Meadowlarks and bluebirds are not usually seen on the Haida Gwaii bird counts; we’re more accustomed to small dark juncos, sparrows and wrens; yet those bright birds were on show for the first count of the season. A Western Meadowlark jumped up from the beach into the tall grass near the houses by the river on a high tide and it was so unexpected that we questioned our senses. But we all three had excellent views; all three got photos, on different cameras, and we all watched the bird feed busily for at least a half-hour. It was obviously hungry and may just have arrived. This is only the fifth record ever for the islands and it seemed quite happy where it was. We left it to its own errands.
Back at the airport fence, not just one, but four Mountain Bluebirds flew from fence to log to beach. They were busy blue/grey birds and kept on the move. There seemed to be lots of food for them, they’ve been here since November and even the big chill of a few weeks ago didn’t drive them south.
three of the four bluebirds on a stump
A large flock of Black Turnstones hunkered down on the breakwater and four Surfbirds were mixed in with the bunch, yellow legs and all. The boat crew got soaked and the squalls rushing down the Inlet almost swamped their skiff a few times so they had to return to shore, but the land crew did all right. They found a few Eurasian Wigeon mixed in with the American Wigeon in the dark dawn and two Eurasian Green-winged Teal fed with the other teal in the soft mud. Gadwall, Black Oystercatcher, high numbers of Mallard, Canada Geese and 75 Brant all combined to make a good day of it, despite the constant soaking squalls. Preliminary totals: 79 species; 8,322 individuals
A brisk wind swept over the spit and our eyes teared up as we tried to catch a glimpse of whatever was out there through the white-caps. The first bird over the waves was, surprisingly, a Peregrine Falcon. It was after a hot murrelet meal on a cold morning. Murrelets, murres and a Cassin’s Auklet swept through the chop with Long-tailed Ducks and scoters. Thirty-five Bald Eagles sat on the dunes and among the drift logs on the crown were scraps of Styrofoam and plastic bottles, probably Tsunami debris which we left alone.
Snowy Owl at Rose Spit 2103
A Song Sparrow hopped happily around us feeding on sand-fleas. It was a bare and isolated patch of beach for such a small bird, but it seemed oblivious and gradually moved inland. A flock of 158 Sanderlings were the only shorebirds on the beach and when we checked offshore again among the gulls and grebes were thirteen Sooty Shearwaters, two Northern Fulmars and five Short-tailed Shearwaters soaring in the distance! The Glaucous-winged, Mew, Thayer’s and Herring Gulls were joined by one Western and one Glaucous Gull. There were a few Red Crossbills at the base of the Spit, twenty-nine Song Sparrows and seven Fox Sparrows. No nuthatches this year but Golden-crowned Kinglets and Varied Thrushes joined the chickadees and Pacific Wrens in the thickets of low spruce.
East beach has changed radically. Dune erosion is severe and sand-ponds have appeared where once dune grasses waved in the wind. It makes for tricky, treacherous travel. On our return we stopped at Yakan Point to count the cormorants (103) and in the mix was one Red-faced Cormorant, dark brown, not black, preening in the centre of the flock. A rare find indeed. Total species count 51; with 1293 individuals.
A dawn fleet of small birds flashed over the water to land on the mudflat before it was inundated at high tide. In the mix were teal, wigeon, mallard, pintail, gadwall, and a flock of Canada Geese in the meadow. They were joined by one Snow Goose and one White-fronted Goose. Four Eurasian Wigeon fed with the flock, and tucked among the Green-winged Teal were two male Eurasian Teal.
Eurasian Teal with gwte
It was a fine day all around, White-throated, Golden-crowned and Savannah sparrows showed up and a Red-breasted Sapsucker was so close to the bark of a nearby tree it was almost invisible. Brown Creepers, chickadees, kinglets and twelve robins were counted and four Yellow-rumped Warblers whisked along the treetops near the beach. A Downy Woodpecker, the first ever for this count was almost the first bird seen and a Hermit Thrush was a surprise so late in the year. The Collared Dove numbers are exploding, there were 73 in town where once there were none. We had many pairs of eyes looking for birds this year and together we found all four species of loon, all three species of scoter, three grebe species and three merganser species, Hooded, Common and Red-breasted. Three species of cormorant showed up as well, including four Brandt’s and even two Trumpeter Swans flew over in the late afternoon. In Delkatla, an incredibly rare Slaty-backed Gull from the coast of Russia fed on an inner pond and a Yellow-shafted Flicker, new to the islands joined three red-shafted in the tall trees skirting the dunes. The view from the beach was magnificent and a nippy northwester brought in four Short-tailed Shearwaters and incredibly, and keeping the best until last, two Black-footed Albatross soared way out over Dixon Entrance, brought in by the winds from the west and the first ones ever seen on any count here. Many eyes make birds appear. It was an incredible day and by the end of it we had broken the Century mark for the first time with 102 species and 10,690 individuals.