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