by Sheila Molloy –
For over 100 years, the Christmas Bird Count, a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society, finds volunteers from across Canada, the U.S. and many countries to count birds for an early-winter bird census for a 24-hour period.
The Martindale Valley (also called Martindale Flats by local birders) on our Saanich Peninsula has been hailed as one of the best routes in Canada for the census for the volume and variety of birds that can be found during that census and all autumn and winter long.
This location is a fabulous place for anyone looking to spot and identify a variety of bird species any time of the year, but is spectacular in the autumn and winter.
The entire area is agricultural with wide-open plains, a tasty selection of field leftovers, and wet drain ditches that make it a prime opportunity for an assortment of ducks, geese, swans, hawks and more!
According to the bird count notes and e-bird (https://ebird.org/region/CA-BC-CP) you can find American wigeon, snow goose, Canada goose, northern pintail, green-winged teal, northern shoveler, ring-necked duck, lesser scaup, common goldeneye, red-tailed hawk, hooded merganser and even an occasional Eurasian wigeon. The trumpeter swan is another possibility and other unique finds include short-eared owls and, according to some records, snowy owls can be spotted.
The route itself can be driven, walked or biked. For this adventure we drove and walked. The area is beautiful in the autumn, so the rural landscape makes a fantastic backdrop to birding.
From Highway 17, we turned east onto Island View Road, then right on Lochside Drive until Martindale Road. We parked along Martindale Road, careful to avoid blocking farmer fields, implement paths and respecting no-trespassing signs.
We walked up Martindale and went right on Welch, left on Dooley, and then right back up Lochside to Martindale again. This walk could take an hour but for all the stops to peer through our binoculars and enjoy all the birds. For those looking for less walking in the cold, parking, viewing and watching as the birds come in works too.
Things to Note:
• Respect any no-trespassing signs and keep to the edges of fields
• E-Bird is a great site to see what other birders have found in this hotspot: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L311852.
• Binoculars are great but even the viewfinder of a decent camera or phone can be enough to view and photograph the numerous birds.