January 16, 2022
There are huge flocks (200+birds) of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS flying around town right now.
These beautiful birds with their sleek plumage, crested heads, and yellow-tipped tails can be seen eating mountain ash berries and can be heard by their constant, high-pitched calls.
Bohemian Waxwings are not around in the summer as they head north to breeding grounds so enjoy them now!!!
January 9, 2022
Although the Anna’s Hummingbird stole the show at this year’s Creston Christmas Bird Count, another very rare species found in the winter here is a RUSTY BLACKBIRD!! One bird was sighted on the Kootenay-Speers Road to make this the first bird in 24 years of counting on December 27th to make an appearance!!
This bird likes to go solo and could easily go undetected in large flocks of other blackbirds and starlings that frequent beef and dairy farms (sourced from Van Damme 2020).
January 2, 2022
ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS don’t migrate to warmer climates! They are a common year-round resident on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, and the Sunshine Coast but they have been expanding their range to the southern interior – including Creston!! 4 birds were sighted on this year’s Christmas Bird Count at artificial feeders around town.
According to the Royal Society Journal and 17 years of data from the Project Feederwatch program, Anna’s have colonized colder locations over time. The winter range expansion is due to changes in climate, urbanization, and supplementary feeding which reduces their tendencies to migrate. This is a good example of how humans can alter the distribution of species and their migratory behaviors.
Other reasons why Anna’s might be staying in our cold town lately would be that they are lost! They can be pushed from their migratory routes due to storms. 2021 was a year of heat waves, fires, and floods. Some younger birds could get trapped in winter areas due to inexperience.
So if you have an Anna’s Hummingbird at your feeder during this cold spell, please make sure they get their reliable daily food. The magic potion is 1 cup of refined white sugar to 4 cups of hot water. Never use honey, brown sugar, icing sugar, juice, artificial sweetener, or food coloring as this could be toxic to the hummers. Make sure the feeders get cleaned regularly. Use 2 feeders to swap them when cleaning and replenishing. Place them in a protected place for a wind break. If close to a window, the feeders would get heat from the house. Decorate with a string of lights to generate warmth (glass feeders only).
Anna’s can go into a mini hibernation or torpor at night to consume less energy. But on a sunny afternoon, watch them buzzing around town!!
Photo Credit: Eloise Carr
December 26, 2021
A GRAY PARTRIDGE was last seen during a Christmas Bird Count, December 27th 2012, in a snow-covered field in West Creston. These birds were extirpated before 1966 and probably immigrated from Idaho (sourced from Linda Van Damme 2020). Let’s try to find one again!!
Tomorrow, December 27th, is the 23rd annual Creston Christmas Bird Count Day! Hosted locally by the Creston Bird Festival Committee, and coordinated globally by Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society.
December 19, 2021
AMERICAN CROWS can be found and heard everywhere! There is a “murder ” of about 50+ crows around Erickson Elementary School everyday when I go to work. They are widely distributed especially near human habitation so they are very hard to miss. Crows are around throughout the year and can be pests in fruit orchards and crop fields (sourced from Linda Van Damme 2020). They can also be found at most road-killed carcasses, cattle feedlots, woodlands, and marshes.
December 12, 2021
RUDDY DUCKS are ‘stifftails’ that have a long tail which is often raised.
During the breeding seasons, the males sport a beautiful blue bill! In the winter watch for the big head with a dark cap and white cheeks.
Ruddys are found in open waters, often in tight flocks. There were some out at Duck Lake recently. They should be continuing southward soon as they do not overwinter here.
December 5, 2021
BLUE JAYS can be seen and heard in either urban or rural environments.
Most observations of this species is in the autumn and winter when flocks move around neighborhoods visiting feeding stations
especially those stocked with unshelled peanuts (source from Linda Van Damme 2020).
They are usually sighted on Christmas Birds Counts which are held on December 27th in Creston every year.
Jays are very noisy with a shrill, harsh, descending scream as if saying “jaaaaaay”!!
Watch for the flashing white tail and wing patches as it flies away. It has a pretty pale blue color with a black ‘necklace”.
Photo Credit: Lyle Grisdale
November 28, 2021
Every now and then a casual, accidental, introduced, and extirpated species shows up unexpectedly in the Creston Valley!
Sachi Snively reported a SWAMP SPARROW sighting on eBirds for November 27th, 2021 at Duck Lake. To confirm this sighting, he included a photo and an audio of this bird. He description says “non-breeding adult with rufous wings, tail, and crown. Grey supercilium and side of nape”. It was found hanging out with Song and American Tree Sparrows.
eBird is an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with data about bird distribution and abundance. It is a great tool for birders to keep a ‘life list’ of their bird sightings, and to share their sightings with other birders.
November 21, 2021
AMERICAN DIPPERS are usually found in very cold, fast-flowing, rocky streams but this one was seen
last week walking on ice in the West Creston channels (photo credit: Darlene McDowell).
This stocky, short-tailed bird is unique as it’s the only songbird that regularly goes for a swim!
It has transparent eyelids to see the aquatic insect larvae underwater (sourced from Van Damme 2020).
American Dippers are seen in Creston year-round and have been recorded in most Christmas Bird Count days.
Look for them along the ice-free shorelines of Kootenay Lake and the Kootenay River.
November 14, 2021
RING-NECKED PHEASANTS can be found in open fields and along weedy forest edges. My dog, Dixon, flushed 4 of them feeding on dropped plums on the Devon trail the other morning!
They can be heard more than seen with the males giving loud, harsh, hacking calls followed by a short burst of noisy wingbeats. This can be heard year-round but in the springtime more frequent.
Widely introduced from Eurasia, with our local Creston Valley birds being introduced in 1912 when Dr. Henderson received a shipment of birds from an Okanagan hatchery. He was an avid hunter and Creston’s first doctor! (sourced from Van Damme 2020)
November 7, 2021
SNOW BUNTINGS have been spotted lately at Duck Lake! They are mostly found in flocks on open ground looking for seeds.
October 17, 2021
AMERICAN PIPITS are common autumn transients passing through the Creston Valley this time of year, and can be found feeding in large flocks on the farm fields.
A flock of 30 birds was seen on Reclamation Road this week. A slender bird with long legs that walks upright and can be distinguished by its bobbing tail!
October 10, 2021
NORTHERN HARRIERS can be found flying low over hayfields and pastures where they hunt for Meadow Voles.
A favorite hunting location is at Duck Lake. Look for them perched on the ground or on fenceposts.
The white rump is always obvious.
October 2, 2021:
AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS are moving through the valley right now.
You can find them at Duck Lake, Leach Lake, and the Wildlife Centre.
They are always white with black flight feathers and a yellow-orange bill.
Duck Lake has thousands of AMERICAN COOTS! They are feeding on the water’s surface or diving for aquatic plants.
Other migrant waterfowl are mixed in with these large flocks!
May 31: Red-eyed Vireos can be found in broadleaf forests such as at Summit Creek – a great birding hotspot in the Creston Valley.
Since they are mostly camouflaged in the foliage, they are best found by their loud song which is a hurried phase sounding as if they are saying-
“here-I-am, in-the-tree, look-up, at-the-top”!!! June and July is their breeding season so they will be singing in the forests the next couple of months!
May 24: The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the most visible and most numerous wood warbler found in open woods and brushy areas.
It often perches upright on twigs with its yellow rump exposed, flitting up to catch flying insects.
May 17: A pair of beautiful and very rare White-faced Ibises have been wading in the shallow waters of Duck Lake! Last year, 16 adults showed up for our Bird Festival! These birds stand 23″ tall, with a white border around a reddish face and eye, glossy green and red body, long gray bill, and red legs.
May 10: My favorite “festival find” this weekend was a flock of 30 Long-billed Dowitchers that were feeding in the south mudflats of Duck Lake. What an amazing time to see shorebirds out there! They are all just passing through so make sure you get out there soon to see all these spring migrants.
May 3: Belted Kingfishers can be found along the Kootenay River, in the channels, lakes, and marshes. It likes to perch near the water on branches, wires, or poles where it looks for its aquatic prey. They catch their fish by plunge-diving head-first! Sometimes you can hear it’s harsh rattling call before seeing the bird. It nest in holes excavated in dirt banks.
Photo Credit: Darlene McDowell
April 26: There have been 9 elegant Black-necked Stilts hanging around the south, shallow shores of Duck Lake these last few days to start off the annual shorebird migration! This striking species is very tall and slender with a black and white plumage and long red legs.
April 19: First babies of the year – Great Horned Owl owlets are peeking out of the nest! Territorial hooting begins early, and from late December through March, the males proclaim a territory and attract a mate (sometimes it is a renewed interest!). Courtship vocalization is then heard with bouts of “duetting” or “bill-snapping.” Owls do not build their own nests. Live and dead cottonwood trees with natural hollows are common nesting sites. You can also find them in stick nests made by Red-tailed Hawks, Crows, and Ravens, or on clumps of parasitic mistletoe growing on western larch trees. Fledged owlets will stay with their parents all summer to beg for food. Hunting is from perches bordering open habitats. Sometimes they can be found roosting in farm buildings. (Sourced from Van Damme 2020). Fledged owlets will stay with their parents all summer to beg for food. Hunting is from perches bordering open habitats. Sometimes they can be found roosting in farm buildings.
April 12: Mountain Bluebirds are moving through our valley bottoms. My friend saw 6 of them together on Uri Road, and I sighted 3 yesterday at Baillie-Grohman winery. They seem to like the fence posts on route to the old ferry landing. There were close to 50 of them there last year!
Mountain Bluebirds nest in natural cavities and woodpecker holes but also like nest boxes which can be seen on fence posts. Putting up a nest box is a great way to keep them on your property to watch them feed the nestlings!
April 5: The Greater White-fronted Geese are passing through the valley on their way to the Yukon breeding grounds! Corn Creek Marsh is the best place to look for them. With the Kootenay River so low, also look along the exposed sandbars.
March 29: American Wigeons are very abundant right now in the nutrient-rich waters of Duck Lake and throughout the CVWMA.
Once considered a rare species in BC, the Eurasian Wigeon is now fairly common during the northward migration, according to Linda Van Damme. The first occurrence was in 1976 at Duck Lake with sporadic sightings after that. Since 1996 they have been recorded each year. Currently, there are a few mingling with the America Wigeons in the Corn Creek Marsh with even an American x Eurasian hybrid sighted by Marc-Andre Beaucher.
March 22: Northern Pintails are migrating through the valley right now and there are thousands to be seen at Duck Lake! This species can also be seen on flooded agricultural fields on the Kootenay Flats along with migrant Mallards and American Wigeons. The Wildlife Management Area is a significant staging and migration corridor during this spring passage.
Northern Pintails are a very slender and elegant dabbling duck that prefer shallow waters. It has long, narrow wings, long neck with a white stripe, and a long pointed tail.
March 15: The Western Meadowlark can be heard singing from fence posts near open, grassy habitats. I heard the rich, musical, flute-like song last week on the Kootenay-River Road. The sounds of spring!!
March 8: Spotted Towhees have started to return from their winter vacation and enjoying Creston’s warm weather! These birds are common in drier parts of the valley where there are shrub thickets. Preference to ocean spray, ninebark, mock-orange, saskatoon, snowberry, and wild rose (Linda Van Damme). Towhees are ground-dwelling and will scratch noisily through dead leaves but are sometimes difficult to see. They also enjoy visiting feeders and bird baths. Look for the long tail, dark head, white spots on wings, rufous flanks, and red eyes.
March 1: Wild Turkeys likely showed up in the Creston Valley during the 60’s after they crossed the international border from Washington. They are actually domesticated birds native to the New World.
Flocks can be found throughout most of the valley including within the townsite where they have become a nuisance by damaging gardens, yards, and birdfeeders. They favor open forests, agricultural fields, cattle pens and pastures, and rural properties near wooded areas.
The males will show off their elaborate courtship displays soon (mid-March). Like a peacock, they have a fan-like fancy tail, a bright facial wattle, iridescent plumage, and an exquisite dance.
February 22: Ever wonder what makes those huge rectangular holes in the trees around Creston? Pileated Woodpeckers are found near mature cottonwoods around the Kootenay River, Goat River, Boundary Creek, and Summit Creek. This species prefers the older or dying trees for foraging, roosting, and nesting. In the winter these birds are attracted to suet feeders in town, fruit trees (especially apple), and grapes.
Our largest woodpecker, this spectacular crow-sized species has a prominent red crest with a black back, broad black and white wings, and a long tail.
February 15: American Goldfinch are common visitors in the winter especially at feeders. They are present year-round with flocks forming after the breeding season and remaining intact throughout the winter. Flocks of up to 200 birds have been seen.
February 8: There are numerous Northern Pygmy Owls in the Creston Valley right now! During the winter months, these owls move from forested mountainous slopes to lower elevations where they become more conspicuous, especially because they are diurnal hunters. Watch for them perched on utility wires and poles, in cottonwoods, or on a snag. They could be found near bird-feeding stations hunting prey, or in hay sheds hunting mice.
At the moment, they are vocalizing. Listen for monotonous repeated single or double toots.
It is a small, compact owl (6.75″ in length) with a relatively long tail which is often jerked sideways and short wings. The white throat is obvious on a calling bird. On the back of its head are false eye-spots. The belly has narrow blackish streaks.
February 1: Merlins can be found in the Creston Valley’s residential areas where there are mature conifers and deciduous woodlands. Recently, Karen Douville has seen one near the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Erickson. According to Linda Van Damme’s new book “A Passion for Birds – their life in the Creston Valley”, Merlins will hunt near open fields and can be seen pursuing avian prey such as Eurasian-Collared Doves, Flickers, Robins, House Finch, and Bohemian Waxwings. These falcons are small, compact, powerful, and very aggressive! Look for the dark tail-band and “moustache”.
January 25: A Townsend’s Solitaire can be seen feeding on berries along the Devon Trail in town. This medium-sized thrush (same family as bluebirds and robins) is very dull gray but has a distinctive white eye-ring, buffy wing stripes, and white edges on the tail feathers which are evident in flight. They like to perch upright atop trees and shrubs to advertise their territories and often sit motionless for a long time. Although fairly inconspicuous, their sweet jumbling song is often the best way to track them.
This is the only Solitaire found in Canada.
January 18: The bold and inquisitive Black-Capped Chickadee is the most common species seen as well as heard around town and in birdfeeders. But also look in the woods for the Mountain Chickadee and the Chestnut-backed Chickadee!
Mountain Chickadees have a white supercilium above their eyes with a similar song to the Black-capped but with 3-6 syllables. The “chika dzee dzee” notes are slightly harsher, slower, and often descending. Chestnut-backed Chickadees love coniferous forests and mixed woods. It is our smallest chickadee with a unique dark chestnut back. Calls are generally higher with buzzy notes.
January 11: Crossbills are found in single-species flocks wandering erratically in search of food, mainly the cones of pines, spruces, and firs. Seeds are pried out using the unique crossed bill tip! White-winged Crossbills have been sighted on the Lakeview Arrow Creek Road. They prefer smaller cones mainly larch, hemlock, and spruce. Red Crossbills have been sighted in the forests of Lister, Erickson, and West Creston.
January 4: There are 4 species of Grebes on Kootenay Lake this week:
Pied-Billed: smallest, thick bill, dark eye
Horned: flat-topped head, white neck, red eye
Red-Necked: stocky, heavy bill, thick neck, dark eye
Western: largest, slender with long neck, red eye .
December 28: Northern Shrikes are being spotted throughout the valley.
Photo taken at Leach Lake by Marc-Andre Beaucher during the Christmas Bird Count on December 27th. But they have also been seen in Canyon, Duck Lake, Wynndel Flats, and West Creston Flats
December 21: Goat River Road S. to find California Quail.
This is also a good road to view Christmas lights in the evening. Merry Christmas Everyone – stay safe, healthy, and happy.
December 14: “Hawksview” aka. Kootenay-River Road where you can find Rough-legged Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks!
What to look for: RLHA will have a distinctive pattern of dark wrists and the primaries are always clean white. RTHA adults have the distinctive red tail and a streaked belly-band.
December 7, 2020: The Great-Blue Herons are once again skating and ice-fishing on Duck Lake!
November 29, 2020: Iceland Gull at Kuskanook Harbour. Rare bird alert!!!
What to look for: overall light gray, darker patch on face, all black bill (for a first year), upper flight feathers brownish and darker on mantle.
November 23, 2020: The Short-Eared Owls returned to Duck Lake.