Knowing that they have both seen white-tailed ptarmigan in that same area, I was definitely happy to accept their offer to join them.
Leaving Nanaimo around 6pm, we eventually arrived at the Mt Cain ski area about 10pm. This area is about 20km from the community of Woss, and just under 300km from Nanaimo. After we set up camp we got our heads down and, despite the best efforts of the immense local tree frog population, we actually got some sleep before rising just after 5am.
Following brekkie, we commenced our ascent. Practically the first bird we came across was a fine singing male pine grosbeak - a great way to start any day! We added gray jay to the list, and hearing the distinctive hoots of a male sooty grouse we soon located the bird sat up in a tree and watched it 'singing'.
A high altitude American robin was something of a surprise, and we had a fly-through merlin.
Then a large dark finch with a pink rump flew by emitting a distinctive 'churp' sound. Hoorah! Gray-crowned rosy-finch! One of the true alpine specialists that I was really hoping for. Later we heard what we assumed was it singing, but couldn't locate it. In this same area we also saw an American pipit and heard this bird singing too.
|Me, Rich & Justin at the Summit of Mount Cain|
The only bird of note we saw on the descent was another sooty grouse, this time a lovely female.
Rich and Justin's enthusiasm and energy made the whole thing even more enjoyable, and I'm extremely grateful to them for allowing me to join them. I feel privileged to have been able to venture into an area of Vancouver Island that would have otherwise remained a mystery to me.
Read Rich's account of our day, and see more pics, at his Birding Field Notes blog.