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Western Canada - Calgary & Vancouver 2010

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Old Wednesday 5th May 2010, 20:23   #1
John Cantelo
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Western Canada - Calgary & Vancouver 2010

Part I – Calgary & the Rockies
Mine was not an high octane birding trip with a group of manic birders, but a fatherly trip out to see daughter No2 with my non-birding wife – hence I didn’t bother with a pre-trip hit list and took the birding pretty casually. However, these few notes might be of interest and may entice others to take a close look at birding Canada. Having visited the Seattle area 10 years back at the same time of year I wasn’t expecting too many lifers.

Calgary Thursday 1st April 2010
A late afternoon arrival meant little time for birding even of the half hearted sort. The first shock was realisation that in Canada all hire cars were automatics – a species of car I’d never come across. My instinctive use of the non-existent clutch meant that, having caught the super-sharp brakes instead, but we managed to bunny hop through Calgary’s rush hour without incident. The first bird I saw was a tick …. of sorts. The numerous Black-billed Magpie can be readily be told from our European version by a) it’s very different vocalisations and b) it’s scientific name “Pica hudsonia” not “Pica pica”; plumage wise it looked identical. Today’s supporting cast included Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker, American Robin (one of the few passerine migrants to have arrived), American Crow, Ring-billed & Californian Gulls, Goldeneye & Goosander (aka Common Merganser). I also had my first mammal tick – Richardson’s Ground Squirrel.

Calgary – Banff – Lake Louise Friday 2nd April 2010
A pre-breakfast walk in a suburban park tallied many of the birds seen yesterday plus Downy Woodpecker and Black-capped Chickadee. However, it was a shock to realise just how birdless it still was here (more like February than April). A latish start, then compounded by a 2 hour traffic jam north of Banff meant this wasn’t going to be a big list day. However, annoyance at the delay was dispersed on learning the jam was due to a fatal accident. Clark’s Nutcracker – my second tick – duly appeared in typical habitat; on the scrounge in a large car park at Lake Louise. A badly glimpsed Gray Jay also appeared as did a chickadee in a dense squabble of branches. OK a probable Boreal Chickadee, not bad after 30 secs. in the woodland; several hours and much pishing later it turned out to be the only chickadee, and just about the only small/medium sized passerine in the darn woods! This pattern repeated itself every time we ventured into suitable habitat – no small birds other than Black-capped Chickadee & American Robin. En route a few hundered Trumpeter Swans and all the usual duckish suspects.

Calgary – Inglewood Saturday 3rd April 2010
More domestic than hard core birding …. But Inglewood (a part of Calgary) has a nice little bird reserve just a shame birds still remained few in number – the woods held many Black-capped Chickadees & Starlings, half a dozen or so each of Downy ‘pecker & Red-shafted Flicker whilst the river played host to Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers and various gulls. A traipse round a section of Fish Creek Park added House Finch and Hairy Woodpecker to the tally. I was still gobsmacked at how few birds were about.

Calgary – Kananaskis- Sibbald Trail 4th Sunday April 2010
Another poverty stricken day birdwise despite superlative mountain scenery. An hour or more walking through pine woods produced precisely ‘small’ passerines – both American Robin. Great views of Golden Eagle though. A good ‘dirt road (the Sibbald trail) took us through some more superb scenery – but again pretty birdless … until at the Calgary end of the trail we entered obvious bluebird habitat. Obvious not so much due to the more open nature of the habitat, but rather the nest boxes on many fenceposts. Within minutes I’d seen three glorious Mountain Bluebirds – even better than they look in books and that’s saying something! Also seen were more Trumpeter Swans and a couple of Red-tailed Hawk. Later that evening I heard (via ‘Albertabirds’) that a Prairie Falcon and Goshawk had been seen along the trail later in the day.

Calgary – Banff Monday 5th April 2010
Mainly a sight seeing trip up to Banff (which was so crowded on Sunday that I couldn’t find a parking space!). I saw the same limited mix of species en route (mainly waterfowl), but despite walking round a mixed area of marsh and woodland near the town still could find virtually no passerines in the snowy conditions - more American Robins, a lone Varied Thrush (ID'd by call despite not having heard one for 10 or so years - my proudest moment of the trip!) and heard, but didn’t see a couple of chickadee. The poverty in the numbers of small birds continued to astonish me; I wanted to focus on backyard feeders in Banff, but guessed this wouldn’t be a popular move! A single Bald Eagle seen.

I'll post part II (Vancouver) anon - but as I write comes news that daughter No1 who's now visiting her sister, has gripped me off on her first day in the Rockies by seeing both Black Bear & Moose (plus an Osprey - I didn't know she knew what they looked like!),
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 11:19   #2
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Part II – Vancouver & Vancouver Island
Calgary – Vancouver Tuesday 6th April 2010We dropped off the hire car and flew out to Vancouver arriving mid-afternoon having flown over wild mountainous country for most of the flight. It’s a big country, Canada! Having settled into our hotel I met up with ex-Kent birder Peter Davidson for a couple of hours birding in Stanley Park whilst Liz went to see Milo, Vancouver Aquarium’s famous Sea Otter (the Youtube clip of Milo and another otter holding hands was, I suspect, the real reason we came here). Clearly spring was well ahead here in Vancouver compared to Calgary with trees showing whisps of greenery and many passerines out and about. My passerine list quickly grew with additions such as Winter Wren, Song and White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed (“Oregon”) Junco, both kinglets, Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Bushtit, Chestnut-sided Chickadee, House Finch and Spotted Towee American Robins were abundant. A walk along the shore added more tasty morsels to the list Barrow’s Goldeneye, Harelquin, Surf Scoter, Lesser Scaup, American Wigeon and Pelagic Cormorant. Above Bald Eagles gave their strange yodelling cries – an unexpected bird in a big cosmopolitan city. It was only later that I recalled that Anna’s Hummingbird had been a target here! Meanwhile, Liz had found the aquarium closed and had been wondering round the park looking for us.

Vancouver - Tofino Wednesday 7th April 2010
Having taken the ferry from Horseshoe Bay we arrived in Nanaimo around mid-day and picked up another hire car. Shortly afterwards it started to rain ….. A stop off on the east coast at the pleasant resort town of Qualicum added Turkey Vulture, Bonaparte’s Gull, Red-necked Grebe and Brant Goose (they have a festival in honour of the latter bird here). As we headed off towards the west coast, the clouds closed in and the rain came down – we saw little else for the rest of the journey and heard nothing apart from the incessant bleating of the windscreen wipers. Tofino looked nice, though, even in the rain!

Tofino Thursday 8th April 2010
Fortunately today arrived sunny and bright so I had high hopes for the area around our accommodation – old swampy cypress forest with good undergrowth. Up early I went for a brisk walk - yet birds remained very scarce – a few American Robins, Winter Wren, Song Sparrow, Steller’s Jay and American Crows ….. no wait a minute, they must be North-western Crows here! Things looked up when we went out on the whale watching trip we’d booked yesterday ….. but then at just over $100 each it damn well should have! My disappointment at being confined, due to heavy seas following yesterday’s storm) to inshore waters, which cost me any chance of Sea Otter and, probably, Tufted Puffin, was quickly dispelled by the sheer numbers of waterfowl in Clayquot Sound. Despite the boat master’s indifference to our feathered friends I quickly clocked up good numbers of Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorants Bufflehead, Surf Scoter, Greater Scaup, Red-necked Grebe and ‘Common’ Loons. Rather less frequent were Western Grebe, Pacific Loon, Long-tailed & Harlequin, Pigeon Guillemot, Bald Eagles and assorted buzz-by auklets (perhaps driven here by the rough seas). Many of the latter went by with ID unresolved, but I had excellent views of Marbled Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet. Some of the distant fly-bys may well have been Ancient Murrelets (they looked right!), but they were too distant to tick. One pair of birds had me quite puzzled until I realised they were Cassin’s Auklet – a lifer and yet a species I’d forgotten about! Teach me to omit making a pre-trip bird list and to have the arrogance to go out without a field guide to hand! Just as I was hoping that we’d miss Grey Whale and thus be entitled to a second trip gratis one blew and then appeared giving obligingly good views.
A trip down to Uclulet later that afternoon produced 6+ Bald Eagles, and 20+ auk/auklet sp well out to sea. Pity this was a walk, sans ‘scope, with Mrs C. not a mono-manic birding trip! Despite looking excellent for rock hopping waders, the rocky coast held only Black Oystercatchers … Back in Tofino I reacquainted myself with Rufous Hummingbird and …… Collared Doves! I hadn’t realised that the little blighters had made it all the way across to the pacific coast!

Tofino, Grice Bay and Uclulet Friday 9th April 2010
Another morning walk, this time venturing down to the nearby coast adding Fox (Sooty) Sparrow, “Oregon” Junco and Black Oystercatcher to the day’s total. Then off for a further exploration of the Pacific Rim Park taking in Tofino, Grice Bay and Uclulet – this resulted in more of the same seaduck (plus Red-breasted Merganser), grebes (plus Slavonian “Horned” Grebe) and loons/divers. I picked up Greater Yellowlegs, but the woodland remained resolutely quiet apart from the major fall of American Robins amongst which was a sprinkling of Varied Thrush. The start turn again seemed to have been provided by a mammal – the porpoising Sea Lions in Uclulet harbour. However, in desperate search of those elusive passerines I detoured back via Tofino’s landing strip (airport is far too grand a term!) and won today’s star prize. Finding a nice looking tangle of shrubs, I indulged, yet again, in a little gentle pishing – no passerines appeared, but a Barred Owl casually flew across the road and into the shrubbery. An unexpected & welcome lifer (and my first uniquely American owl). Brilliant – even Liz was impressed!

Tofino & Radar Hill Saturday 10th April 2010
My morning constitutional was pleasant enough but added no more new species for the list. However, on emerging from the car at Radar Hill, I heard Blue (Sooty) Grouse calling – one of only 3 species I’d ever heard but not seen (others being Whip-poor-will and Great Horned Owl. As I frantically searched for the grouse, I heard another call – Northern Pygmy Owl – one of my most wanted birds. Rapidly putting my priorities in order, I legged it down the road to where the owl was calling. A few more hoots later and it went silent not to call again. My heard only list had just risen to four! Back at the grouse I spent a frustrating 20 minutes peering into the dense undergrowth until I thought “Do they call from trees, not the ground?” They do and it was! Another tick and heard only list back down to three. Despite waiting the owl remained quiet, but a few more Varied Thrush and Yellow-rumped Warblers were a small compensation. A later walk in the woods produced an unseen calling Pileated Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned kinglet, Steller’s Jay, ‘Oregon’ Juncos and White-crowned Sparrow.

Tofino – Alberni - Qualicum-Alberni Sunday 11th April 2010
In the morning, en route for Alberni, we stopped again at Radar Hill, but neither the owl nor the grouse wanted to come out to play. We decided to overshoot Alberni (where we’d booked an hotel) to look again at the east coast at Qualicum – this time hoping to see the view. We had all the expected waterfowl, still more American Robins, Red-winged Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird Turkey Vultures and my best ever view of a couple of Violet-green Swallows – lovely birds. Back in Alberni a squadron of a dozen Snow Geese flew over again jacking up my total.

Alberni – Nanaimo –Stanley Park, Vancouver Monday 12th April 2010From Alberni, it was back down to Nanaimo to drop off the hire car then on to Vancouver via public transport. Back in the city the twin priorities were to get Liz to the aquarium and for me to find Anna’s Hummingbird (a must see as this is our daughter’s name …. Just the ‘Anna’ bit that is, not Hummingbird – I’m not that bonkers about birds!). I trekked over to where I recall seeing a mass of flowering plants and, lo, there was a photographer there! Yes, he was trying to photograph hummers, but a Rufous, not an Anna’s. I’m sure he was a better photographer than birder since what immediately appeared was a gorgeous little Anna’s Hummingbird! Further exploration of the park produced all the goodies from my previous jaunt plus Red-breasted Sapsucker, Wood Duck and Pine Siskin. Having met up with Liz, we went bak to see the hummer which performed well if distantly ….. until my camera battery ran flat whereupon it zoomed in to the flowers a few feet away and hovered happy in the knowledge that I could get a photo!

Vancouver - Calgary Tuesday 13th April 2010
Travelling back to Calgary and meeting up with our daughter so no birding.
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 14:27   #3
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A very interesting report, John. I have long-lost Canadian cousins on Vancouver Island so a casual birding/family trip out there is very much a possibility one day and as I've never birded further west than the North Dakota/Montana state line, there are plenty of lifers on offer (at least 30 in your account).
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 16:17   #4
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Despite the paucity of birdlife, I thought Vancouver Island was absolutely superb. It would certainly repay a visit a little later in the season.
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 16:21   #5
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A mirror image of a trip i did years ago at the same time of year, Banff, lake louise, calgary - same birds & beasts - Clark's Nutcrackers, Grey Jay, Mountain Bluebirds, hummers, eagles, then flew to Vancouver where Reifel Bird sanctuary was the highlight. Then went onto Vancouver Island - Loons including Yellow-Billed, same auklets. Bears, elk , beavers, and moose also. Wonderful trip!
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 17:40   #6
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A mirror image of a trip i did years ago at the same time of year, Banff, lake louise, calgary - same birds & beasts - Clark's Nutcrackers, Grey Jay, Mountain Bluebirds, hummers, eagles, then flew to Vancouver where Reifel Bird sanctuary was the highlight. Then went onto Vancouver Island - Loons including Yellow-Billed, same auklets. Bears, elk , beavers, and moose also. Wonderful trip!
Not quite, we didn't see bear, beaver or moose - not to mention Yeloow-billed Loon!
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 17:44   #7
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Part III – Calgary & Drumheller
Bragg Creek – Elbow Falls – Sibbald Track Wednesday 14th April 2010
Another hopeful crack at the mountain birds. Bragg Creek & Elbow Falls we loved, but the birds didn’t – still hard work and no birds. Liz spotted a Rough-legged ‘Hawk’ next to the road, Mountain Bluebirds performed even better than before and a Coyote nonchalantly walked over the road in front of us, but once again there were very few birds. It was good to see an American Dipper at Elbow Falls even if it largely served to remind me how good ‘our’ bird is in comparison.

Drumheller Thursday 15th April 2010
Our last full day in Canada so we all (our daughter had the day off) drove over to see the badlands around Drumheller. En route I had Northern Harrier, Western Meadowlark, Red-tailed Hawk and Dark-eyed (‘Slate-coloured’) Junco, but little else. Our aim was the famous dinosaur museum …. but I couldn’t cope with missing out on birding so spent two largely fruitless hours searching for additions to the list (seeing only the obligatory American Robins and Black-capped Chickdees plus Sharp-shinned Hawk & Pileated Woodpecker). I just wish someone had told me it was too early for Rock Wren, that way I’d have gone round the museum! Mammals included – White-tailed jack Rabbit, Mountain Cottontail and Least Chipmunk.

Calgary Friday 16th April 2010
Our day in Canada or so we thought – yep, we were volcano’d! There then followed a week of uncertainty with daily calls to Air Canada, but birding was a help! Without a hire car, we were limited to sites in and around Calgary, but still added Red-breasted Nuthatch and Peregrine to the list. Our greatest stroke of luck was finding a great B&B in Inglewood with stunning views of downtown Calgary (www.riverpath.ca). It was run by a lovely couple who, unlike some rapacious types, on hearing of our situation immediately gave us their best room at their lowest rate for ‘as long as you need it’. They then decamped for the weekend leaving us in charge! If you visit Calgary stay here!
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 17:48   #8
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Nice report John. Glad to hear the positive side of your volcano story; not all people are rapacious!
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 17:55   #9
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Part IV – Volcano’d!
Calgary – Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Saturday 17th April 2010
Despite the intervening week or so Inglewood remained very quiet although Tree Swallows had now arrived and I suspect I’d heard a Yellow-rumped Warbler singing. The best birds were some handsome Franklin’s Gull on the river – why do no guides show just that they can be day-glow pink they can be in summer? In downtown Inglewood a female Merlin – of the Prairie race nipped over.

Calgary Sunday 18th April 2010
A non-birding day in and around the city en famille.

Weaselhead-Glenmoore Calgary Monday 19th April 2010
Dropped off at the right spot by a typically helpful Calgarian bus driver, we explored this wild park which, whilst it didn’t hold that many birds (in number or variety), was a terrific area. The only addition to the list was two Eastern Phoebes which a helpful local birder pointed out to me. Annoyingly an ‘accipter sp’ allowed a good enough view for me to suspect Cooper’s, but not to clinch it.

Edworthy Park Calgary Tuesday 20th April 2010
Advised to look at Edworthy Park for Townsend’s Solitaire, caught the bus to another of Calgary’s wonderful parks. All the now expected ‘suspects’ were on show today, but were joined, at last, by two lifers. The first was a Cooper’s Hawk – a biggish ‘accipter’ with, compared to Sparrowhawk, a barrel of a body, a longer rounded tail, a bigger head and longer wings. Whilst Sharp-shinned to me seems a more compact version of a S’prawk, this bird was clearly heading in the opposite direction. Having just got over bagging Cooper’s, I caught sight of a high flying BoP – clearly a ‘buteo’ but one with a pattern reminiscent of Booted Eagle – Swainson’s Hawk. Two lifers!

South Calgary - Bragg Creek – Fish Creek Park Wednesday 21st April 2010
Having logged onto the Alberta birds chat group for information a local couple – Dick & Lenora - kindly offered to take us out for the day. After a few minutes into our conversation it transpired that they knew the chap who used to sit behind me at school over 40 years ago. Not quite as amazing as it seems since he – Phil Gregory – is now a tour guide for one of the top American bird holiday companies with whom they regularly vacation. Another example of how whilst it’s six degrees of separation for most folk, for birders it’s about three! We kicked off with a search of local wetlands for Yellow-headed Blackbird (which was just starting to arrive). Neither the blackbirds nor, due to a winter drought, most of the wetlands appeared. However, I added both to my wader tally – Killdeer, American Avocet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least & Semi-P Sandpipers – and my duck list – Shoveler, Pintail & Green-winged Teal. I also had better views of Swainson’s Hawk – in flight more distinctive than books suggest flying with a deeper dihedral than Red-tailed and often with a slightly unstable manner as per Turkey Vulture. Moving up into the mountains around Bragg Creek we searched again for those blasted chickadees, but to no avail. However, Lenora’s familiarity with the song of Townsend’s Solitaire meant we managed to track down one of these handsome birds. I also heard one of the many ‘Red Crossbills’ but foolishly didn’t get a sonogram. Birding when you’re not familiar with the calls is only slightly worse than doing so blindfold! Meanwhile Dick had made bold claims about Great Horned Owl being ‘unmissable’ at a site back near the city. I was dubious, but he was right – the only downside was that I’d driven within 30 m of the place when we’d been in Calgary before! Great views of an adult pair and a couple of chicks – easily located by the two photographers standing nearby. Not that the owls seemed to care. A great day in good company.

Calgary - Inglewood Thursday 22nd April 2010
Another quiet day, and later a rainy one, in Inglewood. Armed with information gleaned the previous afternoon, my morning walk in the local park was enlivened by the sight of five Great Horned Owls (2 ad & 3 young). Again with a photographer in discreet attendance – pity he wasn’t there before as I’d walked within 20 m of the site! As with yesterday local knowledge really pays off. The park now held Red-winged Blackbird and Song Sparrow, but was hardly more lively than my first visit weeks back.

Calgary - Inglewood & Weaselhead Friday 23rd April 2010
Another look at the owls this morning before heading off once more to Weaselhead despite the less than perfect weather. In the park we discovered a nice little spot where feeders had been set up so had good close views of the inevitable Black-capped Chickadees plus Red- and White-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin , Downy Woodpecker and American Red Squirrel. Despite the food supply, the dearth of variety here was striking (only additional woodland birds here being Hairy Woodpecker) . Meanwhile, overhead a Cooper’s Hawk displayed until a Raven angrily saw it off and a party of Rough-winged Swallows pushed down by a squall of sleety hail skated over the nearby lagoon.

Calgary - Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Saturday 24th April 2010
Our last day – and a morning spent at Inglewood again. More of the same, but adding Blue-winged Teal and a couple more Harlequin to the list. Then it was off to the airport for a late lunch/early supper and the flight home – but only just! As we waited to board a snow storm descended and once we were on the plane it worsened. The gunk trucks came a long and sprayed us to stop us freezing up and then, after two hours on the plane and a long, long take off as more snow splattered against the fuselage, we took off home to Blighty.

Impressions – Canada is a great country with stunning scenery bettered only by the most helpful and friendly people I’ve ever met. I found the drivers most polite and always gave pedestrians the right of way (no really!). You could even walk the pavements without having to learn the dog-sh*t two step. The only downside is that out there “old” means anything over about 50 years … which at my age I take personally! Just don’t go there expecting many birds much before the first week of May. Final tally was about 110 species – not too bad for a non-birding trip!
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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 19:03   #10
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Planning to do vancouver and vancouver island next summer (2011), so this was really useful for me.

Thanks,


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Old Thursday 6th May 2010, 21:52   #11
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Planning to do vancouver and vancouver island next summer (2011), so this was really useful for me.

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Do PM me for any additional info. We both really liked Tofino. In summer Black Bears are apprently dead easy in Alberni - you stroll along the prom beside the river (evening's best) and bears & cubs come down the the far side of the river to feed. Close enough for good views, far away enough to feel safe! We rather regret not going to Victoria (Vancouver island) which everyone told us was a great place to visit,
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Old Saturday 8th May 2010, 07:13   #12
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John, I have dug out my notes from my trip back in 1999 - yes eleven years ago!!

Rather than start a new thread I really hope you are not offended if I add a few notes here, it seems relevant as it might help others planning on such a trip. Despite the time lapse I am sure the same still applies in the main.

I was lucky in that we qualified for free air passes (a thing of the past) courtesy of our friends Mike & Elaine in Canada, he was and is an Air Canada pilot. At the time I was quite new to birdwatching.

The weather was flippin cold throughout, bitterly so if I recall !

Arrived 25th April 99 at Vancouver Airport and by the pools around the airport backroads had American Wigeon, Bald Eagle, Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Grebe .

On 26/4 we set out from Vancouver on Route 99 to Squamish and Whistler, pulling over along the "Brackendale" reserve by Howe Sound. Brilliant views of a pair of nesting Bald Eagles, also first of many Yellow-rumped 'audobons' Warbler and first of many Rufous Hummingbirds, Steller's Jays and American Robins seen on the holiday. On this day trip, at Shannon Falls 2 Varied Thrushes and several Dark-eyed Junco's seen.

City day trips next two days so no birding, but on 29/4 made long drive out to Mount St Helens, a volcano with a visitor centre. Not great for birds, but en route domestic bison and elk seen. Just a single Cliff Swallow at the visitor centre. At nearby Coldwater Bay at dusk we watched at pair of beavers at a small pond, also 'big-horned' sheep. A very atmospheric place but this was not a birding day really, but scenery was immense!

On 30/4 we drove to Seattle for a tour of Boeing factory, then on 1/5 we spent around Vancouver again, but on 2/5 we caught the ferry to Vancouver Island, the bay was covered with wildfowl and en route we noted around 500 Surf Scoters, 30 Black Scoters, 50 White-winged Scoters, 10 Pacific Loons plus cormorants (Brandts I think).

We spent several glorious days on Vancouver Island, the first 3 days overlooking Sproat Lake where we canoed and watched the two huge Miles Mars water bombers take off and land. Plenty of common birds like Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Tree Swallow, Varied Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler.

On 4/5 we visited Pacific Rim National Park on the island, and had a pair of Black Oystercatcher, Yellow-billed Loon, Glaucous-winged Gull, Rufous Hummingbird at Wickaninnish Beach and Florencia Bay. Schooner Cove produced a huge flock of waders including Western, Least, Spotted Sandpipers, Dunlin, Semi-palmated Plover that were dramatically raked by a Peregrine. Tofino Bay produced sea-lions, more gulls and waders. Spruce Fringe produced over 100 sea-lions. We noted overflying Bald Eagles, Osprey and a pair of Ring-necked Duck onn the way back to Sproat Lake.

On 4/5 we visited Cathedral Grove, an area of towering pine devasted by the 1997 hurricane, only noting Red-breasted Sapsucker and Winter Wren. Also saw Black bear at dusk.


From 5/5 to 8/5 we rented a superb lodge overlooking the bay at Point-no-point, near Sooke. What a place, birds in the immediate vicinity included Red Crossbill, Rufous Hummingbird, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Song Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellowthroat, Swainson's Thrush, American Pipit, Bald Eagle, but from our living room window sea-watching produced Yellow-billed Loon, Common Loon, Pacific Loon, Scaup, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, Surf/White-winged/Black Scoter, Marbled/Ancient Murrelet, Brandts/Pelagic Cormorant.. More sea-lions and an otter were seen. A wonderful place!

We visited Juan de Fuca Park on 7/5 -more gulls, sparrows as well as Rufous-sided Towhee and the highlight - a female Blue Grouse. Heard Pileated Woodpecker too.

On 8/5 same birds on ferry back to Vancouver, Sawasson / Tawwassen Harbour is a haven for birds.

9/5 day at Reifel Bird Sanctuary, near Vancouver - list included 5 Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Rufous Hummingbird, Downy Woody, Wilson's/Orange-crowned/Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Golden-crowned/Fox/Savannah/Song Sparrow, Marsh/Winter Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Finch, Rufous-sided Towhee, Barn/Cliff/Tree/Violet-Green Swallow, Sandhill Crane, Long & Short Billed Dowitcher, Cinnamon Teal, Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, Least/Western Sandpiper.

10/5 flew to Calgary. Road to Banff leading out of Calgary had many accipiters perched on posts - mainly Red-tailed Hawks (including 'Kriders'), 1 Swainson's Hawk. Also several Common Loons , Buffleheads seen by road.

11/5 Based at Canmore, near Banff drove out to Kananaskis Pass which was very scenic. Elk, Golden-mounted Ground Squirrells, Long-horned sheep seen. 2 'stunning' male Mountain Bluebirds were highlight. Barrier Lake produced American Coots, Western Grebes, 2 possible juv Harlequin Ducks After lunch drove into Banff and then just potted around Banff & Jasper National Parks. We saw Clark's Nutcrackers, Red-Shafted Flicker, Raven, and by Columbia Icefields Trumpeter Swans, and near Jasper where we over-nighted, at dusk we came across a family of Black Bears including 3 cubs.

12/5 From Jasper we journeyed to Yellowhead Pass and today we had pairs of Barrow's Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead. Overlooking Medicine Lake we picked out 7 Moose down on the valley floor. At Maligne Lake we had Blue-winged Teal, Common Goldeneye, and on the way back superb close views of a huge Black Bear that fed feet away from the car.

13/5 - our last day, we went to Lake Louise where the lake was still totally frozen over. Chipmunks were common, the few birds around car park included Clark's Nutcrackers, Grey Jay, Fox Sparrow. The former were perched a metre away on car roofs, and a single Grey Jay joined them fleetingly.

Overall, we probably missed loads, we were new to birding back then, and rather than searching out we just enjoyed what we encountered.
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Old Saturday 8th May 2010, 16:46   #13
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Not offended at all!
Those Miles Mars aircraft are amazing - I shamelessly detoured to see them in dock on Sproat Lake. Two things are apparent from your report - the difference being there a week or two later makes and that staying further into the mountains at Canmore (and beyond) is advantageous. One small point - on 11/5 you mention seeing Prairie Dogs in Kananaskis Pass (what a fantastic area!). Are you sure about the ID? According to my American mammal guides Prairie Dogs aren't found in this area and, besides, the habitat is surely wrong. Are you sure that they weren't some kind of ground squirrel or even marmot?
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Old Saturday 8th May 2010, 17:43   #14
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Not offended at all!
Those Miles Mars aircraft are amazing - I shamelessly detoured to see them in dock on Sproat Lake. Two things are apparent from your report - the difference being there a week or two later makes and that staying further into the mountains at Canmore (and beyond) is advantageous. One small point - on 11/5 you mention seeing Prairie Dogs in Kananaskis Pass (what a fantastic area!). Are you sure about the ID? According to my American mammal guides Prairie Dogs aren't found in this area and, besides, the habitat is surely wrong. Are you sure that they weren't some kind of ground squirrel or even marmot?

John you are absolutely right of course, no idea why i said that, totally incorrect !! No Prairie Dogs at all !! Must mean ground squirrel of some sort. I will amend the report.

We went to look closely at the Mars mariners, and to see them take off from the lake you are canoeing on was an amazing experience.

I think it was unusually cold that spring, so it may normally be even better ornithologocally.
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Old Tuesday 11th May 2010, 10:47   #15
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You two have baffled me now, I thought the Mars flying boat was a product of Martin and that the Mariner was a similar one, possibly a derivative of the Mars?

John

PS: I've checked now, the Mars is a monster that followed after the Mariner. Only 7 Mars were built whereas the Mariner had quite a long production run and wide use in the Pacific theatre during and immediately post WWII.

JD

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Old Tuesday 11th May 2010, 16:15   #16
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You two have baffled me now, I thought the Mars flying boat was a product of Martin and that the Mariner was a similar one, possibly a derivative of the Mars?

John

PS: I've checked now, the Mars is a monster that followed after the Mariner. Only 7 Mars were built whereas the Mariner had quite a long production run and wide use in the Pacific theatre during and immediately post WWII.

JD
Oops, my slip it's Martin, not Miles. I suspect deep in the recesses of my befuddled mind there was a confusion with Miles Martinet - quite a different aircraft albeit of a similar vintage,
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Old Tuesday 11th May 2010, 18:20   #17
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Think it is me who was more wrong lads (again!). They are Martin Mars, huge things !

See:

www.martinmars.com/

Apologies to birders for transgression!
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Old Wednesday 12th May 2010, 07:42   #18
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Oops, my slip it's Martin, not Miles. I suspect deep in the recesses of my befuddled mind there was a confusion with Miles Martinet - quite a different aircraft albeit of a similar vintage,
Considerable envy at the sighting, I was a spotter long before I was a birder. Did you see them flying?

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Old Wednesday 12th May 2010, 15:12   #19
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Considerable envy at the sighting, I was a spotter long before I was a birder. Did you see them flying?

John
Regrettably, no. They were 'in dock' so I got a good view, but I'd loved to have seen them in flight. One of my earliest aircraft memories is the sight of the old 'Princess' flying boats 'moth balled' on the Solent. I always wanted to see them fly, but this leviathon would have been even better. Just as well I didn't have any matches in my pocket as I might have been tempted!
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Old Wednesday 12th May 2010, 16:19   #20
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I was fortunate enough to see them take off from Sproat Lake, and on dry dock. Aviation is my other love too, and football, beer, and women of course, tho I seem to find it easier to locate fantastic planes than locating decent birds !
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Old Friday 14th May 2010, 08:52   #21
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I saw the last flying Sunderland (all right it was a Sandringham passenger conversion) over Thursley Common when it was touring Southern England before going abroad to somewhere warm and wet, and that was sheer magic.

The Catalinas at Duxford are OK but you need four engines to make a REAL flying boat!

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Old Monday 24th May 2010, 23:04   #22
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John,

great trip report glad yo had a good time despite the volcano

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Old Tuesday 25th May 2010, 17:14   #23
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Hi Mark - yes it was good fun although somewhat earlier in the season than I'd have liked. Mrs C liked it too (esp. Vancouver Island) and wants to go back so perhaps I'll have a second shot at some of the things I missed. Daughter No1 is out there at the moment and thus far has tallied 6 Black Bears - sensibly she missed Sea Otter (her Mum would never have forgiven her!). Thanks again for your help,
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Old Friday 28th May 2010, 16:54   #24
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For anyone staying at Vancouver island (who can afford it) I would highly recommend Pointnopointresort.com/

They have superb chalets overlooking the bay. We stayed at Cabin A (Glaciel loft) that had quite superb sea views. Mind you to hire it is 270 CDN dollars per night now (currently about 170 per night) tho it holds 4 people.

Was nowhere near that cost back in 1999 but I would still highly recommend it.
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