October 11th. 2011.The signature colours of N.W British Columbia in mid-October are gold, orange and yellow set off against the dark expanses of the spruces and mountains. This colour scheme is taken up by the Varied Thrush, a striking bird, similar and closely related to the American Robin, and found in dense, moist coniferous forests. My first fleeting view of a Varied Thrush came this cool morning against a soundscape of rushing mountain streams.
I spent part of the afternoon scanning a still, small lake trying to make out distant birdlife. It was the right time and place because within minutes a Western Grebe paddled past at close quarters. It was my bird of the day. Two Red-necked Grebes and a pair of American Cootes fed not far off, a small group of Lesser Scaup wheeled by in tight formation and in the distance a Black Tern (BLTE) picked food from the lake surface.
The BLTE had been a puzzle to me for several days, I had seen it before but at such a distance that I was far from sure about it. It was swooping in large loops and twists with a light flitting flight, rather like a nighthawk, and making low passes over the water to pick at food. No field guide lent support to the idea that it might be a BLTE, but today it was close enough to make out clearly. One of the lessons of this week (learned with Sandhill Cranes and now BLTE) is that the field guides are rather sketchy about range when it comes to places like the interior of British Columbia.
Anyway, here’s the Western Grebe.