Monday, 10 September 2012

Pedder Late Than Never

I've had a few very busy days just lately, hence the delay in updating the blog.
The following day (Saturday 1st) I spent much of the morning at Rocky Point Bird Observatory’s sister site at Pedder Bay. Here they have a newly launched ringing station and are conducting a constant effort census. The latter being my contribution on this particular day.
Once I’d met the ‘bander-in-chief’ Rick Schortinghuis and the team of volunteers, I did a bit of birding around the site and also watched as the crew processed an array of birds including the smart Lincoln's sparrow pictured here.

Lincoln's sparrow - Pedder Bay
The census route was relatively simple to get around, although I lost my bearings at one point before realising that I was heading in the wrong direction! That added about 10 minutes of wasted time, but otherwise it went relatively well. 
There was a good mixture of habitat and as a result a fairly interesting mix of feathery critters including band-tailed pigeon, red crossbill, Pacific-slope and willow flycatchers, a selection of common warblers, warbling vireo, sharp-shinned hawk and my first 'free-range' Lincoln’s sparrows of the autumn.
I really look forward to doing more census work here and at RPBO but time is pretty tight right now and I’ll have to manage my shifts to fit around work and other commitments.

Later that same day my brother Paul and his wife Satty arrived from Jersey in the UK Channel Islands for a week-long visit, so I had taken some vacation time to spend with them.

Tourists at Holland Point
East Sooke Park
As I almost always have my binocs at hand, this meant that a bit of casual birding was most certainly on the cards as Jenny and I showed off some of our favourite Vancouver Island locations on Sunday.
First up was a walk from downtown Victoria to Ross Bay, via Fishermans’s Wharf, Ogden Point and Clover Point. The avian highlight was a pair of wandering tattler at Ogden Point. There were also good numbers of black turnstone present. More turnstone and a lone surfbird were also seen as we made our way along Dallas Road.
A brief wander through the Government House later revealed just one obvious off-passage migrant, an olive-sided flycatcher.

With the Labour day stat holiday on Monday we all piled into the car and headed off to East Sooke Park for a bit of a hike out to Beechy Head.
The birding may have been pretty unremarkable, but Paul and Satty were naturally enthralled by the wonderful coastal BC scenery.

The ornithological highlight of the morning was a Heermann’s gull with white primary coverts – a feature shown only in a small percentage of these striking gulls. 
Later, we took a stroll along the dog- and dog-‘egg’-laden Whiffen Spit which despite the disturbance still held a nice mixture of small shorebirds. Among the 60+ western and least sandpipers feeding along the shore were a pair of semipalmated plovers. A few savannah sparrows were also picking their way through the food-filled flotsam.

The biggest disappointment of this otherwise pleasant day came when I arrived home in the evening and upon checking my emails discovered that a sharp-tailed sandpiper had been showing to all and sundry throughout the day at McIntyre Reservoir. With the last message implying that the bird had flown in the late afternoon, I was not only pissed off at missing out on this potential lifer but it also seemed unlikely that I’d be able to catch up with it the following morning.

I was back in work Tuesday morning, and decided to stop off at Summit Hill reservoir on my way. Lesser yellowlegs numbers had dropped to just 2 but these remaining diehards had at least been joined by a duo of pectoral sandpipers and 7 peeps (all least and western sandpipers). A pair of western tanagers added a splash of exotic colour to the surrounding garry oaks.

Later in the day I put out a request to Jeremy Kimm for updates on the sharp-tailed and got word back that it had returned to McIntyre, so I took an extended lunch and flew out there only to arrive to a very birdless reservoir. The juvenile northern harrier relentlessly quartering the water’s edge may have had something to do with the total absence of waders!
Unfortunately, post-work plans with our visitors meant that I couldn’t head up in the evening. And guess what? The Asian vagrant was only putting on a spectacular show for those birders who were there. From what I hear it may as well as been sporting a top hat and cane...

With the rest of the week taken off as vacation, we had firm plans to head up island for a couple of days at Mount Washington so on Wednesday morning before Jenny or our guests roused themselves I sped up the highway and arrived at McIntyre Reservoir for first light.
And I searched, and waited, and searched.
2 pectoral sandpipers later, I conceded a loss and at 8am left the site somewhat dejected. Boy do I wish I’d twitched one back in Britain! With fewer than 40 accepted records of the species in the UK and Ireland, this is something of a holy-grail bird for many Brit birders… oh well, as an annual vagrant to BC maybe I’ll get lucky yet. Better still, maybe I’ll get a call from someone when one turns up next time (hint, hint).

Details of the Mt Washington trip and the few highlights following that will be posted shortly...

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