The Whistler birding year was a good one on the whole, 164 species of the 175 on the now out-dated Checklist of Whistler Birds were sighted, some only once, but it is an outstanding recovery at 93.1 per cent.
At the close of last year, however, the updated amended list stood at 224 species. Over the year careful examination of all records in the four volume Birds of British Columbia, in the library at Pemberton, has turned up at least five new additions, and possibly three more, because their mapping extends south of the Whistler Checklist area.
Over the year we also sighted some of the amended additions (12) and added two new ones: the Black and White warbler, and the infamous Ground dove which could not be identified to the exact species, Ground or Ruddy. So of the 231 species now recognized, 177 were bagged, netting a more typical recovery of 76.6 per cent; par for the course.
The highlight of the year was the re-discovery of breeding Wood ducks at Alta Lake, suspected from a few years ago when Nancy Ricker, Vicky Troup and Max Götz patrolled the local waterways on a regular basis.
Another is the unusual number of White-tailed ptarmigan sightings over the summer and autumn, but I fear the black-tailed species, Rock and Willow are now extirpated, never to be seen again unless they are re-introduced by man’s intervention.
We also did quite well with several sightings of Mew, California, Western and Bonaparte gulls and luckily saw a Common tern. Franklin’s gull and Caspian terns, however, didn’t make it.
After a long hiatus the Breeding Survey spotted a Morning dove on the north edge of the checklist area but the re-named Rock pigeon (formerly Rock dove alias domestic pigeon) has not been seen in years – thank goodness!
On the raptor front, Rough-legged hawks were seen only at Black Tusk Meadows, and Turkey vultures at Black Tusk Village. The falcons listed were seen but the Peregrine was a no-show and we are still awaiting our first Gyrfalcon – seen at Ladner on several Christmas counts.
All of the owls listed, except the Spotted, were seen or heard, including the very elusive Boreal which hooted in daylight hours in my back yard. Spotteds are now known from at least two localities to the south of Mount Currie.
Another owl flew across Shadow Lake defying identification in the early summer; it may have been a Short or Long-eared owl, both of which are known to be in the Pemberton area.
In the song birds the Dusky flycatcher was a rare "spot" near the Lorimer Road cul-de-sac and at Shadow Lake, and the Says phoebe, early spring at Alpha Lake, was a "bird alert" for the Vancouver area, also seen at Squamish.
Mountain chickadees are always hard to identify because they are shy and won’t sit still, but a few appeared at feeders. Mountain bluebirds, on the other hand, escaped detection, and a Western bluebird has not been seen for several years.
Of the warblers, rarely seen Redstarts were spotted on a few occasions, and the Tennessee-Nashville twosome showed up, the latter may be a local breeder. Northern waterthrush were in the bushes at Alta Lake and in Marsi Danielson’s back yard at Squamish!
Finally, our indomitable birder, Dr. Heather Baines, had a rarely found American tree sparrow in her back yard at Black Tusk Village.
Over the spring and summer there were several sightings of Ruffed grouse which, after years of very few sightings, appear to be making a comeback at Whistler.
Monthly Bird Walk: The next bird walk will take place on Saturday, Feb. 7. Join Whistler experts in the monthly update of our feathered locals and migrants.
Written by: Karl Ricker