Swan & Goose count, Feb 21st 2018

There are times when it is best to bite your tongue when someone says something bad, as was the case this day when one of the 7 counters present said the “S” word, one should always think before opening his or her mouth, didn’t he realize that this was a Wednesday. We took off under dull skies with a bitter wind blowing, it was dry though.
This week we broke an old established record going back to 2011 as we recorded 674 adult Trumpeter Swans, add to this 78 immature for a grand total of 752. This was the highest count of adults since March 2011, great stuff indeed.
Even the Bald Eagle numbers went up with 28 adults and 6 immature. One very nice raptor that nearly eluded the cameras was a dark phase immature Red-tailed Hawk which is rare here in the valley with only a few records, thanks to Barry for letting me post his pictures as they are slightly below the standard to which we have become accustomed too from him. The bird enticed us as it flew in circles just far enough away to be a pest, but then it started a glide towards us only to veer off and go over the trees, what a blighter to treat us like that. We also had 2 Peregrine Falcons an obliging Merlin and 2 Coopers Hawks to add to another 6 Red-tailed Hawks. Who ever said you need good weather to see Raptors. On the other side of the coin, the young Trumpeters are really changing color making it a hard time counting them, good job their heads are the last thing to go white as if they stick their necks up I get them. If asleep, well that’s a different matter. A Eurasian Wigeon was again at Quist’s Farm and a single Killdeer was spotted on Cherry Point Road.
Now back to this weather and our second point of call, who would expect to see swallows on a day like this? Well they have been known to come early and we were lucky to get three different species hawking over Somenos Lake. 3 Violet-Green, 2 Tree and 2 Barn Swallows were trying their hardest to pick out some tasty bugs just above the water. This I’m sure set the trend for the rest of the day as we slipped and slid along the gantry back to the cars where some of our group were glad of the warmth of the vehicles, one member of our group could never ever wear enough clothes to keep her warm, good job she has chocolate on hand to ease the cold.
Once again this week the swans were spread out in many locations and all were visible even those who were at a great distance. It was just as I had finished scanning some swans that Barry said don’t put the scope away there is something in the trees about 5 miles away, with the scope at nearly full throttle we could just make out our first Peregrine Falcon; the other being on Koksilah Road.
The big “S’ had followed us around with much falling on the hillsides, we did get a bit of dandruff here and there but nothing worth worrying about. As we went down Drinkwater Road I shouted look did you see that, which in turn caused Barry to slam on the breaks and slide on the gravel, which in turn woke up the passengers in the back seat who were having a little nap. I apologized for sighting the sun and causing the others to think that I had seen some rare species; well on this day it was.
After lunch we carried on counting swans here and there and I knew it was going to be a good count, one long distance sighting was a immature Tundra Swan up on Bench Road, there well could have been an adult out there, just too far away to be sure; maybe next week.
As our day came close to ending we found ourselves on Willmot Road where a young eagle sat down low in a tree, we stopped and observed and then moved on, suddenly Dorothy started to shout “shrike shrike!”, we were to far along when we were told that it was sitting right beside us in a bush, we radioed the following car and as they pulled along side the Northern Shrike for some snaps the beast took off cross the field. Oh well you can’t get them all.
We ended our day on the dock road as the “S” started in earnest and a Great Blue Heron sat up high on the Osprey platform, I wondered if it had heard about a major dump and was getting some elevation, not wanting to get it half way up it’s legs.
That was it great day counting and birding and what we saw we were truly thankful.


Eurasian wigeon

Uphill swans


Highrise Great Blue Heron

Spot the immature swan

Dark phase red-tailed hawk

Dark phase red-tailed hawk

Photo Credits
High-rise Heron by Derrick Marven
Spot the immature swan by Derrick Marven
Eurasian Wigeon by Kurlene Wenberg
Merlin by Zan Stenhouse
Uphill Swans by Zan Stenhouse
Dark phase Red-tailed Hawks by Barry Hetschko