out who's whistling!

OOPS: it seems I confused the whit call of the Swainson's Thrush with that of the Willow Flycatcher; the Thrush makes a more musical sound, almost like a water droplet, whereas the flycatcher sounds more raspy. Compare the two at: and

The giveaway of course is observation. The thrush is a larger bird (wingspan 11.4–12.2 in., compared to 7.5–9.4 in. for the flycatcher) and the thrush has a speckled chest. That's not what I've been seeing!

So officially, the little grey bird that's been whistling at me is a Willow Flycatcher. There seem to be two and possibly three pairs nesting on the ridge and in the woodland.

arbutus shed their leaves this month

Hiking trails become treacherous where Arbutus (also known as the Pacific Madrone) shed their oily leaves in July, dropping them soon after the season's new leaves have grown. Arbutus also shed their bark at this time of year. It peels away to reveal bright green wood beneath. This wood will darken to a deep, fiery red, which then wrinkles and peels away again.

More about the Arbutus Menziesii:

The Arbutus has distinctive reddish bark, thick waxy leaves and a beautiful twisted stem that can grow to 30 metres tall. It can grow 1 metre thick at the base and is the only evergreen broadleaf tree in Canada.
This tree is found from Mexico to southern Vancouver Island and mostly grows on sunny, rocky shores or outcrops. It is often found growing with Douglas fir and usually grows within 1.5 km of the ocean. In BC this plant is found in the Georgia Lowlands ecoprovince.

The Arbutus has white flowers in spring with bright red berries in the late summer and fall. It grows a new layer of bark every year, peeling off the old layer; the new green bark can photosynthesize (it can make its own food).

Crows, ravens, woodpeckers, waxwings and other birds are attracted to its bright orange berries.
Traditional First Nations Uses: the Arbutus wood was used for walking sticks and its berries for decorative necklaces, beads, etc. Arbutus bark and leaves had medicinal purposes such as use for colds, stomach problems and tuberculosis.
The wood of the tree is really hard & twisted, but useful for small walking sticks & woodcrafts.

COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow

- See more at:

flowers of july

harvest brodaea, growing in a hollow on a sunny ridge

an ocean of sneezes

ocean spray (holodiscus discolor var. sneezi muchli)

fairy doors

fairy door - south

fairy door - east

rough-skinned newts

....beneath the tranquil surface of this pond...

...rough-skinned newts (taricha granulosa)....

from more info on amphibians, visit:

wildflowers and a bright red spider

nothoscordum borbonicum (false garlic) and vica sativa (common vetch)

false garlic with very blurry money/dwarf spider (linyphiidae, genus ceraticelus) 

the nighthawks are back

... in fact they've been back for a week now, and are very active indeed! see the archive for details on this amazing bird.

odonata (dragonflies and their ilk)

Odonata - Greek for the "toothed-ones" - can give a painful but harmless bite. Although we commonly use the word dragonfly for all members of the order, there are two sub-orders, the Zygoptera (damselflies), and the Anisoptera (dragonflies). Zygoptera means “joined wings” and anisoptera means “unequal wings”.

Darners, petaltails, clubtails, spiketails, forktails, cruisers, skimmers and emeralds make up the most commonly seen dragonflies. Pond damsels, broad-winged damsels and spreadwings make up the damselflies.

An enthusiast who goes by the name Bogfoot, has a wonderful set of photos and a blog:

Here are ones typically seen at Dwarfland Pond:

canada darner

cardinal meadowhawk

pacific forktail

black petaltail