Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year, New Yearlist...

First of all, a very happy New Year to you all.
2011 has been a memorable year for a number of reasons. Jenny and I relocated from Nanaimo to Victoria early in the spring, and in the past few months I found loads of great new places to go birding! Thanks to Ian Cruikshank and Chris Saunders, among others, for making me feel so welcome.
I also found myself in Hawaii for a few days late in the year, thanks to my new job with FTS, and added a small but quality selection of lifers to my very slowly growing world list. An unscheduled trip to the UK in early December for the funeral of my good friend and brother-in-law Mark was less enjoyable - the pre-Christmas week in sunny Florida was something of a more pleasant experience... and again, some new birds were seen.
I actually counted up my life list the other day and it's somewhere in the region of 1,640 species. Some recent splits and lumps need to be looked into before I can be sure of a definitive figure but that's roughly where I'm at.

The loneliness of the long-distance birder...
On New Year's Eve Jenny was offered the chance of a day off work so she said she'd like to head out to Island View Beach and take a walk up Saanichton Spit. Well, I wasn't going to complain. Especially as a snowy owl had been seen in that area recently, and you never know, I might just get lucky.
Going through some old notes recently, I was gobsmacked to read that I last saw a snowy owl in Lincolnshire on January 5th 1991. Almost exactly 21 years ago! Well, that made me feel ancient. Happy New Year indeed...
Anyhoo, we arrived at the parking area to find a plague of dogs and their owners had taken over the place. I suppose that's what you get for arriving in the afternoon.
Despite the mounds of hounds we soon spied a 1st year northern shrike in a field adjacent to the rough road by the parking area. As we headed out along the beach away from the parked cars the canine crowds thinned out considerably, and we soon had the place pretty much to ourselves. 
A quick scan offshore revealed a pair of black scoter among the commoner seaduck species.

I kept checking the best-looking areas above the strand line for anything big and white but other than a couple of plastic bags and a bucket, I failed to locate anything of note.
Around the spit it was pretty quiet, and other than a flock of 7 western meadowlarks there were no interesting passerines to be found.
Although I didn't break my 21 year snowy owl absence, we had a lovely time at this wonderful spot as we always do.
Of note: earlier in the day, we had come across a frenzied flock of cedar waxwings feeding on an ornamental berry bush in our neighbourhood. There were around 40 birds, but none had those chestnut undertail coverts we're all looking for. With snowy owls, white-winged crossbills and redpolls being seen in southern BC and on the island right now, it's surely worth keeping an eye out for any other northern nomads...

While ambling around the Government House grounds today with our friends Dave and Susan I noticed a Townsend's warbler in with a bushtit flock in the gardens. My 'diligent' checks in recent weeks haven't turned up anything half as interesting, so it just goes to show that anything can turn up anywhere, at any time. 

1 comment:

  1. Hawaii is mainly famous for "aa" .... a species of lava. Scrabble fans throughout the world are grateful for this, though Hawaii is responsible for at least one other oddly-named lava species. I see you are still stumbling around the bird-deprived americas trying to find something/anything worth looking at. Good luck with that this year then! ray