My family and I recently went on a trip to Telegraph Creek BC, to visit my Grandma, Aunt, and Uncle. We spent our time there during a major migratory songbird movement consisting mainly of thrush. We stayed with Grandma at her cabin on the shores of Sawmill Lake instead of our little cabin tucked in the woods, which meant we got to see waterfowl movement and focused passerine movement. One rainy afternoon I stepped outside in time to see a flock of 50+ Robins fly over. There was a lot of commotion in the bushes by Grandma’s garden, and I could hear Red-necked Grebes calling out in the lake as well. One grebe boldly swam up while I was standing on shore in the reeds, carefully watching me before paddling left down the reed bed edge. There were two swans out on the lake which turned out to be Trumpeters, calling as they took flight. I followed the lake edge to the source of all of the commotion I had heard earlier, which turned out to be further behind the garden than I thought. It was at least 20 Robins bathing at the edge of the lake along with a Swainson’s Thrush, and several Black-capped Chickadees. Though it was clouding over and the air felt heavy like a storm was approaching, the birds seemed full of excited energy as they bathed, sang, and chased each other. I noticed dark gray blankets of cloud spilling over the rugged tops of Glanora Mountain across the lake.
Another day I was sitting in Grandma’s living room/dining room/kitchen area by her open back door reading the 5th book in Clan of the Cave Bear when the unmistakable call (to me at the time) of a Pileated Woodpecker echoed across the front yard clearing. I ran outside to look for it with camera and binoculars in hand, but I never saw it and it didn’t call again. I have never seen one, though I have heard them once before. However, I was surprised to see a Eurasian-collared Dove pointed out to me by my Aunt in Grandma’s driveway a day or two later. This is a bird that I had been wishing to see for several years and had put in a great deal of effort to see this year. I spent all summer searching the community of Carcross for the pair that have been living there and are so commonly seen. My lifer dove flew up to a large willow where it perched in clear view for a short nap before re-catching the autumn wind in a irresistible urge to migrate.
The best bird of the trip was a Barred Owl.
Though it was not a lifer and I had heard them plenty of times, the owl was my first visual of this species and it brought us all a lot of amusement for 5 nights. I went out on our first night there to call in owls, though I wasn’t expecting anything – I had never had anything respond to me before at Grandma’s house. When I tried for Saw-whet with no success, I switched to Barred Owl. After about 10 minutes, a large shadowed figure glided across the yard to perch in a nearby tree. He made a noisy and clumsy landing before beginning his vocal retaliation to my mimics.
Every night after that all I would have to do was step out on the deck and call once, and he would quickly swoop in with a crashing landing as though he spent all day waiting for me to come out. I even managed to provoke a response and appearance from him during the daylight, though he retreated shortly due to the flock of mobbing robins and chickadees. When we went to our cabin to stay a night on the quad, I called him. Right after we parked at our cabin, about 1km down the road, he arrived to watch us. Once he even got there before us. He didn’t seem to care about the noise of the quad or our talking at all. Instead, he began hooting in a way that conveyed a strong sense of excitement (or it could have been aggression); his hoots were breathless, faster, and often stumbled over each other. One night at Grandma’s house I walked down the deck and around the corner of the house to go through the front door for something, leaving the owl sitting in a tree at the other side of the house. I came back out a few moments later and was unsettled to see him sitting in a new tree, straight across the yard from the front door and perched low enough that he could clearly see underneath the overhang of the roof – watching the door I went through. When I stepped out and saw him there, he swelled up to let out an enthusiastic series of hoots. During our last two nights at Grandma’s house, I never saw or heard him; I think he travelled out of hearing range as I had left him at our cabin down the road the night before.
I’ve got to say, I sure do miss him and I wish I could have taken him home with me! 🙂