Saturday, May 17, 2014

Northern Bobwhite

Although never as exciting as finding a "real" rarity, coming across a seriously out of range bird that is surely an escapee from someones aviary, is nonetheless interesting, and worth noting. Using the example of the Silver Pheasant population in Nanaimo, BC, one never knows when introduced exotics will begin breeding on their own in the wild, and perhaps even establish a lasting population.

While driving to a survey site on Kamp Rd, East of Agassiz, BC on the morning of May 13, 2014, I spotted an unusual bird running alongside the road. With one quick view, I had no idea what it was so I stopped and hopped out with a camera. The bird then emerged atop a pile of sawdust in a blueberry field about 50 feet off the road. Now having a clear view of the bird, I was even more surprised. A Northern Bobwhite! Really? This is an eastern species, that does not wander much out of its range. And although there are a couple of small populations east of Ontario, there are none that I know of anywhere close to the upper Fraser Valley, although there was apparently a small population of introduced birds on the Fraser Delta at some point, but they were supposed to have died out many decades ago.

So, where did this bird come from? Generally, birds like this originate from a person who keeps exotic birds as pets, breeds them for sale, or for use in the training of hunting dogs. I have seen many Chukar over the years on Vancouver Island that were lost by dog trainers, but a Northern Bobwhite in BC is a first for me.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sooty Grouse

The hills surrounding the Fraser Canyon are alive with the hooting of male Sooty Grouse right now. Working above Emory Creek this morning, we encountered quite a few displaying male Sooty Grouse on rock outcrops and openings in the forest.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Patagonia Picnic Table Iceland Gull

While searching for the Baikal Teal that Russell Cannings found on the 7th of March, Bernard Schroeder and I found a first winter Iceland Gull about 200 meters from where all of the birders were standing in the rain waiting for the teal to return. It was a nice looking little gull, showing none of the Kumlien's/Thayer's Gull marks which can cause so much controversy with this species.

Other birds of interest seen while searching for the teal include;
American Black Duck: 5 at Quennel Lake, and Doole Rd, at Yellow Point
Tundra Swan: 3 near Yellow Point
Band-tailed Pigeon: 2 in Cedar
Northern Shrike: 1 near the parking lot on Raines Rd
Brown-headed Cowbird: 1 in a large flock of blackbirds along Raines Rd

As to the Baikal Teal, it was seen on the 8th until about 7:40. We arrived a bit later, and never saw the bird. Some that did see it, were suggesting that it may be a hybrid of some type. When I viewed the bird on the 7th, I did feel that the head markings were not quite the same as what I was expecting, but that overall, the bird looked good for a Baikal Teal. I assumed that the "slightly off" head markings were a function of age, if the bird were a first winter individual. While there are some photos on the web that show birds claimed to have been hybrids with odd head markings similar to this bird, they also show other features which are different than a textbook Baikal Teal. I'm not sure this bird shows any of those other features pointing to it being a hybrid. At this point, I'm not sure what to think, without a much better look at the bird. Keeping an open mind as to all of the possibilities and getting much better looks at this bird in the field, is the only way to approach the identification of this bird.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ring-necked Pheasant

This morning we were at the Little Qualicum Estuary looking for the Northern Mockingbird. We found the mockingbird fairly easily, but while we were looking at it, a surprisingly aggressive Ring-necked Pheasant started following us around. It called, displayed, and would make short runs at us, approaching to about 2 meters away. A stunning bird, although I'm not sure how long it will last charging at humans!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Northern Mockingbird

This afternoon Donna and I were driving out to the Little Qualicum estuary to do some gull watching. While stopped at the intersection of Surfside Dr. and McFeeley Dr. a medium sized grey passerine with a long tail and white wing patches shot across the road in front of us and landed in a small holly shrub. Wow. Northern Mockingbird. The bird then flew over to 965 Surfside Dr. where it began feeding in a shrub loaded with red berries. The bird fed for about three minutes, before flying down the road and out of sight. It took about 10 minutes for us to relocate it in the yard of 1004 Surfside Dr. It was squabbling with American Robins in that yard. It eventually flew to the top of a fir tree at 998 Surfside Dr. where it sat for about 20 minutes. When we left the estuary about an hour later, it was back at the corner where we had originally spotted the bird.