2012 was a banner year for Quesnel birders

Adrian Leather of the Quesnel Birding Club looks back on a very busy year for local birders

This flicker visits a local feeder during the cold winter months.

This flicker visits a local feeder during the cold winter months.

It’s been an overwhelming birding year! Indeed, I’m not sure there could be a better one, but you never know, and I’m sure it will be fun finding out.

I always recall arriving in Quesnel in 1997 and seeking out birders. It was difficult to believe but there didn’t seem to be any. I saw a newspaper photo of some guy in a Quesnel Christmas Bird Count and tried to track him down, only to find he’d left town. A few folks mentioned Adam Moss and others mentioned an Austrian gent, but most couldn’t place his name, then finally after about two years in Quesnel, I knocked on his door. He seemed a little taken-aback, but we talked birds and as time went by we began exchanging our sightings via e-mail. This led to the formation of Quesnel Birding Club, and gradually more Quesnel folks came out of their burrows, until we now have Q-Birds going out to over 150 e-mail addresses, mostly around Quesnel itself.

It seems to me that one of our greatest crimes as humans is indifference to nature, so it gives me so much pleasure to see others becoming more engaged with it in a positive way.

One of the unintended consequences of Q-Birds has been the myriad of incredible photos from Steve Smith, Clive Keen, Rod Sargent, Brian Murland and other members of QBC, photos that attract a lot of admiration. It has undoubtedly helped to bring local birding alive, and beats any textbook illustrations.

So, 2012, it certainly was a great way for life on the planet to end. So many memories – where to start? And where to end? The trip to Texas was simply mindblowing – I never attempted a report on it because I really wouldn’t know where to start and finish. I sometimes picture standing at Rollover Pass watching hundreds of American avocets working the shallows, with several species of tern flying around, a reddish egret posing and a flock of white ibis overhead, or the excitement of seeing a white-tailed kite, or having a morning serenade from a Swainson’s warbler, or watching a pair of yellow-crowned night herons nestbuilding. What a trip!

Then there was the awesome two-day field trips via B.C. Field Ornithologists, always a great time and a chance to catch-up with other birders around the province. And there was the BCFO AGM trips. Finally seeing a Dusky Grouse, my jinx bird, was a golden moment. Watching Williamson’s sapsuckers in the Merritt area was enthralling.

The trip to Washington was stupendous! There was Jerry McFetridge leaping boulders to see his first white-headed woodpecker. And then, following that trip, to have Dick and Russ Cannings point us in the right direction to see flammulated owl and common poorwill was just the icing-on-the-cake!

Another wonderful memory was the pelagic trip via WildResearch, a great opportunity for a return visit to Ucluelet. There we were back on land with a few hours of birding remaining, setting out to search for surfbirds and wandering tattlers – not many of those around Quesnel! The clock was ticking and we were enjoying luck of the bad variety when suddenly, there they were, nine or so surfbirds, with raging sea pounding the rocks around them. With renewed impetus, one last attempt for wandering tattler. After sneaking into a campground and marching along a beach, we scanned a group of rocks, but only a few black oystercatchers, then a little movement, and there it was, a wandering tattler! All three of us count that as a standout lifetime birding memory. There we were, Clive Keen, Rod Sargent, and myself, jumping up-and-down on a Vancouver Island beach, almost oblivious to the incoming tide, punching-the-air with delirious delight. What a feeling!

And not all the birding action was on our travels. Rod Sargent had an absolutely mind-boggling encounter with three small flocks, totalling 15 sharp-tailed sandpipers right here in lil’ old Quesnel! Without doubt, the most amazing record Quesnel has ever had and I include a historical record of whooping crane in consideration of that comment. It’s great to have someone like Rod in QBC as folks might not think I’m quite so barmy after all. Rod finished 2012 with a staggering 234 species in the North Cariboo! He added two species in the Central Cariboo, and one in the South Cariboo, for a Cariboo total of 237!

A fascinating record for Quesnel, thanks to Cathy Koot, was of a pair of Swainson’s hawks that appeared to be settled-in at West Fraser and Glassford Roads. They vanished after July 23. Another great visitor was a long-staying gyrfalcon that chose the same digs as the Swainson’s hawks, and provided awesome views and photo-ops during the early months of the year.

Jerry McFetridge continued to use his locums as a cover for discovering interesting birds in lesser-birded parts of B.C. Clever move that! Jerry even saddled-up for a ten-day trip around the Ilgatchuz. And you thought I was a crazy birder!

Brian and Sheila Murland must have put on more kilometres than an ice-road trucker on their birding forays, but wow, the experiences they’ve had!

It was gratifying to see such substantial input to the B.C. Rare Bird Alert from Q-Birders.

And the Christmas Bird Counts, the wonder of snowy owls gracing both the Quesnel and Narcosli CBCs, and the outstanding count at Prince George. I do feel more Quesnelites should be supporting the Q-CBC! Some folks bemoan a lack of trips or events but when the CBC comes around, which is certainly one of the local birding highlights of the year, where are they? On the other hand, it’s great to see newer members such as Dan Broderick and Carolyne Blanchet coming forward with such enthusiasm.

BCFO has a great Board of Directors and I’m sure will go from strength-to-strength, and become the main umbrella organization for everything birding in B.C.

So to 2013, we’ve had some demand expressed by members for a Spring Trip Program and I’m happy to tell you that we will be running some trips. We aim to try-out new areas or less birded areas such as Swift River and Nazko.

Don’t forget to send-in reports, however brief, of your birding adventures, so they can be shared via Q-Birds!

I’d like to spare-a-thought for those suffering various health issues. My Dad always says, “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything”! It affects me to witness folks having to reduce their birding efforts due to health problems. If there is any lesson to be learned from that, it is to grab birding opportunities while you can! No point waiting for a possible retirement, or definite death!

I recall the pleasure Wally McCappin attained from watching his yard birds. Wally was an awesome teacher. He worked with kids who had difficulty getting out of bed, and somehow got them interested in mathematics! The way he motivated his students was inspiring! Shortly before his untimely death, he sent me a card with an American Goldfinch on the front, saying how much he appreciated the work I did with Q-Birds. That really touched me!

All the very best for 2013!

– submitted by Adrian Leather