Monday, February 27, 2012

Is it that time of year already?

The other day I got my annual Baillie Birdathon notice in the mail from Bird Studies Canada and, coupled with the great weather, was momentarily confused. Is it May already? Turns out it isn't, but that's no reason to not get a jump on registration!

The Baillie Birdathon is an annual fundraiser put on by BSC, which runs Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario. However, it is a fundraiser with a catch!

The Birdathon entails birders spending up to 24 continuous hours birding, at some point in the month of May, collecting sponsors and pledges as they go. Sponsors can choose to sponsor their birder of choice on a flat rate, or by species seen/heard. Further, the birders can choose to designate an organization or observatory to be a partial beneficiary of their hard work, sleep deprivation, etc. My organization of choice every year is Rocky Point Bird Oservatory here in Victoria (I may have blogged about RPBO once or twice in the past......). Proceeds raised by the Birdathon go to BSC, which then distributes a portion to the organizations designated by the participants, on an increasing percentage basis. The more raised by a team/birder, the higher the percentage that goes to the organization.

This year, I have created the Rocky Point Birders to be RPBO's Birdathon team, and I encourage you to join us, or sponsor one of us at the link at the bottom of this post. If you decide to join us, it doesn't mean you have to bird with us, as I wanted to leave that open for each member to decide, based on schedules, etc, but it sure will be fun!

Last year I managed to find 89 species on my solo Big Day, winding down with Chris Saunders and a Bank Swallow at Swan Lake. This year I aim to hit 100 species, and challenge those who would rather write a cheque than have blurred vision at the end of the day to consider sponsoring me on a per species basis! My Big Day this year will likely be on either May 19th or 26th, so be sure to get your pledges in by then!

For more info, or to join or sponsor the Rocky Point Birders, see our team page.

Good Birding,

Sunny does not mean warm!

Since I'm feeling a little lazy today, I am not going to relive Saturday's birding adventure. Jeremy Gatten actually beat me to the punch on Saturday night, posting a report in the same time frame I was occupied with babysitting my 13 month old niece. Instead, I will provide a link to his post regarding the days adventure. Most of the sightings are there, though I don't necessarily agree with his portrayal of the hero of the story. You be the judge!

Sunday dawned, full of promise and not a cloud in the sky. I may have mistaken the sun and blue sky as warmth, and headed out without a pair of gloves. Turns out a cup of coffee in the hand doesn't quite fill the void, but it was close!

The Goldstream Group Campground is one of my favourite places close to home. It is a five minute walk from the parking lot at Icecream Mountain (shuttered this time of year), it is usually quiet (as in, no one else there!) in the off season, and it also provides access to a number of species not seen over much of Victoria, such as Golden Eagle (which nest somewhere nearby) and Northern Pygmy-Owl. I imagine the temperature on Sunday was constant from where I parked to the top group site, at a balmy 2 degrees. This didn't seem to bother the birds, as there were Anna's Hummingbirds at the bottom and at the top, Dark-eyed Juncos everywhere, and a good number of Pacific Wrens warming up the vocal cords. At the campground itself, an adult Cooper's Hawk looked unbothered as I walked directly under it on the trail. Sadly, no eagles or owls today.

After brunch, which I had promised to my wife, I braved the sudden snowstorm and headed out again. Swan Lake had been my plan, but when I found no parking anywhere nearby, I guessed that there must have been an event there, and decided to try somewhere a little quieter. I ended up at Viaduct Flats, which was indeed quieter. Unfortunately, the birding was quiet as well, with no birds present that haven't been there all winter. There were 9 Trumpeter Swans on the water, a low count for this year for me (there are normally 11 or 12).

Hastings Flats was my next stop. This is another one of those gems that I was introduced to last year, courtesy of Jeremy G. and a Northern Mockingbird. The water was quite high, providing refuge to a small number of ducks, including an amazing 4 Eurasian Wigeons! This species has been present in what I can only think of as unprecedented numbers this year. At one point, I had a count of over 30 known individuals, all but one of which were male. Surely a few females squeaked in under the radar as well. Also at Hastings Flats were 1 Green-winged Teal, a few Mallards, Canada Geese, and 65 American Wigeons.

With family coming over for dinner, I wrapped up my afternoon at the pond at Burnside and Charlton. There has been much debate over the name of this seasonal pond, so I have decided to stick with Charlton Pond. The pond was void of birds, save 13 Mallards, but the surrounding fields were covered in American Robins, Brewer's Blackbirds, and European Starlings. A lone Turkey Vulture cruised overhead, and 2 immature Bald Eagles circled as well.

Not much of a day compared to Sunday, but it is always great to be out!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A little owl on the side

I have fallen off of the pace I had planned. Just a little, but there are a couple of categories I have not had as many species as I had anticipated by this point. Owls are the main category, as of this morning I had only managed to catch up with two species for the year - Barred and Barn.

After work today, I decided to try to add an owl. Decided may not be the right word, as I have spent many an evening lately unsuccessfully looking for owls. The target for today took me up into the Highlands for a hike I have been on a few times this year, with all previous hikes being nice walks, and not much else. A couple of whistles here and a couple of whistles there did nothing but stir up the local American Robins, though the view was indeed spectacular.

I held out as long as I dared before heading back, and I had no sooner reached the car again than I heard a hollow whistle, then another, then another, coming closer and closer.

After a minute a Northern Pygmy-Owl flew overhead, and I managed to keep eyes on it for about 5 minutes before it disappeared to the south, still calling deep in the trees. Target located! This is a bird I seldom catch up with, but always a treat to see! Even more so to have the privilege of such great, long looks!

With any luck, the rest of the owl clan will be half as obliging as this one was!

Good birding,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We have a winner....... so far......

The Great Backyard Birdcount ( just happened to be this past weekend, and I probably wouldn't have noticed had Dick Cannings not issued a challenge to the complacent birders of the coast. The challenge? To best perennial favourites Penticton and Vancouver (most species) and Clearwater (most checklists submitted).

Like many birders, I submit checklists to eBird anyway, so I figured I might as well put them into the GBBC as well. I mean come on, the reputation of Victoria is on the line!

With the results posted so far, it looks like Victoria has beaten (dominated?) the competion, both in total species (119) and total checklists submitted (120)!

Let's make sure we stay ahead! If you have any sightings or checklists (15 minute minimum observation time in an area), head on over to the GBBC website and put them in!

It may be a bit premature to say "Way to go Victoria!" as the data entry deadline is March 5, but,

Way to go Victoria!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

All Quiet on the Home Front

Despite the number of great birds in surrounding areas, including multiple Emperor Geese, multiple Tufted Ducks, and a McKay's Bunting all just south of us, birding here in Victoria remains quiet, and I have only added a couple of birds this month.

An immature Glaucous Gull has been making the rounds, and has been seen at Maber Flats, as well as the Vantreight Bulb Fields, and numbers of Brant are starting to show up. I finally had a pair of them within the confines of 2012 and the Checklist Area, after seeing them at Islandview Beach just in the end of December, and again at Otter Point this year, a mere 300m outside the Checklist Area boundary.

As we transition into spring, hopefully more goodies will start to show up! Last year, the first few months were quite slow as well, but we more than made up for it with a spectacular spring vagrant showing. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The January Round Up!

January has come to an end. Yes, old news, as I am getting around to this a little late.

The last Christmas Bird Count of the season, on January 1st, got the year off to a great start, with some good birds plus a bird that I managed to miss last year, Common Redpoll. All of the rare sparrows stuck around, allowing for early month looks at Vesper, American Tree, Swamp, and White-throated, leaving me two sparrows short of my entire 2011 total!

Elsewhere birding was also good, with an aborted pelagic turning up a new ABA bird for me in the form of Emperor Goose, as well as King Eider, which I have seen only once previous.

My January end total of 133 species puts me 9 ahead of last year's Big Year pace, but a little short of my target of 140, owing to a lack of owls and a couple of others.

In other news, Rocky Point Bird Observatory raffle tickets have gone on sale, and can be purchased from RPBO, Jessie Fanucchi, or myself. Tickets are one for $5, or 5 for $20. There is an impressive slate of prizes, including lower bowl Vancouver Canucks tickets, a whale watching trip for two, 2 Sue Coleman prints, an iPod nano, a lightweight tent, etc. For more details, see Rocky Point will be down at the Westshore Town Centre Hobby Show this weekend, Feb 3rd to 5th, stop by and say hi!

Good February Birding!