Friday, March 15, 2013

Red-flanked Bluetail and Brambling, Wednesday, March 13

After an excellent and refreshing night of rest, the first in several days, I arrived at Queen's Park, New Westminster at 8:30 am, the first birder there.  I walked around the park checking all the locations where the Red-flanked Bluetail had been located, particularly near the children's playground and a large fallen log and some deciduous bushes.  There were Red-breasted Nuthatches calling in the tall conifer trees, Brown Creepers at ground level before they started their feeding up the trunks, Yellow-rumped Warbler, probably Audubon's race, singing, Black-capped Chickadees, American Robins, and the funny crows.  I decided that the funny crows were Northwestern Crows, based on smaller size than American Crows and the lower, hoarser voice.  If local birders showed up, I would ask them to verify this identification, because Northwestern Crow is somewhat of a controversial species, thought by many to be a race of American Crow and not a real species.  At 9:30 am, I had covered most of the park, and there were no other birders present.  I still had cell phone service, so I called John Puschock, who had been to this location and saw the bird, to verify that I was looking in the right places.  He verified that I was, that I should walk slowly and spend a lot of time near the children's playground.  As we were speaking on the phone, I saw two men with binoculars focusing on the spot near the children's play ground, and thanked John for his help again.  I was in the pavilion north of the children's playground.  I walked over and met Dan and Patrick Westfield, a father and son, from Victoria.  Two more sets of eyes would help.  We agreed to split up and keep in touch.  Soon after meeting Dan and Patrick, I found a Pacific Wren, first by its slightly different call notes than the eastern Winter Wren and then by the buffy face and darker back.  At least three more birders showed up as well as a dog walker, who said he saw the Bluetail last week.  At least three of these people, said the Bluetail had been also seen recently in the north part of the park north of the pavilion.   I found out that people are depositing bird seed on the ground at several locations north of the pavilion.  I also spent some time trying to get photographs of Varied Thrushes, but the light was very dim and photography was essentially impossible, at least with my set of skills and equipment.  Some time after 11:00 am, I started a slow walk north through the conifer stand on the west side of the park.  I decided a regular pattern of coverage of the park was needed.  When I reached the northern edge of the park, I crossed the walking path and started back toward the pavilion, checking around and under bushes and trees.  I found a small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, Oregon race, which are also common in the park, working around some leafless deciduous bushes and some conifers.  Suddenly, I noticed small brownish backed thrush on the grass, and could see orange sides.  It was the Red-flanked Bluetail, a Eurasian thrush.   It was 11:30 am.  The bird flew to the right under a thick conifer that looked like a sequoia to me, with branches that came close to the ground and provided good cover.  I saw Dan Westfield, and motioned him to come quickly.  However, by the time Patrick and Dan joined me, the bird was being secretive under this thick conifer.  We caught several glimpses, but never a good clear look.  There were Varied Thrushes and juncos under this tree, but the Bluetail seemed to have disappeared at least for the moment.  We focused our attention in the area and I followed up on a lead of a bird that flew away from this area toward the pavilion.  Close to 12:30 pm, I returned to this conifer tree to find Patrick watching patiently.  He had not found the bird, but asked me to look at a bird sitting in the deciduous bush where I first found the Red-flanked Bluetail.  His binoculars were fogged, but he thought it was the Bluetail.  It was the Red-flanked Bluetail, again!  We got Dan, his dad, over and all three of us got excellent looks, including seeing the light eye ring and the bluish tail and rump.  I tried photos but without success.  Dan and Patrick were especially thrilled, because they had tried a month ago and missed the bird when everyone else saw it.  Patrick used auto settings on his camera and got two identifiable photos shown below, which Patrick sent to me and I modified somewhat in Adobe Photoshop.
Red-flanked Bluetail is a life bird for me, number 791 of the ABA area and it is a life bird for Dan and Patrick also.  Dan, Patrick and I were ecstatic as we said our goodbyes.  Patrick gave me his card, and I promised to send him an e-mail with my blog location, which I was able to do last night.  Dan and Patrick recommended that I take the Horseshoe Bay Ferry to Nanaimo to try for the Citrine Wagtail.  This would save me some driving.  But first I needed to go see the Brambling in Vancouver.  However, my lack of internet access on my phone was a problem, but only temporarily.  I had the address and location printed out from NARBA (North America Rare Bird Alert), and now needed an old-fashioned

idea, a map.  I purchased a street map at the gas station I stopped at last night and found my way slowly but surely to the feeder on 17th Street W visible from an alley behind the yard.  I found the Brambling quite easily, actually more easily than finding the location from a map.  Also at this feeder were Golden-crowned Sparrows, a new bird for the year, and Fox Sparrows.  I also heard a towhee singing, but never saw it.  I suspect Spotted Towhee, but will wait until I see one to count it, because I am not really acquainted that well with Spotted Towhee song.  I did manage a few but not good photos (See below) of the Brambling and the Golden-crowned Sparrow, but conditions were very poor and the birds hid in the blackberry bramble bush.  The black head and orange on the breast 

and throat is visible on the Brambling.  The start of the golden crown is visible on the sparrow.  I needed to find the Horseshoe Bay BC Ferry Terminal.  The ferries were not shown on  my Vancouver street map.  However, I found a laminated map of Vancouver that showed the ferry locations, and made my way to the Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay (Nanaimo) Ferry.  The old fashioned way of negotiating on birding trips is the way I have done most of my birding until I got a cell phone in 2010.  To me, it is a tried and true way!  I waited for the 7:00 pm ferry, and arrived at about 8:40 pm in Nanaimo.  From literature on the ferry, I found a Best Western Motel (free Wifi and breakfast) on the north side of Nanaimo, conveniently located for the drive north to Courtenay to try for the

Citrine Wagtail tomorrow morning.  I added Northwestern Crow, Red-flanked Bluetail,

Pacific Wren, Brambling and Golden-crowned
Sparrow to make the total 174.

There is more success to report, but I need to go birding.  I'll try to report again from my hotel in Seattle while I wait for tomorrows flight.

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