Jason started a thread last week on favorite birding sites. Today, I had an e-mail from Brent in which he discussed one of his favorite bird sightings. So I thought, why not start a thread on your 5 most favorite bird sightings, let's say in B.C. They could be your favorite because of the beauty of the bird, the rarity of the bird, the challenge of trying to find the bird, the fun you had with the people you were birding with, etc. I'll start it off.
1) Spotted Owl: location undisclosed for obvious reasons. To see this bird in B.C., where it is so rare was a special birding event for me.
2) White-tailed Ptarmigan: Challenge- Had to climb Cheam ( twice ), Frosty ( 3 times ), to finally find one with Brent and Carolynn on the shoulder before the final ascent to First Brother in Manning.
3) Common Poorwhill: Not that hard a bird to find, but just a crazy night of birding with Brent and Carolynn, scrambling up hill and dale on a perfect moonlit night in May outside Monk Provincial Park near Merritt, only to have the bird land right beside the car.
4) Prothonotary Warbler: Last summer in the Creston Wildlife Sanctuary: Apparently only the 4th record in B.C., ( or was that 4th year in a row?). and, according to Don Cecile, the only singing male. Actually my wife, Pauline, found the bird, and I just admired it. Unfortunately, not relocated by other birders.
5) Rustic Bunting; ( female ), A great and rare bird to find, and at the Hope airport. Another one of those one day wonders.
Good project for a rainy day! Some of my most exciting (memorable) birding events would be:
1. American White Pelican - Had driven into a Forestry Campsite on Pelican Lake (What else?) in the Chilcotin, sort of to the west of Quesnel. There were so many birds of so many varieties that I didn't know where to look or aim the camera first but the high light was when we took the canoe out on the lake and on the far side saw American White Pelicans for the first time. Since then have seen them on any number of lakes in the Chicotin area and also on Nicola Lake just outside of Merritt - but that was the first.
2) American Bittern - it's easy to hear them but a couple of years ago we were canoeing on Davis Lake in the Kane Valley in late April and could hear a Bittern, ever so slowly we kept edging our way in the direction and then sat quietly in the weeds and all of a sudden the Bittern walked right out in the open and proceeded to nonchalantly hunt right in front of us while I snapped pictures like crazy.
3) Western Scrub Jay - Right here at home, a few years ago now, a freind and I were heading to another area of the park to plant some fall bulbs and did a double take when we saw a Western Scrub Jay on the ground under a large cedar tree. Ran home for my camera and managed to take a few pictures only to have another neighbours say that the bird had been coming to their feeder all week along with the Stellar's Jays and they thought it was a pretty bird but didn't know it was anything special.
Common Nighthawk: You often see them flying in the evening but my husband and I had driven to Juniper Beach Provincial Park for the first time, just to see what was there and like Pelican Lake there were so many birds one didn't know where to look first, at all the Bullock's Orioles feeding fledgling or the Western Kingbirds with their's and then I spotted on a branch of a Juniper bush - right in front of me, this Common Nighthawk, laying so still I could have reached out and touched it.
5) Sandhill Cranes: Sorry this one is outside of B.C. in the NWT. We'd seen the Sandhills at Riefel of course and have seen them flying over and even heard them around here but last June we were on our way to Yellowknife and stopped at a rest area on Chan Lake, NWT. It was a beautiful morning and we put the canoe in and decided to go for a bit of a paddle. Were working our way along the far shore when we spotted a Sandhill right at the edge of the water, worked our way closer and saw another and then realized there were also two chicks with them. It was an absolutely magical sighting and one of the hilights of the entire trip.
Great topic and awesome favorites! Here's a couple off the top of my head.
1) Going on a birding watch with then, new friends Adrienne and Jason to Cheam Lake Wetlands. I remember we had a good fallout of warblers and I think we saw 3 or 4 species in one bush right down low. I think we got a sora that day as well.
2) My first real trip to Boundary Bay. I was working hard studying the different speices (Baird's, Semipalmated, Western, Least etc) since, aside from the last two, my experience with most shorebirds was limited. I was down in the early evening in early fall in the middle of migration as the tide was coming in. I stood out on the beach as the water came in, and pushed about 5000 sandpipers in towards me. I stood still, and had all these peeps scurrying and flying around me within just a couple of feet. I was able to identify many birds without binoculars they were that close. What an awe-inspiring experience!!
3) Waking up one morning and looking at my feeders to see a Harris's Sparrow feeding away. This bird would remain all winter.
4) My first semi-pelagic trip fishing with dad to Vancouver Island. We started at Qualicum Beach and ended up at Tofino. Heermann's Gulls were awesome and among many many lifers. Also the tufted puffin at Tofino was a great bonus, and I did not realize at the time that it isnt easy to get. I only saw it briefly as it swam past the boat and disappeared over the big swell.
5) Out with Jason on a rare chasing of a rare species, the McKay's Bunting that was at Iona. We also planned to hit Brunswick Point afterwards. We got the McKay's Bunting, a cattle egret that was 10 feet from the car at Brunswick Point after we cautioned each other on the drive down there to watch for one as we approached Brunswick. Semi-disappointment quickly changed to surprise and amusement when I looked out the window after we parked to see the egret. We also saw several snowy owls and a swamp sparrow as memory remembers. My remembory probably wasnt too hot that day as Jason scored a bonus in watching me drive Adrienne's bike off the top of Iona Jetty. To this day, the race between the scar on my knee and the scar to my ego on which whom will heal first still continues.
p.s. The bike I was riding was a guy's bike. Riding a girl's model bike and taking a dive on it is more than I could handle.
Gord Fraser Valley Birding Administrator eBird Regional Editor (Fraser Valley)
Wow, this kind of talk gets the blood pumping. I want to head out the door and do some owling, but unfortunately, buckets of rain are falling. Here are my five most memorable BC sightings.
1. My most exciting sighting was also finding Spotted Owls. My wife Carolynn and I had been hiking late and had heard the birds calling. Within a few minutes we had the flashlights on the birds. What made the night even more incredible was that a Western Screech-Owl was also calling just three metres away as well. This was only the third Screech Owl we had ever seen!!
2. Another Owl tale; this time in the Okanagan looking for Boreal Owls. On this night Carolynn and I were joined by Thor and Chris Charlesworth from Kelowna. The night was cold and clear with a zillion stars littering the sky. We started birding in the early evening and had worked our way up the mountains near OK Falls. We had been searching for a while when I was following Thor's flashlight, and wow, the light caught an owl's eyes. I told Thor to scan back and he quickly had his light right on the bird. It was such a good sport that we all had excellent looks. Another owl was calling just across the road. Just an incredible bird. As we came back into OK Falls, Chris showed us a wonderful pair of Western Screech Owls which were lifers for both Carolynn and I.
3. There is a theme here. Highlite number three also has to do with owls. This time looking for Flammulated Owls. Carolynn and I had driven to Kelowna on the advice of Thor to find Flammies, in June, about 3 years ago. We got to the spot with about an hour to go before sunset and watched hundreds of Common Nighthawks inhaling insects. After about two hours we heard six Flammulated Owls, two Great Horned Owls, and one Long-eared. We finally found a flammulated at about 2 in the morning, calling away in a tree by the road.
4. The night we went with Thor chasing Common Poorwill. I still shiver thinking about scaling steep, grassy slopes in the middle of the night hoping not to hear a rattle.
5. Yellow-billed Cuckoo. This is the bird that convinced my family that I was crazy. In 2002, posts were continually talking about a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that had been spotted in a park along the Columbia River in Castlegar. I didn't think much of it when the posts first began, but after about a week the bird was still there. I remember looking at temperatures, and I remember that the temperature was hovering about the -7 mark. I didn't think the bird would last long. Then, I read a post from Rick Toochin talking about an overnight trip that him and some friends (I believe Jason was one of them) made and the Cuckoo was still there. The next day Carolynn and I took off after work and were in Castlegar by 11 pm. The next morning, when we finally found the spot, a number of Lower Mainland birders were already there, and after an hour or so, in freezing temperatures, we saw the bird. What a rush. At the time it was our longest chase. We broke that record a couple of years later when we chased a Siberian Accentor that had been seen in Gardner, Montana. We managed to get that one too.