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!