29 February bonus day Update

Survived two months on the road, but last two weeks have been much easier with Robyn on board. I’m actually writing this from Calgary airport during one of two layovers from Victoria, British Columbia (about as far west as you can get in North America without going to Alaska) to St John’s Newfoundland (the absolute furthest eastern protrusion of North America). I’ll overnight in Toronto.

Several hours ago Robyn and I left Victoria in separate gates – her flight was for San Francisco where-after she’ll head homewards to Sydney. It was great having her along for a representative mix of ‘big year’ birding. We chased and found four megas, and saw some pretty amazing places looking for all sorts of other birds, from northern California and adjacent Canada, to warm Florida to very cold Minnesota, back to Florida, across to Texas, then back to the northwest.

Continuing from my earlier posts, we arrived at the Victoria, BC airport Sunday afternoon at two-ish, giving us plenty of time to search for Robyn’s fourth ‘coded’ bird – Sky Lark, on the very grounds of the airport. Attempted introductions of this European species were made in many colonial lands, including Australia, where they thrive in areas of Victoria and Tasmania. The only place the introduction has persisted in North America is on Vancouver Island, and most famously in the peripheral fields within the Victoria airport complex. I tried to locate Sky Larks in early January at the airport while on the island for the vagrant Redwing. No dice then, but its now early Spring, and many sightings from the airport complex have recently appeared on eBird. We loaded the rental car and drove maybe two minutes to ‘the’ corner of the compound. As I opened the car door I could hear a Skylark in full song, presumably very high above. We got out of the car and listened to the most famous of avian songmasters, but couldn’t nail down where, overhead, it was singing from.  But it eventually descended and we saw it clearly interacting with another Skylark adjacent to a runway. Within minutes it made for the sky again, and we were thrilled to watch and listen as it ascended up, up, and up. Tick.

The next day (Monday) we drove up the east coast of Vancouver Island and added several good birds to my year-list that can otherwise be hard to find, including Eurasian Wigeon, Pacific Wren and Red-breasted Sap-sucker. So much more to report, but I’ll attach a few pix from the island.

What’s ahead? I’m hoping for a few more cold country birds in Newfoundland, but then will try and figure a way to a remote corner of the Florida Keys to see about a Curlew Sandpiper. Plus, believe it or not, that dastardly Black-faced Grassquit was seen again at Long Key State Park. Then I may do a couple of regional sweeps, including a return to northern California (I’d be doing that right now, except the weather forecasters have other ideas), and west Texas. Also need to do the Rosy-finch run in northern Arizona, and the Longspur run in Oklahoma. Looking forward to early April when my buddy Murray will be joining me for the notorious Chicken Run in Colorado, and a bit of migrant chasing at High Island Texas - just like in the Big Year movie! I just hope Murray can keep it under control and we don’t end up talking to Texas Rangers. I’ve seen the TV show - those guys know karate.

Images: Skylark, Greater and Lesser Scaups and other sea ducks in front of gulls in vista towards mainland Canada, Steller’s Jay, the ‘other’ American Dipper, and old growth cedar and spruce forest where we connected with Varied Thrush and Pacific Wren.