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Remember spring?

Many surprises in this year’s migration season



Whistler Naturalists

Editor’s note: This column should have run in the spring. Due to organizational challenges it didn’t. As a precursor to the fall bird count we present spring’s results.

It was a banner season for unusual bird arrivals at Whistler. Eighteen species all told were unexpected, 10 of which were seen once or twice beforehand, but not in the spring. The biggest news is the first record ever of a Short-eared owl seen by three alert Nicklaus North grounds keepers flying low over the wetlands near dusk — the typical time of the day and habitat of this owl. It is seen quite often on Pemberton’s farmland and once in a while on the Squamish Estuary. So, this is the 11th species of owl which have been tallied locally, and the checklist for all species now stands at 248, enumerated in the 87 years of local birding.

While on the topic of owls, the other good sighting was a Saw-whet, seen by the “bottle ladies” in their backyard. And there was a Spotted owl rumour on Whistler-Blackcomb, but my own check could find only a very closely related Barred owl which has the same but not so aggressive hoot. It is the influx of the latter from the east which is part of the reason for the collapse of Spotted owl numbers in British Columbia.

The other “good” birds seen this season are as follows: our fourth record of an American bittern, seen near the Alta Lake viewing platform for a month! (nesting pair?); a lone White-winged scoter; a pair of Turkey vultures patrolling the Wildlife Reserve for about 10 days; three Golden eagle sightings; an amazing eight Caspian terns on Green Lake at month end — a good spot by Mike Suggate; the second records ever of Red-necked phalarope and Grashopper sparrow seen by Joan Plomske and Tom DeMarco, respectively; winter Common redpolls which hung around into April; second records of Pacific golden plover and Dunlin that were seen clearly on the Fitzsimmons delta; Morning dove and our second record of the Eurasian collared-dove at Nicklaus North — the latter slowly spreading out from its site of domestic release near Keremeos, B.C.; a Bullock’s oriole and second record of the Blackpoll warbler at Shadow Lake; rarely seen Dusky and Pacific-slope flycatchers on the edge of the Wildlife Reserve; and the Mountain bluebird inspecting potential nesting boxes at Nicklaus North, but for the second consecutive year they were scared away by a Northern harrier hawk and an American kestrel. Both of the latter are good raptor sightings for Whistler as well!