Our trip to British Columbia was a hurriedly arranged affair. Sandra’s parents were going to be with us for a month and they were quite keen to have something in there a little different. Previous visits by them to Canada have included jaunts to Boston, Niagara and even The Yucatan Peninsula. Options from Nova Scotia are somewhat limited, you can do Caribbean islands, some cheaply, some costing an arm and an inheritance, but BC was possible, also it was somewhere Sandra and I had wanted to visit but needed the spur of pleasing the elders to go. Not that there isn’t a lot of stuff to see in BC, but birds for buck it had always been beaten by Central America previously.
In thinking about lodgings we had two options. Travel and stay, OK for young gadabouts but the elderly like to get settled in and the curtains drawn before dark, I can see the appeal, or have a home base. We cast around the Web to see what options we had and Sandra found a cottage in Langley for rent. The cottage was set in nicely wooded grounds and was close to the main highway feed for the mountains and the coast, ideal. A real bonus was the availability of a trail out back on the property which meant local birding right from the door. Phil, our host, graciously allowed access outside the regular trail hours, birders like to be their when the sparrows are rubbing their eyes after a good night’s sleep, the very best time to bird. Also it was baking hot most days, a sure way to send the birds into a sleepy torpor for most of the day so the advantage of an early morning walk was not to be sniffed at.
Our birding around the property included the deck and trails and we saw 33 species: Mallard, Common Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Western Gull (types), California Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Rock Pigeon, Band-tailed Pigeon. Black Swift (good to see anywhere), Anna’s Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Willow Flycatcher, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Steller’s Jay, Northwestern Crow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee. Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch. Bewick’s Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, American Robin, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, American Goldfinch.
Without doubt more attention, especially during May and September would add many species to that list, but our time was limited and so we only had what I would describe as a cursory look.
The property held two couples in comfort, had all amenities with a good WiFi connction, so vital these days. The hot weather meant that we spent lots of time on the deck, that is when not heading from place to place around Vancouver and the adjacent Cascades. Langley has a few birder attractions including some nicely kept parks and a wildlife area. I didn’t notice what are probably the best local lakes until we’d come back, but I suspect them to be only seasonally interesting anyway.
Our week flew by with all but one night spent in the cottage, that one was spent on Vancouver Island at Tofino, more on that later. July is not the best month for birding anywhere in the northern hemisphere and so we didn’t quite see as many species as we’d like. The first life bird came as we crossed the road to the car rental place, Northwestern Crow. It is different from the American Crows with which I am so familiar, but it takes a birder to notice so different so the avian scientists who mess about with our species lists may well lump this one at some point.
Next post covers a jaunt to the Manning Park area, a mountain reserve with plenty of bird activity. Here are photos of birds taken in the cottage grounds.
This Pacific-slope Flycatcher came low one morning, sallying from the Apple Tree in front of the deck. Luckily I had the camera ready, usually they are way up and hard to even see.
Bewick’s Wrens chattered from the trail.
A Northwestern Crow taking a bath. To my eyes they are a small crow with a different shape and they sound quite different from American Crow.
A Dark-eyed Junco of the ‘Oregon’ form, seen daily around the property.
The photo won’t win any awards but this Black Swift passing over high one morning was unexpected.
Willow Flycatcher, a family party were along the trail.