Saturday May 4th was a near perfect sunny day for the Cortes Museum’s annual Spring Migration Birding Event. Thirteen enthusiastic birders enjoyed searching the birding hot-spots of Cortes Island identifying the bird life mostly by sight and when possible by call. The group started by exploring the foreshore and near shore areas around some small islands at low tide. Harlequin Ducks were camouflaged resting on the warm rocks of an island, while Black Oystercatchers and a Canada Goose sat high on the island’s ridge. As these latter two may have been nesting, the group watched them through scopes and did not disturb them. Walking through the forest, the group spotted a Hairy Woodpecker gathering food and returning to its nest hole, and a Pileated Woodpecker staking out it’s territory with loud drumming on a dead tree. The rising and falling call identified a Cassin’s Vireo, sounding as if it asked and answered its own question. The group was stumped by unidentified bird(s) that had a flock of Pine Siskins in an uproar near the Whaletown Post Office. However, even after close scrutiny we had to admit defeat and move on to lunch. A very pretty Hermit Thrush was hopping on the rocks along the Creek at the Gorge Harbour Marina.
In the afternoon the focus was on the freshwater ponds and lakes near the South end of Cortes. The group spotted a pair of Wood Ducks on Kw’as Pond, and heard the “whitchity whichity” call of the Common Yellowthroat. Clapping loudly near one swampy area made two Virginia Rails squawk loudly - giving away their secretive hiding spots.
A total of 66 species were spotted throughout the day. A couple of spring migrants were reported by birdfeeder watchers - including the beautiful American Goldfinch and the now more frequent visitor the Eurasian Collared Dove. Spring is an exciting time of year for birding – 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.