Monday, 20 December 2010

Christmas Bird Count 2010 - Parksville

Sunday, I took part in the Parksville Christmas Bird Count for the second consecutive year. And, once again I joined Rich Mooney, Lori Lynch and Mike Ashbee for the fun and games.

With Rich having already bagged killdeer calling behind his house at around 5.30am, we set out at 6am, heading first for Little Mountain in the hope of hearing an owl or two. After Rich had just about chapped his lips mimicking various species, and the rest of us had succumbed to near hypothermia, we got a response from a northern pygmy owl. Hooray! Sadly, it wasn't so interested that it came so close for us to see it, but we left happy nonetheless.
The day went on well, with some great birds seen.
We scoured the neighbourhoods of Parksville for suburban passerines and did pretty well - the highlight for me, being the sight of 13 stunning evening grosbeaks.
This was a long-awaited new bird for me and was very much on my mind today, as they're relatively easy to find in this area, unlike down in Nanaimo and Cedar.
What a great tick!
Another interesting event came when we were trampling a marshy area, and flushed at least 4 Wilson's snipe. But before we encountered any snipe, I accidentally flushed a Virginia rail! This bird flew up almost at my feet, flashing its white undertail at me before it took flight. It flew for all of about 6 feet, barely above ground level, hit the deck and ran off into the rank and dense vegetation. Another tick! Hardly brilliant views, but unequivocal at least... 
We did OK with our numerous sea watches, nothing spectacular, but we did clinch the trio of scoter species. Harlequin duck was frustratingly absent until late in the day, and the only Bonaparte's gulls were a pair flying overhead on Shelley Road.
We had a lone pigeon guillemots, several common murres, a handful of marbled and 1 ancient murrelet. Again, this last species would have been a new bird for me, but I wasn't going to tick it on the basis of the crappy, distant flight views I had, by the time I got onto it.  
Rich the owl-magnet had managed to solicit a vocal response from a barred owl, and as we neared the end of the count a few obvious absentees started to really irritate us! While bagging California quail, (again, the antitheses of Victorian children, heard but not seen) we stumbled across a small flock of American goldfinch and finally added pileated woodpecker.
A few common birds remained elusive, such as both accipiters, red-tailed hawk, black oystercatcher and shoveler. Oh well, can't have everything eh? It was a brilliant day, the weather stayed relatively kind and the company was great.

As it happens, we actually ended up with the highest species count for the day, with 86. The actual total number of individual birds counted was 2791.
Now, just to compare, if I'd have done a Christmas Bird Count on my old local patch in north west England I wouldn't have likely beat that number of species, but the number of lapwing alone would almost have numbered twice the total of individual birds we managed here! And the counters at Heysham Harbour could have expected some 30,000 red knot... but they wouldn't have seen 13 evening grosbeaks, would they?

The Turbo Team scale the heights of Little Mountain... 


  1. You're welcome mate! Always a pleasure, never a chore, as they say.
    Catch you soon.