Occasional Visitors To Malcolm Island

The following story and photos were submitted by Malcolm Island Bird Club member Gord Curry. Thanks again for your ongoing contributions to the MIBC blog Gord, and for your ongoing support for club activities.

I am genuinely excited to see a bird for the first time in my life or even regularly once a year. Some birds briefly pass through my gaze long enough to identify. A few birds provided examples of this when spring was nearing closure.

A regular visitor has been the mourning dove who arrives feeds at my feeding station and is gone in only a day or two. I may see it again towards autumn, if I am lucky.

This mourning dove was feeding up before moving on. Gord Curry Photo

A species that is increasingly present but still only briefly is the black-headed grosbeak. I saw a male in the yard and singing in the neighbourhood trees for a couple of days. Tina Turner saw another out in Mitchell Bay at the other end of Malcolm Island. They may have been migrating through to the B.C. Interior, although they are breeding on southern Vancouver Island and moving north. It would be fun and satisfying to confirm their breeding on Malcolm Island.

This black-headed grosbeak checked out the neighbourhood before disappearing. Gord Curry Photo

Another visitor was here just long enough for me to scramble to take a blurry picture, helping to confirm its identification, before it was gone. It was a lifer for me! This first year male Bullock’s oriole was outside the window in a red elderberry bush and then gone in a flash.

A brief encounter with a Bullock’s oriole (first year male) Gord Curry Photo

These are brief but rewarding encounters.

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Leucistic Birds Back In The Area

This partially leucistic American robin was spotted near Cluxewe campsite. Bob McDougall Photo
This partially leucistic American robin was spotted in a school playing field in Port McNeill. Peter Curtis Photo
Categories: Bird Sightings | 1 Comment

Expanding Birding Observations to the Waters around Malcolm Island – A Pilot Project

The following story and photos were submitted by MIBC member Danielle Lacasse. Thanks so much for sharing such a great story and fabulous photos with us Danielle!

With a daunting wind forecast and grey skies overhead, eight excited birders set out from Malcolm Island on April 23rd to see what birds awaited them. Aboard the Elimar, a 30 ft aluminum landing craft, birders could be content inside with a heated cabin, big windows and head (washroom). They could also be happy outside with the ample deck space which made for a great viewing platform to spot different species from all angles.

Map showing route of the Elimar. Image compiled by Danielle Lacasse

The boat went west out and around Pulteney Point and tried to head toward Numas Island in Queen Charlotte Strait. Due to the wind and waves, that plan was quickly abandoned and we continued along Malcolm Island into Weynton Pass.  After checking out the various small passages in between islands, we stopped and had lunch (hot vegetable soup and cookies) at Pearse Island. From there, we quickly buzzed past the Nimpkish Estuary on our way back to Sointula.

This black-bellied plover was foraging in the tide wash at Lizard Point. Danielle Lacasse Photo
A double-crested cormorant dries its wings on a rocky islet in the Broughtons. Danielle Lacasse Photo

While out on the water, we observed 31 different species of birds. Some highlights of the trip were a black-bellied plover in breeding plumage and two least sandpipers at Lizard Point. There were large numbers of white-winged scoters and surf scoters spotted.

A sea otter appears to be eyeing up a pair of glacous-winged gulls on the north side of Malcolm Island. Danielle Lacasse Photo

It wasn’t just a trip for bird watching. We observed sea otters at various points along the trip. The sea lion haul-out in Weynton Passage was plenty stinky with all the animals hanging out on the rocks. We were also cautiously observed by some curious harbour seals while having our lunch in the Pearse group.

The Elimar is owned and operated by Steve Lacasse of Sun Fun Divers.

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22nd Annual Spring Count a Gusty Event

Participants in the 22nd Annual Doug Innes Memorial Malcolm Island Spring Bird Count pause in front of the Sointula Co-op for a group photo before heading out.

Wind and rainy weather may have resulted in a slightly lower species count but it did not dampen the spirits of participants in the 22nd annual Doug Innes Memorial Malcolm Island Spring Bird Count on the weekend of April 23-24.

Brad and Diane Culling check out a short-billed dowitcher and a group of about 75 black turnstones on the north side of Malcolm Island. Gord Curry Photo

About 30 people attended presentations by Art Martell on highlights and trends over 20 years of spring bird counts on Malcolm Island, Gord Curry on a recent irruption of short-tailed shearwaters in the waters around Malcolm Island and Danielle Lacasse on her experiences during a fall trip to Triangle Island.

This American pipit was one of a group of 15 spotted at Mitchell Bay. Gord Curry Photo

The Saturday presentations were preceded by a pelagic tour around Malcolm Island and the Broughtons. The trip, which featured numerous bird sightings, including a black bellied plover, marbled murrelets, pigeon guillemots, white-winged scoters and black oystercatchers was a ‘pilot’ to explore whether an annual tour might be offered during the count weekend. Stay tuned for further details!

Steller jays were somewhat scarce during the 2022 count. Bob McDougall Photo

Copies of the April, 2020 ‘Checklist of Malcolm Island Birds’ were distributed during the count weekend. Our thanks to Art Martell for collecting and organizing data for the checklist, to Gord Curry for gathering and reviewing data for the checklist, to all the Christmas and spring bird count participants who have contributed observations dating back to 1991, to Kerri Reid for her illustrations and to Jenn Bishop for setting up the graphics and making arrangements for printing.

Only one pileated woodpecker was spotted during this year’s count. Bob McDougall Photo

Participants counted a total of 69 species and 2,334 individuals around Malcolm Island, including a Lincoln’s sparrow, pileated woodpecker, short-billed dowitchers and American pipits. While the windy weather may have contributed to a lower species count this year (10 less than last year), total number of individuals was up by over 600 birds.

Additional species observed by Gord Curry, outside the normal count time but on the day of the count, included a red-winged blackbird, brown-headed cowbird, band tailed pigeon, house finch and house sparrow.

For full count results, download the file below.

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22nd Annual Spring Bird Count Weekend Set For April 23-24th

Short-tailed shearwaters displaying their rounded head, steep sloped forehead, short thin bill and whitish area on the throat area. Gord Curry Photo.

For the first time since 2019, this year’s Doug Innes Memorial Malcolm Island Spring Bird Count will include Saturday presentations starting at 2 p.m. at the Sointula Athletic Hall. Longtime MIBC member and supporter Art Martell will review highlights and trends from 2001-2021, followed by a look at a recent irruption of short-tailed shearwaters around Malcolm Island by Sointula’s intrepid birder Gord Curry, and then a ‘Trip to Triangle,’ featuring photos and stories from a pelagic tour of Triangle Island, shared by one of MIBC’s newest members Danielle Lacasse.

The 22nd annual spring bird count starts at 9 a.m. outside the Sointula Co-op on Sunday, April 24th.

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22nd Annual Doug Innes Memorial Spring Bird Count Set For April 24th

Malcolm Island Bird Club member Peter Curtis spotted this snow bunting passing through Beach Camp, near Port McNeill earlier this month. Peter Curtis Photo

You can mark Sunday, April 24th on your calendar for the 22nd annual Doug Innes Memorial Malcolm Island Spring Bird Count.

This year’s count will feature presentations on Saturday at the Athletic Hall, including a 20-year review of trends and highlights from Art Martell, a look at an irruption of short-tailed shearwaters with Gord Curry and a ‘trip to Triangle Island,’ with Danielle Lacasse.

Organizers are hoping to offer a short pelagic trip in the Broughtons on Saturday morning. Watch our blog for further updates on this.

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British Columbia Broughton Strait (BCBR) Christmas Bird Count #122

The following story was submitted by Broughton Strait Christmas Bird Count Coordinator and Malcolm Island Bird Club member Gord Curry. Many thanks for your ongoing contributions to the MIBC blog Gord.

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season started December 14 and ended on January 5, marking the 122nd consecutive year of this snapshot of bird data. For the Broughton Strait CBC this was the 26th count since it started in this area in 1995. As in other areas the BCBR is a circle with a diameter of 24 kilometers basically including Cormorant Island, Malcolm Island and the area around Port McNeill.

Pigeon guillemots like this one were a welcome sight during the 26th Broughton CBC. Danielle Lacasse Photo.

This season’s count was on January 2, 2022, and the weather was a challenge. Heavy snowfall the night before, high tides during the count and a stiff breeze made for an added challenge to all those who participated. Despite the weather and some areas not covered, this year’s team managed the highest species count in the past eight years and the 5th highest since 1995! Past species counts range from a high of 80 and low of 55, therefore 76 for this count reflects the tenacity of the local birders.

Beyond the value of the bird data this count reflects an opportunity for like-minded volunteers to gather (within Covid protocols for 2 years now) outdoors and share in a valuable activity with friends. This long time series of bird data is becoming of more value as the years go by providing insights into changes affecting birds in this area.

Northern shovellers in Rough Bay Harbour. Gord Curry Photo

Fingers crossed for better weather for CBC #123 and Covid conditions being more manageable next season allowing for improved connections with friends. Thanks to all those who participated in the field or monitoring their yard and feeders who made this year’s count such a success.

All the best

Gord Curry

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Malcolm Island CBC Participants Undaunted by Winter Weather

A winter snow storm did not stop a small and determined group of Malcolm Island birders from participating in the 30th annual Christmas Bird Count here on January 2nd.

Bob, Ross and Linda with Piper. Gord Curry Photo

Intrepid Malcolm Island Bird Club member Gord Curry led the way, covering the Rough Bay route, a portion of Kaleva Road and Mitchell Bay. For the first time in many years, Gord was unable to cover the North Shore and Pulteney Point, due to heavy snow on the roads.

Hooded mergansers in Rough Bay Harbour. Gord Curry Photo

Ivan Dubinsky provided observations for the east end of Kaleva and Ross and Linda Weaver and Bob Field joined Gord to cover as much of the Mitchell Bay route as snow conditions would allow. Contributions from backyard birders Betty Carlson, Pam Mantle, Chris Hurst and Heather Barker, along with a short tour of Vilen Road by Annemarie Koch, and Gord’s results from a count in his backyard in town rounded out the observations for the Rough Bay and town section of the count.

Varied thrush female at Gord’s feeders. There were varied thrush everywhere. Gord Curry Photo
Varied thrush like this one were everywhere in the Rough Bay count area. Danielle Lacasse Photo

Count participants recorded a respectable 65 species and almost 1,300 individuals, including some Anna’s hummingbirds, a sharp-shinned hawk, western grebe and many varied thrush.

There were a few double crested and pelagic cormorants like these ones spotted during the count. Danielle Lacasse Photo

Our thanks to Port McNeill birder Danielle Lacasse for sharing some of her photos with us from pre-count week forays and, once again, to Gord Curry for contributing his wonderful photos from the Malcolm Island portion of the Broughton CBC.

Northern shovelers picking their way through the ice in Rough Bay. Gord Curry Photo

Our thanks to everyone who braved the elements to ensure that the 30th annual CBC on Malcolm Island was carried out. For complete results of the CBC, please download the file below.

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Bird Research Is At Our Doorstep

The following story and photos were submitted by Malcolm Island Bird Club member Gord Curry. Many thanks for your keen observations and contributions to this blog Gord. Thanks Gord, in particular, for coordinating the Broughton Strait Christmas Bird Count, which will take place this time around on January 2,2022.

On November 11, 2021, I was doing a bird count along Kaleva Road and in the distance, I saw twenty-five Canada Geese, but one was wearing a red neck collar. I have seen this type of band in the past when Vancouver Island University banded local Nanaimo geese to determine how much they dispersed. We had a couple here on Malcolm Island, the most northerly record for these banded geese.

Two days later I found four geese with red collars hanging out together in Rough Bay and since the tide was high, I was able to get close enough to read the white numbers and letters on the collar. These Canada’s were of a larger darker variety compared to the local smaller lighter residents who do not migrate.

All four Rough Bay dusky Canada geese with red neck collars and gray right leg bands. Gord Curry Photo

The following day I was able to record the code from the Kaleva bird I had seen and found another in Rough Bay too far out to get the band code. Having the five codes, I knew I was able to obtain details about these birds.

Dusky Canada geese (Branta canadensis occidentalis) are a Canada goose subspecies that only breed in the Copper River Delta and islands of Prince William Sound, in Alaska. They winter in the Willamette Valley and lower Columbia River in Washington and Oregon. Since these geese have the lowest population numbers (average approx. 10-15,000) in North America, primarily due to loss of wintering habitat, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service continue to study them. Tagging programs are one method of study.

Three of the Duskies in their festive colours having a good feed. Gord Curry Photo

Interestingly, all four geese in Rough Bay and the one out Kaleva Road were tagged near Cordova, Alaska on July 21, 2021. These three males and two females were all hatched in 2020 or earlier. Tagging results have proven that some of these geese temporarily stop over and feed at Haida Gwaii and along Vancouver Island. This data has come from neck band codes reported to www.reportband.gov

The lone Kaleva Road Dusky. Gord Curry Photo

I am still trying to find the one that got away.

Categories: Gord's Birds "I" View | 1 Comment

A Visit To Creston Valley Marsh

The following story and photos were submitted by MIBC member Gord Curry. Thanks so much for your steady contributions to the blog Gord, for all the posts and information your provide for budding birders on Malcolm Island, and for your ongoing support for MIBC.

I love all the varied coastal habitats where I live on Malcolm Island, but I have a yearning each fall for a taste of something different. Autumn in the interior of British Columbia is full of splashes of colour amongst grassland, sage, aspen, freshwater habitat, and the gradation of flora and fauna as you trek up into the alpine. This year my focus was the Kootenay’s Creston Valley Marsh.

Autumn colours on the drive to Creston Marsh. Gord Curry Photo

After a drive through the splendor of the B.C. Southern Interior I made it to the Creston Valley Marsh. It is on the eastern side of the Crowsnest Pass just before you arrive at the town of Creston. It was late so I wanted to get a peek at the marsh, map of the trails and have a quick look for birds, all in preparation for spending October 5th exploring the area.

Red-winged blackbirds gathering and feeding during their migration. Gord Curry Photo

The day dawned perfect so after securing a wonderful latte at a downtown coffee shop, I was off with a plan of attack. Armed with binoculars, camera, day pack and bear spray, as you are virtually always in bear country, I set off on the longest trails. The trails are flat easy walking along dikes that help keep the marsh filled with water. There is also one well-placed raised viewing platform. Aspen, poplar, and many varieties of low shrubs grow along the dikes while most of the bird action is in the ponds, grasses, reeds, and cattails. Fall migration was on display. The air was filled with sounds of waterfowl while the dominating spectacle was the honking from flocks of Canada and greater white-fronted geese as they gradually descended into the marsh. They had been feeding in the fertile agricultural fields in the valley earlier in the morning and were coming back into the safety of the marsh.

Great-horned owl preening its feet showing off its talons. Gord Curry Photo

After my immersion in the sights and sounds of the waterfowl migration, I had unexpected encounters with three raptors. The first was a great-horned owl resting in a poplar high above the trail. It was wary but not too concerned with my presence as it preened while I watched. The next was a surprise as a juvenile red-tailed hawk landed nearby, surveyed the surroundings and was off, again on the prowl. The third highlight was another great-horned owl, it was so close I would have had to slosh through the marsh to give it more space. It was clear that this was a common occurrence for this owl as it just sat there occasionally looking at me. Several people probably walked right by this magnificent bird before me. My cell phone camera was easy and suitable for good photos it was so close.

A surprise close encounter with a second great-horned owl. Gord Curry Photo

Often, I know where and when to explore various birding hotspots, but a really valuable book has expanded my search for wonderful places to visit. Russell and Richard Cannings authored the “Best Places to Bird in British Columbia” and I always refer to it whenever I am off to areas of the province with which I am less familiar.

Juvenile red-tailed hawk searching for prey. Gord Curry Photo

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