September 12 – Back to British Columbia!

It’s been an exciting few days. After finishing my weeklong banding stint at Ruthven, I had 1 day to pack and get myself ready for my early fall road trip to the west coast (where I will be going on some pelagic birding trips!).

My grand plans for a nice relaxing day of packing were foiled when I saw the weather forecast. Moderate NE winds…in early September. I had no choice but to head down to Van Wagner’s Beach in Hamilton to do some lake watching. At this time of year, with good winds, you have an excellent chance of spotting Jaegers, Sabine’s Gulls and other interesting southbound Arctic breeding species.


Photo: The Toronto skyline through my scope from Hamilton.

Upon arriving we noticed that a sizeable portion of the southern Ontario birding community had the same idea. We spent a few hours with a few dozen other birders scanning the horizon.

Our patience paid off, and after a few hours we had tallied multiple Jaeger sp., most likely Parasitic Jaegers, but someone also got a picture of a Pomarine, which we were not able to identify in time. Most of the Jaegers were little specs on the horizon, and even the ones that came in close I didn’t get great identifiable looks at, so for now I am stuck with Jaeger sp. for my year list.

By far the highlight for me was multiple SABINE’S GULLS that were quite far out over the water. Despite this, their distinct plumage made them easy to identify. These were my first in several years (I had only seen them once previously on the Niagara River in November). These high arctic breeders were # 366 for my Big Year.

While we were watching the lakeshore word came in that the Western Kingbird reported a few days earlier had been re-found up near the sod farms. There was a mass exodus of birders as we all headed out to see if we could find it. After about 45 minutes of searching we called it quits and headed home. About 15 minutes later we got a text message (thanks Brett!) that it had been re-found. So we turned around and were able to get some nice looks at it. While I had already seen several dozen in 4 other provinces this summer, it was a good one for my Ontario year list (I’ve only seen one previously in Ontario). It was a lifer for my brother, Adam, so he was happy to get that nemesis bird off his most wanted list.


Photo: Western Kingbird near Hamilton

After such an exciting afternoon of birding it was time to head home and pack for the west. Time flew by, and before I knew it I was on the highway and off to pick up my friend who was to join me.

We made it to Sault Ste. Marie the first night (grey, rainy, and miserable the whole drive), which was good, because we found out that the same storm we were passing through ended up washing out a portion of the TransCanada Highway! The next day was once again foggy, rainy and gloomy. After crossing into Manitoba, we were treated to a spectacular lightning display from some impressive storms to the north of us. We ended up rolling into Brandon, Manitoba after midnight.

Tuesday we woke up to clear, warm and sunny skies. We made it to Calgary, after a nice drive. The highlight was seeing 3 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE (#367) in a small slough near the city.

Wednesday we headed up into the Rocky Mountains. The weather was spectacular with clear skies and warm temperatures. After a quick stop at Lake Louise (such a nice place!) we headed a little further down the highway and up a short portion of the BLANK highway. We made our way to one of the summits and hiked a few minutes to a lookout. And what a lookout. I will just add a picture of it, because words can’t do this vista justice! We also finally came across several CLARK’S NUTCRACKERS! These distinctive birds were # 368 for my Big Year!


Photo: Spectacular Canada…


Photo: Flyby Clark’s Nutcracker!

Our last birding stop of the day was Salmon Arm Pier in the hopes of seeing the few Clark’s Grebes that breed here with the much more numerous Western Grebes. Despite a lot of scanning, most were too far away to positively identify, so I will hopefully get another chance on my way back home.

It’s been a lot of driving over the past few days, so I am really looking forward to getting to Vancouver Island tomorrow and get some epic pelagic birding done. Stay tuned, hopefully my next update will be a great one!



About canadabigyear2013

I'm a lifelong birder and naturalist who is undertaking a Canada Big Year in 2013.
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