Diary of a Day in the Life of a Big Year:
Vancouver, British Columbia:
Friday January 28, 2022 5:02am PST:
I had barely arrived home from British Columbia when, naturally, a rare bird shows up in British Columbia. Fact is, as soon as I left for my first trip to BC, a Brambling vanished from the Revelstoke area of BC only to have another one turn up in Quebec. So I seem to be on the Quebec to BC shuttle, with layovers in Ontario.
I did spend a couple of days at home in Brantford between trips for Brambling and Great Gray Owl, and chasing the California Scrub Jay I heard about as soon as I left for Quebec. I was able to add a few of the regular winter ducks, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Lesser Scaup, etc. and a Snow Bunting while at home.
And now, am up way too early in Vancouver, It doesn’t even start to get light until after 7:30am, it’s foggy and breakfast isn’t for another 90 minutes. I had a Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pie in my hotel room after arriving from my Toronto flight after 9:00pm, and it was delicious, when cooked according to package directions. #thanksmarioecallender!
Back to birding. On my previous trip I had missed out on an important year bird and Lifer, the Rock sandpiper, so the cross country chase for a California Scrub-Jay, who rarely flys north of the border, not unlike World Series Flags, is a second chance this winter to score this bird, as well as having some time search for American Dipper, Black-backed Woodpecker and a few other common west coast birds.
Friday January 28, 2022 supplemental:
It’s almost 7:30am and still dark. I ate breakfast in the lobby.
Friday January 28, 2022 8:45am
It is a crisp but chilly Friday morning and I arrived on Shell Road to find another birder already staked out, waiting for the California Scrub-Jay. We exchanged pleasantries and proceeded to walk up and down the small road that runs parallel to train tracks, hoping to spot this rare, but not uncommon visitor to the Metro Vancouver area. My new acquaintance was lamenting that he had to run off to work soon and would likely miss the west coast cousin of the Florida Scrub-Jay, if it didn’t turn up soon. He missed it earlier in the week and was about to leave when it landed on the grass below the feeders, He got his look and headed off to work. I hung around for what would turn out to be some very nice photos.
Friday January 28, 2022 10:42am
I’ve made my way over to Ozada Avenue along the rushing Coquitlam River, suggested to me by local birder Rich, who has been giving me advice on finding a few birds in Vancouver. As I am walking down the path into the park I have two choices, there is the rushing river on the left and a little almost missable creek on the right. I am here for American Dippers and my previous experience tells me they will be diving and swimming and feeding under water near rocks in the river.
However, before I can even choose, I start hearing dipper calls. They are coming from the right. In the creek. So much for previous experience. I check down in the creek, and yes, there they are two little gray birds, flitting and flying and chasing each other up and down about 25 metres of the creek. Cute little guys, So, here I am barely two hours into my morning and I have hit both target birds with relative ease.
The American Dipper, rare amongst song birds, can dive underwater for worms and other delights. Thanks to an evolutionary advantage they developed to get the most out of their habitat, they have an extra set of eyelids that allow them to see underwater, and little scales in its nostrils to keep water from getting up their “nose.”
I’m also keeping my eye out, while walking in the woods to see if I can find Varied Thrush or any owls. No such luck, and I have to head back to the car and it’s time to move on.