Thursday, September 4, 2014

Return To Sandy Island

One of my favorite birding sites in the Vancouver Island region, has always been Sandy Island Provincial Park, or as it is known now, J├íji7em and Kw’ulh Marine Provincial Park. I have great memories of dozens of day trips and overnight camping trips to this large, partially wooded sand spit off the northern tip of Denman Island. Oddly enough, I hadn't been there in about 5 years. Difficulty in accessing this site, being the chief reason. In the past, one either had to own a boat, or do a moderately long hike in from Denman Island. Given the rising BC Ferries ticket prices, even getting to Denman Island has become expensive. A new, and slightly more affordable option was discovered by Sandy McRuer recently. We chartered a water taxi out of the Comox Marina, with a company called Scubashark. With 5 people, the cost was about $55 per person. Although the landing and departures at the island could stand some improvement (jumping off the bow into the water and wading ashore) it worked quite well, and I would highly recommend Scubashark to other birders looking for a way to access this excellent birding site.

We (Sandy, Don, Shelley, John and I) left the Comox Marina at about 8:40, and by 9:00 we were already birding. We spent the next 6 hours walking around Sandy Island, sometimes as a group, and sometimes by ourselves. We didn't bird all that intensively, and spent more time enjoying the looks at what we did discover, rather than rushing around looking for new ticks. With the leisurely pace, we were only able to explore one of the three Seal Islets, which would have undoubtedly increased the number of species seen. Still though, a completely enjoyable day out with some wonderful folks, and a few really great looks at birds one doesn't encounter here all that often. For me, the highlight of the day was a juvenile Pacific Golden-Plover that circled us and almost landed at our feet. The close up views of this bird in flight were spectacular, and although I've seen many of these birds in the past, this was the most amazing viewing I have ever experienced. This is the type of thing I look forward to at Sandy Island. We ended up recording 56 species on Sandy Island, and another 6 from the boat, for a 62 species day.

Species Recorded from Sandy Island: 56

Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Northern Pintail
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Common loon
Horned grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Black-bellied Plover
American Golden-Plover
Pacific Golden-Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Black Turnstone
Wetsern Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Pigeon Guillemot
Band-tailed Pigeon
Vaux's Swift
Hairy Woodpecker
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Barn Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch

Additional species recorded from boat: 5

Pacific Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-necked Phalarope
Common Murre
Bonaparte's Gull
Northwestern Crow

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