Christmas Bird Counts 2013

  • Jan. 7, 2014 8:00 a.m.

by Margo HearneGreater Massett-Albatross in the offing, a first for the countsA dawn fleet of small birds flashed over the water to land on the mudflat before it was inundated at high tide. In the mix were teal, wigeon, mallard, pintail, gadwall, and a flock of Canada Geese in the meadow. They were joined by one Snow Goose and one White-fronted Goose. Four Eurasian Wigeon fed with the flock, and tucked among the Green-winged Teal were two male Eurasian Teal from the other side of the Pacific. It was a fine day all around, White-throated, Golden-crowned and Savannah sparrows showed up and a Red-breasted Sapsucker was so close to the bark of a nearby tree it was almost invisible. Brown Creepers, chickadees, kinglets and twelve robins were counted and four Yellow-rumped Warblers whisked along the treetops near the beach. A Downy Woodpecker, the first ever for this count was almost the first bird seen and a Hermit Thrush was a surprise so late in the year. The Collared Dove numbers are exploding there were 73 in town where once there were none. We had many pairs of eyes looking for birds this year and together we found all four species of loon, all three species of scoter, three grebe species and three merganser species, hooded, common and red-breasted. All the cormorants showed up as well, including four Brandt’s and even two Trumpeter Swans flew over in the late afternoon. In Delkatla, an incredibly rare Slaty-backed Gull from the coast of Russia fed on an inner pond and a Yellow-shafted Flicker, new to the islands joined three red-shafted in the tall trees skirting the dunes. The view from the beach was magnificent and a nippy northwester brought in four Short-tailed Shearwaters and incredibly, and keeping the best until last, two Black-footed Albatross soared way out over Dixon Entrance, brought in by the winds from the west and the first ones ever seen on any count here. Many eyes make birds appear. It was an incredible day and by the end of it we had broken the Century mark for the first time with 102 species. The organizers would like to thank all who participated, it was fabulous. Rose Spit-a Peregrine over the waves A brittle wind swept over the spit and our eyes teared up as we tried to catch a glimpse of whatever was out there through the white-caps. The first bird over the waves was, surprisingly, a Peregrine Falcon. It was after a hot murrelet meal on the cold morning. Murrelets, murres and a Cassin’s Auklet swept through the chop with Long-tailed Ducks and scoters. Thirty-five Bald Eagles sat on the dunes and among the drift logs on the crown were scraps of Styrofoam and plastic bottles, probably tsunami debris. We left them alone, and a Song Sparrow hopped happily around us feeding on sand-fleas. It was a bare and isolated patch of beach for such a small bird, but it seemed oblivious and gradually moved inland. A flock of 158 Sanderlings were the only shorebirds on the beach and when we checked offshore again among the gulls and grebes were thirteen Sooty Shearwaters, two Northern Fulmars and five Short-tailed Shearwaters soaring in the distance! The Glaucous-winged, Mew, Thayer’s and Herring Gulls were joined by one Western and one Glaucous Gull, unusual for the area. There were a few Red Crossbills at the base of the Spit, twenty-nine Song Sparrows and seven Fox Sparrows. No nuthatches this year but Golden-crowned Kinglets and Varied Thrushes joined the chickadees and Pacific Wrens in the thickets of low spruce. East beach has changed radically. Dune erosion is severe and sand-ponds have appeared where once dune grasses waved in the wind. It makes for tricky, treacherous travel. On our return we stopped at Yakan Point to count the cormorants (103) and in the mix was one Red-faced Cormorant, dark brown, not black, preening in the centre of the flock. A rare find indeed. Total Rose Spit species count was 51, the highest ever. Three counts down, two to go, and, as an addendum the total species for Skidegate Inlet was 79, which, given the weather on the day, was wonderful.

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