Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Wandering Tattler


Today the first Wandering Tattler of the year was spotted at Iona. This bird has given me fits over the years, and I had yet to see one in the Lower Mainland. I even ended up going to Victoria to see one last year, just so I could finally get it over with. Well, this year I'm not leaving anything up to chance, so I waited for high tide and headed out to the Jetty. 

Normally I wouldn't dare walk the Jetty past 7am, after that it turns from quiet birders paradise to Jogger central, it wasn't so bad tonight as the foot traffic seemed to have mellowed out by the time I got there. The Tattler had been last reported at the almost 2km mark, but I didn't find him till almost 3, I was elated to find him stoically standing on one leg, oblivious to me. I sat down on the rocks and enjoyed his company for about 20 minutes. 

In other news, its nice to be caught up on my birding blog, the backlog of my outings was hanging over my head for too long. Since the last interior trip I have been a home body. I volunteered for a Western Sandpiper Survey, my location was 112th Street. I can safely say they don't use that area at least in July, but it gave me a chance to add another layer to my face tan.

I still haven't found a Green Heron, I visited Brydon Lagoon and Surrey Lake, neither had them. Of course a day later one was reported from Surrey Lakes, so either I arrived too late in the day or I just have bad luck. I'm going to say both. When I lived in Surrey I used to visit the lake often, and would almost always see a Green Heron or two. Ah well. 

Highlight of last weekend was a very tame American Kestrel female, she was eating grasshoppers along the dyke near 104 street, I end this post with a reasonably OK photo of her. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The wall has been hit

Lazuli Bunting-Tranquille
July is to birders what February is to seasonal affective disorder sufferers. Its as if someone were holding a remote control to birdsong and decided to hit the mute button. All of a sudden I;m walking through quiet forests that 2 weeks ago were deafening with songs of all kinds. This has a terrible affect on the psyche. Its almost like I want to Hibernate until September.

So this weekend I felt a bit clueless as to what I should be doing. Should I spend the weekend shore birding? Should I visit the alpine? I still needed that pesky Green Heron that had managed to avoid me at every turn. So many possibilities but I chose another excursion to the interior. My choice was an easy one as a late report surfaced of a Black-throated Blue Warbler in Princeton.

I arrived in Princeton that evening with enough light to check the deciduous groves along the trans Canada trail. The orange light falling on the cottonwoods cast a warming calm. There wasn't much out but I did manage to catch a Black-Swift whipping through the skies.

In the morning I returned hoping for the rare warbler. I was kept busy by a family of Bullocks Orioles. Lazuli Buntings, Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers were all busy feeding nestlings, but alas no Black-throated Blue Warbler to be seen.

Bullocks Oriole-Princeton

From Princeton I took the scenic road that cuts straight through to Summerland. Its about a two hour drive but definitely more peaceful than the highway, as long as you are ok with a large part of it being gravel. The birding was decent, I kept Pygmy Owl on my radar, but intently welcomed Cassin's Vireos, Macgillavrays, Wilsons, and Yellow Warblers. Dusky and Pacific Sloped Flycatchers. Where the road entered a cool lush canyon several Veery's were foraging out in the open, green caterpillars dangled from their mouths. 

From Summerland it was up to Dee Lake near Winfield. Its quite the drive up into the mountains, further than Beaver Lake, along the same road though. I was there because of a report of a family of Rusty Blackbirds. I spent a bit of time at the private resort but could not find any, skunked again...

So I was 0-2. I checked out Roberts lake, finding very little in Shorebirds. Two Sempipalmated Sandpipers, 1 Western and 1 Least. A few Wilson's Phalaropes, I could not locate a Red-necked reported days earlier. There weren't even any Avocets. Afterwards I booked it to Kamloops where I decided my final destination of the day. The last two options I had for new birds were Prairie Falcon and Sharp-tailed Grouse, not easy birds by any means.

 The heat of the day was finally wavering, radiating back up into the cloudless sky. I was west of Kamloops in an area called tranquille, and tranquille it was. I spent a good amount of time scoping the rocky cliffs along Tranquille rd. A herd of California Bighorn lazed about at the base of  the cliffs, while a few White-throated Swifts cruised above. Every sign of whitewash I could find I scoped, finding a few nests with nothing in them, and no sign of Prairie Falcons.

Lac Du Bois

The fields to the end of the road were fully flooded, Great Blue Herons were lined up as well as Ring-billed Gulls, all along the fence line. Where a deciduous grove bordered the fields it harboured a variety of birds including Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Lazuli Bunting, and Black-capped Chickadee. The surprise bird was a Cassin's Vireo, in uncharacteristic habitat.
Lazuli Bunting

Black-capped Chickadee

I followed a road branching off Tranquille road up into the hills of Lac Du Bois. These were some impressive grasslands, I was soon out of the car and wandering through them in the pale dusk light. Along a trail I began photographing Wildflowers along a ridge, every time I would get involved in my photos, I would hear a rustling of feathers and wings. I kept standing up and surveying the area but could never find what it was. Finally i followed the sound, my mind could only revolve around the possibility of Sharp-tailed Grouse.
Mother grouse

Walking across the hill I finally found what had been making the noise, 4 shapes were perched low in a Saskatoon berry bush. I jumped too quickly to the Sharp-tailed Grouse conclusion, when I first saw them they sort of resembled them, but then i noticed the 4th shape was a lot bigger, and realized this was a family of Dusky Grouse. As I approached the 3 youngsters flew off into the grass, but the Hen was unperturbed and let me get some photos while she continued to pluck berries into her mouth. I was a little dismayed as my hopes were dashed for the Sharpie, but Dusky Grouse aren't all too common a sight for me either. I headed down the hills back to Kamloops satisfied.

It was dark and I was saddened to discover that the Wal mart in kamloops does not take kindly to overnights in the parking lot...this was a first. So I drove along Lac-du Bois road looking for a place I could stay, along the way I saw a bird fly up off the road, it was rail sized I thought. I kept driving and noticed 2 more, these ones were still on the road. I got my binocs and gasped as I was staring at two Burrowing Owls! I would see 2 more making it 5 that night. I tried the best i could to see weather or not they had leg bands but under these lighting conditions it was not possible, so I cannot count them as they were likely part of the reintroduction program. Too bad, but still wonderful to see, and the first Burrowing Owls I've seen in British Columbia.

In the morning I spent a few more hours checking for Grouse and Falcons, but could not find either. I then turned towards home, it got hot fast and I did little birding other than taking the Quillchena way back to Merritt and checking around Nicola Lake area as well. This would mark the first time I had returned home empty handed an entire weekend. The wall has been hit, there are few easy birds left and at 310, getting to 350 will likely take the rest of the year, the only chance I have left to add big numbers in one trip is my Pelagic in September, but until then I will continue to slug it out, the best I can.


Dusky Grouse

Monday, July 22, 2013

To Eagle lake and back

Eagle Lake BC
Eagle Lake, if you haven't heard of it don't feel bad, I hadn't heard of it either until this year. In the last decade this lake unknown to many has become the harbinger of nesting Arctic Terns, and seeing as how I never made it to the northeast corner of BC, this would be my only real chance of seeing them. So on July 7th after work I hit the road, destination Williams Lake.

I spent the night there, and in the morning I made a brief stop to Scout Island Nature Park, its a wonderful little bird sanctuary and this morning the birds were putting on a show. Northern Flickers, Bullock's Orioles, Willow Flycatchers, and Gray Catbirds, were all out in the open enjoying the morning sun before it got too hot.
Red-winged and Red-shafted

 There were also a few American White Pelican's on the water, as well as this family of Red-necked Grebe.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebes-Scout Island Nature Park

Red-necked Grebe

From Williams lake it was an almost three hour drive on Highway 20 towards Bella Coola. The habitat for the first half was pure grasslands mixed with alder forests, the second half became more coniferous dominated forests as well as wetlands and bogs. There were a few burns I inspected for Northern Hawk Owl.

Fireweed grows where flames once rose

Crystal clear Eagle Lake

By the time I made it to Eagle lake it was noon, and pretty hot out. Seeing the Arctic Terns was a bit anti climatic, I assumed they would be flying around the lake, careening through the air while there calls echoed over the water. But no, the two Arctic Terns I saw pretty much didn't move at all, they seemed content to laze about on some small rocks poking out from the water.
Arctic Tern

One of them finally decided to start calling, making a nasal "kreek" noise. Nevertheless I had plenty to look at with Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, and even three Semipalmated Plovers all actively feeding around the shores. There were also at least 5 White Pelicans.

White Pelican passes by an Arctic Tern

Semipalmated Plover

After Eagle lake I drove back towards Williams Lake. I checked some ponds, finding nesting Greater Yellowlegs. I checked a few bogs and alder forests, as well as a burnt forest. My other target birds here were Sharp-tailed Grouse, and Rusty Blackbirds, neither were to be seen.

Hairy Woodpecker

Vertical Charcoal

Indian Paintbrush

Ducks Unlimited Area along hwy 20

A little before Williams Lake is the turn off for Becher's Prairie. Bechers prairie is a huge grassland, one of British Columbias true natural wonders. I soon found myself hiking the treeless hills of bunchgrass prairie. The scenery was amazing.

Becher's Prairie

At the top of a plateau i flushed a Horned Lark, my first of the year, and the first grassland lark I've ever seen. I have found them in migration in farmers fields, jetty's and in the alpine, but never one of the grassland nesters. I soon had 3 of them calling around me.

Horned Lark hidden in the grass

By the time I made it back to Williams Lake it was 7pm, my plan was to take the road to Alki lake and follow it all the way out to highway 97 by Clinton. Of course having never done this drive before I was unprepared for the length of it, and what I thought would be a 2 hour drive turned into five because it got dark and then I had to drive slowly through a rough road.

Near Alki lake

Fields in flames


I won't complain though, because I saw a lot of cool things. The sunset along Alki Lake was breath taking, and worth the drive alone, once it got dark I started having to dodge toads crossing the road, I think I managed to evade them all, at least I hope so, I also got out and caught one.
And as tradition has it, this toad peed on me
Then there was this Nighthawk, I first noticed him flying off in front of the headlights, only to settle back down a bit further up. He seemed hypnotized by the headlights, when I would get out of the car though it would fly off, making a big Meep! but then it came back and sat right in front of me for a while, what a cool bird.
Common Nighthawk

I didn't make it out to highway 97 until 1am, i was pretty tired, luckily there was a rest area that seemed full of other tired people in their cars, so I conked out there for the night.
Sunday morning I spent checking the cliffs from Clinton to Spences bridge looking for Prairie Falcons, I did not find any. This is one of those birds that I am having big problems with but other people seem to just look up and see one. Luckily i still have time as in August and September there should be more of them migrating through..I hope. This is what birding looks like from here on out, battling for one or two species each weekend, its going to get interesting to say the least.

Out here in the dark

Sunshine Costa's

After twelve days of strait birding, becoming reintroduced into the regular world was a bit difficult to say the least. I was suffering from flashbacks, waking up thinking I was in the backseat of my car, listening for Cape May Warblers and Nelson's Sparrows from my bedside window. I even missed those Tennessee Warblers.

I admit I felt a little lost. I wasn't really sure what my next move was. Having taken care of the last two Okanagan specialties on my way back, I had given myself an extra weekend to do with what I wanted. So two of those days I spent being a son, something I haven't had the time for this year. And the third, which happened to be Canada Day, I spent going to the Sunshine Coast, for the Costa's Hummingbird.

In what can only be described as a birding miracle, a male Costa's Hummingbird had returned to a feeder in Gibson's BC, for the second year in a row! The fact this tiny bird managed to survive a second trip way out of its normal range to return to the exact same feeder, speaks to the marvels of birds. Though a Costa's in BC isn't as rare as it once was, in fact a few show up almost annually now, and perhaps because of climate change and feeder availability, they could become another Anna's Hummingbird story.

So Canada Day birding I was on the first ferry to Langdale, I even had company for the trip, as a local birder(Max Gotz) expressed interest in sharing the costs and chasing the hummingbird with me. The ride was typical July quietness. A few Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, and Glaucous-winged Gulls were the only bird life along the 40 minute voyage.

Once we disembarked the ship it was a short drive to our destination. The person who;s feeder was being used is actually the former Mayor of Gibson's: Barry Janyk. He and Max were old friends and chatted while we waited. It was delightful to listen and laugh to two funny and interesting characters reminisce.

A few Anna's hummingbirds darted in and out, until finally the prized Costa's buzzed in. He was top dog at this feeder and as Barry informed us, would fearlessly chase any other bird from the feeder when he was around. He definitely seemed fearless as he sat and slowly drank his fill of nectar. He then shot up into a bare perch, and surveyed the territory giving magnificent looks of his sharp reverse V shaped Gorget. Unlike the sparkling Grapefruit colour of an Anna's his was a deep Purple and quite becoming.


Eventually he disappeared from view, and we thanked Barry for being such a great host. Seeing as we had come all this way we spent some time visiting the hot spots around the sunshine coast. While they were definitely Hot, the birding was Lacklustre at best.

At Roberts Creek jetty there were a few pairs of Marbled Murrelets and some Guillemots, but not much else.
At Wilson's Creek Estuary a couple Western and Least Sandpipers.
And at Wilson's Point, where I had in February marvelled at the numbers of birds, there was almost nothing. Ahh July...
Our mission was was hot and time to go back home.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Back to the grasslands

I made it to Oliver that night and crashed at a local campground. The rain had come in overnight and I didn't feel so good about my chances as I drove up white lake road, regardless I would still give it a shot. Russ had gone over some locations for the Grasshopper Sparrow and Sage Thrasher on google maps with me the previous night and I felt confident I would at least know where to look this time.

I pulled over on White Lake road at the famous S curve and started walking up the hill into the sagebrush. About 600 meters up there is a plateau where the sage gives way to a mini short grass prairie. Right there was a singing Grasshopper Sparrow!
Grasshopper Sparrow-White Lake
 In fact after a bit of looking I noticed there were three of them. It was almost ridiculously easy. I took time to enjoy the long looks I was getting, and listen to the raspy call, similar to a Savannah Sparrow but less musical more insectesque quality.

I returned to White Lake road and investigated the large sage tract on the other side. A Sage Thrasher had been seen recently here, and I listened for its song. My ears got a work out from the dozens of meadowlarks, chucking and singing from all over the grassland. There was a moment I swear I heard a warbled song from somewhere, resembling a Thrasher, but I could never pin point it. I figured I should check Nighthawk Road before it got too hot. The clouds were starting to break way to the desert sun.

From what I had been hearing there were a few Thrashers being reported from Nighthawk Road. The first one was right at the turn off, and then another by the famous big rock on the Elknik ranch side of Nighthawk Road. I began at the start, and while there were plenty of Lark, Vesper, Brewer's and even one Clay-coloured Sparrow, there were no Thrashers.

I kept up the search, all the way to the Elknik Ranch sign.
I preface this by letting the reader know that of all the birds in British Columbia, The Sage Thrasher has been my number one since I started birding. Many times I have been to the Okanagan, year after year hoping to catch a glimpse of what has become a mythical bird to me. Its always been a case of wrong place, wrong time, wrong season. Common sense would say May is the best for a bird like this, but no, its actually not, they are mostly encountered in early July. Why early July? Well its thought that they may be younger birds, or attempting to nest for a second time after failing further south in the Washington desert.

Sage Thrasher-Nighthawk Road

Today I could finally put all the frustration to rest. On either side of the road was a singing Sage Thrasher. There melodic warbling chatter bounced back and forth ping ponging between my ears. One was perched on the only deciduous shrub in plain view. The other actually on the Elknik Ranch sign, as I watched I noticed he was singing without moving its mouth, just his throat moved, like he was Yodelling. I couldn't believe I was witnessing these creatures I had dreamed of now sitting out so conspicuously singing, it was a magical moment.

I was sad to have to leave, but I did still have to drive home. I felt a new energy from all this success I had had at the end of my trip, I felt like I could just keep birding for another 12 days, if only I had more time.

This whole Peace trip will go down as the best birding adventure I've had so far. Not only did I hit every species I wanted, I got last two Okanagan species I needed as well. All of a sudden my needs list had shrunk down to 45 more birds. I was at 307, I think I began the trip at 268. I had expected to miss a few, it was only natural, but instead I got them all. Some birders must make a few trips to the Peace to get all the ticks. I was fortunate to have had the timing perfectly lined up, and the help of a few good birders, and a focus I don't think I've had before.

Birding for a day is one thing, but 12 consecutive days of tunnel vision is something not a lot of people can handle, in fact something I didn't even think I could. All and all it was a good way to end the first six months of this big year.

Morphee Mountain

It was time to bid adieu to the Peace. I couldn't believe I had been here for ten days. It felt like just yesterday I was waking up at Moberly Lake to start my adventure. I had to admit I'd done better than I ever dreamed. Of all the specialty birds I'd basically cleaned house. Every breeding Warbler in BC I had now seen. I was still missing the Ptarmigan, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and Rusty Blackbird, but these birds were all still attainable outside of Northeastern British Columbia, though maybe not as common and definitely not as easy to find.

I met up with Russ in Mackenzie and we headed up a decent enough road to Morphee Mountain. After Pink Mountain, this road was a piece of cake, and soon we were up at the top checking the alpine willow area for a Ptarmigan. The view was pretty amazing.

The view from  up here

Russ had seen the Ptarmigan recently, and when we played a call, it didn't take long to hear it's weird alien clucking. It flew in to check us out, majestically gliding past the both of us into the willow scrub. We pursued it a bit more to get some better looks, but I decided looks were all I nee

ded, as I didn't feel like bothering him any longer.

As we walked back to the car, Russ heard a buzzy call, we both thought Gray-cheeked but my pessimism passed it off as an overzealous Hermit Thrush. No way I could be so lucky as to get a Gray-cheeked Thrush as well. And I have heard Hermit Thrush do a good impression of their call. But then it sang, and there was no mistaking that fuzzed out song.

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Russ spotted the Thrush a ways down on the top of a conifer. In the time it took me to run back to the car for my scope and get back, another 2 more had been heard and seen. One came in nice and close, enough to see all the field marks, sadly it was too back lit for me to get a good photo, but alas.

I almost felt in shock. In one day I had a Bay-breasted Warbler, a Nelson's Sparrow, and now both Gray-cheeked and Willow Ptarmigan, two BC lifers and two hard to gets for the year. I had already given up the thought of Gray-cheeked when I couldn't find them at Stone Mountain. Any birder would be happy to find one of these in a day, and here i had seen all four, definitely don't think I can match a day as good as this.

The credit though must go to my guides. These 4 would not have been attained if it wasn't for them, and I was very grateful there are good helpful birders out there willing to share their knowledge and time.

Russ was good enough to let me crash at his hotel, and the next morning I was off for one last twitch in the south Okanagan. I didn't  do much birding on the way, just a few stops looking for Rusty Blackbird.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

V is for Victory!

It was my last day in the Peace. But really only a morning as I had to meet up with Russ in Mackenzie in the afternoon, Mackenzie is about a two hour drive from Chetwynd. I slept over night in the Walmart parking lot in Dawson Creek. I learned this trick back when I lived in the Yukon, Walmarts in the north are OK with people staying over in them, in fact you usually see lots of campers parked there come night time. The Wal Mart in Whitehorse actually has the claim of being the busiest parking lot in North America.

 I was up early and out at Brassy Creek by 6am. In no time I was at the 6.5 km mark. I stepped out and the Bay-breasted Warbler was there singing its double noted song! It was coming from high up in the Spruce trees. I played back a call and just like before he flew up over my head and across the road. This time however, he didn't vanish, he came speeding back down across the road and into a young spruce tree close to the ground.

I got him in my binoculars and all i could do was say "wow" The colours on this bird are unlike any other bird I have seen, an odd mix of black, cream and reddish brown, creating an almost calico effect. I was able to admire him for  a few more minutes until he was back up in the canopy. It was perfect timing, as soon as I got back in the car and turned back, truck after truck started blasting by on the gravel road, leaving a hell of a dust storm in their wake. If I had been any later these trucks would have made finding this bird near impossible, and definitely not enjoyable. I thanked my lucky stars and booked it.

I met Mark about an hour later in Chetwynd and we were off to the Del Rio marshes. The marshes are about an hour from Chetwynd, down a maze of dirt roads. I was happy that I hadn't ventured here on my own as I probably never would have found my in or out.  We made a few stops, there was a lot of bird life but no Nelson's. Leconte's, lots of Leconte's. I began to feel the futility of this whole endeavor, we were nearing the end of the line.

When we got out at our last stop, near a large oil well, I heard it. I looked at Mark and could tell he heard it to, but part of me thought it was just my mind wanting to hear it so bad I did, I had played its call so many times maybe it was stuck there. Then it called again.

Nelson's Sparrow! We scrambled over to the marsh, and up to a vantage point overlooking all of the sedge. Scanning all the exposed branches sticking out of the marsh for the bird. There was a Swamp Sparrow, a Leconte's called, and then finally on a small snag barely protruding from the wet grasses, a little sparrow sat. It was far away and hard to tell if he was the culprit behind the call.

Mark played a call, and the sparrow shot up, straight into the air, I managed to catch it in my binoculars, the bird was flying high up over the marsh. Mark exclaimed "flight call! He's gonna do a flight call! My binoculars were glued to the bird, I watched in awe as time seemed to stand still, the sparrow sort of twitched a bit, opened his mouth and let out a "keeeaaachk" and dropped to the ground by our feet.

Nelson's Sparrow

I think my jaw had dropped from witnessing this, luckily i had enough wits to get my camera out while the male Nelson's Sparrow perched in a small bush investigating us.

This was easily the highlight of my trip, witnessing one of British Columbia's rarest birds do a flight call. And after putting in probably the most effort I had put into any other bird this year, it had all just become so worth it.

Nelson's Sparrow

Worth a hundred Sparrows

Baby Common Snipe

Thursday morning I met up with Mark Phinney in Dawson Creek. His friend Inga also joined us, we travelled the road I now knew so well to Swan Lake. This time we went down a different road to the Ducks unlimited compound. I think its a training area for biologists, or something, but its not accessible to the public, so it was great to have this opportunity.

As we walked to the marsh, Mark was explaining how he had several sparrows the year prior this exact time of year, but that he had been here last week and there was no sign of one. This was one of the few spots you were guaranteed to find one, so I had high hopes. But this year was not the best year for Nelson's Sparrow and none had been seen in any location, by any birder, and it looked as if it would stay that way, as we all stood listening and waiting for a ghost bird.

While we stood I noticed a flock of ten American White Pelican's lethargically soaring in a perfect line far out over the marsh. They were my 300th species of the year.  It was bittersweet, leaving the compound sparrow less but also having reached a plateau, only having 50 more species for my goal.

We checked a few other locations for Rusty Blackbirds specifically. It was a bird that I assumed would be easy to find up north so I hadn't put in a special effort to track down, weird considering the amount of Bogs and Marsh I had explored, This might be one of those birds that comes back to haunt me.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Regardless of the fact I hadn't seen any target birds, it was a pleasure to be out with Mark. He is one of the most knowledgeable birders I've met and I learned a ton of info about the birds I was looking for, their specific habits and habitat. One of them was Connecticut Warbler. It turns out that in British Columbia, the Connecticut Warbler does not follow the habitat restrictions that field guides betroth on them. Where areas in the East they favour Spruce Bogs, in British Columbia they are found in dry aspen forests, usually on hillsides, and with little to no underbrush, there must be grass and dried leaves on the ground. These were things you don't learn reading the little blurbs in field guides.

We went back to Brassey rd and he drove to a spot containing the dry forest these BC warblers love so much. After a short walk into the forest we flushed a small bird up from the grassy understory. It was a Connecticut Warbler! Unlike mornings when they are busy singing this one seemed perturbed and flitted above our heads, making a small chip call. back and forth back and forth, giving some impressive underneath looks.

Further down the road to about 6.5 kilometers the forest began to turn into a good mix of deciduous and spruce. Mark had heard and seen a Bay-breasted a few weeks before, but after returning again it had not been relocated. When we stopped we heard it faintly right away, it was up in the spruce somewhere. We played a tape of its call and a small bird flew high up over our heads across the road, it never called again. I don't know if it was the Warbler or not, but it was not how I wanted to tick my first Bay-breasted Warbler. I'm OK with Sound only Owls and Rails, but not Bay-breasted Warblers.

By this time it was noon and getting pretty hot out. Mark offered to take me to the Del Rio Marsh in the morning, but suggested I spend the rest of the day visiting all the sedge I could. So I formulated a new plan: Look for sparrows the rest of the day, if I saw one I could avoid having to go to Del Rio before leaving for Mackenzie. If I couldn't find one Mark would meet me in Chetwynd for one last ditch effort. And I would also try Brassey Creek super early in the morning for a better chance at seeing a Bay-breasted Warbler.

Tree Swallow-Mcqueens Slough

Tree Swallow

I won't go into the excruciating detail of the next ten hours of my life but let me say there probably wasn't an inch of sedge from Dawson to Fort St John, to Watson Slough I didn't cover. Not one Nelson's Sparrow was seen, or heard. There were a few moments, maybe in hallucination I thought I heard one, a few times I was tricked by Red-winged Blackbirds, when they dive into cattails it makes a weird hissing sound resembling a Nelson's Sparrow call. I finished off in Watson Slough, around 11pm, soaking wet up to my knees, I went through all my pairs of shoes, 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of pants, and probably donated a few litres of blood to the Mosquito blood drive. 
red fox peaking out from the grass
As I made the long drive back to Dawson's creek I made peace with the fact that Nelson's Sparrow was most likely out of reach. I know this time will come with more species as time runs out, but this was the first one, and it was a hard pill to swallow but one I would have to. On the other hand, I felt like not seeing the bird had taught me so much more about them and the habitat they were, or in this case weren't found in. Though at this moment it was of little comfort.

Ruby thursday

I spent the night in a private campground on the opposite side of the highway from Swan Lake. In the morning I tried for Nelson's Sparrow again on the north side of the highway in the wet fields bordering Swan Lake. The road again was too muddy to drive far on, and quickly I was turned around heading to Fort St John.

I followed the highway up to Fort St John, this time checking out Kiskatinaw provincial park. While there wasn't much going on in the bird department the view of the bridge was magnificent. From there the next stop was Taylor BC. This time armed with directions on where to find a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Hummingbirds of all species are an uncommon sight in the Peace. Perhaps a lack of feeders, or flowers for that matter contributes to this. But Johnson road is probably the best place in BC for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, oddly eough.

I pulled in to the property as an older woman stood up in from her garden, in what was like a weird scene from a movie I stepped out of my car and said "I'm here for the hummingbirds".

She was very kind as was her husband. We chatted while I sat by the feeder waiting for a Ruby-throat. it was midday and getting very hot. A pair of calliopes buzzed in and out several times but no Ruby-throat. They suggested that I try later in the evening, they tended to be more active then. They also let me walk down the rest of Johnson's road which is now gated.

It was a shame I was visiting at the prime quiet period of the day as the habitat itself was excellent, and I knew an earlier visit would have given me a much greater yield. Though not particularly birdy it was a butterfly utopia. On parts of the road dozens seemed to be gathering together for some sort of love-in.

Butterfly Party

Butterflies kissing

Tiger Swallowtail's were also commonplace, I finally managed to get one to stand still.

Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

On my way back I discovered a Moose feeding in the marsh adjacent to the road, it didn't seem to notice me and I spent a while watching it graze on aquatic plant material.


Afterwards I discovered another lovely male Canada Warbler who gave me a bit of a show. They seem to be one of the easier Warblers to draw out by making squeaking or pishing noises.

Canada Warbler

It being so hot, I guessed the only active birds would be shorebirds. Ebird had notified me of a few year needs at the Fort St John sewage lagoons. There was an American Golden Plover and a Pectoral Sandpiper seen the day prior. Not Peace specialties but its always good to knock off a few birds earlier than usual.

Now according to every birder, and every birding resource I had available, the Ft St John sewage lagoons are tolerant of birders. I had my doubts as I pulled up and noticed the plethora of "No Trespassing" signs. But there was an open section of the gate, and having been to my fair share of sewage lagoons there was nothing out of the ordinary. I was aware that at most places this signage was meant to keep out riff raff but if a birder entered they wouldn't be bothered.

I still felt uneasy, but based on everything I had researched, saw, heard, it was perfectly OK to enter these ponds. How would sightings have been reported just yesterday? It made no sense to me, so I ventured in. The bare alders along the beginning of the trail inside gave me my first views of Baltimore Oriole. A male was flashing his stuff right out in the open, but every time I tried to get close enough for a picture he would take flight, bouncing through the air to another set of trees, only to sit there taunting me in his brilliant orange suit.

It was the best i could do 

The Golden Plover and the Pectoral were both in the ponds, easily found hanging out with some Killdeer and an assortment of Ducks. There was also a flock of at least 25 Franklin's Gulls. While I was scoping out the shorebirds I noticed a white pick up truck barrelling down the road towards me. I wondered if it was because of me, I felt tinge of nervousness but played it cool, realizing that as long as I looked like I thought I could be there, it would be OK.

My fears were confirmed though when the first thing out of the man's voice as he pulled up beside me were "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave"
Him-"your trespassing"
Me-"I thought birders were tolerated?"
Him-"not anymore, you're gonna have to leave"
Me-"Birders come here all the time, in fact its common knowledge this is a good place to find birds"
Him-"It is a good place for birds, but its off limits"

Well, how do you argue with that? I apologized and said I understood and would leave right away. I felt like I was being targeted though, I mean how can so many birders go there, and never have problems and then I go and get escorted off the property? Same thing with road 201. why would it all of a sudden be a problem for me to be there? Was I unwelcome for being a young long haired birder? Maybe I just look like hell with it. I was told when I relayed the story to Mark that its usually best to go outside of regular hours, and that its pretty rare anyone does anything about birders, but there's always that one person who wants to go on a power trip. So it goes.

After I was ejected from the sewage lagoons(Never thought id get to say that) I was a little deflated. It felt like it was time to get another hotel, I was hot, sweaty, sticky, muddy, and a little cranky. I didn't even care about the price I needed a bed, so I found one, and as soon as I checked in I was down for the count. Three hours later I woke up feeling hungover, not from booze but from the sun. I don't exactly know how I managed to get up, but thankfully I did, and drove back down to Taylor.

When I arrived back at the Johnson Rd residence, I took a seat up next to the feeder. It was a lovely evening, House Wrens were singing and a Calliope Hummingbird dropped in. A female Redstart flitted about in the rose bush next to the feeder. I sat taking it all in, reflecting on my trip almost dozing off when a buzz shook me out of my head.

I looked up to see a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird! It hovered in on the feeder taking a few sips, the setting sun glared off his red gorget like a flame. He only stayed a few more moments but those moments were glorious.