Although a slow summer for our local birding gang there were the unexpected surprises along with the disappointments. But it was not for a lack of effort. Monthly bird transects carried out from Lorimer Road to Rainbow Park had good species counts of 40 or more, especially when Chris Dale was present with his highly-tuned ears and incredible eyesight. Then there was Bioblitz netting only 37 species in 24 hours of dogged search, compared to 57 species last year. And the annual breeding bird survey along Highway 99 in June also dived to all-time lows in numbers seen.
The summer, however, began with a bang at the conclusion of a weather-changing storm on June 1 st . Joan Plomske was patrolling the Green Lake Walkway beat and saw a sharp-winged, blackish bird skimming the water surface for insects. It was the first Black tern seen in the entire Sea to Sky corridor, although it has been sparingly reported at Vancouver and Nanaimo. It is an interior bird, seen regularly on elevated lakes of plateau country during early summer. Presently, it was joined by four, much larger, Caspian terns, seen only a few times previously at Whistler.
Soon after, in the high overcast skies, a huge flock of long-necked and grayish birds would briefly emerge through the murky mists — much too far away to identify, but it had to be good. Late in the day a phone call from residents on the west side of Alta Lake reported two large flocks of what appeared to be loons on the choppy lake surface. Hurrying to lakeshore, I saw an eye-popping flock of 100 plus Pacific loons in one flock, and at least 25 Common loons in another.
The size of each is unprecedented for Whistler; in fact 10 years of records has added up to only 28 Pacific loons, in 1’s, 2’s, or 3’s, and the previous daily record for Common loons was five birds in October 2007. While the latter are present in all seasons this was our first summer record for the Pacifics, which normally cruise through during the autumn season.
Bird nesting surveys conducted by Heather Baines and Chris Dale in June and July confirmed the suspected overall low volumes of seasonal visitors. Waterfowl production was skimpy on all of our lakes with the possible exception of Canada geese. However, there were surprising nesting observations of Red-breasted and Red-naped sapsuckers, the first such record for the latter and thought previously to be only a rare off-course visitor to Whistler.
An out-of-town birder found a surprising Magnolia warbler at the old PGE whistlestop, McGuire, hitherto unknown to our neck of the woods, but seen again at Nicklaus North a month later in late July.