Monthly Archives: October 2012

October 25 2012

The big year group, Phil, Ray, Brian and Mike were going to Sandspit again on Sunday so we offered to come along. It wasn’t raining when we left Masset, but it was pouring when we got to Skidegate to catch the MV Kwuna to Alliford Bay and Sandspit. We – Peter, Martin and I – were convinced it would clear up, as that’s what the forecast said. It didn’t. It rained most of the morning and into the early afternoon, being especially sopping when the Osprey flew over. It was hard to tell what it actually was in the poor light until it got close enough to see its face markings. Ospreys are rare here, although we have seen a few more than usual in the past few years. It turned out to be a raptor day. Three Short-eared Owls, two Merlins, a Peregrine Falcon, a Goshawk and a Northern Harrier all put on a grand show. Martin had a Red-tailed Hawk and a Saw-whet Owl as well. The Merlins harassed the Harrier and the Peregrine went after a goose. Geese were everywhere, especially the rare Aleutians now recovering in the Aleutian Islands after fox depredation almost wiped them out. A few Snow Geese shone out in the murky light and small flocks of White-fronted Geese were also there. Here’s an earlier shot of a similar mix taken in Masset.

As we rushed for the 4.30 ferry back to Skidegate a large flock of gulls at Haans Creek caught Peter’s eye. We had to either check them out or miss the 4.30 ferry. Margo got a little cranky about staying and was keen to get home, a two hour drive away, after such a wet day, but Peter, to his credit, really wanted to stay and check the gulls out. Martin was ok either way. So we stopped to check them out. We were astounded to find 65 Bonaparte’s Gulls with a mixed flock of California, Mew and Glaucous-winged. Bonaparte’s are so unusual here that we initially weren’t sure what it was we were looking at. But that’s what they were. Here’s a photo.

When Peter mentioned the Bonaparte’s to our friend Rick, only one of the best birders in Canada, he told us he had 100 outside Chilliwack as well which was also unusual. Peter and he talked about the possibility that these and other birds had come down on the Arctic front that started on Thursday and continues.

On Monday October 22, Peter and our birding buddy Martin drove to Port Clements on business and stopped in to see some friends. They have a feeder. Port Clements is often a draw for rarities that land here on the chilly edges, gradually move to more sheltered places. It’s on the “Lake” as that part of Masset Inlet is known, with Stewart Bay and the Yakoun River Estuary right there.  When Peter and Martin dropped in our friends were excited to tell them of their most recent arrival. A Brambling! They all saw it and both took photos. Here’s one.

The weather has been lovely over the past few days here in Masset. A cold Northwest wind came up over the dunes where the RUBU was first seen and it’s no longer around. We saw a flock of 45 Lapland Longspurs and two Snow Buntings on October 23.

The sun still shines, two Eurasian Collared Doves have taken to our feeder and a Sharp-shinned Hawk hangs around the edges. A Merlin bothered the town flock of crows yesterday morning and two Least Sandpipers ran across Delkatla flats with a flock of Killdeer as the tide went down. The winter population of ducks are gathering in the flats again and the first Trumpeter Swan of the year flew up Masset Inlet on October 20, all by itself.  And…hot off the press…a friend has just phoned in to say there’s a Snowy Owl on North Beach today October 25, 2012, the first of the year.


October 2012

October 19 2012

Well, it’s been a while. I meant to do this monthly but once spring migration started and the Breeding Bird Atlas work began the months flew by. But we are back! We were inspired by a visit from Ray, Phil, Brian and Mike, who were on a ‘big year’ trip across Canada. Their blog is full of super photos, great explanations of the birds and mammals they saw and the places they went to.

They arrived in Haida Gwaii on Thursday October 18 2012, went to Sandspit on Friday and called to say they had found 2 Bramblings and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.  Yay! Margo was busy, but Peter, who hadn’t seen a Brambling for 2012 hopped in the car and sped south in time to catch the 4.30 ferry across. He walked the whole spit but didn’t see the birds.

October 19 2012 – The birding group arrived in Masset and we had a choice. Continue with what we had been doing or go birding with them and have fun. Off we went. First to Old Massett where the spit juts out into Dixon Entrance to see what was about, then to Skonun Point hoping for anything not yet seen this year. It was a lovely afternoon, south-westerly with impending rain clouds but it stayed dry. There were juncos and chickadees hopping about the spruce trees and amid them were two Red-breasted Nuthatches. This species is thin on the ground at any time, but in October especially so. The light was perfect, the red of the bird was lovely and the whole aspect of the area was basically stunning.

We couldn’t find a YBLO, although we did find a Marbled Murrelet and some Rhinocerous Auklets, it’s getting late for them. Off to Skonun Point, east of Masset. The tide was rising and a Western Gull was in the midst of the Glaucous-winged so we began walking down the beach towards them and a mixed flock of Dunlin, Sanderling, Black Turnstone and Black-bellied Plovers. A tiny Western Sandpiper was tucked among them, a very late record for here.

Margo, convinced that there might be a Short-eared Owl in the dunes kept to the high beach but didn’t find one. She found a flock of juncos feeding in the dune grasses and low spruce. A small bird in the grass caught her attention. She thought initially it was a Savanna Sp but getting a second look convinced her that, while it had a longspurry look about it, it definitely needed a second opinion. We had joked about finding a Rustic Bunting  as we had walked along the trail earlier; we had seen one here back in the early 90’s, could it be? She wasn’t sure. She waved at the group, now away down the beach, and tried shouting, but the sea was noisy and she couldn’t be heard. Peter & Martin eventually turned around and saw her waving. Like the old Irish story about looking for a crock of gold hidden under a bush at the end of the rainbow when every bush in the field looked exactly the same, here every clump of dune grass looked similar and every small spruce tree very like every other small spruce tree. She took her jacket off laid it on the dunes near where the bird was seen and walked towards the group. Unlike the crock of gold however, the bird was found again! It was terribly elusive, and crept mouse-like through the long grass, only appearing when the grass met some mossy mounds or when an almost buried piece of driftwood broke up the terrain. But we all saw it!

“It’s a Rustic Bunting!” Peter yelled, and yes it was. It was such wonderful fun to share a super bird with a group of birders who enjoyed the sighting so much that we all roared with laughter. The weather was great, we saw a lovely bird, and once it even hopped up onto a low spruce branch and posed perfectly for a photo. The group nearly all had cameras, and some great shots of the bird can be seen at their blog We only managed one photo of the bird when the bird took flight and here it is!