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

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