Friday, December 27, 2013

Can I burrow a feeling?

Northern Shrike
 After my epic 2 bird weekend I felt like I was on a roll. I just needed to add that Sharp-tailed Grouse and one other bird and I could officially say I was #2 all time in BC big years. My plan was to spend the 2nd to last December weekend Grouse hunting. Of course to borrow a quote from John Lennon "Life happens while you are marking plans" And if you replace "life" with "birds" it pretty much holds true. Because a day before I was about to take off for Kamloops, an unbanded Burrowing Owl was reported from Comox.

Turns out it had been seen for a few days, but the exact location was being kept under wraps. The best I could get was that it was somewhere on Air Force Beach. I wasn't too worried, after all where there are rare birds, there are usually birders. And so Saturday morning I was back on that 6:20am ferry with my sidekick Vanessa.

We made it to Comox by 9am and I followed my directions to Air Force Beach. When we got there, I could see a couple other birders walking around, but they didn't seem to have found any Owl. As I caught up with one I was told that the bird had been seen about an hour earlier, unfortunately it had been chased off by unleashed dogs. Sounds about right, I mean although there was a nice bright sign saying "please keep dogs on a leash" why would any responsible dog owner follow those rules?

I kept searching regardless, who knows where the Owl could pop up, there were lots of little holes between the large boulders on the beach, and driftwood piles. After about two hours things were not looking good. More and more unleashed dogs took over the beach, including hunting dogs baying and chasing anything that moved. Part of me felt like yelling at all the people, and I figured I might as well check some other areas in hopes that the Burrowing Owl had found a quieter place to reside.

I had no such luck. I did manage a nice 1st Winter Glaucous Gull along the the estuary, always a nice find. I returned around 3pm to Air Force beach, another hour of searching revealed no Owl. We decided we should stay over night and try early in the morning Sunday, I felt as gloomy as the dark clouds that hovered on the horizon.

Sunday at Dawn I stood on the rocks at Air Force Beach. I peered through every nook and cranny. Circled back and forth up and down the sand and driftwood, but there was no sign of the Burrowing Owl. After two hours I called it quits, and headed back home. Going home defeated is never a good feeling, especially with so little time left every choice I made mattered. Now I had given a whole weekend away when I still had one species to look for in the Okanagan.

With little under two weeks left I still had to figure out a way to get two birds. On monday I found out that the Burrowing Owl had again been seen, i felt a little bitter about it. As it stands now I have 4 more days off to see Sharp-tailed Grouse, which is never easy to find, and possibly return for another attempt at the Owl. Well things are sure becoming dramatic.

Northern Shrike

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