Sunday, 1 April 2012

BC Wrap-up

We’ve just completed a wonderful 8 day trip through the Okanagan, Vancouver area and southern Vancouver Island.  BC has had some dodgy weather this spring but we managed to stay warm and dry despite weather forecasts indicating otherwise.

Dick leading Mike
We chose the end of March as a compromise, hoping to get most of the wintering birds while also getting some calling spring birds.  For the most part we succeeded but we did miss a couple of alcids – Marbled Murrelet and Ancient Murrelet – and we also dipped on the Sooty Grouse.  We should be able to see these birds on a subsequent trip to BC.

There were many highlights but it was the people, as was the case on our East Coast trip, that made it a great trip.  In Penticton, I was able to combine birding and a family visit with my mom and stepdad.  The team enjoyed our time with the Cannings clan – Dick, his wife Margaret and Russ.  Dick gave us a grand tour of the birding hotspots and patiently led us on a couple of owling expeditions.  Russ took some time from his own trip preparations (he was on his way to Alberta) to give us detailed bird-finding info for the Vancouver area. 

Rick & Ray
In Victoria, Rick Schortinghuis showed us many of the island specialties and, if the birding got slow, informed us about some of the area’s flora – we were all impressed with the “Electrified Cat’s Tail Fern”!   
Electrified Cat's Tail Fern

Friends Mike and Joan Cowley served as terrific hosts for our stay in Victoria and Mike took us out for a mini-pelagic on his sailboat.
Skipper Mike and Phil

We had many birding highlights – in the Okanagan: Long-eared Owl, Western Screech-Owl and Williamson’s Sapsucker; in Vancouver, the Costa’s Hummingbird; and in Victoria, Sky Lark, Red-breasted Sapsucker and Hutton’s Vireo.  We also enjoyed some nice looks at mammals such as the Eastern Fox Squirrel in Osoyoos (introduced species), Mountain Goats near Princeton and a Mink in Victoria.
Eastern Fox Squirrel

Mountain Goat
Being retired, we have the luxury of time and were able to take 8 days to cover what probably could be done in 5 or 6.  This extra time allowed us to enjoy some birding experiences that we might otherwise have missed.  We all enjoyed watching the Peregrine Falcons harass a pair of Red-tailed Hawks.  I enjoyed being eyeball to eyeball with Canyon Wren and Red Crossbill – 2 species that usually only afford distant viewing. 
Canyon Wren

Our boat trip was another treat, allowing us some close views of alcids and cormorants.
Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorant

On our last day, we had seen most of our targets (we weren’t willing to do another major hike up a mountain in search of Sooty Grouse), so we spent our time visiting a number of coastal sites.  It was almost high tide and it was fun to watch the shorebirds continually moving to higher ground and occasionally get soaked by a big wave.
Surfbird dancing in the surf

From a numbers perspective, we have to say that the trip met our expectations … we expected to reach 220 birds and mammals and that is exactly where we ended up.  After the first quarter of 2012, we are on track for birds but probably lagging a bit on the mammals.  We’ll spend April in Alberta with perhaps a quick trip to Saskatchewan.  We expect to pick up another 30 birds (mostly common ones returning for nesting); as for mammals, there is an opportunity to add as many as 20 as the weather warms up but we will probably be lucky to add 10.  Stay tuned.

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