Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Hi everyone,

Well it looks like the Spotted Owl pulled out a tight victory, barely beating Horned Puffin and the "most wanted BC bird."

I have made a new poll which I suppose it geared a little more to the "twitchers" in the crowd. Nonetheless, I expect some thoughtful guesses (although I know some of you will just pick the one with the coolest name!). So what is this about? I have assembled a list of some likely candidates for BC's next "first record." It's up to you to guess which one will arrive here first!

Have fun,


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Feb 19 Count Update: 182

Thanks to an EARED GREBE off the White Rock Pier I am now up to 182 for the year. I spent the recent weekend soaking in the Olympics and the associated crowds downtown, and taking a little break from hardcore birder.

Now that I'm back in the Okanagan I am excited about the new migrants arriving in the valley and I look forward to my next trip to the coast... still need a Band-tailed Pigeon!

Happy birding,

Russ C
Penticton, BC

Feb 18: Sunshine Coast (Part II)

After spending another great day on the island with Jukka, checking all the great spots between Courtenay-Cumberland-Comox and Campbell River, we headed back over to the mainland... time for another shot at the Rock Sandpiper! We met up with Ilya Povalyaev in Horseshoe Bay then hopped on another ferry to Langdale where Arnold Skei picked us up and took us back to Sechelt. Well... first time no luck; the tide was falling at Mission Point and there were certainly a lot of turnstones and a few surfbirds... but no smaller guys. We hung around for a few hours hoping for the best (as you can see Jukka has a great strategy for spotting rarities), but no luck.

After a while of no-rockies we decided to head into town grab some lunch, then look for the hybrid duck I found earlier in Sechelt Marsh. The Canvasback was still present but unfortunately no weird-looking ducks! After this disappointment, we once again returned to Mission Point where more shorebirds had arrived for low-tide but STILL NO Rocks... So, once again we settled into a sunbathed stake-out, waiting for the best.

After about 30 minutes I glanced up in time to see a single bird fly in to join the feeding frenzy. When the wings flashed prior to landing I didn't notice any distinctive pattern (obvious in both surfbird and turnstone) and the wings appeared short. Could this be one finally??? I ran down to the edge and set up my scope at an angle to minimize the sun-glare. For about 10 minutes I couldn't re-find the bird but all of a sudden through the bins I got onto it, a ROCK SANDPIPER!!! I yelled up to the beach and Jukka and Ilya jogged down to check it out. High-fives all around, then a celebratory beer up on the beach with Arnold who had just returned from checking some other spots to the south.

YESSSSSS!!!!! Good golly molly I was stoked. Before Jukka or I could get good photos the birds all took off to the south, but just before we left to catch the ferry they all returned and this time the flock included at least 7 ROCK SANDPIPERS!

Below is a photograph containing my first ever Rock Sandpiper. For those of you that enjoyed my "find the White-throated Sparrow" or "find the American Bittern" photo quizes, you'll love this more advanced quiz. So, can you find the Rock Sandpiper in this photo (Warning: There are lots of real rocks in this photo as well as a few Black Turnstones)(Hint: It's head may not be visible)

Feb 16: Still sunny on the outer coast!

This morning Jukka and I made our way out to the west coast of Vancouver Island where we hoped to catch up with some rare seabirds passing by offshore. We started off at Comber's Beach where gulls often congregate at a creek mouth at the south end. This morning however, all the gulls were on offshore islets amongst throngs of sea-lions. A few probable Western Gulls dotted the rocks amongst the numerous Glaucous-wings, but nothing Slaty-backed-ish! I've included a photo of Jukka checking the murre flocks offshore, and you can see how storm damage has washed out the stairs to the beach. And OF COURSE I managed to find a way to catch my foot in a foot and do a flying face-plant onto the hard sand below. Luckily I somehow managed to save my scope but it was at the expense of my already bloodied up knee (previous soccer incident) and my dignity! I suppose would have been embarrassing to try and explain a sprained ankle after passing by the "This Beach is Closed" signs. Luckily I was okay and we didn't run into any officials!

From here we retreated to Amphitrite Point, a more ideal sea-watching post with less fog.
Here we stayed for 3 1/2 hours scoping the waves, picked out several hundred BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES (nice year bird!) as well as a lot of Common Murres, Pacific Loons, Common Loons, a few Red-throated Loons, all 3 species of cormorants, a few mergansers, etc. etc. I had been hoping for some more alcids or even some tubenoses but alas, I was once again forced to simply enjoy the sunshine... not so bad.

We also found 5 EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES in Ucluelet... these birds are now everywhere!

Then around 2pm we raced back to Courtenay... couldn't miss Canada vs. Norway!!!

Feb 15: Nanaimo to Courtenay

This morning I hopped on another ferry from Horseshoe Bay, this time to Nanaimo where my good buddy Jukka Jantunen picked me up for a few days of upper island birding. We started off at Piper's Lagoon where my Dad suggested Rock Sandpiper could be a possibility. Almost immediately Jukka spotted a small sandpiper of some sort feeding amongst turnstones and Black-bellied Plovers well offshore on some rocky islets. "YES!" I thought, this was surely my long-awaited lifer. All of a sudden the flock took off and wheeled towards the mainland only to disappear behind a headland. In the flock we counted 11 calidris-sized birds in the flock... could they be?? We scrambled over the hill and refound the flock right below us... ooo.. ooo.... ahhh no they're all Dunlin! So there ya go, never judge a bird only by its habitat. This also explains why we didn't notice the characteristic white wing-bars when the birds flew.
Another year bird at the lagoon was a single RHINO AUKLET that buzzed past us offshore.

From there we headed up to Parksville to check all the gull hotspots... we browsed through thousands of Glaucous-winged Gulls, Thayer's Gulls, and Mew Gulls with me hoping hoping hoping for a Slaty-backed, but we had to settle for smaller numbers of Herring Gulls, California Gulls, a few Bonaparte's Gulls, and a leucistic adult Glaucous-winged Gull. Still fun, don't get me wrong... but I've been checking every gull flock between Chilliwack and Abbotsford, all over Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, and now on the island... and still no dark darker birds (other than a few Western Gulls of course). Anyways, we'll just keep pushing. At least I finally found some WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS (that was getting a little worrying!).

Definitely a great tour of the waterfront between Nanaimo and Courtenay today with perfect weather. My other yearbird tick came from a fivesome of GREATER YELLOWLEGS working the shoreline at Deep Bay. --stayed up late tonight watching the Olympics despite the fact that we need to leave the house at 4:30am to be sure we get to Ucluelet for first light!

Feb 14: Sunny Sunshine Coast

Valentine's Day turned out to be a great day despite the lack of lady-company and Rock Sandpipers... (more on those bloody pipers later!).

Doug, Arnold, and I started off at Chaster Beach in Gibsons where 30 minutes of sea-watching turned up some awesome stuff like ANCIENT MURRELET (a few came close enough to flash their pale underwings for us!), many MARBLED MURRLETS, and a group of 4 KILLER WHALES!!!

We returned to the scrub-jay spot but the only interesting thing there was my yearbird KILLDEER (at long last!). Next we hit the Roberts Creek Jetty where the gale winds of the day before had certainly died down, revealing an almost infinite glassy surface to scope. Still nothing too out of the ordinary although I did find my first BLACK TURNSTONES of the year. Singing HUTTON'S VIREOS were nice up by Sechelt Airport, then Doug spotted my first PIGEON GUILLEMOTS and SURFBIRDS of the year at the mouth of Wakefield Creek north of Sechelt.

We met up with Tony Greenfield at Sechelt Marsh around lunchtime, where a tour through the wetland produced several nice birds including an overwintering mal CANVASBACK (locally rare), and I found this very interesting duck (in photo) which I suspect is a female hybrid MALLARD x NORTHERN PINTAIL. Any comments would be welcomed, as female hybrids are poorly documented in North America.

And finally we returned to Mission Point (aka the mouth of Chapman Creek), where we hoped a low tide would bring in the rock-loving shorebirds. There were a good number of gulls including (locally uncommon-to-rare-in-winter) California, Herring, and Bonaparte's Gulls. BUT, only 3 Black Turnstones! Where were the surfbirds and more importantly, where were the much hoped-for Rock Sandpipers??? The weather was fabulous however, so the three of us had to settle for an afternoon basking in the sun waiting for the flocks to come in. AT some point Arnold's wife Inger came out with a large platter of home-made sandwiches, cookies, cold cokes, and a pot of coffee... woweeeee this is birding!

This relaxed Sunshine Coast style definitely made the lack of target birds easier to swallow! Doug picked out another new open for me here: COMMON MURRE, then Tony noticed a flock of about 200 shorebirds flying from further north towards White Islet just offshore from us. "The birds must be in there!" we all though but because of the setting sun and distance to the islet, it proved very difficult to say for sure whether the smaller birds were indeed Rock Sandpipers. So alas, Doug and I had to depart Sechelt without our prize, but I knew that I would be returning soon and that sounded fine with me-- Rock Sandpipers or not, the Sunshine Coast is a great place to be!

Vancouver Island tomorrow!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feb 13: Late Start to Sunshine Coast

This morning I was supposed to meet up with Doug Brown for some high-paced birding along the southern regions of the Sunshine Coast. BUT when I got to my parking spot in East Vancouver I discovered that my car had been towed! Not a happy way to start the day, but luckily my good friend Devin Mackenzie knew the bus system well enough to get us downtown then underneath the Granville Street Bridge to "Buster's" impound lot. Still it was 2pm by the time Doug and I finally made our way across to Langdale on the ferry. We started off in an upscale neighborhood where a few feeders attract ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS. Despite the rain and wind I did eventually manage to find this gorgeous singing male!

It was definitely great birding this area with Doug (who lived in this area for over 5 years during the 90's), since he knows exactly where to go for practically everything on my "want-list." After picking up the hummingbird however, we headed over to Kelly Road in Gibsons to look for a bird Doug hasn't seen on the Sunshine Coast: Western Scrub-Jay. Apparently late afternoon in wind and rain is not an ideal situation for finding jays (not even a Steller's) but we did get onto some good stuff including a TOWNSEND'S WARBLER mixed in with some chickadees and kinglets.

Had my car not been towed earlier in the day-- allowing us to get to Sechelt in the morning-- we would have headed straight to Mission Point for low-tide when flocks of turnstones and surfbirds are often accompanied by a dozen or so Rock Sandpipers. This species is my main target for the trip since it is tough elsewhere in BC and most importantly I've never seen one before!!! At dusk we met up with local birder and all around great guy Arnold Skei who confirmed that around 20 Rock Sandpipers had indeed been present earlier in the day. Good news for tomorrow I hope! Apparently the birds (along with the other "rockpipers") head to White Islet (about 1km offshore) each evening to roost.

Other yearbirds today included: Harlequin Duck, Black Scoter, and Bonaparte's Gull.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Feb 14 Update: 176 species!

Just got back from a great trip to the Sunshine Coat with Doug Brown. Highlights include Ancient Murrelet and Townsend's Warbler. Will have a full report sometime soon.

Nanaimo tomorrow!

currently in West Vancouver

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Recent Highlights and Upcoming trip!

Hi all,

The birding has been great around the Okanagan lately although no new additions. So far my only new bird in the month of February has been a lone female RUDDY DUCK near Okanagan Landing (Vernon). Other highlights include the continuing Yellow-billed Loon, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Northern Hawk-Owl...

It feels like late March up around Kelowna as the ponds are all open and the first pintails are returning! I've also seen a couple YELLOW-BELLIED MARMOTS and a WOOD TICK!!! Spring must be upon us! Swallows soon!

This Friday I plan to drive down to Vancouver to take in some of the early Olympic festivities (not to mention a few landfill stops to check for Slaty-backed Gull!). ON Saturday it looks like I'll be hitting the Sunshine Coast to seek out my first LIFER of the year: ROCK SANDPIPER! Should be fun.

All the best,


Thursday, February 4, 2010

A few photos

Here are some shots from the last couple days (Gadwall, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Coyote)

Year List now available

Hi all,

I've uploaded my year list to the files section of bcintbird, bcvanbirds, and bcvibirds birds so feel free to check those out (links below). As you will see, there are a few easy birds left to find (not to mention some hard ones). Right now I'm planning a Vancouver Island trip during the Olympics so that should add a few!

If the links don't work for you, send me an email and I'll try and correct the problem or send you the file itself.

In the Press!