Sunday, November 28, 2004

Harris's Sparrow

Today Chris Charlesworth and his younger brother Conner, Trevor, my son Conor and I  birded Christmas Island in Salmon Arm. Trevor and I headed around the shoreline with the boys while Chris walked along a trail that ran adjacent to a railway line. As we made our way along the shore, we began seeing birds. There was a group of six Long-billed Dowitchers feeding in the mud, a Northern Shrike perched up on a snag and a Northern Harrier gliding effortlessly over the marsh. Just as we were shouting to the boys to look at the harrier, Trevor’s phone rang. Trevor listened for a few seconds then looked at me with a smirk on his face. He casually said “Harris’s Sparrow!” By the time he said sparrow I was already running. My binoculars were  bouncing off my chest and my scope swang uncontrollably on my shoulder. I ran! Crunch, crunch, crunch was all I could hear as I sprinted my way around the loop of the island and back to the path.
            What I didn’t know at that time, when the call came in,  was that Chris had set up his scope and zoomed in on my face prior to phoning, just so he could catch the show! By the time I got to Chris I was panting, sweating, and babbling. He laughed as he told me it was at the back of the reeds. “Pish pish…pish” Pishing is the sound produced by pursing your lips and simply saying pish! Some birders use this technique, an imitation of a scolding group of birds finding a predator. On many occasions this artificial noise will invoke a curious response by nearby birds that come to investigate the fuss. I was pishing alright! The spit was flying in all directions! The sparrow popped up for a second then went down again. I was flapping around, trying to focus and steady myself. This time it moved to the path and began feeding on the ground. I soaked up every moment; scrutinizing the characteristic field marks: pink bill, white throat and dark malar stripe indicating this was an immature bird. Trevor and the boys finally caught up and everyone was able to see it too.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Ocean Shores

Ryan, Chris, Trevor and Rich - Ocean Shores 2004
Ocean Shores is situated southwest of Seattle in Washington and from 03rd – 06th September 2004; Trevor Forder, Chris Charlesworth, Ryan Tomlinson and I spent our time birding the local area. Though we didn’t manage to see our target bird; a Black-tailed Gull, we did find many fantastic birds. As this was my first trip into the states, there were plenty of lifers waiting around every corner. The highlights were birding along Point Brown Jetty; watching Surfbird, Black Turnstone, Brown Pelican and Wandering Tattler. Also, seeing Marbled Godwit, Hudsonian Godwit, Whimbrel and Willet at Tokeland Marina was a great treat. That said, the whole trip was awesome, leaving us all with many wonderful memories. This was my introducion to Washington birding and it left me wanting to come back for more. Much more! Only a short ferry ride from Vancouver Island, Washinton is easily accessible, and with its dramatic geography, offers great birding potential in a variety of habitats. After reading Hal Opperman's book: A Birder's Guide to Washington, I couldn't wait to return.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Meadowlark Festival - Big Day Challenge 2004

Chris Charlesworh, Russ Cannings, Rich Mooney and Ryan Tomlinson

The Big Day Challenge is one of the main events of The Meadowlark Festival, which is an annual event at the end of May in the Okanagan. Teams of birders from all over compete in this fun-filled challenge; the goal for each team is to identify as many species as possible in a 24-hour period, starting and finishing within the Okanagan. On May 22nd 2004, I joined Chris Charlesworth, our team leader, Russ Cannings, son of Dick Cannings, co-author of The Birds of the Okanagan, and Ryan Tomlinson, an exceptional young birder from Kelowna. We started our challenge at midnight in the South Okanagan, twenty-seven kilometres up a logging road, and finished 23 hours later in Vernon, which is just north of Kelowna.
            As is tradition, we had to give our team a name. After some bantering between team members, we came up with The travelling Toadsmen, in honour of the Western Toad we found on our way to Irrigation Creek to listen for Flammulated Owl. The day was challenging, exhausting, and loads of fun. I collapsed in my bed that night and got up early to travel back down south for the round up at Dick Cannings house.
            It was a bright and warm, Spring morning, as we all swapped stories and drank coffee in Dick’s back yard. The prize for the winners was a plaque with an owl engraving, inscribed with the names of all the teams over the past years. The winning team keeps this trophy until the following year.  “The winners are... The travelling Toadsmen with 166 species.”
            The runners-up were presented with the Sour Grapes trophy. It was all in good fun;  the best part was just being part of it. Speaking honestly, I was just lucky to be part of such an exceptional team.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Gyr Falcon

This is the 3rd year that this beautiful predator has returned to the feed-lot on highway 97 in Kelowna. Many birders have come here to see this bird, one lady drove all the way from California and staked out the area for three days until she finally got it.

Great Gray Owl

A Great Gray Owl was reported at Mission Creek on the local bird RBA, so Chris Charlesworth, Don Wilson and I went looking. It didn't take long  to locate the owl, though I practically walked into it before noticing it!