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Wintering species are arriving

Good Birding

The Sunshine Coast has four well-defined birding seasons, and we are now well into the fall season as our common wintering species begin to arrive for their winter residency. The most obvious of these species are Barrow’s goldeneyes and buffleheads, which return in huge numbers from their freshwater breeding lakes all across interior and northern Canada. As the interior water bodies begin to freeze over, the ducks return to the balmy waters of the Salish Sea to winter. Joe Harrison reported the first Barrow’s goldeneyes of the winter on Oct. 18 at Oyster Bay, Pender Harbour, one day later than last year.

On Redrooffs Road in Halfmoon Bay, a sure sign of the fall season is hearing the call of the small but ferocious northern pygmy owl. These tiny birds are quite vocal, especially at dusk, as they reappear at sea-level after spending the summer in the mountains. Their call is a long series of rapid “hoo” notes. Pygmy owls are the second most commonly reported owl on the Sunshine Coast, after their much larger brethren, the barred owl. Saw-whet owls are also fairly common in the fall but are rarely seen or heard as they migrate unseen through our area.

Rarer species reported in October have been both swamp and white-throated sparrows, and a rock wren has been present among the rocks along the Roberts Creek breakwater. The wren is a rare visitor to the coast of BC from its usual interior haunts in the Okanagan.

 At this time of the year, all hummingbirds on the Sunshine Coast are likely to be our common wintering species, Anna’s hummingbird. After Sept. 1, it is very unusual to find any remaining individuals of the abundant summering species, rufous hummingbird, as they return to their wintering grounds in Mexico. However, Robin Merrifield sent me some fine photographs of a male rufous that remains at his West Sechelt feeder along with the Anna’s. There are very few reports of rufous from October to December, so it will be interesting to see how long this bird lingers. There is a single record of a rufous hummingbird overwintering on the Sunshine Coast in the winter of 1980-81, also in West Sechelt.

To report your sightings or questions, contact or 604-885-5539.