It’s officially the fall! How do I know? I went out on my deck this morning and my face was immediately wrapped in unseen spider’s webs….
September is a month of transition for the Sunshine Coast’s birds, with the final departure of the many summering species and the first arrival of our wintering birds. In addition, a number of species are just passing through in their fall migration, as they neither summer nor winter here. Sparrows are often generically understood by non-birders to be anonymous “little brown jobs” (LBJs) that warrant little attention, but this is not true for the birding community. During September, millions of sparrows are on the move and the Sunshine Coast sees its fair share. Please note that the following comments do not apply to the mis-named house sparrow (an introduced weaver-finch), which is found in urban locations.
Sparrows are seed-eaters and the best places to encounter them are any location with dry grasses or where other plants have gone to seed. One of the best locations meeting this requirement right now is the Gospel Rock area, where the grasses, thistles, other flowers, and berry bushes all yield an abundance of seeds. Any of seven different sparrow species may be commonly encountered here, and there is always the possibility of an unexpected rarity appearing. In total, 14 species with “sparrow” in their name have been recorded on the Sunshine Coast.
The Sunshine Coast usually has only one sparrow that is here year-round: the song sparrow. In recent decades, white-crowned sparrows, which are one of the most abundant of our summering birds, have become much more common as a wintering species, likely due to increasing urbanization and the provision of bird feeders. In mid-September Lincoln’s sparrow, which breeds in the boreal zone, is an abundant migrant, as are savannah sparrows. September also brings the first fox sparrows, which winter here in abundance, and the first golden-crowned sparrows, most of which are passing through, with only a handful staying to winter.
Chipping sparrows are usually quite rare in our area, but there has been an abnormally high number of reports this year. Vesper sparrow is a rarity on the coast of B.C. but there have been numerous records of the species this year in both spring and fall, with most sightings in the Gibsons area, including Gospel Rock (Karen Holland/ Mari Petznek).
Other than the sparrows, there is much to see in almost any habitat. In the sky, watch for migrating raptors including northern harrier, peregrine falcon, osprey and turkey vulture. On the Salish Sea, loons and grebes are reappearing in good numbers. The shorebird migration is largely complete, but the wintering species are in place, as witnessed by the huge flock of 115 black oystercatchers reported at Mission Point on Sept. 7 by Arnold Skei.
To report your sightings or questions contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 885-5539. Good Birding.