Monday, 21 December 2009

Happy Christmas Bird Count

Having read about these things for many years it was a privilege to be invited to join a team for the Christmas Bird Count on Sunday. The count area was further north than my relative comfort zone and all the sites visited were all new to me.
Having spent the night at Rich & Lori's house we emerged into the damp and dark and kicked off with an attempt at some early morning owling which despite the rain, wasn't altogether unsuccessful.
Thanks to some canny impersonations Rich lured a northern saw-whet owl that responded with vigour and approached within metres, but the lack of light meant that it remained unseen. Good bird for the count, but a bummer for me as it's a lifer and I ain't ticking one on call alone!
Despite zero response following our attempts to attract other owls, a great-horned happened to fly across the road to the joy of Rich and Lori, both of whom saw it. Mike Ashbee and I missed it from the back seat of the car!
As it got lighter we headed for a few spots to locate some key species and then spent some time at the the Little Qualicum River hatcheries - a brilliant site which yielded American dipper (great views and it even started singing) plus a few other important birds for the day and incredible numbers of bald eagle. At one point I could see 18 individuals in one binocular view!
Unfortunately the tide was particularly high which meant that the estuary was full of water and therefore lacking in non-saline species of wildfowl etc. Offshore, numbers of all 3 scoter species were present along with grebes, loons, murres, buffleheads, etc. 1000s of gulls were present with particularly large numbers of mew gull amongst them. And it was really, really pissing it down. As you can probably tell from the attached pic...
Passerines were tricky throughout the day and some common species went unseen. A last minute stroll down a trail known to Mike had us finally bag both downy and hairy woodpeckers in the fading light.
We went to the post-count round-up and it became apparent that our total of 65 species for the day wasn't atypical, although one team led by Guy Monty managed an astonishing 98. In fact, this team even saw two species (Hutton's vireo & ancient murrelet) that would have been lifers for me!
All in all it was a great experience and I was delighted to be involved in such a renowned institution as the CBC.
Also, it has to be said, that we had a really good laugh throughout the day and the company of Rich, Lori and Mike made the whole thing that bit more enjoyable. Roll on the Big Day in spring...

For a more thorough assessment of the day and full count figures, check out Rich's blog via the links on the left...

No comments:

Post a Comment