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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!

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

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