Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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!

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