Friday, April 15, 2011

My Canada

Common Loon An Icon Of Canada
As I draw a line under this particular visit to Canada I'm not only leaving with some great birding memories, but I now possess a substantial database of the prime birding areas of the Greater Vancouver area.

In fact my wife believes I now possess a greater knowledge of Vancouver than most Vancouverites. She also estimates I may well have walked over 250 miles during the five weeks I've been here!

Vancouver: I'm not sure I'm aware of any large metropolis where a short walk along it's seawall can produce literally thousand's of waterfowl with species such as Harlequin Duck, Red-necked Grebe, Common Loon, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Barrow's Goldeneye and all three Mergansers a regular feature.

Raptors abound, Bald Eagle are abundant, Merlin can be seen flashing through the buildings when you look out of your apartment window, and the occasional Turkey Vulture can be seen soaring above Stanley Park! Sit for a while in an open area and you can almost guarantee a Coopers Hawk or Red-tailed hawk will appear high in a thermal, along with the many Glaucous-winged Gulls.

If you want to see Hummingbirds, these can be found too, and 'all year round' in Stanley Park where the Anna's is resident. In spring these are joined by the Rufous Hummingbird which literally follow the blooming Redcurrant up the Pacific Coast, and then on to Alaska, simply amazing!

I arrived here with a notion of achieving a species count of at least 120 and I'm leaving with 131 in the bag, not a bad tally. My previous visits to Canada have been into the interior of the country and I was greatly looking forward to improving my knowledge of coastal birds. Unfortunately, with spring greatly delayed due to late winter storms and persistent northerly or easterly winds, I didn't quite get to see all the species I'd hoped for, but the ones I did get to see, Black Turnstone for one, have greatly increased my knowledge base of North American Species.

On this particular visit I've been able to be part of the Canadian culture and have met some really genuine Canadian birders and thank them for their company and sharing their knowledge.

Canada, like the UK has it's own unique environmental issues, and I get the impression that some of their great birding and wildlife venues are fought for passionately, and often only succeed by compromise and hard work, incredible really with such diverse and rich habitats in abundance. A typical example, Maplewood Conservation Area  on Vancouver's North Shore was earmarked for housing and is now a unique wildlife destination, thanks to the persistence and enthusiasm of many individuals.

Irresponsible Dog Owners!
Even here in the Greater Vancouver area with all it's diversity species are on the decline, such as Western Grebe, down 100% in some areas and once a common sight off English Bay, but no more! Common Loon, a Canadian Icon, is also threatened, cottages, campgrounds and marinas are being built along lakes where loons liked to nest. Dog owners I'm told have increased exponentially over recent years and I've witnessed first hand the irresponsibility of some, who pay little attention to wildlife havens and on-leash laws, allowing their animals to disrupt resting birds during migration, Blackie Spit was a typical example!

What I do know from the people I've met here over my stay is that the determination exists from groups of passionate individuals, 'wildlife warriors', who will ensure that the authorities remain aware of the issues, and will continue to work hard to maintain this areas uniqueness for generations to come, and I hope that one day soon I can be part of that fight!