Wednesday, May 24, 2017

SPRING RBA UPDATE - 5 BAR-TAILED GODWITS IN DELTA (May 22-June 1st) AND A WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER IN RISKE CREEK (May 14)

Update: The new all time high record for Bar-tailed Godwits outside of Alaska, is now 11 Bar-tailed Godwits seen May 29th in Clatsop County in Oregon.

I usually do not put Bar-tailed Godwits on the main page of the Rare Bird Alert because although they are a rare bird in the province, they are a regular rare migrant. We were spoiled in the fall of 2015 in the Metro Vancouver area with several Bar-tailed Godwits that came to Boundary Bay in Delta. However, there has never been 5 Bar-tailed Godwits ever reported in BC that appeared at one time. This is an all time high record for the province and especially rare during the Spring. This sighting is also extremely rare for all of North America (outside of Alaska) as this is the all time high record for the number of birds ever found and observed at one time. The previous high record in NA, outside of Alaska, was 4 birds that showed up this May 2017, in Oregon in the United States. Therefore, for all of these significant reasons, I wanted to give them special mention in a spring update.

At 6 am on May 22-2017,  Ilya Povalyaev found 5 Bar-tailed Godwits on the mudflats, past the big bend, near the farmhouse at Brunswick Point in Ladner. The birds were seen on the falling high tide and were very far out and a scope was required. Ilya was able to get some great photos of the birds, but had to walk out several kilometers to do so. There were 2 adult males and 3 adult females in Pre-alternate moult (transitioning into breeding plumage). The males with noticeably shorter bills were quite rufous. The birds were associating with Black-bellied Plovers and 4 breeding plumaged Red Knots. Multiple observers have been able to view the birds from the dyke (with a scope), since the initial sighting.

Please be aware that if you walk out to photograph these birds that the mud is very thick and sinking and can be dangerous if you get stuck, so please use common sense. Please be especially mindful of where you walk, so you do not flush any birds on the mudflats, as shorebirds need to rest and feed during migration.

Map to location of birds HERE

5 Bar-tailed Godwits in Pre-alternate moult in Delta - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev
A rare treat to see Bar-tailed Godwits up close with rufous plumage in Pre-alternate moult. Photo: Ilya Povalyaev 

Surprisingly, the group had split up and 4 of the birds disappeared on the same evening. However, one bird continued in the same location on May 23rd.

On May 24th, 2 Godwits were relocated in the same location.

1 Bar-tailed Godwit continues in the same location as of June 1st

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There was also another rare bird seen this spring in Riske Creek, near Williams Lake. At 11 am on May 14-2017, Phil Ranson and Sandy Proulx found a White-rumped Sandpiper at Roundup Lake at Becher's Prairie. Again, I usually do not put White-rumped Sandpipers on the main page of the Rare Bird Alert because they are not a provincial rarity. They do occur in the North Peace River Region of BC during a small migration window (approx May 5-June 17th) and it is the only place in BC that you can regularly find this uncommon spring migrant. Any White-rumped Sandpiper found in the province, outside of this area, however, is very rare and since I was doing a spring update for the province, I decided to include it for this reason. Roundup Lake is within the Chilcotin Military Training Area and access is by permit only. Applications for a permit can be made through the DND in Chilliwack. This sighting is the 4th record for the Cariboo Chilcotin area and interestingly enough, Phil Ranson found a White-rumped Sandpiper in the same spot last year on May 23, 2016. This new sighting from May 14th, 2017 is also significant, because it is the 2nd spring record for the Cariboo Chicotin area.

Map to location HERE

Sandy Proulx was able to obtain a beautiful photograph of the bird.

A White-rumped Sandpiper near Williams Lake is a rare sighting outside of the Peace. Photo: Sandy Proulx


This bird has not been seen again since the initial sighting.

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