By: Karl Ricker
Date: April 14, 2010
Winter birding about Whistler began on Dec. 1 and concluded with the closing of the Olympic Games. The Games did cut down on the days of observations with only one full traverse on the valley floor coupled with a few scattered mid-mountain observations in February.
Despite the limitation, 60 of the known 124 species on our checklist were observed during the winter. Obviously a few early migrants were missed during Olympic Games time.
The highlight for the season came from the mountainside with both White-tailed and rock ptarmigans seen on two or more occasions. The latter was spotted twice along the Excalibur Chair by Bonnie Hawkes and it represents a confirmed return of the species – last seen in this neck of the woods in 1965!
It was a good season for members of the Finch family with seven species reported on several occasions, with Evening grosbeaks being the highlight at Tapley’s Farm.
Flying about Meadow Park one day were Eurasian Collared doves which are now spreading throughout North America from a source in southeastern U.S.A. Normally they are only seen locally once or twice a summer but several Christmas Bird Counts in Canada are now recording their winter presence.
It was also a good winter for raptors, thanks to the presence of their fare – Pine siskins in flocks of 30 or more. All three accipiter hawks – Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and Northern goshawks – were about.
The odd Bald eagle monitored the garbage and recycling centre and there was also one report of a Rough-legged hawk. Merlin sightings, however, were also among the most frequent.
While we are always lax on the search for owls, our two smallest varieties – Northern pygmy and Northern saw-whet – did have run-ins with windows.
On the water front (what little there was unfrozen) seven species of ducks and Trumpeter swans were about, the usual paddlers being a pair of Hooded mergansers.
The Great blue heron seen at the float plane dock during Christmas did not fare too well. It was seen dead in the water in January. The cause of death is not known.
Those watchers with active feeders had small numbers of our usual winter songbirds and woodpeckers. I thank one and all for looking after them, otherwise it would have been a dull winter without their neighbourhood music. However, now is the time to put the feeders away because the bears are emerging from hibernation!