Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Day Birding - Part 1

Some of the real birding experts do a big day on January 1st, they start early and collect as many species as possible.

My philosophy was to revisit a couple of the rarities that were featured in the last posts of my 2017 Blog.

The two rarest birds that could disappear at any time were the Blue Jay in Richmond and the Summer Tanager in Vancouver's Marpole area.

I left the house and tried to not see a Crow or Starling as my first bird of the year. I drove along River Road in Delta and saw some ducks in the Fraser River. I figured a duck was a good first sighting and pulled over. The ducks were, as I expected, Common Goldeneye. These birds seem to like the cold fresh water and are quite visible during the winter.

Common Goldeneye - Fraser River, Delta BC - 2018 Bird #1

I arrived at the Girl Guide Camp in Richmond at the south end of #5 road. There were a few birders around and they had seen the Blue Jay sporadically. They were waiting for the 10 AM feeding when the camp caretaker puts out peanuts for the birds.

I looked for other birds in the meantime and saw this female House Sparrow. I was glad I'd seen the Goldeneye already as the invasive House Sparrow would not have been a good bird to see first.

House Sparrow (F) - Woodward Landing Girl Guide Camp, Richmond BC - 2018 Bird #2

Two other birds appeared at a seed feeder, a female House Finch and a Junco.

Dark-eyed Junco and House Finch (F) Woodward Landing Girl Guide Camp, Richmond BC 2018 Bird #3 (Junco) and #4 (Finch)

The peanuts were put out and the Jays arrived. I saw the Blue Jay first, the peanut seems too huge to swallow. I think they take them away and crack them open in private.

Blue Jay - Woodward Landing Girl Guide Camp, Richmond BC - 2018 Bird #5

There were numerous Steller's Jays around  and they looked like expert peanut handlers.

Steller's Jay - Woodward Landing Girl Guide Camp, Richmond BC
2018 Bird #6

One of the birders on site was Ilya, a well known and respected top birder in our area. We both agreed that the next logical place to go was to see the Summer Tanager in the Marpole area of South Vancouver.

We both arrived at the same time, there were no other birders present.  The Tanager was not immediately visible but I chalked up some more common year birds, including this nice shot of a Song Sparrow.

Song Sparrow - Marpole Area, Vancouver BC
2018 Bird # 7

Also observed were some very common urban birds:

European Starling - Marpole Area, Vancouver BC - 2018 Bird # 8

Northwestern Crow - Marpole Area, Vancouver BC - 2018 Bird # 9

The location that the Tanager frequents is just off the Arbutus Greenway. One of the most likely spots to see it is at a suet feeder high up on a three story condo complex. I decided to keep watching that feeder while Ilya looked in other spots in the area.

For once, I was the expert as the bird appeared at  the feeder within five minutes. I quietly yelled (is that possible?) for Ilya and he came back fairly quickly.

Summer Tanager - Marpole Area, Vancouver BC - 2018 Bird # 10

The Tanager came down and landed in a large bush quite close to us.

It's strange, this was a lifer only a week ago, and now it was another tick on the 2018 list. Having said that, listing is not the primary reason I bird. Although the desire to see new life additions and new species in a year keeps me out there every weekend, I'm just as happy getting a great shot of a common bird like a Song Sparrow.

Ilya and I parted company and I made the long drive across Vancouver  and up to Burnaby Mountain. I was hoping to see the Pine Grosbeaks that had been there a couple of weeks ago. It was a beautiful day up there, but there were no Grosbeaks or any other birds to speak of.

I headed for home to see what I might find in the backyard,a nd possible in Burns Bog down below us. That's all detailed in Part 2.

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