Thursday, December 31, 2009

NMT - December 2009

December 2009
Species list: 0 / Distance travelled: 21kilometress

December flew by, and though I didn’t add any new species, I did get out for some local birding. With talk of Common Redpoll around, I concentrated my efforts at the Englishman River Estuary. I staked out some Birch and Alder trees on three occasions, but dipped-out on the Redpoll. My final count for 2009 was 207 species and I travelled a distance of 1232 kilometres from my home in Parksville, coming in third overall. Guy Monty came in second place with 215 species and Mike McGrenere of Victoria, came in first, with a whopping 219 species. A big thanks to Guy Monty and the late, Dr. John Brighton, who came up with this crazy challenge at the end of 2008.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Anna's Hummingbird

Another attempt to locate a Common Redpoll produced my usual result: zero! I spent an hour underneath some Birch and Alder trees, willing a Redpoll to miraculously appear in the mix of Pine Siskins that were feeding above me. Alas none materialized. Dark-eyed Junco, Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Shrike and an adult female Cooper's Hawk kept me company during my vigil. I followed the path at the bottom of Mills Road to Shelly Road where more Pine Siskins were feeding but much higher up in the canopy. Whilst scanning through these birds an adult male Anna's Hummingbird landed in front of me. It only stayed for a few seconds then vanished, a minute later I noticed another Anna's Hummingbird tucked up in some brambles. This local area produced 5 individual Anna's Hummingbird on the Christmas Bird Count this year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Parksville & Qualicum Christmas Bird Count 2009

A wet and windy day produced a lower than expected count total for our team. Having said that, we did put in a full day with maximum effort and our spirits remained high despite the adverse weather conditions. Our day started off with some owling along Claymore Road in Qualicum. We made several stops, listening and tooting for owls and our efforts paid off after nearly an hour with a callback: Northern Saw-Whet Owl, followed shortly after with a fly over Great Horned Owl. Next, we headed back out onto Laburnum Road to check the fields which held a few American Wigeon and Mallard. A party of Bushtit kept us entertained before we headed back up Claymore Road to check the Little Qualicum fish hatchery. An hour of pouring rain soaked us to the bone before we headed back to the warmth of the car. The birding around the hatchery was fairly dull though we had a good count of Bald Eagles. Lori spotted an American Dipper, our target bird, in the spawning channels which we were all delighted about.

Mike Ashbee, Jon Carter and Rich Mooney
            As there was a high tide at 09:00 a.m. we decided to spend some time looking around some quiet streets and checking backyard bird feeders. The rain kept coming and we continued trying for anything! We added species here and there but it became obvious we would have to fight for each new species. After taking care of business in suburbia we headed down to the water and began scanning for loons, grebes, sea-ducks and gulls. Hope for a break in the weather seemed fruitless so we decided to walk to the mouth of the Little Qualicum River, resigned to the fact we would have to do our big count of gulls in the pouring rain.
            On arrival, we had two groups of gulls to sort through, plus, the continual comings and goings of preening birds in the fresh water of the river mouth. More species were added in small numbers and after an hour we made our way back to the car. We checked a few more access points before doing another sea-watch at the Brant viewing tower in Qualicum Beach where Black-bellied Plover and a single Western Grebe were added. With time slipping away, we checked a few more local areas with little success. Mike Ashbee knew of a small trail off Garrett Road, which turned up two much-appreciated species: Downy and Hairy Woodpecker! We threw the towel in on our CBC count day at 4:15 p.m. after using it to dry off!
            Though the elements were not on our side, we did have lots of fun and it was great to have Mike Ashbee and Jon Carter on board; both great birders and fun people to be around. Species count: 65. Last year I was stuck in a snow bank for five hours adding 19 species for the day! This year we got soaked to the bone. What will next year have in store for us?

CBC 2009 - Mike, Jon, Lori and Rich

Monday, November 30, 2009

NMT - November 2009

November 2009
Species list: 6 / Distance travelled: 113 kilometres

            The weather in November was atrocious, with rain practically every day. But the birds have been unbelievable! I had hoped for maybe two or three new species for the NMT challenge; I got double, including an island bird and a MEGA North American rarity!
November started off with two days of riding around the Englishman River Estuary and Rathtrevor Beach. I only travelled about 18 kilometres but added two new birds: Ancient Murrelet and an adult Long-tailed Jaeger, a huge surprise!
            On the 11th November 2009, Guy Monty and I rode out to Schooner Cove, Nanoose, in search of shorebirds. The ride was a real up hill slog and though I added another bird, Surfbird, we were both a little peeved as we saw what can only be described as a possible Rock Sandpiper. We couldn't make out any field marks because of the long distance and
poor light. This bird was with a group of 20 Surfbird and 4 Black Turnstone. It was small and had a hard time keeping up with the main group. These shorebirds flew across the ocean in front of us, after losing the sanctuary of distant rocks to the high tide. It was almost definitely a Rock Sandpiper, but it could have also been a similar looking Dunlin. We will never know. Though we were choked to say the least, we just couldn't add such a stringy bird.
            The next trip that Guy and I made on our bikes made a ride to Nanoose look like a picnic. Our day started at 07:30 a.m. on a dark and rainy morning in Parksville. Our mission; to ride our bikes to Port Alberni, in search of Canvasback, Redhead and Swamp Sparrow. It was a long 69 kilometrer ride over the hump. As the rain kept coming and my legs began to burn, I started to regret travelling this road again. Luckily, as we reached the highest point the weather broke and blue skies lifted our spirits. The ride down to port only took twenty minutes and after some refreshments we headed for the Somass Estuary. The sewage lagoons at the estuary were barren, with only a few dabblers and some Mew Gulls to sort through. We did, however, add Swamp Sparrow, which was calling from the reeds next to the pipeline.
            While making our way to the inlet, Guy was convinced he heard a strange goose call. A little later, we both heard the goose but were unable to locate it, so we carried on. The third time the bird called, it sounded much closer; we both looked around to see where it was? It was flying directly over us. First impression was that it was a Great White-fronted Goose. Second impression was a whole other story! We both raised our binoculars and it was immediately evident that it WAS NOT a Greater White-fronted Goose. I watched slack-jawed, staring at the head, noting the black bill with orange/yellow near the tip, the neck was long, "what the hell?"
The words “BEAN GOOSE!!” ricocheted through my head and body. Guy was screaming….”BEAN GOOSE!!!
Other than Attu, there are only three records for this species in North America that I know of: April 1993-Bowerman Basin, Grays Harbor County, Washington. October 1999-Whitehorse Airport, Whitehorse, Yukon and December 2002-Hoquiam, Grays Harbor County, Washington.
Bean Goose (taiga)
            Guy managed to snap one photo but the bird was half way across the estuary and then gone. A rare bird report will be submitted to a provincial committee when one has been formed. At the inlet we were losing light and time but we did add one more bird for us both; Canvasback. 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Deep Bay

I sneaked out for a few hours this morning and checked Deep Bay and the mouth of the Little Qualicum River. The weather was kind, it didn't rain! Deep Bay produced the usual suspects but I enjoyed them all anyway. I prayed for a small gull with dark under wings at the Little Q but no such luck. One day...ONE DAY!

Black Scoter

Long-tailed Duck

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Palm Warbler

The night before I headed out to The Sunshine Coast with Mike Ashbee, I heard about a possible Palm Warbler at Nanaimo River Estuary. Though it was very tempting to chase this bird I had already made plans with Mike to go look for Rock Sandpiper. Luckily, Guy Monty was able to go and see if he could relocate the bird, which he did and confirmed that it was a Palm Warbler. Guy had received a call from Jon Carter, who has just moved to the island from the UK, and who’s suspicions were correct about this bird. Nice find Jon! England’s loss is our gain!  I got back from the Sunshine Coast trip Saturday night and read Guy's report and decided I would try for the bird Sunday morning. Leaving Parksville at 7:45 a.m. got me to Nanaimo River Estuary at about 8:30 a.m. It was raining hard on the way there, though it lightened up a little once I arrived.
            The area where the bird was originally seen was opposite a big Oak tree. So, I checked that area first, then checked the low shrubs close by, then the hedgerow. No luck. I headed over to the viewing stand, as there was a lot of bird activity, but still no sign of the warbler. It was then, I noticed a vehicle pulled into the parking lot; it was Mike Ashbee, who had decided to also look for the bird. I was on my way back to the oak tree to meet with Mike when I spotted the Palm Warbler! It was sitting just in front of the oak on a small snag next to a bush. I immediately indicated to Mike that I could see the bird and he promptly came forward. The bird flew into a weedy patch on the other side of the path and began to feed. We followed this rare, but annual, warbler for about ten minutes until it flew back over the path and disappeared into some thicker bushes. We stood around chatting for about an hour but did not see it again.
There was plenty to keep us occupied though; a Short-eared Owl flew over the top of us, being mobbed by Northwestern Crows. A few minutes later, the crows began harassing a Northern Harrier and drove it out of the estuary. A Lincoln’s Sparrow put in an appearance then a Northern Shrike. By then it was time for me to get going so Mike walked back to the car with me and we both noticed a group of Western Meadowlark flying across a field. Before I left, three more birders turned up and Mike stuck around to help them relocate the warbler. Though this bird should be wintering down near Florida it sure made my day!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rock Sandpiper

Rock Sandpiper

Of all the birds listed in my head as ‘most wanted’ on Vancouver Island, Rock Sandpiper is pretty much at the top, alongside Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. The season has come and gone again for the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper but for the Rock it is prime time! I made a real effort last year to find this bird with no luck. A few were reported in Victoria, but for one reason or another I never made it down there, and it seemed that these birds were one day wonders anyway. With December just around the corner and time slipping away, it was time to go where they have been historically reported; The Sunshine Coast!
            My birding friend Mike Ashbee and I discussed doing this trip on a few occassions and finally got around to making it happen. We left Parksville at 4:45 a.m. and headed up to Courtney where we took the 6:30 a.m. ferry to Powell River. We then made our way to Saltery Bay where we took another ferry to Earls Cove, taking the Sunshine Coast Highway 101 down through Sechelt. We made a few stops en-route including one stop where we saw an interesting shorebird with some Black Turnstone, off shore on some rocks. We couldn’t make a definite identification, as though it looked good for Rock Sandpiper, we couldn’t dismiss Dunlin, which looks similar at distance. We unforunatley had to carry on without being certain.
Black Turnstone, Surfbird and Rock Sandpiper
            Our Plan was to go to Wilson Creek, an area that is famed for Rock Sandpiper, but we made a stop just short of that, at Chapman’s Creek. We noticed a sand-spit with lots of gulls on it, so decided to check it out. The gulls were obvious, but on closer inspection we noted many shorebirds including Surfbird, Black Oystercatcher and Black Turnstone.
            We made our way along the beach, over some rocks, and hid behind some logs that had been washed up on the shore, so as not to disturb the birds. Within seconds a Rock Sandpiper came from behind the logs and began feeding with the other shorebirds! We were both absolutely ecstatic to get this bird, and after we finally calmed down, we settled in for an hour and enjoyed watching the dynamics of this mixed group of amazing birds, feed and squabble as they gorged themselves on the barnacle covered shells. Our final count was fifteen Rock Sandpiper, thirty Surfbird, fifty Black Turnstone and ten Black Oystercatcher. To the best of my knowledge this population of Rock Sandpiper breeds along the Berring Sea and can winter as far as California.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Black-headed Gull

When it comes to birding, especially chasing a rarity, nothing is guaranteed! But today we were in luck. On the 7th November 2007, a Black-headed Gull was reported at the Big Qualicum River by a couple of volunteers who carry out coastal waterbird surveys. So, the following morning Guy & Donna Monty, Mike Ashbee and I went to see if we could relocate the bird. We arrived on site at 08:00 a.m. and began to scan the gulls that were coming in off shore to bathe and preen in the mouth of the river. After an hour of searching we headed up-island to check a few good areas for gulls, but the tide was against us and we headed back to the river to wait it out.
Though we had no doubts that the report was reliable, we were beginning to think that we might be coming up blank on this chase, especially when we could see thousands of gulls way off shore. However, at 12:25 Guy raised his binoculars to check out a gull flying across us and shouted; “that’s our bird!” All of us were on the bird immediately. The bird landed and began to bathe and preen, but moved around enough to add some anxious moments! Within minutes all the birds were up and we lost our gull in the frenzy. Mike relocated the bird once more on a gravel bar, but that was short-lived as a dog ran in and chased everything off. We waited and searched for another hour but our bird was gone.
            As far as I am aware, this is the first documented and confirmed sighting for BC in 20 years. It was a great and memorable twitch and a big thanks to Guy for spotting the bird and Mike Ashbee, who, like me, added this bird to his life list! Mike kept his head on straight and nailed a fantastic record shot!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

NMT - October 2009

October 2009
Species list: 2 / Distance travelled: 40 kilometres
            Not a very impressive month in terms of birds or effort. Hindered by a 40 hour work weak only leaves me weekends, and sometimes other things come up: like chasing a rare warbler in Tofino, or taking a boat trip from Victoria. Though I did add a BC bird: Pink-footed Shearwater. So, my 200th NMT bird was a Horned Lark in the field behind my house and number 201 was Snow Geese calling at about 10:30 p.m. the night before the boat trip, heard from my balcony. 
Snow Goose

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stilt Sandpiper

In early August 2009 I headed out to Holden Creek, where I met up with one of my birding pals; Mike Ashbee, another fanatical birder who’s obsessive addiction compels him to return time and time again to Holden Creek. Mike is originally from Alberta but moved to the island in the last few years. Mike is great fun to be around. His drive and enthusiasm is infectious as is his unequivocal optimism! Mike is not only a great birder but also an exceptional photographer.
Lesser Yellowlegs
Pectoral Sandpiper
            On this day, Mike and I slowly walked out onto the estuary, stopping and observing every few minutes, making sure that we did not spook the birds. Shorebirds were, literally, everywhere, flying over our heads, calling, moving up and down the main channel and filling many of the small pools scattered across the fields. We observed eight different species including: Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Bairds’s Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Dowitcher and over sixty Lesser Yellowlegs; the most I have ever seen in one place.
            A visit in mid-September produced fewer birds, though it was nice to see Pectoral Sandpiper. Returning again today was a good idea as not only were there many birds, there was also a lifer for Mike! We were observing a feeding frenzy of Long-billed Dowitcher’s, over a hundred, busily probing in the muddy pools when Mike noticed a pale bird. We put the scope on it without delay and confirmed its identity: Stilt Sandpiper! This was a bird that Mike had been dreaming about on our earlier outings and a bird that I had only seen once on Vancouver Island. Positioning ourselves slowly and carefully in front of one of the pools we waited. This delicate long-legged shorebird put on a great show, walking within 10ft of our location.
Stilt Sandpiper

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pink-footed Shearwater

Today is my birthday and what better way to spend it than joining the Victoria Natural History Society for a mini-pelagic to Race Rocks. I traveled down to Victoria with Guy Monty and boarded the boat at 09:30am. The weather was terrible with rain all the way there. Once aboard the boat it didn't get much better though the sea was calm. We spent approximately five hours looking for pelagic specialties. We got a good selection of Auklets, Murres, Loons,gulls and shorebirds though the best for me was getting 7 PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS. This was a BC bird for me as I had only seen them in Washington on the Westport Pelagic.

Pink-footed Shearwater

Heermann's Gull

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mountain Bluebird

Today I took the opportunity to do a little NMT birding. I did a 17km round trip to Columbia Beach from our home in Parksville. My target birds were Ruddy Turnstone and Surfbird, neither of which I managed to see. There was a good number of shorebirds including; 120 Black-bellied Plover, 1 Semipalmated Plover, 10 Killdeer, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 30 Black Oystercatcher and 150+ Black Turnstone. As I was just about to leave a bird flew over me and landed 200 meters down the beach. It turned out to be a Mountain Bluebird. These birds are annual here in spring and fall but are always a joy to see.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rare birds in Tofino

On the 3rd of October 2009 Lori and I travelled to Tofino to look for the Prairie Warbler that was reported by Adrian Dorst five-days prior. It had been a frustrating week, as I wanted to get there earlier but couldn’t get the time off work. We departed Parksville at 5:15 a.m. and arrived on site a little before 8:00 a.m. On arrival we hung out, binoculars focused on the now famous Maple Tree that the warbler was frequenting. We were in position for about fifteen minutes when an oriole flew into some grasses planted in a window box. This bird bounced around, hiding then reappearing near the railings of a second story balcony. It was in site for about one minute in which I snapped a few shots with my camera. I assumed that it was a Bullock’s Oriole, though I did register that it looked small, as that is about the only oriole I would expect to see there.  Though a good bird, it only distracted me for about as long as it stayed, then I continued; focused on locating the Prairie Warbler. The Prairie Warbler finally turned up for about five minutes at around 10:00 a.m. We had great looks at the bird then eventually continued on birding in Tofino and enjoying our day. On returning home, I uploaded the Prairie Warbler photos to my photo gallery site. And that was that.
Prairie Warbler
            Eight days later, on the 11th of October 2009, I was cleaning up some files on my computer and looked at the photos of the oriole. The penny dropped! I did not know which oriole this was. I discussed this with Guy Monty who was pretty sure it was an Orchard Oriole but sent the photos out to some experts for their help, just to be sure. It took a few days to confirm the identity of this bird but I soon received news with a definite identification. It was an adult female Orchard Oriole! This was the third record of this species for Vancouver Island that I am aware of and equally if not rarer than the Prairie Warbler itself. This was a hard but good lesson in looking and being prepared and open to anything.
Orchard Oriole

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NMT - September 2009

September 2009
Species list: 7 Distance travelled: 85 kilometres

            The main areas covered were the Englishman River Estuary, Columbia Beach and a futile ride to the notch in Nanoose Bay. Last September, while doing a hawk watch on the notch, we had seen four Golden Eagles within five minutes of each other and a great variety of hawks and falcons. This year, there were twelve Turkey Vultures and a Red-tailed Hawk. I missed two days of riding this month as I headed out in my car to look for my nemesis shorebird at Holden Creek: Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. The Pectoral Sandpipers kept me on my toes, looking very similar to a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, but alas no Asian vagrant for me.
            I did, however, add some new species at the Englishman River Estuary, so I can’t complain. A Pacific Golden-Plover was an absolute dream to see. Not only because I was on my bike, but also because it was the best look I have ever had. What was even better was the American Golden-Plover feeding next to it; what an oppotunity to compare them side-by-side. These ticked birds were thanks to Guy Monty, who had phoned me to let me know there was a Sanderling at the estuary. When I arrived, Guy had just spotted the Pacific Golden-Plover. The other huge find that day was a rare Cassin's Auklet, seen by both Guy and I while scanning from the beach access. 

Pacific Golden-Plover


Monday, August 31, 2009

NMT - August 2009

August 2009
Species list: 6 / Distance travelled: 141 kilometres

            It was August; this month I strictly focused on shorebirds, though I only got three. Only is the wrong word. I saw two good shorebirds and one amazing shorebird: Long-billed Curlew! I was out in my yard, puttering away when I heard it call; it took a second to register before I tripped and stumbled through our patio doors to grab my bins. I ran back outside to see this big shorebird fly over my house, heading south. My first on Vancouver Island.
Baird's Sandpiper

Monday, August 10, 2009

Solitary Sandpiper

After three attempts to see this bird it finally flew in! This Solitary Sandpiper was found by a local birder in Lantzville who posted on our local birding forum. I have seen this species in the interior of BC but this was a first for Vancouver Island for me.

Friday, July 31, 2009

NMT - July 2009

July 2009
Species list: 4 Distance travelled: 139kilometress

            With hot weather and our kid's birthday's, June disappeared in a flash. With only three new species added in June and the clock ticking, I had to put some real effort in to get out birding.  On July 1st, Canada Day, I awoke at 04:15 a.m. and was on the road by 05:00 a.m. My goal was to get to Cassidy Airport, south of Nanaimo, and try snag a Vesper Sparrow, before it got too hot. The bike ride was better than I had expected, with very little traffic and a nice cool temperature. I stuck to my guns and didn’t get side tracked from my target: Vesper Sparrow. I arrived at the airport at exactly 09:00 a.m., four hours and 53 kilometres after departing Parksville. To my delight, I was still early enough to hear several Vesper Sparrow singing out on the grassland. One even landed on a fencepost for a minute, giving me a great view from my collapsed position on the edge of the gravel road!
Vesper Sparrow
            On July 4th, my brother-in-law Justin Lynch and I embarked on a quest that wasn’t that much further in distance than the Vesper Sparrow, but physically and mentally much harder. Another early rise and on the road at 04:00 a.m., our destination: Mount Arrowsmith! Now, I have driven this route many times, especially last year when I was putting a lot of time into the BC Breeding Atlas. So I had a good understanding of the distance. However, optimism and dreams of high elevation birds might have blocked my senses and clouded the facts. This road is brutal!
            The first three hours went by without any real problems, though the climb up the hump to the logging road was a real grind. Once on the logging road, we took a break and wallowed in our first geographical milestone. The temperature was perfect and it was just past 07:00 .am. The next four hours were grueling, I mean ridiculously grueling! Justin soldiered on and on; I lagged behind a bit but managed keep him in sight. I knew I couldn’t do any complaining, not just because I had roped him into this, but because he was pulling our backpacks in a small trailer pulled behind his bike! I had no right to belly-ache, though I wanted to.

Justin and Rich - halfway there
            There was not much bird activity, and even if there were, I am not sure I would have noticed; as the only way I could deal with the slog was to look at the ground and occasionally look up to see if we had reached the top of yet another hill. The hours passed slowly and at times my focus began to fizzle. It was madness! Finally, after four hours, we reached the Saddle Route. This is the main route up Mount Arrowsmith. Justin had been feeling a twinge in his knee since the beginning of the logging road. He stripped down and bathed his knee in a freezing cold stream. Luckily it seemed to do the trick, and after a good half hour break and some food we continued on.
            By now it was getting really hot and we took lots of little breaks, crawling into any bushes that offered shade. Though these were short-lived because the mosquitoes gave us no peace. We arrived at our first official stop sometime after noon and began scanning for an American Three-toed Woodpecker. Though we never managed to find it, we did pick up two of our four target birds: Gray Jay and two, very welcomed, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch!
Time to hike
            Not long after this sighting Lori, Donna and Nolan arrived in our car; bringing moral support and a Pepsi! We chatted for a while then decided to push on. Justin’s knee was still giving him some trouble so we stowed his bike on the car and he caught a ride to the ski lodge. I, on the other hand, had to ride the rest of the way. At the ski lodge we rested once more, then Lori took both bikes and the trailer back to Parksville. Justin and I put on our backpacks and began hiking up Mount Coakley. Actually, the hike was nice; it was great to be done with the bikes. En-route we got another Gray Jay, though that was the last new bird we would get. Once up in the Alpine we set-up camp and had a good meal. With our stomachs full, we decided to go look and listen for ptarmigan. Two hours later we were back at camp; it was about 08:00 p.m. and we were tired.  The thought of waiting another three hours for dark, and the fact that we were being eaten alive by mosquitos, prompted my next decision. I am done! Where is the cell phone?
Lori and Nolan grabbed an evening hot chocolate, and drove all the way back up the mountain. The plan had been to stay the night and hike Mount Arrowsmith in the morning.
The plan changed and we went home. No regrets-it was an epic quest and we got two tough birds. My sincere thanks to Justin Lynch. I will never ride that road again.
Rich and Justin on Mount Coakley

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NMT - June 2009

June 2009
Species list: 3 / Distance travelled: 16 kilometres

            The species list and distance travelled, speak volumes for the month’s effort! With most of the migrants back there are now slim pickings through the summer. Common Nighthawk, Black Swift and, a much needed and appreciated, Red-eyed Vireo at Springwood trail were added.
Common Nighthawk

Sunday, May 31, 2009

NMT - May 2009

May 2009
Species list: 25 / Distance travelled: 194 kilometres

            This month started with a 40 kilometre ride to Nanaimo, which added 10 new species including Bullock’s Oriole, House Wren, Osprey and American Bittern. More birds turned up after that, though Lori and I took a little time out to explore the north island. By the 17th I was back on the road with another bird to peddle after. Guy Monty had found a Whimbrel at Nanoose Bay Estuary, which I very much needed, not only for the NMT challenge, but a bird I had yet to see on Vancouver Island. Another hours ride, and after a few frantic moments, I located it. Lori and I did, however, have family commitments that day so I stashed my bike at Guy and Donna’s house and headed into Nanaimo.
            The following day I got up early to drive back to Guy’s place in Nanoose to pick up my bike. En-route I made a detour and stopped in at the Englishman River Estuary to find three Blue-winged Teal feeding in the mud. Ten minutes later, I was at Guy and Donna’s house, I picked up my bike and relayed the news. Guy was out of his chair and heading for his own chariot, as I packed mine in the car. “See you down there." Another ten minute drive home, and then back on the bike. Will the madness ever end? As my ride was a lot shorter from Parksville than Guy’s trek from Nanoose I arrived first. Yep, teal were still there, good. Then I spotted something else. Behind the teal, feeding in the mud was a godwit! Any godwit on the island is a good bird. I quickly put my spotting scope together, focused and wow! I was not expecting this; it was a Hudsonian Godwit! The first confirmed record for this species in the Parksville and Qualicum checklist area! I snapped some record photos but the bird flew. It was a long fifteen minutes until I caught sight of Guy riding down the trail. He looked at the teal, then looked at me, my face obviously told the story. “What did you get?” he chuckled. I showed him the camera. “What!” We spent about three hours searching the estuary without any luck. We did, however, find a Short-billed Dowitcher. Luckily, Guy only had to wait a day to see the godwit; it was fortunately relocated at Rathtrevor Beach.
Hudsonian Godwit

Thursday, April 30, 2009

NMT - April 2009

April 2009
Species list: 32 / Distance travelled: 154 kilometres

            April started with another challenge all of its own-The Brant Festival Big Day Challenge! I joined Guy Monty on his Green team. As both of us were partaking in the NMT year, we both wanted to make sure that any birds counted today would also count for our NMT year. So, with a little imaginative thinking, we arranged for an RV camper, thanks to Kori, Mary & Grandma Lynn, to be parked at the top of Little Mountain in Parksville, our start point.
            We had to cycle, from home, to the top of the mountain, the night before. Well, to be honest, we had to push our bikes to the top of Little Mountain. Here we were joined by Pete Boon another team member who had decided to stay the night. A restless sleep was had, due to some people who decided to party until the early hours right outside our camper. Nevertheless, we were up and ready for the 05:00 a.m. start time, when our other two team members; Bernard Schroeder and Neil Hughes arrived by car. We scooped three owls in about 20 minutes: Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl and Northern Saw-Whet Owl and then we rode.
            Our team clocked up 47 kilometres from 05:20 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; finishing at the Rocking Horse Pub in Nanoose. Our team was called the Numties, a play on the word NMT. We tallied 93 species in all, six of which were, also, new NMT birds for me. After our meal we headed home. En-route I spotted a Mourning Dove, which could not be counted, as we were now in the car.
Rich Mooney, Guy Monty, Bernard Schroeder, Pete Boon, Neil Hughes
            The following morning, I checked The Vancouver Island Bird Alert and discovered that, after we had left, Guy had spotted a Mountain Bluebird behind the beer gardens. "Aggghhh!" I had to go for this bird! Back in the saddle, I headed to the pub. Though my legs were a little shaky, I was glad of the ride and a fly-over American Pipit got me back into the swing of things. It took about thirty minutes to ride there and only five minutes to locate a beautiful male Mountain Bluebird. As well, the Mourning Dove decided to show itself again, much to my delight.
            I did lots of local birding in the following weeks, and another trip up Little Mountain to improve any chance at Sooty Grouse, which boomed right on time! More migrants had found their way back and an exciting spring buzz was in the air.
            One of the biggest surprises was a Rough-legged Hawk on the 19th. I was out cutting the lawn when Guy Monty called and told me he'd seen one in Nanoose and it was coming my way! As fellow NMTers, we developed a comradery and let each other know when a good bird was around that the other needed. I watched the skies in vain, then carried on with my chores. It was four hours later, that I heard a group of crows going ballistic and looked up to see what the commotion was about. They obviously didn’t like the Rough-legged Hawk: number 148.
            More birds were added daily, including Brown-headed Cowbird, MacGillivray’s Warbler and Pacific-slope Flycatcher. The final gem for the month was a Barn Owl!  It flew directly over our house calling three times before it finally disappeared into the night. My first Barn Owl in Parksville.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NMT - March 2009

Wood Duck

March 2009
Species list: 9 / Distance travelled: 56 kilometres

            Though the numbers of species and kilometres were low for this month, I did enjoy seeing the beginning of spring with Turkey Vulture, Violet-green Swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Rufous Hummingbird. A worthwhile trek out to Morningstar Pond, near French Creek, with Emily and Nolan, produced a much needed Wood Duck. A Northern Harrier, near Nanoose, made for another worthwhile trip to the infamous Ugly Dwarf farm fields in Parksville.
Nolan and Emily - young NMTers

Saturday, February 28, 2009

NMT - February 2009

February 2009
Species list: 21 / Distance travelled: 113 kilometres

            This month I managed to almost double the kilometres that I had ridden in January, which included my first attempt at a much longer ride. The month started off well, with four Pine Grosbeak! I was driving home from work on the 4th, when I spotted them on Despard Avenue in Parksville. Being only two minutes away from home I phoned Lori and asked her to get my bike out, quick! A fast turn around in the driveway and Lori, Nolan and I were heading back together. We got to them just as they took off from a tree beside the road. No matter, the birds had been seen.
            Next was a 19 kilometre ride in my local area as a warm up for my first long jaunt. On the 14th February, I headed out to south Nanaimo, a 57 kilometre trip. I added three new species before getting to Nanaimo River Estuary, where I intended to finish. I walked the estuary for an hour and just as I was going to throw the towel in on the day, a Short-eared Owl floated over one of the river channels. This injected some fuel into my bones, and I made a phone call home to let Lori know I was going to try riding a little further. Two minutes later, I bumped into fellow birder Bernard Schroeder, who informed me that there was a Pied-billed Grebe in the river channel. The grebe was in the bag and number 100 for the NMT year. I peddled my way through the back roads of south Nanaimo, ending up at Morden Road. It was here I began to look for a reported rare owl. It was quiet, then out of the blue, the American Robins started making a racket. I looked above me and there on a snag, sat my target bird: a Northern Hawk Owl! Having seen and photographed this northern rarity, I promptly collapsed and Lori drove out to pick me up.
            The following day, Lori and I headed out on a ride to some local fields where we added American Kestrel, Wilson’s Snipe, Hutton’s Vireo and Northern Pygmy-Owl. A few days later, Guy Monty phoned me with an address in Parksville where I could find an Anna’s Hummingbird at a feeder; and I did. This was a great relief; though they are not rare, they are seldom seen in this area. My last real attempt this month was on the 21st when I added seven new species in and around Parksville. Best of all was a Gyr Falcon at Parksville Community Park.
Hutton's Vireo

Saturday, January 31, 2009

NMT - January 2009

The great thing about birding is that you rarely get bored, even if you don't leave your local area, there are always new discoveries waiting around every corner. Starting a new year is fun; and like many other birders, I start from scratch, each year, to challenge myself to see as many different species as possible. 2009 was no exception, though the rules for that years' challenge had one little difference-no motorized vehicle!

            NMT stands for Non Motorized Transportation. I first heard about this on New Years Eve 2008 over a game of trivial pursuit. Guy Monty came up with this idea with his good friend, the late Dr. John Brighton.  It’s amazing what you volunteer for after a few celebratory beers!  The rules of the game are simple: you have to see, and or hear as many bird species as possible, and you can only have one home base from which you can start. You can be picked up by a vehicle if you, for example, decide on an extremely long ride. But, the second you set foot in that vehicle you cannot count anymore birds until you return and start again from your home base. Though I was rescued on a few occasions, the majority of my rides were all totally green; leaving home and returning by bike.

January 2009
Species list: 92 / Distance travelled: 68 kilometres

My first few excursions were spent on foot until I gave in to the inevitable and got back in the saddle. At first I had to use Lori’s bike, as I did not have one of my own. It was the first time back on a bike for many years! The birding was fairly easy at first; as everything was new being January. Though I took no bird for granted. American Dipper, Ring-necked Duck, Cackling Goose, Evening Grosbeak and Townsend’s Solitaire were a few I was glad to add to my list right away.
Townsend's Solitaire