Something’s Brewing at the Courtenay Airpark

While there is a great little cafe at the Courtenay Airpark, the coffee didn’t attract my attention on this cold wintery day. I bundled up the kids and loaded them into the double stroller and headed out to the walking trail that loops around the Courtenay Airpark Lagoon. As winter progresses, the lagoon (a former sewage pond) is an excellent place for both ducks and shorebirds and over the years a number of rare birds have been seen here.

I didn’t see anything spectacularly rare today but did get some good looks at some nice birds. On the Courtenay River, in addition to the countless gulls drawn to the feast of spawned out salmon, I saw a Ruddy Duck as well as many Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers, Scaup (unsure of the species – I struggle to separate Lesser and Greater), and at least one male Common Goldeneye. The lagoon was productive as well with a Northern Harrier flushing up Green-winged Teal and Mallard before moving on. A Double-crested Cormorant spent some time diving for fish and a single Great Blue Heron waited and watched for prey at the water’s edge.

Male Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
Male Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) shows a striking white/yellow eye against glossy midnight blue/black feathers.

One of the highlight birds for me wasn’t too unusual and I’ve seen them here several times in previous winters. A group of Brewer’s Blackbirds (Euphagus cyanocephalus) was working the shoreline in a small unruly flock. While the female is a drab grayish brown and has a dark eye, I love the mix of purplish-black, metallic green and rich midnight blue of the male’s feathers and the striking contrast it makes with a pale yellow eye. Stunning!

Female Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
Compared to the male, the rather plain female Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) has dull brown feathers and a dark eye.

A somewhat suburban bird, Brewer’s can be found in the Comox Valley year round if one knows where to look. At this time of year, the Airpark seems to be a fairly reliable place to see them. If you happen to be visiting Courtenay this winter and are looking to do a little birdwatching check out the Courtenay Airpark Lagoon – you’re bound to see something interesting. And you can always stop at the Park Cafe for a great cup of coffee!

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