Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cape May in June

Lincoln's Sparrow-Fish Creek

The days are beginning to blend together in my head but I believe this was my 3rd full day in the Peace.  After returning to Ft St John dangerously low on coffee I hit up Tim Hortons and hit up the Fish Creek Community Forest near the University of Northern BC.

Now I am not exactly sure if this is the same area that is known to some birders as Stoddart Creek, or if that's a separate creek in the same area, or a creek within Fish Creek Community Forest, but I took the directions to Stoddart Creek, and arrived at Fish Creek, the Ebird hotspot was also labeled Stoddart Creek. So my instructions to any birder who visits this park, just assume they are the same thing.

Now i am about to make a claim right now that the mosquito's here were worse than anywhere I had been or would go on my trip, I don't know if I blacked the even worse experiences from my mind, but as far as I can remember when i think of bad mosquitoes, I think of this place.

The forest itself was cool and dark, Western Tanagers called their buzzy sped up Robinesque song from the Canopy. Black-capped Chickadee and those Tennessee machine gunners added to the liveliness. At one point I started to hear a thin high pitched call that resembled at first to be a Golden-crowned Kinglet. But this was different, it was a distinct "seet" repeated three times, over and over, because I had been listening to all the warblers calls to prepare for this trip it dawned on me quickly i was hearing a Cape May Warbler!

The sun was shining into the tops of the spruce trees, I knew the Warbler was somewhere up there, it was just gonna take some time to find it. Usually the way I find these kinds of Warblers, like Townsend's and Black-throated Gray, is to un-focus my eyes at the direction of the song, and wait for some movement, when I see the movement I then use my binoculars. I am sure this is a common practice for birders, but just thought I would share anyways.

The only problem with this method was standing still for any period of time was a very painful proposition. It was more like wave my hands frantically around while craning my neck up into the trees, waiting and watching, patiently listening to the high pitched call...and there! I caught sight of a bird flying from one spruce to another, I jerked my binoculars up to my eyes, and there high up in a Spruce was a male Cape May Warbler, its red cheek blaring in the morning sun.

I managed to keep watch of the bird for a few more minutes, until standing still became so unbearable I had to beat a retreat, instead of taking the trail back to my car, instead I struggled up a hill through the forest and wandered onto the neighboring golf course. From there I followed the forest edge back to where I had parked, but before I made it to my car there was another high pitched warbler call. This one more complicated, it was coming from the deciduous shrubbery across from the entrance.

I soon had a Black and White Warbler perched up on a willow bush, another Lifer! This bird gave me a feeling of satisfaction as I had chased 2 individuals the year prior in Vancouver, missing both of them. It was all the better to see it in breeding territory. Fish Creek turned out to be an excellent choice.

I spent the rest of the morning birding around Taylor BC. Namely Peace Island Park and Johnson road.
Neither held any new birds other than a heard only Baltimore Oriole. I began to worry about the bad weather, and the fact that I was not on the pace I had hoped I would be. I was missing way too many Warblers, Philadelphia Vireo, Nelson's Sparrow, not to mention I still had to go after Ptarmigan.

Because of this I decided to go a day early to Fort Nelson, so I could visit all the spots there, go to Stone Mountain, hopefully bag my Ptarmigan, and if not, go to Pink Mountain on the way back. This should leave me with enough days around Dawson Creek and Ft St John to clean up whatever species I was still missing.

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