Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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 trouble...to 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.

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