Journal 230 - Nov. 16, 2007
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES! - I was busy running chores in cloudy Nanaimo and contemplating a long overdue visit to Buttertubs Marsh when I noticed the patches of blue sky behind me. I had a premonition the sky would clear and conditions would be perfect for "scotering" in Qualicum. The tide was high, the winds were calm, and clams and mussels seemed to be abundant near the shore after the last big storm. Despite the fact that I had just spent a few hours there yesterday, I had to return. I couldn't resist the perfect conditions and the opportunity of possibly getting the elusive perfect picture. If you don't like reruns or redundancy, I advise you not to continue reading this journal. However, if you enjoy birds anytime and all the time, I think you'll enjoy my new scoter images. I know I enjoyed taking them.
As mentioned in previous reports, the White-winged Scoters always seem to be the most trusting of the 3 species. They were busy clamming just south of the Shady Rest and only retreated about 30 m on my arrival before returning.
Varnish Clams seemed to be plentiful; It is amazing how the scoters know where to excavate for the clams. I suppose they watch for the siphons and then dig from there. High tide and varnish clams go together as varnish clams ten to live higher on the beach than Manilla and Littleneck clams.
I'm assuming that most of the clams are varnish clams which are an invasive species in the Pacific Northwest. They were first detected in the late 1980's and are now a fairly abundant species. I haven't heard how this has impacted native species or the local environment.
Like many other invasive marine species, varnish clams were transported in the ballast water of international freighters. Varnish clams originated in Japan.
Juggling act - The scoters flip the larger clams around before swallowing. I suspect they swallow the clams sideways so it's not as wide.
ALL THAT GLITTERS ISN"T GOLD - It's a good thing the golden knob on the Black Scoters isn't gold. At over $800 an ounce there wouldn't be any Black Scoters left. There was a flock of about 30 Black Scoters just north of the ice cream stand.
The shyest and the smallest of the 3 scoter species is the Black Scoter, but like the other scoters, it just can't resist a shellfish smorgasbord.
It took less than 10 minutes before the Black Scoters decided that being photographed was worth the risk of clamming up.
I read somewhere that the clams are ground up in the gizzard. I find that hard to believe as the gizzard would have to be like a stainless steel garburetor. However, that must be true as remnants of clam shells are discarded in the waste product of the scoters.
I know these scoter photos are a rerun of my last journal, but I had fun. That's all the matters, isn't it?
Finally, one last image. This is my favorite shot. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it's getting close. Anyhow, I like it.
As usual, there were a few other birds around like the female Red-breasted Merganser, but it kept its distance. It wasn't interested in interacting with the scoters.
A pair of Buffleheads hung around outside of the scoters, but they also kept their distance. This one was retreating with the scoters as another couple and their dog intruded in my space even though it was obvious that I was trying to photograph the ducks. I wonder why so many dog owners think that beaches and public places belong to them, and no one else matters?
Lincoln's Sparrow - I seldom see a Lincoln's Sparrow during the winter. Most of them winter further south along the Pacific Coast, but a few hearty souls try to tough out the winter on V.I.
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TOFINO - BOTANICAL GARDENS
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COMOX - BLUE HERON BOOKS
BOWSER - LIGHTHOUSE GIFTS
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