It is hard to comprehend what we as counters had to put up with today, first of all our numbers of participants was down to just 6 and at one point I wondered if we would be greater than the number of swans seen. At times on the west side of town it was hard to even see the field let alone anything in it. The rain and heat combined with the snow made the mist so bad it reminded me of the pea soupers that I had encountered as a kid back in England.
Our numbers for swans and raptors were way down and only the geese put on a good show.
But all bad weather has a silver lining and for us it was the sighting of several uncommon species.
I won’t dwell on our first few stops as they were not good, but when we reached Quist’s farm we got our tallies off to a good start even if we had blinked while turning a corner we would have missed a group of swans that were so tight to the road and in the mist they just barely appeared. Westholme Road gave us a nice flock of Trumpeters but even these posed a problem as stopping was not easy and I counted them as Barry slowly drifted along the road.
Hwy 18 was next and the only white birds seen was a major flock of gulls, but one big white one stood out, a first or second year Glaucous Gull, and further up the field was a big pale bum that was attached to just one Elk which was facing away from us with it’s head up in the bushes. We never encountered anything else before we reached our break, Malcolm checked out Tansor school and there were no swans up there this week.
After leaving A&W the weather really set in and the rain started in earnest and Boy’s Road was blanketed in mist and nothing was seen, so over to Sahilton we went and here our luck changed again and a couple of groups of swans produced a pair of adult Tundra Swans who put on a wonderful display of courtship while the male took umbridge to a male Trumpeter getting in on the action and gave him a big bite on the tail and some wing flapping and gesturing took place. It was nice to hear the Tundras call as this is totally different to the Trumpeters. As we headed back down the road Christina shouted there’s a hawk but all I could see was this old sock in the tree, but she insisted and so we backed up a bit more and there sitting low was a immature Coopers Hawk who was a little bedraggled with a very tatty tail, a few misty shots were taken before we departed.
It was now time to head west if we could find it, the weather getting worse by the minute. It was impossible to see anything in the fields from Koksilah Road all the way over to Dougan’s Flats. Someone in the back suggested the Chinese restaurant at the Valley View Center would be a better location to look for birds but we pushed on and it was a good thing that we did because as we arrived at St. Catherine’s Road a nice big flock of birds awaited us. A adult Snow Goose was a first sighting and it was quickly followed by a Northern Shrike and then while checking the geese I saw some Greater White-fronted Geese, 11 of them, but sadly they were engulfed into the mist before we got good looks at them along with every other bird in the fields. If we had stopped for some chop suey and rice we would have missed these birds.
After this we were all happy having filled in a few columns of our list, Eric doing a wonderful job with the pencil.
A group of Mute Swans were seen along the Dock Road and that was us done for the day, much earlier than some of our previous counts, but i think everyone was glad to be heading home.
Big thanks to Barry for his excellent driving skills and for keeping us safe on the road.
All photos by our good friend Barry Hetschko. Because of the bad weather conditions I have added a couple of shots from earlier.
Made of the mist