A lack of fall colour, coots, creepers & a cute raptor

For Thanksgiving here in Canada, I went out for a walk looking to see some fall colour. Unfortunately, the trees fell short of my expectations and were still quite green for the most part. However, I can’t complain because I enjoy the moderate climate Victoria has to offer throughout the winter months and I’m willing to compromise on a lack of fall foliage.

Elk Lake still looking very green in October

However, instead of colors, my walk delivered some other very exciting and wonderful things instead. First up, my very first Brown Creeper! For some reason, I felt like this was an important sighting for me in a way, like I wasn’t a real birder until I saw a Brown Creeper. I guess I felt this way because they are so common, but so hard to spot. Now I feel like I graduated in something; like I can call myself a real birder!

Brown Creeper, my very first and no wonder! They are difficult to spot these small, cute birds.


My first glance thought he was a Bewick’s Wren, but the coloring and shape was all wrong. As he skittered quickly up the vertical tree trunk, I was reminded of a nuthatch. And then I realised, without consulting Sibley, that this was most certainly a Brown Creeper. And I was right! How proud I was. How cleverly their feathers blend in with the tree; how small and quick they are. Now I have learned that Brown Creepers commonly travel up tree trunks while nuthatches climb downward – potentially a helpful clue for the future. This is because they start at the bottom of the tree when hunting for insects and probe the bark with their long, curved beak as they make their way up (Cornell).

American Coots out on the lake

Out on the lake was a codgery of American Coots. When we first arrived, we only spied them in the distance, but as we circled the lake, we saw them closer up to the shore and I was able to identify them as coots. I’ve never seen so many in one place before! It was a delight to watch them bob their heads back and forth as they swam along the surface of the water.

The most color I could find along the Elk Lake trail. I think these leaves will turn gold in a few weeks’ time, though.

Further along the trail, through the barely golden-twinged leaves, a hummingbird and a sparrow were noisily hovering and hopping around a branch of a tree; and there, camouflaged in the tree was a sleeping Northern Saw-Whet Owl who did not seem to notice the buzz of the hummingbird at all. What a contrast between birds: noisy, fast and zipping around or silent, suave and swooping.

I have been hoping to see one of these tiny owls one day and was surprised to spot on in the middle of the day quite unexpectedly! The Northern Saw-whet Owl can be found in the Pacific Northwest year-round. Over winter, their range expands across all of North America except the high Arctic. These tiny owls prefer to live in old-growth coniferous forests where they predominantly prey on mice although mine was in a stand of younger deciduous trees (Cornell).

I wish I’d gotten to see his face when he was awake, but I’d never want to disturb the creature in its slumber, so I made great efforts not to make noise. Despite all the noise the hummingbird had been making as well as passing joggers, the tiny owl snoozed on peacefully, resting for the night’s hunt.

Brown Creeper, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Northern Saw-whet Owl, Cornell Lab of Ornithology


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