Summer Birding in Whistler
By: Karl Ricker
Whistler Naturalists Society
Date: September 26, 2003
Summer season for birds was on track to previous years- many sightings in late June and early July, while migrants were still passing through and the flurry of establishing nesting sites for those who chose to hang around Whistler. Some species moved from valley bottom to the timberline area at this time including the Varied Thrush, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco and the American Pipit. Other broad valley bottom breeders disappeared to quietly raise their broods, and by mid-July the numbers and diversity of birds seen on any outing were fewer. In August it became noticeably quiet as some species began to leave southward in their migration season- the swallows and flycatchers. But, in the alpine floral season, the Rufous Hummingbirds had moved to up to take advantage of the new food resource. In September, the numbers began to pick-up; more migrants began to arrive; young broods were now flying about, and the crop of shrub berries was ripe for eating.
So by the end of the summer season on September 20, 132 species of birds were sighted, 106 of the 134 indicated on the “Checklist of Whistler Birds” for this season, and another 16 on the list which had been seen in other seasons. Of the ten not listed at all, only the Black and White Warbler seen on September 4th on the valley trail near Rainbow Park is a first record. As luck would have it, Black and White Warblers were seen in Squamish for the first time ten days later! Nine others not listed, with limited prior records, are the following: Red-Breasted Merganser, Rough-legged Hawk, Semipalmated Sandpiper; Western and California Gulls, Dusky Flycatcher, Veery, Nashville and Northern Waterthrush Warblers.
Of the 28 species on the summer list which were not seen by the semi-organized birders groups, most are those noted to be “rare” or “very rare”. However some listed as “uncommon” were missed as well; perhaps other residents of the Whistler community saw the following: Harlequin Duck (spring), Northern Pygmy Owl, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Mountain Chickadee, Lincoln Sparrow, Gray-crowned Rosy Finch (spring), Purple Finch, White-winged Crossbill and Evening Grosbeak (known to hang around feeders). On the very rare list, Anna’s Hummingbird was seen at a feeder and a Golden Eagle harassed by crows were duking it out over Whistler Mountain. Again, it was a poor season for most raptors with few sighting of any species and the only owl was a Great Horned hooting about Blueberry Hill in mid September. Green Heron’s finally showed up in September and a long lost Ruffed Grouse, which use to be easy to find but has disappeared in recent years, was found near Tapley’s Farm on the September 5th public bird walk.
Autumn migration is now in full force, would you believe, the first day of autumn coincided with the arrival of the Long-billed Dowitcher at Green Lake, and nine Barrow’s Goldeneye Ducks were migrating aloft, using barren Wedgemount Lake, of all places, for a stop-over rest. That added some variety to a day of surveying the glacier!