Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BIg Day 2008!

So December has been the month from hell, literally. It’s like hell just opened up here in the Lower Mainland, but instead of spewing molten lava, decided to spew loads and loads of snow. This snow, well I don’t like it. My car was stuck on and off for 3 days, and when I could drive, it was only on main roads and barely at that. I mention this because my December list for 08 ranks as the worst species total ever. As of last night it was at 58! 58?, I’ve never fallen under 100 species since I’ve lived here. Its almost impossible not to see 100 species every month, the only months that should give you trouble would be June and July, that’s when there’s the least amount of species, because really Vancouver is about Migrants, or wintering birds. Not a lot of birds breed here, well compared to other places, we just don’t have the Warblers like the interior has, nor do we even have the waterfowl, as most of the waterfowl that graces our home turf, leaves to nest in greener pastures.
But anyways, last night I came up with a wild idea; why don’t I have a big day, to end the year of 2008? That way I can make my 100 species for the month, and do something I’ve never really done on my own before. Usually by 1-2pm I pack it in. But not this time! I decided I was going to do it from Dawn until Dusk. So let me tell you all about it.

So I went to bed about 2 in the morning, my plan was to wake up at 630am. I set my alarm, and the next thing I know its 630am. Nope, not going to happen, I reset my alarm for 7am. Nope not going to happen, finally at 730 I drag my ass out of bed. I don’t know how I did it, if I had to go to work I probably would’ve called in sick, but this is birding man, its um…in my blood.

830 A:M - Tsawassen Ferry Jetty

Well my plan was to start at the Tswassen.This is the only place to find Willet in the lower mainland, actually there’s just one Willet, the same one that has been here for like 10 years. I don’t know why one Willet chose to stay here, but it did.
There was a terrible wind, the tide was in, and I could barely hold my scope steady. Basically, I saw next to nothing, the only reward was this one delightful little Black Oystercatcher:


I had planned on going to Beach Grove, but since I was already late, I decided my best bet was to go straight to Reifel, along the way I found a field full of Black-bellied Plover, and a few Dunlin. I also spotted a Eurasian Collared Dove.

11:00 A:M Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary


On the way into Reifel, I noticed another car pulled over, and right away saw the dark shape sitting in a bare tree, it was a Great Horned Owl, he looked fairly agitated, unfortunately he was backlit, but I’m subjecting you to see this picture anyways…haaaa!


Of course the main reason to hit up Reifel are the species that you can only find there. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Sandhill Crane, and its probably the best place to find the most species of Owls. I found a Barn owl in the big tree by the parking lot. This tree is an Owl magnet, its hosted Boreal, Saw-Whet, Barn, Barred, and Great Horned. And its probably hosted more than that, that’s just what I’ve seen there.
There were reports of a Townsend’s Solitaire around the entrance but however I had no such luck. The Night-Heron was there though:


Probably the best bird of the day for me was this American Bittern. I’ve only seen 5 in my life, and 4 of them were at Reifel, I just managed to catch this guy walking back into the reeds. Five seconds later and I never would’ve noticed him.


Reifel gave me a lot of species, but because most of the ponds were still frozen over, I missed a lot of Waterfowl. I have never, ever not seen a Wood Duck at Reifel, but I guess this was a first, also missed Northern Shoveler. Other notable species that I DID see were five Cedar Waxwings, and ok so that was the only other notable species: Here’s some pictures of other birds I saw:

Golden-crowned Sparrow


Bewick’s Wren


Greater Scaup


Red-tailed Hawk


So after Reifel I made my way to Boundary Bay. I went to one of my luckiest locations, 64th Street. This is where I found a Tropical Kingbird in October, the rarest bird I have ever found on my own before anyone else. I will talk more about this some other time. So when I was there I ran into Illya, a young birder, younger than me, and with a bigger life list! I’ve seen him around a lot, enough to know who he is. I walked with him for a bit discussing some birds, we were looking for the Northern Mockingbird that had been staying around 64th for the last 2 weeks. I saw it last week, but this time it was a no show, neither were the 5 Savannah Sparrows I had also seen that week.

I went on to 72nd Street where I met up with Mike Tabak. While there I got a Short-eared Owl, and he mentioned about a 1st Winter Glaucous Gull along 72nd by the Turf Farm, I managed to find that one ok. I then went to 96th to find the Gyrfalcon that regularly sits on a giant airplane tower. I pulled my car up onto the Dyke, which you aren’t allowed to do, and I’m always nervous about doing, because one time I got yelled at for it, but I wasn’t about to walk 2 km to see the Gyrfalcon. I managed to scope it right away, it was already 3pm, so I had to scrap any plans of going to Jericho Park for a Northern Goshawk. I figured the best bet was Blackie Spit, because I knew there would at least be a Long-billed Curlew, as well as Marbled Godwits.
My risk paid off, as they were right where they were supposed to be.

Long-billed Curlew


These guys seem to winter there every year. Its really interesting how Vancouver has these places where a bird will come back each year, but only to a certain location. You can’t find a Willet anywhere else but one spot, you can’t find a Black-crowned Night-Heron anywhere else, nor can you find a Long-billed Curlew. Anyways, I didn’t really come close to 100 species, the final total was 76. Which I guess is pretty good, since I started late, and the weather basically ruined the first 2 hours.
Tomorrow I may try to best 76, with a Big Day to start off 2009!

Big Day December 31st.
1. Pacific Loon
2. Common Loon
3. Horned Grebe
4. Pelagic Cormorant
5. Double-crested Cormorant
6. American Bittern
7. Great Blue Heron
8. Black-crowned Night-Heron
9. Trumpeter Swan
10. Snow Goose
11. Canada Goose
12. Brant
13. Mallard
14. Northern Pintail
15. Gadwall
16. American Widgeon
17. Eurasian Widgeon
18. Green-winged Teal
19. Lesser Scaup
20. Greater Scaup
21. Harlequin Duck
22. Surf Scoter
23. Common Goldeneye
24. Bufflehead
25. Red-breasted Merganser
26. Hooded Merganser
27. Northern Harrier
28. Red-tailed Hawk
29. Rough-legged Hawk
30. Bald Eagle
31. Gyrfalcon
32. American Coot
33. Sandhill Crane
34. Black-bellied Plover
35. Black Oystercatcher
36. Greater Yellowlegs
37. Long-billed Curlew
38. Marbled Godwit
39. Dunlin
40. Mew Gull
41. Ring-billed Gull
42. California Gull
43. Herring Gull
44. Thayer’s Gull
45. Glaucous Gull
46. Glaucous-winged Gull
47. Western Gull
48. Rock Dove
49. Eurasian Collared Dove
50. Barn Owl
51. Short-eared Owl
52. Great Horned Owl
53. Northern Flicker
54. Downy Woodpecker
55. Northern Shrike
56. Northwestern Crow
57. Black-capped Chickadee
58. Brown Creeper
59. Marsh Wren
60. Bewick’s Wren
61. Golden-crowned Kinglet
62. Varied Thrush
63. American Robin
64. Cedar Waxwing
65. European Starling
66. Spotted Towhee
67. Fox Sparrow
68. Song Sparrow
69. Dark-eyed Junco
70. White-crowned Sparrow
71. Golden-crowned Sparrow
72. Red-winged Blackbird
73. Brewer’s Blackbird
74. House Finch
75. Purple Finch
76. House Sparrow

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Inaugeral Post

Well, I guess this is it. I have finally done the inevitable, I have finally decided I need to share my birding experiences with the general public, instead of hiding my lists away in binders, for I dunno my grandson to find some 50 years later. Yes, I guess every birder may come to this point where they want to become exhibitionists. Well if nothing else, maybe I can show people I have a personality, I may be obsessed with these feathered creatures, but I can have fun with it as well?

Ahem, anyways, where to start? I've been a "birder" since the ripe age of thirteen. Though, in reality, I've always had a fascination with our natural world ever since I can remember. I attribute a lot of this with my grandfather. Since I was old enough to walk, every Sunday him and my Grandmother would take me out to lakes, parks, or bird sanctuaries. We would drive through Kootenay National Park, all of us intently waiting the next animal we would see on the road. My grandfather always liked to see Herons, in Cranbrook where I grew up they were not so common as on the coast.

I guess just appreciating nature in that way would probably have sufficed me for the rest of my life, but it wasn't until I was 13 and on vacation with my mom that I discovered birding. It was in a book store outside of Vernon, where I used some of my vacation money to purchase the Stokes guide to Birds of Western North America. It was my second official field guide, my first being that old Audubon’s field guide, the one with the pictures in one place and the descriptions in the other. Back then I thought that book was the bees knees, now I cringe when I look at the god awful photographs. They blurry flycatchers, the bleached out Goldeneyes. I still have it of course, and even the updated ones, I love collecting bird books no matter how irrelevant.
Anyways, it wasn’t exactly the field guide itself, the pictures were a step up from the Audubon’s, and I liked that each page had the range map and description right there. It was the opening writing. Donald and Lillian Stokes talked about how birdwatchers could keep lists, life lists, month lists, location lists. It had never occurred to me before!

It was that August of 07 I made my first Life list, it was a decent list I guess, for a starter. Even before I was a birder, I still loved and watched birds, I think it was somewhere below 100 species. I also started my August month list, which turned out to be like 57 species.
Even though I started listing, I still had no idea there were real birders out there. I lived in Cranbrook, and I had never seen a birder before. I didn't have internet out there, there was no such thing as bird groups, or list servs, or rare bird alerts. I just figured I was some weird kid who was doing something really lame. My friends never even knew I was a birder for like 3 years, then one day they caught me alone in my room, feverishly devouring a Birders World mag.

Anyways, its been 14 years and my life list is still fairly small compared to a lot of people, but too be fair 85 percent of it consists of birds I’ve seen in southern B.C. But from now on I guess my birding experiences shall not just be stored in my mind, or in my binders, nor on my Ebird account. They shall now be public record...on this said blog..last of the curlews.