Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sooke pelagic cut short but still a couple new ones

Allo allo,

Just got back to Vancouver from a brief jaunt over to Sooke for some seabirding. On Friday I met up with Ian Cruickshank and we headed out to Sherringham Point to scope the waves. Pretty dead out there compared to a year ago when several species of shearwaters and jaegers were visible at almost any time of day. After three hours of watching we had seen only the usual suspects (Rhino Auklet, loads of murres, etc) plus a new year tick: several HEERMANN'S GULLS.

The next day I boarded a whale-watching boat with 12 other salty-souls and we headed out to the mouth of the Juan de Fuca (aka Salish Sea). As expected, we needed to go way out to Swiftsure Banks to get our first taste of tubenoses but alas the wind picked up and we were forced back into the strait. All in all it was a fun trip with the highlights being: 7+ RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS all migrating south over the strait, over 20 CASSIN'S AUKLETS (last year we missed them), a single TUFTED PUFFIN, a couple NORTHERN FULMARS (year bird-- pale bird pictured below) good numbers of PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS, and surprisingly only 5 or 6 SOOTY SHEARWATERS.

Time for a couple more days of shorebirding (if only we had some rain!), then I'm off on a longer boat trip out of Hardy-- hoping for some good stuff!

Over and out,


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A couple more today

Maybe things are looking up, found a Stilt Sandpiper in Kelowna early this afternoon and then capped off the day by flushing a Green Heron near Grant Narrows this evening!

Time to really stick it out! I'll be on the coast for about a month, fingers crossed!

Russ C
East Van, BC

Ptarmigan hunt update: nope!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Another missed opportunity

Well I just got back from a day and a half in the West Kootenays. I had a great time and saw some amazing scenery and lots of birds... just not the ones I was looking for!!! Early in July I phoned a local Creston biologist about Forster's Terns and whether or not I had to worry about getting their right away. His notes indicated that they often linger until September so I thought, "no problem in early August then!"

I linked up with Nelson birder extraordinaire Avery "Gump" Bartels on Friday night, then headed to the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area on Saturday morning. This place is truly the crown jewel of the Kootenays in my opinion: a vast expanse of rich wetlands surrounded my virtually untouched cottonwood groves and mixed forests (where else can you see ponderosa pine and western hemlock growing side by side?).

Around Salmo I spotted a large group of turkeys in a field; "are those countable?" I asked. Avery insisted that they were wild despite the fence and farm setting. "This is only the second time I've ever seen them there," he said. Feeling kind of dirty but also slightly desperate I ticked them as #335 on the year list. Fortunately later in the day while bushwhacking around the hills of Creston we came across 3 truly WILD TURKEYS running down a quiet logging road (including this fellow).

Anyways, our main targets after the turkeys were Forster's Terns (who have their only BC breeding colony here in Creston at Duck Lake) and Great Egret (which had been seen recently on nearby Leach Lake).

We started off at the old Summit Creek campground where I immediately had flashbacks of getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Turns out today was going to be a trip down memory lane! Too hot for pants and long-sleeves + no bug spray + Leach Lake = AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARH df;gjbsdlfg'sd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We first tried overlooking Leach Lake from the Topaz Creek Forest Service Road. No egrets, but plenty of white objects to look at including 120+ AMERICAN WHITE-PELICANS and even more DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS (these guys are obviously increasing in the area!).

Next we visited the visitor's center for the refuge where of course I was so focused on the target birds I forgot to take a picture of the marsh for the blog. So instead, here is a picture of a nesting BARN SWALLOW which I took while chatting with a student naturalist.

After scouring the main refuge headquarters we headed out to Duck Lake for the terns... that WERE NOT THERE! Disaster strikes again! After missing a couple breeders in the Peace earlier this summer I really couldn't afford to miss another "gimme." BUT, as far as we could tell, the terns were all gone. On our way back to Leach Lake we stopped at the well-known community store "Mugwumps" to pick up some home-made sandwiches and a copy of Linda's "Bird of the Creston Valley." This is a fantastic little guide that is a great pick-up for any visiting birders. Interestingly enough however, the bar-graphs in the guide also indicate that Forster's Terns are reliable until the end of September? Did something crazy happen this year then or what? A local biologist said he had seen free-flying juveniles in mid-July (and also said he hadn't seen any lately) so it seems likely that the entire colony headed south in late July. I would feedback from people in the know!

So anyhoo... screwed that one up! So Avery and I spent the rest of the day walking around Leach Lake getting absolutely obliterated by bugs but still marveling at the high densities of waterfowl and huge cottonwoods. Looks a lot like Revelstoke except waaaay more habitat, I thought. After circling the 2 main Leach Lake units we bushwhacked up the hill to a nice look-out where we scanned and scanned for egrets without luck. We did however spot 2 distant adult TUNDRA SWANS (my best guess) which are probably more notable than an egret at this time of year. But it was not to be! Thoroughly itchy and sweaty, it was time to head back to Nelson.

On the drive back somewhere around Salmo, Avery shouted "Macaw!!!" I knew he had some great ID instincts but this seemed like, well, a bit crazy. Sure enough though, sitting on the telephone wires above the highway was a SCARLET MACAW!!! I Bet Mike Toochin missed this one on his big year right?

Apparently this bird is probably the property of a nearby resident who was recently busted for a massive marijuana grow-up and parrot collection. Therefore, I probably can't safely count it... darn.

Spent one last night in Nelson then headed back to the Okanagan via the Waldie Island Sewage Lagoons in Castlegar, wow a viewing tower at a sewage pond! Castlegar has its birding infrastructure in order!

Back in the OK briefly, looking for ptarmigan this afternoon, then down to the coast for a few months!



Thursday, August 5, 2010

Done work, time to play!

On July 30th I completed my last day of bird work in Revelstoke. I had a great time up there and saw lots of birds but now that it's August I reeeeeeally need to start birding the coast. Speaking of which, I just got back from a day or two trip down to Vancouver where I FINALLY caught up with the elusive Dunbar COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD. After about an hour of watching feeders I (completely by chance) spotted it perched on a clothes-line in another yard. It perched for only a few seconds (enough to get this crappy photo) then disappeared. I haven't heard anyone comment on the bird's vocalizations but this bird was calling/singing fairly frequently during its brief appearance. Similar to the Anna's song but also different in quality and pattern... hard to describe of course! Please let me know if you (the reader) have any experience with Costa's Hummingbird vocalization or even hybrid Costa's x Anna's song as this seems to be an under-documented phenomenon. Aside from the song, the bird appears to be a classic Costa's Hummingbird. The lateral extensions to the gorget aren't extremely long but the prominent white brow and cheek patch stand out, and in the photo you may note the green nape and short wing and tail morphology.

Thank you Dave C for showing me around!

The next day (Aug 3) I teamed up with Ilya Pov for some Boundary Bay area shorebirding. Numbers were decent with lots of Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers (1 molting golden plover sp. mixed in; long p-proj. but otherwise Pacific in looks), a few groups of peeps including a few bigger PECTORAL and BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS (apparently recent arrivals).

My only year bird for the day was a lone RUDDY TURNSTONE handing out with the Blackies at the Ferry Jetty (pictured). An attractive dude fo sho!

I tried for Green Heron at Ambleside in West Van the next morning but no luck. Will have to spend more time on this species next week when I come down again for a longer period.

Briefly back in the Okanagan, gearing up for a Kootenays trip: Forster's Tern, Wild Turkey, and Great Egret are the targets!