Saturday, April 30, 2011

Timmy's coffee and some birds....perfect!

Rathtrevor woods
Today was just about perfect. Birding in the morning, a nap at midday, cut the grass, had a shower, ate ordered-in pizza, had a beer and watched the hockey. Unfortunately that's where it all went horribly wrong. The Vancouver Cancuks were 1-0 up in the last period with a minute to go when Nashville scored, then beat them in overtime. Ok, other than that is was perfect. At 06:02am I grabbed a toasted bagel and a large double-double from Tim Horton's then headed to Rathtrevor Beach. It was a glorious morning and luckily I had the place to myself. My target birds were shorebirds though there was a severe lack of them; basically there were 2 Black Oystercatcher and one unidentified distant peep. There was, however, just over 200 Pacific Black Brant on the shoreline. Savannah Sparrows were all over the place, Townsend's Warbler, Pacific Wren, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Robin and Varied Thrush were all singing their hearts out.

Rathtrevor Beach
My next stop was at the Englishman River Estuary where I managed to find two new year birds: Western Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper. Not much else to report here other than a few Green-winged Teal and a family of Canada Geese.

Canada Goose
Another quick stop at the Parksville Community park produced a Merlin, about 30 more Brant, lots of Savannah Sparrows and a beautiful Bonaparte's Gull in breeding plumage.

Bonaparte's Gull
I then headed up to Little Mountain where I spent about an hour poking around. All the usual suspects were present though I still had no luck in finding the pygmy owl. Species here included Red Crossbill, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Cassin's Vireo, Townsend's Warber, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Varied Thrush, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture and a cracking adult male Northern Harrier, which was seen flying above the trees from the bluff. The best bird though, was a calling Sooty Grouse (year bird) which was perched up in a tree. I watched this bird for about ten minutes, that was until a Turkey Vulture flew by, about 20 ft away, which sent the grouse crashing into the forest in shear panic!

Sooty Grouse
My last stop on my morning's jaunt was the Englishman River. It was a pleasant walk but nothing really exciting to report. Black-throated Gray Warbler were in good numbers as were Rufous Hummingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler. I did get one year tick; my first Hammond's Flycatcher. 
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Song Sparrow nest.

Over the last few days I have noticed a Song Sparrow in the ivy next to our back fence. I went and took a look this evening and found this beautiful little nest with four eggs.

Monday, April 25, 2011

First book review by Julia and Mickey Avenell - Austrailia

Richard Mooney’s Field Notes, A Birder’s Journey to the Pacific Northwest, is an inspiring memoir and fascinating record of a birder’s life and work in the region. It follows his journey from an inquisitive youngster into a life-long pursuit for the knowledge of birds. His achievements in worldwide banding and conservation are now a testimony to the integrity of his work and passion for ornithology.

Richard has faithfully and thoroughly documented his avian adventures with detailed species lists and photographs, which makes Field Notes a valuable reference for birders anywhere.

Anyone with an interest in wildlife will know the joy in “spotting a lifer”  (seeing a new species for the first time in your life, that is) and will share the same excitement when reading Field Notes, A Birder’s Journey to the Pacific Northwest.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A few year birds

Two hours birding this morning produced five new year birds. I started off on Little Mountain; here I added Cassin's Vireo and Townsend's Solitaire for the year, plus many others including Purple Finch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Steller's Jay, Varied Thrush, Turkey Vulture and Red Crossbill. As I was heading for the car, I noticed a flock of about 20 Red Crossbill high in a tree. After a few minutes, three birds flew down to a metal pipe that was holding rain water, which afforded me fantastic views.

After Little Mountain I headed down Allsbrook Road to the Englishman River. I only walked about 1/2 kilometre before getting my third new year bird: Black-throated Gray Warbler. Other birds along this stretch included Pine Siskin, Townsend's Warbler, Orange-crowned Warber, American Robin and Hermit Thrush.
Black-throated Gray Warbler
My final stop before getting on with our families never ending chores, was on Church Road in Parksville, where I added Savannah Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trio of Trespassing Twitcher's - Brant Festival 2011

Graffiti by Lori Lynch
Second place is the first loser; so the saying goes. Well, we don’t even qualify for that title. We took 3rd place this Saturday in the Brant Festival Big Day Challenge. Now, having said that, we did have a fantastic day! After all, it isn't about the winning, it’s about participation in a traditional and fun event; famous words from a losing team:)
With a busy schedule and lack of energy I will keep this post short. Though it may lack in any creative narrative, I will give a brief outline of our day. My good friend Trevor Forder had planned a visit to Vancouver Island to go over the logistics of our upcoming (Lori and I) wedding; Trevor being the best man. Originally the trip was planned for mid April, however, this changed and Trevor managed to get to the island just in time for the big day. If that wasn’t enough, our other good birding pal, Mike Force, tagged along! Several e-mails later we were confirmed as team: Trio of Trespassing Twitcher’s, open category. This means we can record all species within our area using motorized transport.

Trevor Forder and Mike Force snagging Black Oystercatcher and Black-bellied Plover for the list
The day started at 04:27am, when Trevor and Mike arrived to pick me up. Two minutes later we were on the road, and as the car clock turned 04:30am, we were ready to rock! Ok, I am being a little dramatic but we were pumped! Within about five minutes we added our first bird of the day: Great Horned Owl.
Ten hours and nearly 200 kms later, from when the boys had first arrived at our house, we were stood on Little Mountain, hoping for two more birds. We had 98 species. As we stared into the silent abyss, we realized that time was nearly up and the mountain was going to punish us. Plan B! “There is a Mute Swan at Fairwinds Golf Course”, I said casually. Trevor pointed out that one ‘gimme’ bird was better than two hopefuls! We began to run!

My awful blurry record shot of an immaculate male Northern Harrier
As Trevor negotiated the streets of Parksville, Mike and I doubled checked the list. Northwest Bay road seemed extremely busy and though the traffic was thick, coming into Parksville, our direction was clear, except for the truck in front of us, which was definitely in no hurry! Some colorful language began fill our car and after some very frustrating minutes, the driver decided to turn off, much to our delight. Six minutes to go! Trevor asked how much further, I responded, “less than six minutes I hope!”

 At 2:59 we passed the first empty pond, then the second and then “MUTE SWAN!” Mike and I jumped from the car as Trevor screamed to the last pond. With seconds to go we needed just one more bird. Mike then shouts “COOT”, I jumped on him, both of us jumping up and down, shaking hands, I couldn’t believe it! This was EPIC!!!!  Well, it would have been had there been a coot. I stared at the water, waiting for the glorious arrival of this aquatic submerged bird. A Buffllehead popped up, a bird seen previously in the day. This was followed by a very disappointed: “Oh shit!” Mike had just caught a glimpse of the bird as it dove and thought it was a coot. The funny thing is, this makes the tale all the more memorable! The next time we checked our watch it was past 03:00pm, we had run out of time. 

Rich Mooney, Trevor Forder and Mike Force
After picking Lori up from home, we headed over to Deez Bar and Grill restaurant in Qualicum, where the round-up was being held. There was a great turn out this year with 15 teams participating. The much-deserved winners of the open category were the Stellar J’s, with a whopping 114 species: Well done guys! We scraped a consolation prize of most owls seen, which was a nice surprise.

A trio of trespassing twitcher's
The whole day was a lot of fun and it was great to show Trevor and Mike some of the local and not so local hot spots. Though our strategy of running round like headless chickens didn’t scoop the big win, we did have a great days birding. Bird of the day for me was a male Northern Harrier on Church Road, for Mike; Marbled Murrelet at Deep Bay and for Trev, well, MUTE SWAN! After the round-up shenanigans were over, we all headed back to Parksville where  we chowed-down some Mexican food and a big Margarita!

A big thanks to all who organized this event, especially Rhys Harrison and Sandra Gray.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Red Crossbill

Lori, Conor and I took a walk along the Englishman River this morning, starting at Top Bridge. The birding was fairly dull and though I hoped for an Orange-crowned Warbler, I was unsuccessful in hearing or seeing one. In the forest there were Pacific Wren, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet and American Robin but that was about it. However, it was a beautiful morning and Lori was very excited at seeing Trillium and Oregon Grape. On our way home we made a stop at Little Mountain where we got great views of a pair of Red Crossbill. Unfortunately the male didn't want to pose for the camera but his mate sure did.