On Sunday May 1st a group of eight birders enjoyed a near perfect sunny day searching birding hot-spots of Cortes Island. The morning started with a “hoot” when a pair of Barred Owls were spotted sitting side by side on the branch of a tree just off the road from the ferry. After that it took a short while to identify a pair of Townsend’s Solitaires sitting at the top of a Douglas Fir. The rising and falling call identified a Cassin’s Vireo, sounding as if it asked and answered its own question. Near the Whaletown Dock a Merlin was calling and calling, and the hawk was finally spotted perched in a nearby Pine. At the seashore HarIequin Ducks, and pairs of Common and Red-breasted Mergansers were numerous. A flock of Dunlin shorebirds explored the gravel bars of Smelt Bay at a very low tide. Returning to the parking lot the group spotted one of the summer visitors – a Chipping Sparrow - picking up particles of gravel.
A number of birds were observed while involved in common springtime activities. A Red-breasted Sapsucker was carving out a hole for a nest in a dead snag. A tiny male Rufous Hummingbird was staking out his territory, his brilliant neck feathers shining red in the sun. A Pileated Woodpecker was drumming to mark his territory while searching for dinner in a dead tree in Kw’as Pond. A “V” of Snow Geese and another of Canada Geese passed over noisily, heading North to their breeding grounds.
A total of 64 species were spotted throughout the day. Though this is the lowest number spotted in the past 5 years (73, 73, 68, 67, 64) the cool late spring and plain luck were no doubt contributing factors. Common species not sighted on count day were Belted Kingfisher, Ruby & Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Yellowthroat, Wood and Ring-necked ducks, Hairy & Downy woodpeckers, to name just a few. However, the day after the count two separate sightings of Yellow-headed Blackbirds were noted near Linnaea Farm and Cortes Bay! These birds are spotted very rarely in May and June and then on their return South in September and October. So keep your eyes open – with a little luck you might spot them too. That is the exciting thing about this time of year – many unusual species pass over and sometimes stop for a rest on Cortes.
If you were not able to participate in this event the Museum also sponsors the Christmas Bird Count sometime between December 15th and January 5th. Check out the Bird Watching Section of the Museum's web-page www.cortesmuseum.ca
where islanders add pictures and information regarding birds they have spotted.