Saturday 16 May 2009

Hawthorn Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook - Map 15 B6
Atlas of Canada Link: Hawthorn Lake
Latitude and Longitude: 49o 3' 0" N - 124o 46' 0" W

Trip Date: April 23rd, 2009

I spent the day exploring lakes along Bamfield Road. Unable to find a trail to Black Lake, I decided to head for Lizard Pond, but encountered active logging just past Hawthorn Lake. So I returned to Hawthorn and put in with fairly low expectations. I followed a pair of Barrow's Golden Eyes for several meters and was surprised when they did not fly away. As my canoe drifted sideways while I stopped paddling to raise the camera for a shot, the size of my profile suddenly registered as a threat and they took off. I later encountered more Golden Eye on the far side of the lake, and they too were slow to spook.

These are perhaps my favorite local freshwater duck -- much more impressive than the Common Goldeneye. This little sea duck is less dramatic than the Wood Duck, but more aproachable, and the startling contrast of the male's purple head with the yellow eye ring can be quite entrancing.

Shortly after that I observed numerous newts sunning at the surface of the lake, only tilting downward as I approached. A flash of orange belly as they turned to dive confirmed for me that they were Taricha granulosa, the Rough-Skinned Newt.

The Rough Skinned Newt is the only newt I have observed so far on Vancouver Island. The other common resident Aquatic Salamanders, the Northwestern Salamander, and the Long-Toed Salamander, have so far eluded me, but the Rough Skinned Newt seems to be everywhere. I have seen them in roadside ponds near Courtenay, and in McNair Lake near Campbell River. On McNair, I was fortunate to see a group of them gathered in a ball, a behavior I first read about in Corkran and Thoms' Amphibians of Oregaon, Washington, and British Columbia, the book I recommend to budding phibs, or amphibian watchers like myself.