Big Day Birding

Back from a full day of birding with some good folks down in the Parksville/Qualicum area. The weather cooperated and the rain held off. Our Big Day team – “Herring Today Gull Tomorrow” took 2nd prize in the “expert” category, with 104 species.

One of the things I like about any kind of bird counts of any kind is that you always learn about great new places to bird. This count was no exception and I’ve now got a couple of new locations on my list for Parksville and Qualicum.

Dave Looking for Ducks
Dave Looking for ducks and other waterfowl at Qualicum Beach.

I met the rest of the team at the waterfront at Qualicum Beach and we spent some time there scoping the water and picking up California Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Mew Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull and a variety of ducks and shorebird before moving on to the Englishman River estuary. Despite having and lived and worked in Parksville for three years I had never visited this side of the Englishman River. The birding was good in this mix of open fields/estuary, shrubs and older mature Douglas-fir.

There’s already some woodland flowers in bloom here including Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) and Angled Bitter-cress (Cardamine angulata).¬† Red-flowering Currant (Ribes sanquineum) is out in full force as well along the forest edges. We picked up a couple of birds here including Anna’s Hummingbird, Bushtit, Pergrine Falcon and Downy Woodpecker. We missed a Mountain Bluebird seen here earlier by Guy Monty.

Little Mountain
Little Mountain, near Parksville, British Columbia

From here we headed up to Little Mountain to try for some higher elevation birds and Blue Grouse. There was very little going on bird-wise but this looks to be a very interesting place to visit in terms of botany and geology. Large conglomerate cliffs provide a spectacular view towards the Beaufort Range and both Arbutus (Arbutus menziesii) and Hairy Manzanita (Arctostaphylos columbiana) were growing here. Again, this was a place I had never visited before and will definitely return to later in the spring when more is in bloom.

Our next destination was Legacy Marsh near Lantzville. This wonderful wetland was home to numerous Marsh Wrens, Red-winged Blackbirds, and several species of ducks. We were trying to see a Virginia Rail or a Sora here but were unsuccessful.

We looped back up toward Parksville via the Northwest Bay Road, occasionally stopping at beach access points to scan the water. At this late point in the day we were looking for species that were missing on our list and managed to pick up a single Fox Sparrow, a Ring-necked Pheasant, and some Pine Siskins.

The last two hours passed in a bit of a blur as we revisited a couple of key locations to add birds to our list. At French Creek we got an Eurasian Wigeon with a flock of American Wigeon, a Belted Kingfisher, Rock Pigeon. We missed American Dipper at the Little Qualicum River Hatchery but got a Ruffed Grouse along the way. With about 15 mintues to spare, we returned back to Qualicum Beach¬† where we added the Lincoln’s Sparrow that has been at the same location for the last couple of months.

Herring Today, Gone Tomorrow
Herring Today, Gone Tomorrow: team members from left to right: Kim Goldberg, Dave Ingram, Pierre Geoffray, Deni Mae Driver, Ryan Cathers

All in a fantastic day birding and a great way to tune up for spring birding. At the wrap up at Deez’s we got to hear about how everyone else did and swap tall tails as well as scoring some very cool door prizes. Our entry fees (over $500 combined) went to support the Brant Wildlife Festival.

Sponsors of this event included: