Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August: "At This Time"

August is the time of ripening. The fruit of the Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa) are a splash of colour among the rich green flora of the Douglas-fir Forest.

The meadows are fringed with Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), their leaves turning green, yellow and gold. The plums hang in purple bunches.

In the damp bottom of a dry pond on Chatham Island, Pacific Treefrogs (Hyla regilla) sunbathe on leaves.

The flowers of summer paint the forest green with rich daubs of colour. The chalky white berries of the Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) will soon form from these delicately swollen August flowers.

Deep in the forest of the Sooke Hills, a dry pond hosts the brialliant blue of the King Gentian (Gentiana sceptrum).

Their breeding done, Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) return to the city parks. The males are not absent, but are inconspicuous in their "eclipse plumage" that resembles the females'. They are betrayed by their bill colour which remains evenly yellow while the females' bill is orange with a dark centre.

Along the rocky reefs seal mothers haul out with their pups to bath in the warm sun.

Rhinoceros Auklets (Cerorhinca moncerata) nest on the American side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They come into Canadian waters to feed on Pacific Sandlance. Like their close relatives, the puffins, these auklets sequentially catch sandlance until they have a billload. They then wait until dark before flying back home to feed their young who are waiting in their nesting burrow.

The male Common Murre (Uria aalge) cares for his young fledgling. In late July and August they lead the chick into the Georgia Strait to feed off the shores of Vancouver Island. The female is off on the ocean taking a rest from parenting and replenishing her energetic stores.

The Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni) nests on the west coast of Mexico and arrive in Victoria after their breeding season has ended. Their generally darker plumage and bright orange bills make them conspicuous among our native gulls.

The shorebirds are now migrating along the coast of Vancouver Island. Along the Oak Bay waterfront on this day were Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Black Oystercatchers, Black-Bellied Plovers, and Killdeer.

This Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus) can not be differentiated from its long-billed relative by bill length, since there is considerable overlap. This bird however showed a "light banded" tail in flight while a Long-billed Dowitcher shows a dark one. This one also shows rufous-buff edges and bars on its tertials.

This Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) was foraging along the shoreline of Mary Tod Island near the Oak Bay Marina.