Sunday, 1 January 2017

Ending The Big Year

Dark eyed Junco
The last day of my big year has now past, and what a year it has been! An exciting, fun interesting year full of surprises. I have traveled all across B.C. and all the way to the other side of Canada. I have seen 217 interesting beautiful and incredible species of birds. I am so lucky to be doing this and to not be alone. So many people have helped me along the way and without them I would be nowhere. To all who helped especially Adrian Dorst, Jackie Windh, Artie Ahier, Ian Cruickshank,  Ann Nightingale, Rick Schortinghuis, my loving parents and wonderful bird dog Schooner.

In the last few days of the year I went to Victoria and Delta to bag a few more birds—our goal was to find 5 new ones. We were pleasantly surprised when we saw a short-eared owl, our 7th new bird of the trip. We also saw an American Kestrel a Mute Swan a Long Tailed Duck a Sky Lark a Canvasback and a Ruddy Duck. We also saw some not new birds, (but they're always a joy to see,) like the barred owl, black oystercatcher, brandt goose, common goldeneye and many others.

Black Oystercatcher

American Kestrel
Common Goldeneye
Barred Owl
Brandt goose

 I see new birds all the time, but I always love to see old favourites over and over again,
like Phooey, our resident great blue heron. 
Phooey comes for Christmas dinner!
Phooey gets shooed away due to terrible table manners!
My big year may be over, but birdymcbirdface will continue. ..
Come back soon and visit! Happy New Year!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Last-minute Gifts

After a lovely breakfast at Le Petit Chou, in Nanaimo, we saw a hawk in a tree. We quickly pointed our binoculars skywards and identified it as a Cooper's hawk. While we were staring at this beautiful bird, a passer-by read the universal language (bird in tree + people with binoculars = birders) and gave us a helpful tip about a mountain bluebird at Pipers Lagoon in Nanaimo.
We didn't have much to do that day, but we knew what we were going to do now! A mountain bluebird is a rare surprise on Vancouver Island and I was thrilled to find it before the calendar turns to 2017 and Big Year ends. The clock is ticking and I would very much appreciate help finding Ancient Murrelets and owls. And any other birds that aren't on my list, of course. (See link)
Ancient Murrelets! We spent the whole two-hour ferry ride from Duke Point to Tsawassen, sitting outside in the freezing rain looking for the little buggers, with no luck.


While we were walking on Comber's Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, we saw a Northern Shrike, identifiable from the Loggerhead shrike by the patch of yellow on the bill. Shrikes found their common name as the Butcher bird, because of their habit of killing small birds, mammals and insects and impaling them on barbed wire and twigs.
Shrikes are showy birds and this one flew alongside us for our whole walk.

Funnily enough, after looking for a shrike for all this time and finally finding one (it has been a hard search!) the very next day, Bingo! another shrike at the Nanaimo River Estuary.
And five days later at the Riefel Bird Sanctuary in Delta, there was another one! I guess Northern Shrikes have decided to be my Christmas present this month.

Field sketch, Northern Shrike

Owls? Owls where? Look up!

On a rainy day in November we returned to the Riefel Bird Sanctuary with the hope of seeing some owls. After a short, disappointing walk down the path, we stopped to ask a nice man named Fred if he had seen any owls. His reply was: "You're standing right underneath one!"
Sure enough, right above us was a great horned owl. Fred was also kind enough to show us a Saw-whet owl in a tree, which could have pooed on our heads and we would have looked up and still not seen it. With its head under its wing, it was so well camouflaged it was basically invisible.
Great Horned owl

Field sketch of Saw-whet

Our cold grey day was lit up by little explosions of black-capped chickadees every few steps.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Birding on The Rock

WELCOME BACK BIRDERS! Sorry for the long wait between posts, but I have been on a birding trip to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, by far the best trip this year. It definitely hits the top 5 best trips of my life. Newfoundland is a memorable place, not just for the way people talk or the puffins – but all of it, from the Bay Bulls to Gros Morne to Cape Ray.      

From Nova Scotia to
Newfoundland is a 16 hour ferry ride

The pitcher plant is Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial flower and we saw lots of them. These plants are related to the Venus Flytrap and Sundew because they eat flies. Their method, which gives them the name Pitcher Plant, is to trap the flies in the sticky liquid at the bottom of their pitcher shaped structure. 

One of the most amazing hikes we went on was at the Tablelands. This is a phenomenal landscape, where Earth's crust is exposed, also exposing many very different and different types of rocks. The strange orange colour is because of the peridodite, which is so full metals that no plants can grow. Another amazing rock was serpentenite.

Serpentenite among the peridotite

Moose are supposed to be EVERYWHERE in Newfoundland, but of course we didn't see one. Everyone's excuse was that it was hunting season which was true, because the only moose we saw had been freshly shot and was in the back of a pick-up truck. We did, however, see moose tracks everywhere, to the point where we thought that someone was going ahead of us with a moose track mold, planting the tracks in the ground....


The signature bird of Newfoundland is the Atlantic Puffin and we saw them. 
At gull island in bay bulls we saw about 500 puffins, and we didn't even come at the best time
 to see them 

The Piping Plover is an endangered species that lives in some parts of Newfoundland.
It would have been nice to see one, but we didn't

where we went Yellowlegs were all over the place! 

If you ever go to Newfoundland, I strongly recommend hiking Mount Gros Morne this is a great 8-hour hike with some of the best views I have ever seen

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


Recently I went birding/backpacking in Joffre Lakes provincial park near Pemberton with some friends, where we spent 40% of the time chasing away naughty chipmunks trying to steal our food and 60% of the time looking for and at birds. The first day passing through Nanaimo we saw three Bewick’s Wrens and the next evening after eating at a Pemberton restaurant, we saw the beautiful Black and yellow Evening Grosbeak followed by a very very very blue Indigo Bunting while we were looking for a lazuli bunting – what a lucky mistake! On our way up to the mountain lake (which is the same indigo as an Indigo Bunting) there were a few very loud Clark’s nutcrackers, one baby Townsend Solitaire sitting on a gorgeous moraine and a tiny pine siskin eating pine cones.

Matier Glacier
Upper Joffre Lake

Joffre Boulder Field

I’d barely unpacked from Joffre lakes, when I went out on another amazing birding trip, this time with some of the best birders in BC. So after seeing five new birds – most of which I might not have found on my own – I would like to thank Ian Cruickshank and Ann Nightingale for helping me find Red Crossbills, Brown Creepers, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo and Black-Headed Grosbeak.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Swallow Eggs Have Hatched!

Introducing . . . Tiny, Tadpole and Merlin. And possibly Peregrine, (I just can't see him or her). Stay tuned for more swallow updates soon to come! Or to meet the proud parents, see my blog post, Swallows, Swallows, Swallows ...

Tiny, Tadpole, Merlin . . . and possibly Peregrine (underneath!)
Such a soft warm nest