Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Raptor Day!

Pigeon Guillemot My 1st For Canada!
With the amount of ground covered over the past 10 days, and a long day arranged for tomorrow at Iona Island, we decided to stay a little closer to home, and so only ventured across the bay to West Vancouver and Lighthouse Park, about a 40 minute bus ride.

The park marks the point where Burrard Inlet meets Howe Sound and can be a good lookout for deep water birds. The rock type you see here is old, primarily granitic and varying in age from 96 to 187 million years. Most is blanketed by forest, including huge Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar Trees.

Having eventually reached the lighthouse we were a little disappointed that the access wasn't open to the general public, and so the view out across the bay was somewhat obscured. Mind you we spent a good 15 minutes scanning the surrounding areas and were rewarded with Winter Wren, Anna's Humminbird, Varied Thrush, Spotted Towhee and Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Eventually we did emerge at an excellent lookout area and spent a good 30 minutes sea watching, once again in the rain. A number of Bald Eagles and Ravens were observed, and during our scans of the deep water we managed Harlequin Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye, White-winged Scoter, Pelagic Cormorant and yet another first for me for Canada, Pigeon Guillemot (pictured Above).

This species is very similar in appearance to the Black Guillemot but show dark wing linings in flight. In winter, the upper parts are mottled grey and black and the underparts are white, quite an attractive bird in flight. Harbour Seals were also observed during our stay but disappointingly no further birds of note were recorded, perhaps a little too early for arriving Terns and most Warblers, which are probably being held up by some late winter storms further along the coast.

Band-tailed Pigeon
The 30 minute wait for the bus back into Downtown Vancouver provided the best birding of the day. With the constant rain subsiding into showers, the sun finally emerged and seemed to act as a catalyst for what I can only describe as a 'Raptorfest'. Firstly, several Bald Eagle flew northwest, these closely followed by 5 Red Tailed Hawk, Coopers Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Robs first in the Vancouver area, and finally Sharp-shinned Hawk, which Rob located perched high in a Douglas Fir, before the bird took off also flying northwest. Migration in action!

The final bird of note was the above Band-tailed Pigeon, which Rob tells me are common in this neck of the woods, a nice end to the birding day.