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NatureSpeak Articles

Summer resident birds and other unusual passersby

This is the third in a four-part series on Whistler’s birds. In the first article the meagre list of winter residents was noted. In the second, the spring migration count and new surprise visitors were listed. At the close of spring migration, the question was: What species stop to hunker down at Whistler for the summer, noting also that autumn out-migration for a few species begins in August?

South-bound migration is now in full swing with new arrivals every day replacing both residents and those that have come from afar for a brief stopover.

Of the residents, the obvious success story is the ever-astonishing osprey nesting site, located on the opposite side of the highway from the Meadow Park Sports Centre. Two youngsters were successfully reared to full-fledge flying stature and the family should be heading south at any moment. Ospreys have used this nesting area for the last 80 years.

Another site is at Daisy Lake, and yet another is downstream of Garibaldi Station. While most summer residents breed here, according to theChecklist of Whistler Birds , our observations did not confirm such for several species (Common Loon, for example), but it is known that Great Blue Herons and Glaucous-winged Gulls do not nest in this area, despite their presence throughout the summer.

The Checklist of Whistler Birds indicates 134 species to be seen over the summer months – some of these, however, are early migrants, vagrants, or accidentals blown off course – while 85-95 are bona fide residents, at least in year 2002. Confirmed residents, 85 in total, are the following:

Waterfowl : Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Canada Goose, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Hooded and Common Mergansers.

Waders/Shorebirds : Great Blue Heron, Virginia Rail, Common Snipe, Spotted Sandpiper, and Glaucous-winged Gull.

Raptors : Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Merlin, and Great Horned and Barred Owls.

Game Birds : Ruffed, Spruce, and Blue Grouse, plus White-tailed Ptarmigan.

Woodpeckers : Red-breasted Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, and Downy, Hairy, Three-toed, and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Flycatchers : Olive-sided and Willow Flycatchers.

Swallows : Tree, Violet-green, Northern rough-winged, and Barn Swallows.

Corvids : Steller’s and Gray Jays, Clark’s Nutcracker, Northwestern Crow, and Common Raven.

Chickadees : Chestnut-backed, Black-capped, and Mountain Chickadees.

Thrushes : Townsend’s Solitaire, American Robin, and Swainson’s, Hermit, and Varied Thrushes.

Vireos : Red-eyed, Warbling, and Cassin’s Vireos.

Warblers : Common Yellowthroat, Orange-crowned, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Townsend’s, and McGillvray’s Warblers.

Sparrows : Rufous-sided Towhee, Dark-eyed Junco, and Fox, Song, White-crowned, and House Sparrows.

Blackbirds : Brown-headed Cowbird, and Red-winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds.

Grosbeaks : Black-headed and Evening Grosbeaks.

Finches : Pine Siskins, and Purple and House Finches.

Others : Band-tailed Pigeon, Common Nighthawk, Belted Kingfisher, Rufous Hummingbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, American Dipper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Western Tanager, and American Pipit.

The following 10 species may also be residents but the paucity of regular sightings has provided an indeterminate status for the time being: Green-backed Heron; Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Northern Harrier Hawks; Kestrel; Killdeer; Black and Vaux’s Swifts; Sora; and Gray-crowned rosy Finch. Most of these are shown to be local breeders on the checklist, which suggests urbanization is causing some displacement or even extirpation of some. For that matter, another 29 species on the checklist were not seen at all over the summer, while seven other listed breeders were seen only during spring and late summer migrations waves, suggesting that Whistler residency has been abandoned. Three other non-breeders on the summer checklist (two migrants and one vagrant) were also sighted, bringing the total species seen to 105 out of the 134 listed.

However, there were other surprise sightings. During August and September, 18 other early spring migrants on the checklist, including Mountain Bluebirds, passed through Whistler out of season. In addition, the following non-listed species were seen: Peregrine Falcon, Rough-legged Hawk, Mew and Western Gulls, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, and Nashville Warbler. There are a few prior records on each of these species. Others previously unrecorded but seen over the summer include: Say’s Phoebe, Tennessee Warbler, and the prize discovery, a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher on Aug. 6, which brings the overall summer season total to 134 observed species.

The all-season and amended Whistler checklist now stands at 220 species (formerly 175), out of a known 484 species listed in B.C. So there are likely several more species to uncover in the Whistler area, some of which could appear during the autumn migration period.

The final instalment of our local avian fauna will highlight this important period, appearing in NatureSpeak sometime in January 2003. Meanwhile, we will see you at the Christmas Bird Counts scheduled for Dec. 14 (Squamish), Dec. 15 (Pemberton), and here in Whistler on Dec. 21.

Upcoming Events:

Saturday, Oct. 5th — Whistler Bird Walk, 8 a.m . Meet at the bottom of Lorimer Road near the entrance to the Catholic Church. Novices and newcomers welcome. Please note later time!

Sunday, Oct. 6th, 8 a.m. — Squamish Bird Count. Meet at the Howe Sound Inn & Brew Pub in Squamish. All levels of birders are welcome on this half-day event sponsored by the Squamish Estuary Conservation Society.

Friday, Oct. 25th, 7:30 p.m. — The Mystical Milky Way and Other Galaxies , with John Nemy from the Pacific Observatory. Millennium Place.

Written by: Karl Ricker and Heather Baines


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