I started off today "pishing in the bushes" at every pull-off in Pacific Rim National Park. Heavy rain had hit the coast over the course of the previous two days and warblers were everywhere. By 2pm I hadn't turned up anything "rare" but was quite pleased with the abundance of warblers... quite the spectacle. To put things in perspective, in one parking lot alone (North end of Long Beach), I bumped into a mixed migrant flock containing:
130+ Yellow Warblers
65+ Orange-crowned Warblers
3 Townsend's Warblers
1 Wilson's Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat (a bit out of place high in an alder!)
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler
2 Pacific-slope Flycatchers
2 Warbling Vireos
1 Hutton's Vireo (is that a good bird in the Tofino area? I wouldn't know)
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
10+ Golden-crowned Kinglets
20+ Chestnut-backed Chickadees
1 Caspian Tern (okay, this guy was sitting on the beach... but close enough)
[Townsend's Warbler says 'hello' at eye-level]
Pretty good parking lot list and that's not including the bushes which contained 5 sparrow species, 4 thrush species, and some very young Pacific Wrens.
That's when the bombshell hit: "20 Forster's Terns at Duck Lake"
WHAAAATTT??? They're back? Or did they never leave and I just missed them? Not wanting to waste any time, I hopped in the car, drove to Nanaimo, caught the 7:30pm ferry to Horseshoe Bay, then drove through the night to the Okanagan, slept on the side of the road in Richter Pass from 2am to 6am, then drove to Creston, making it to Duck Lake just after 10am.
"NO TERNS TODAY"
Those were the words of local birder Gary Breault who had heard from Linda Van Damme (who tipped me off in the first place) that I would be around, and he had hit Duck Lake in the morning to scout for me... why are people so nice!!! Unfortunately however, there were no terns at the usual spot at the south end of the lake. This is where the advantages of being "local" come in. Gary told me that the terns usually disperse to the north and that I would have a good chance at finding some if I walked the railway bed up the west side of the valley. I thanked him for his help and set out. I hadn't got very far however when I picked up a flock of terns in my scope. Sure enough 15 FORSTER'S TERNS were feeding in a tight group at the north end of the lake. Eventually they came close enough to feel good about the ID and then continued further north and out of site.
YIPPEEEEE!!!! Like the Black-necked Stilt, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Philadelphia Vireo before it, I had considered the tern as a massive bungle on my part... a missed breeder... but here they were! Just as Gary and Linda had predicted! Now I'm only 1 away from tying the record!
Thanks to Linda and Gary and all the other Creston birders who have kept me informed over the last couple weeks! And now I hear that Harris's Sparrow is an annual visitor??? Might hear from me again soon!
After a celebratory sandwich at MUGWUMPS, I hit the road again... finally getting back to Penticton around 5pm.
I just hope no one finds anything rare in the next 48 hours... I need rest people!!!