[Tweeters] Mountainview Cemetery Observations, Vancouver BC

Michael Price loblollyboy at gmail.com
Mon May 12 23:38:25 PDT 2008

Hi Tweets,

Should anyone visiting Vancouver be interested, the Mountainview Cemetary in
central Vancouver may be worth checking out for migrant passerines.

This evening there was a fallout of approx. 300 Yellow-rumped Warblers, a
handful of Wilson's and Orange-crowned Warblers (but no other warbler
species heard or seen), three or four Savannah Sparrows, a Warbling Vireo, a
Townsend's Solitaire and a Vesper Sparrow. Unlike sites and sightings
further south, there was only one calling Western Tanager.

The cemetery's cherry and plum trees are currently in full bloom, each tree
a cloud of blossoms: the sight of bright male warblers, particularly male
Audubon's, against this background was very striking, brightening the cold
dull evening and deepening overcast in this miserable month of Mayvember
(let's hope there's to be no repeat of last year's Junuary either, and this
cursed La Nina comes to an end soon). There were times when each tree, and
there were many trees, had five to ten warblers in it.

With its subdued plumage, the solitaire's stillness as it perched atop a
tall gravestone, like a small grey stone angel* keeping vigil, was exactly
appropriate for the location. Then the white tail-feathers and warm buff
wing-flash flared as it flew down into the grass for an insect, and the
simile fell apart. Still, a haunting, rather lovely image, and would have
made an arresting series of photographs.

All sightings, including both the solitaire and the Vesper Sparrow
(originally mistaken for a junco as it flew off) were in the extreme SE part
of Mountainview, near Fraser St. and West 41st Ave. The solitaire was moving
slowly from gravestone to gravestone, particularly the obelisk-type stones,
always perching nearly motionless at the vertex of each for several minutes
at a time before moving to the next; the sparrow was foraging in the gravel
of a short E-W road to new construction within the cemetery and after the
initial flyaway, returned and hopped about very comfortably just a few
meters away for the next while.

A belated sighting of birds mating of a species not usually seen doing so in
Vancouver BC was about a week ago in Queen Elizabeth Park, also in central
Vancouver, where on two different days I observed a pair of Sharp-shinned
Hawks, an adult male and First-Summer female, copulating not once but twice,
amidst enough noisy hullabaloo to keep neighbors awake eight blocks away.
The female also spent some effort trying to break off small twigs and
branches without any success that I could see. As a subadult, she may have
just been going through the motions, but she looked like she had a dim
notion of building a nest, which would be rather unusual for Vancouver for
this species, though not unprecedented. Maybe the Cooper's Hawks, which do
nest regularly in Vancouver, run them off. Are female accipiters capable of
complete domesticity in their first year away from home? Anyway, if you hear
what sounds like an odd-sounding flicker call around the top of the park
(the extinct little basaltic cone known as Little Mountain), it's likely the
female SSHA vocalising.

* shameless subliminal plug for released-sometime-soon movie based on a
much-loved Canadian novel, *The Stone Angel*, by Margaret Laurence.

Michael Price
Vancouver BC Canada
mailto:loblollyboy at gmail.com <loblollyboy at gmail.com>

"I feel like a fugitive from th' law of averages!" -- GI Willie

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