[Tweeters] McKay's Bunting Vancouver

Pterodroma at aol.com Pterodroma at aol.com
Mon Dec 27 06:31:19 PST 2004

Ladyshrike writes:
>  I did almost nothing yesterday....

Well, I had quite a good day yesterday (Friday).  I went, I saw, I conquered, 
then I left and was back home in Bellevue in time for LUNCH!  An amazing 
whirlwind trip, 312 miles round trip plus 5 miles round trip walk to the tip of 
the south Iona jetty and back.  If only ALL rare birds could be this easy!  The 
Vancouver McKay's Buntings (see pictures of these very same birds at:
  <A HREF="http://www.birdinfo.com/A_Images_M/McKaysBunting_0001.html">
McKay's Bunting</A> http://www.birdinfo.com/A_Images_M/McKaysBunting_0001.html)  

Up at 3am, coffee, downloaded & printed the pictures from the mentioned site 
(I figured I'd travel "light" -- just fold this up and stick it in my pocket, 
pack a rain jacket and umbrella and leave the scope and books behind), and I 
was on the road at straight up 4am.  No delays at the border (Blaine) and I was 
at the Iona gate just off the northwest corner of the Vancouver airport at 
6:45.  Closed!  What?!?  F### !!  Gate opens at 8.  Nap?, eat?, sightsee?  I 
decided to sightsee (cruised around the Vancouver airport terminal just to see 
it) then off to find a McDonalds for a couple Egg McMuffins.  I was back at the 
gate at 7:25 at very first light and miraculously it was "OPEN."  I found the 
south jetty in the sort of dark and commenced the 4km (2-1/2mi) walk out to 
the tip.  Beautifully calm, 43F, and it looked like the rain was done for the 
day but I carried along my umbrella anyway -- 2-1/2 miles IS still a long way 
away if it did decide to rain.

What a spectacular user friendly jetty -- if only all jetties could be 
designed like this one!  Flat, paved / gravel, with little rain shelters and benches 
along the way.  You actually walk on top of a HUGE sewage pipe which has been 
paved over and is so good even a wheelchair could navigate it easily.  It was 
a 59-minute walk to the tip.  Highlights enroute were the numerous Barrow's 
Goldeneyes right up against the rocks which afforded spectacular looks, a huge 
mass of 10,000 restless Dunlins all packed in one spot sitting and flying 
about (no Curlew Sands, I checked looking for white rumps), Bald Eagles, and other 
stuff.  When I walked down the steps at the large concrete bunker at the end, 
I instantly heard the twitter of "snow buntings" and upon rounding the 
corner, it literally was INSTANT GRATIFICATION as the very first thing I saw sitting 
there on one of the rocks was the glowing white adult male MCKAY'S BUNTING!  
It was so obvious standing out like a sore thumb and utterly impossible to 
miss.  So ridiculously easy!  Actually, the whole "gang of five" were all right 
there together -- two McKay's (adult male and female) and three Snows so calm 
and tame I could walk right up to them to within 3 or 4 meters!  They flitted 
around a little from rock to rock allowing nice definitive views of the 
underwing and comparative wing tips but were perfectly content to stay put at the end 
of the jetty where they've been now for at least two or three weeks.  Five 
minutes later, despite the clearing in the west, it decided to rain -- a 
'sneaker' shower from the east which started out as sprinkles soon turned into a full 
on steady cold east wind driven rain and wasn't about to let up any time 
soon.  With mission accomplished, the left the 'gang of 5' sitting right there and 
started the trek 'home'.  The umbrella saved the day as it rained all the way 
back to the car and growing darker still in the east and I made for fleeing 
the Republic of British Columbia in the pouring rain which continued unabated 
all the making the 99 roadway a scary hydroplaning nightmare in spots all the 
way border.  South of the border the rain stopped and it was fine and dry all 
the way back, home in time for lunch at 12:30, then a well deserved nap.  I had 
kind of expected to see lots of other birders there, but no one at all.  The 
place was all mine.  Where was everyone?  Returning Christmas gifts I suppose 
...or maybe off doing CBCs somewhere.

What's next?  Maybe the Kent Baikal Teal if it makes itself a little more 
dependable and findable and like the Olympia Redwing and Vancouver McKay's, not 
require more than a half-day effort.

Richard Rowlett
Bellevue, WA

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