In birding as in life, some things get away on you. 2010 was certainly no exception as I missed a bundle of species for a variety of reasons. Over 400 species were recorded in the province this year, and I saw 373 of them...
--Here is the breakdown of each species that I perhaps "could have" nabbed (other species that were seen this year in BC but were probably physically unattainable for me due to distance and time restraints are not included):
SMEW: 1 male was seen off Keats Island near Gibsons, BC on October 24th (while I was nearby in Sechelt). I tried for it the next day with no luck; poor weather conditions and lack of appropriate habitat possibly contributed to its disappearance.
SILVER PHEASANT: The status of this species in BC (and in the ABA region for that matter) is still uncertain due to a lack of information concerning its history and breeding biology within its North American range (which is apparently the Nanaimo area). Local birders believe the species has been reproducing successfully in the wild for over 10 years and is not being replenished with re-introductions. This might merit a position on BC's checklist (another topic of much debate!) but more study is surely needed (e.g. Is the population stable and/or increasing?). It might have been a good idea for me to try and find this bird just in case however I decided not to since Nanaimo is far from home for me and I had heard that these birds are notoriously hard to find.
GREAT SHEARWATER: At least 1 bird was seen on a September pelagic off Tofino. I was out in another boat that very day, checking through the same shearwater swarm but failed to locate it. I was unaware of its presence but was actively searching for this distinctive species regardless(amongst other possible rarities).
BLACK-NECKED STILT: This is the first time in about 5 years that I missed this species. In 2009 I saw around a dozen so I mistakenly assumed that I wouldn't have a problem in 2010 with a little bit of effort. In April, 2 showed up at Robert Lake (Kelowna) when I was in the area but unfortunately I didn't find out about this until the evening when checking email. I went there first thing in the morning and the birds were gone (these would prove to be the only Okanagan birds this year). Several would show up throughout the spring in the Kootenays, but the reports were often late and it wasn't clear if the birds were sticking around. I wasn't prepared to drive that far for a bird that is usually so regular in my home patch and occasionally they stick around to breed so I wasn't worried. By June I was extremely worried, so I chased a bird that had been in the remote "Bush Arm" of Kinbasket Lake on the Alberta border. It had been present for at least 4 days in the only patch of wetland for miles and miles. I arrived in the evening on the 4th day (it had been seen that morning)... and missed it. I checked back several times when I worked in the area a week later but no dice. No other birds were reported the rest of the year.
WOOD SANDPIPER: 1 individual was seen on 2 (possibly 3) separate days at Reifel Bird Sanctuary. I was prepared to drive down from the Okanagan following the first report but decided against it after no one was able to relocate it the following morning. Believing it to be gone, I passed by Reifel a week later on my way to Vancouver Island. In the afternoon of that day I got word that the bird was back and showing well. Unfortunately I was in Victoria with friends and did not have a vehicle of my own. I could have pulled some strings to catch the 3:30pm ferry but would not have reached Reifel in time (which closes at 5pm, besides the bird ended up disappearing around that time). Instead I headed to Reifel the following morning along with 200+ other birders and no one was able to relocate it. I tried about 8 more times throughout the rest of the month with no luck. In hindsight, perhaps if my birding big year had been the ONLY thing that mattered in 2010, I might have been at Reifel or at least in Vancouver when the bird was re-located. But I was socializing with friends-- regrettable in a sense (given the pure rarity of the species) but certainly a crucial sacrifice if one wants to maintain sanity during a high-octane big-year such as this!
BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW: Another heart-breaker. I had been planning to drive north to the Peace River region when this bird was finally reported to the greater birding community (on its 4th day showing!!!). I drove through the night from the Okanagan and arrived in Tofino at 2:30am. I tried for the bird through the morning until I absolutely had to return to the mainland to continue my voyage north. It is alleged that some photographer(s) hounded the bird and its Whimbrel companions to the point that they flushed to the north and were never seen again. Whether or not this is true, it is certainly unfortunate that so few birders got to see this mega-bird that was present for at least 4 days!
WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER: Although extremely rare west of the Rocky Mountains in BC, this species is a regular albeit scarce migrant in the Peace River region. Last year I think I saw 6 or 7 birds in late May near Fort St. John but this spring was a huge dud for me. I arrived in Fort St. John at the same time (last few days of May) but only a few days after a massive snow storm that had grounded shorebirds before melting and filling up ponds to the brim. The shorebirds all left immediately due to the lack of shoreline, and after a week of searching, I ended up with 3 or 4 Spotted Sandpipers as my ONLY shorebirds on that trip (other than a couple Upland Sandpipers near Chetwynd). So perhaps with better weather luck, and some lower cell-levels at the FSJ sewage lagoons, I might have found this species.
SLATY-BACKED GULL: I put in a huge effort for this species in Jan-March but failed to connect. A single bird had been reliable all winter in 08-09 at the Abbotsford transfer station but nothing like that this year. An adult was seen on at least two occasions near Chilliwack but multiple searches of that city's dump and gull-fields turned up nothing. I sifted through all the major gull flocks between Nanaimo and Campbell River, and between Ucluelet and Tofino with equal failure. In fact, local birders suggested 09-10 was one of the poorest gull winters in recent memory. As per usual, the March Herring Spawn around Parksville and Qualicum turned up 1 or two Slaty-backs but I was not even able to track down those birds. Once Nov/Dec hit, I once again began to scan through large flocks around Ladner and elsewhere but by the end of the year... I just couldn't do it. [In August I photographed a bird that may have been a Slaty-backed x Glaucous-winged Gull hybrid in Sandspit, Haida Gwaii--certainly not pure anyways]
THICK-BILLED MURRE: Like the Slaty-backed, I tried hard for this species, checking through hundreds of thousands of Common Murres from Victoria up to Rose Spit, Haida Gwaii. The closest I came was when Jukka spotted one swiftly flying past us(about 200m out to sea) at the Sandspit airport; I hopped in behind his scope but was unable to find it in the rolling surf. This species used to breed in small numbers at Triangle Island but a few years ago, they apparently abandoned. I spent 4 days floating off that Island and was unable to spot any stragglers.
PARAKEET AUKLET: Roger Foxall invited me on a pelagic trip in April (I had to turn it down because I was going to Texas with my Dad for some holiday birding). On that trip, his group saw multiple Parakeets... arg!
PHILADELPHIA VIREO: Usually considered a fairly common breeder in the Peacer River and Fort Nelson Lowlands, this species was pretty scarce in 2010 with the only sightings in remote areas. I put in a strong effort in early June and July but failed to get a whiff. It seems as if birds returned late this spring (as I missed many things in May-early June), then strong winds and rain hurt my chances in early July. But even when conditions were perfect, I was unable to find any vireos whereas in past years I have had over 10 along given roads! Bird-song seems to shut off in early July in the Peace; I could have tried again in August for some migrants, but I was busy with the shorebird/seabird fiesta down south.
BAY-BREASTED WARBLER: Similar situation to the vireo. In 2009 I found many around Fort Nelson but could not find a one this year. This species can be somewhat eruptive in BC (the western edge of its range) depending on spruce budworm availability etc. At least I can take heart in the fact that NOBODY found a Bay-breast in BC this year (although a few were recorded in the Yukon).
BLACK-THROATED SPARROW: 2 were seen this year in BC, and 1 was possibly chase-able however I chose instead to hang out at the Nakusp Hot Springs with my girlfriend.
SAGE SPARROW: 1 bird was discovered singing 1hr from my home but of course it was during my trip to Texas.
CHESNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR: 1 showed well for 3 days at the Hope Airport but it was at the same time that I was taking some R&R in Nakusp. It's a bird that I certainly would have got if I went for it, but some things take precedent for me.
INDIGO BUNTING: As usual, several Indigo Buntings turned up in BC this year. The first visited a feeder in Blue River for 4 straight days. I was aware of its presence but chose to finish off my first tour of the Peace before heading down the Rocky Mountain Trench for it. I arrived on the morning of the 5th day (it was seen at 8pm the night before), and missed it. 1 or 2 birds were seen at Colony Farms in the Lower Mainland in the summer and fall (1 presumably stayed for over a month) however I was unable to catch up with them. I had brief looks at a bird in Revelstoke that could have been this species but I was never able to confirm it. An adult male apparently spent an entire breeding season near Cranbrook, (raising a brood with a female Lazuli) but I only found out about this a week after it was last seen in August, so I never went for it.
HOARY REDPOLL: After all the October sightings of birds heading south with Commons in southern Yukon (in October), some friends and I planned a trip to the Peace in November. This is when the parula showed up however so instead of driving there (from Prince Rupert where we had just returned from Haida Gwaii), we drove south. A friend who had joined us on the Haida trip saw several Hoaries on his trip north to Whitehorse via the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy, suggesting that we would probably have been successful had we put in an effort up north. In Dec, I prayed that redpolls would continue south and allow for an easy chase, but Dec turned out to be one of the worst redpoll years in recent memory. This species was missed party due to environmental conditions, but mostly because I was too poor and too lazy to make a late trip up to Pink Mountain!!!
***Species that were surprisingly not detected by anyone in BC in 2010: