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Bioblitz a big help to summer bird tally



The summer birding season is always a drag on our local birding season.

Breeding/nesting is near completion; birds have ceased chirping and are hiding, or already on their way south. This year's birding efforts, however, were compromised by a 50 per cent absence of the hardcore observers over the summer, yielding a slim 107 species tallied of the 227 on our summer list. That list, however, has a lot of "accidental" once only sightings (32 spp), of which only one (Western Kingbird) was seen over the summer. Moreover, the list also shows a whopping 58 "casuals," that is, not seen every year, of which only six species were seen over the season. Was it the smoke, the heat or just plain bad luck that 23 other should-have-been-founds were missed?

The result could have been worse. The Bioblitz weekend turned up several of the casuals and other tough-to-spot species, thanks to the influx of professional birders who came to Whistler to help us out. The timing of Bioblitz was also better, July instead of August, and the date change provided the final assist to a record count; 79 species all told.

Another highlight, thanks to Bioblitz, was the sightings of all alpine species excepting the Golden Eagle and White-winged Crossbill. A full complement of alpine sightings have always been tough to achieve because we are not up there enough days over the summer to find them.

Some highlights for the season include the following: Turkey Vultures over Black Tusk Village and meandering to Shadow Lake, a Cooper's Hawk residing most of the summer at Toad Hollow, nesting Merlins (a small falcon) at three locales in the municipality, small flocks of Ring-billed and California gulls at Green Lake, Eurasian collared-doves complementing the annoying presence of Band-tailed pigeons at Toad Hollow, a Northern Pygmy-Owl found by Heather Bainer and Marcia Danielson in Mystery Valley (they used a heli to get there!), and Bioblitz sightings of Mourning dove, Townsend's Solitaire, Mountain Bluebirds and Brown Creepers, the latter always very hard to find.

Not surprisingly there were the no-shows that should have been seen or heard: six species of ducks, Red-necked Grebe, five species of Raptors, two hails, Common Tern, Great Horned Owl, Downy Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, two Warbler species, Western Meadowlark and Purple Finch. Unfortunately the Gray Catbirds that had nested at Alpha Lake over the last few years did not arrive this year.

A slow summer birding day at Whistler, however, can have a silver lining by a concluding visit to Toad Hollow. Gratification surges into the soul with a look at the Bonanza birds in Mike Sparks's yard. Yep, he has cornered the market on our local avian friends!