British Columbia: Fall 2021

Fall 2021: 1 Aug to 30 Nov

Chris Charlesworth

Charlesworth, C. 2022. Fall 2021: British Columbia. <> North American Birds.

August saw a gradual cooling throughout the month with scattered showers, but it did little to staunch the hundreds of wildfires still burning over the southern half of the region. Thick smoke remained a vexing problem. No doubt the birds felt the same as there was evidence that interior birds vacated territories early with some even heading out to the coast to get a breath of fresher air. The fact that most of the western states were in the same dire wildfire situation meant some migrants would be running the gauntlet for a longer distance. Temperatures stayed above normal throughout September with a few Pacific systems breaking through by the equinox. The westerlies finally started to rev up in October bringing a parade of wetter systems in from the Pacific and an eventual end to the fire season. November saw this wet pattern intensify and during the last two weeks, an Atmospheric River, a high-speed, narrow band of high moisture content air, aimed itself at the southwest corner of the region. Some stations accumulated more precipitation during this period than is usual for the whole year. Widespread flooding and mudslides resulted in the complete destruction of all transportation routes heading north and east from Vancouver. Meanwhile, winter was reluctantly making its way in from the north with migrant birds inbound for the Fraser Delta finding all fields under water.

Geese through Hummingbirds

A single Ross’s Goose, rare anywhere in the province, was seen in flight over Little Mountain in Parksville, 4 Oct (Guy Monty). Single Brant, rare in the interior of BC, were noted at Rawlings Lake in Lumby, 30 Sep to 16 Nov (Scott Thomson, m. obs), and at Cottonwood Island Park in Prince George, 24 to 30 Oct (Cara Snell, m. obs). Rare in the Okanagan Valley, a female-type Black Scoter was on Tucelnuit Lake in Oliver, 21 Oct (Barry Kinch). Rare but not unexpected was a Long-tailed Duck at Waldie Island in Castlegar, 14 to 30 Oct (Barbara Maytom, Neville Maytom, m. obs). Two Oriental Turtle-Doves were photographed at a private residence on Alberta Place in Prince Rupert, 14 Nov, and will provide BC with its fifth record for this species if accepted by the records committee (Teresa Weismiller). This report comes hot on the heels of another Oriental Turtle-Dove photographed in Prince Rupert in July. Exceedingly rare along the BC coast, Vancouver’s second record of White-throated Swift, came from Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver, 25 Aug (Rob Lyske). Well north of its usual range in BC, a female Black-chinned Hummingbird patronized a feeder at a private residence in Giscome, near Prince George, 7 to 23 Aug (Cathy Antoniazzi, m. obs).


Rare on Haida Gwaii, an American Avocet was near Queen Charlotte City, at the mouth of the Honna River, 24 Sep to 3 Oct (Judy Hilgeman, Benson Hilgeman, m. obs). Sightings of Snowy Plovers are on the increase in BC, so one at Comber’s Beach near Tofino, 27 Sep, was not totally unexpected (Ian Cruickshank). A rare migrant in BC, outside of the Peace River area in the northeast, an Upland Sandpiper was reported along Chilliwack Central Road, just east of Annis Road in Chilliwack, 25 Aug (Klaus Molthagen). Other single Upland Sandpipers included one at the Nanaimo River Estuary, on Vancouver Island, 19 Sep (Bryan Vroom), and another along Freeman Road in Australian, south of Quesnel, in the Cariboo area, 22 Aug (Suzy Wright). In Central BC, an Upland Sandpiper was a nice find at Cottonwood Island Park in Prince George, 7 Sep (Jesse Lewis). Rare, but nearly annual in fall, a Bar-tailed Godwit was photographed on Vargas Island, at Ahous Bay, near Tofino, 19 Oct (M. Callewaert). Stray Hudsonian Godwits appeared at several locations throughout the province this fall. Two juveniles and an adult Hudsonian Godwit were at Boundary Bay, in Delta, near the foot of 104th Street, 8 to 9 Aug (Ilya Povalyaev, Melissa Hafting, m. obs). Another Hudsonian Godwit was seen at the south jetty at Iona Island in Richmond, where the bird remained from 30 Aug to 5 Sep (Brendan Toews, m. obs). A juvenile Hudsonian Godwit visited the Reifel Refuge in Ladner from 30 Sep to 4 Oct (Debbie Hlady, m. obs). In the Southern Interior, a juvenile Hudsonian Godwit was at Salmon Arm, along the foreshore, where the species is near annual in fall, 9 to 15 Aug (Jim Walton, m. obs). In the West Kootenays, a Hudsonian Godwit was at the mouth of Burton Creek, near Nakusp, 3 to 4 Oct (Julia Flesaker, Warren Flesaker, m. obs). In Prince George, a Hudsonian Godwit was a nice find at the Shelley Sludge Lagoons on 23 Aug (Lucie Parker). Along Hwy 37, not far south of Dease Lake, an observer found a Hudsonian Godwit foraging along the verge of the highway, 30 Aug (Jeff Dyck). In the interior of BC, Marbled Godwits are much rarer than Hudsonian Godwits. A Marbled Godwit was found in Salmon Arm, near the mouth of the Salmon River, 18 Aug (Jim Walton), and in Kelowna, a Marbled Godwit was photographed in a flooded field next to Robert Lake, 24 Aug (Huw Williams). A first for the Peace River area, and exceptionally rare for anywhere in the interior of the province, a juvenile Red Knot was along the shore of Charlie Lake, at Pumphouse Viewpoint, north of Beatton Park in Fort St. John, 18 Aug (Ilya Povalyaev). Rare fall migrants in the interior, single Ruddy Turnstones were noted along the waterfront in Nakusp, 13 Aug (Jakob Dulisse), as well as along the foreshore in Salmon Arm, 10 to 14 Aug (Don Cecile, m. obs).

It was a good fall for Ruff, a vagrant, yet nearly annual Asian fall migrant along the BC coast, with six different individuals being reported. A juvenile Ruff was at Boundary Bay in Delta, near the foot of 96th Street, 5 to 10 Oct (Sabine Decamp, m. obs). A Reeve was at Boundary Bay, between 104th Street and 96th Street, 24 Nov (Kevin Louth). On Vancouver Island, a Ruff was at the Courtenay Airpark, in Courtenay, 22 Aug (Jack Bindernagel, James Mackenzie). In Sidney, a Ruff was at Sidney Spit, 25 Aug (Kim Beardmore, Roger Beardmore). Another Ruff was at the Englishmen River Estuary in Parksville, 29 Aug to 2 Sep (Yousif Attia, m. obs), and another Ruff was at Cowichan Bay at the Cowichan Bay Estuary, 18 Oct (Lois DeEll). Quite rare in the Vancouver area, a Red Phalarope was noted from a boat in Burrard Inlet, 19 Aug (Mike Klotz). In the Fraser Valley, a Red Phalarope was at the Jade Bay Boat Launch at Cultus Lake, 1 Oct (Gord Gadsden, m. obs). In the Okanagan, the Kelowna area had its first Red Phalarope, a juvenile, at the mouth of Mission Creek, 17 Aug (Chris Charlesworth, Jasmine Korcok). Red Phalarope is a very rare fall migrant in the Peace River area, where a juvenile was found at the Fort St. John Sewage Lagoons, 25 Aug (Evan Pye).

Jaegers through Loons

An adult Pomarine Jaeger was seen flying south near the tip of the south jetty at Iona Island in Richmond, 5 Sep (Christopher Di Corrado). This species is not seen often in the Vancouver checklist area, as it prefers more openly pelagic waters. A juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger was noted flying over the ferry jetty at Tsawwassen, 5 Sep (Ilya Povalyaev, m. obs), and in the interior, an adult Long-tailed Jaeger was along the Thompson River near the outlet of the Tranquille River, in Kamloops, 31 Aug to 1 Sep (Jan Bradshaw, m. obs). Ancient Murrelet is the only alcid that makes its way to the interior of BC, though sightings are still quite unusual. An immature Ancient Murrelet, the Okanagan’s 11th, was found in a parking lot in Penticton, where it was taken to a local bird rehabber, 24 Aug (fide Richard Cannings). Rarely seen in southern BC waters, a Horned Puffin was found at Flores Island, near Tofino, 12 Sep (Greg Potter).

Rarely seen in Vancouver, a Black-legged Kittiwake was viewed from a BC Ferry, as it left the terminal in Tsawwassen, 9 Oct (Guy Monty). Lesser Black-backed Gull records continue to increase in BC, with the majority of reports continuing to come from the Okanagan Valley and the Southern Interior of the province. At Meachen, near Kimberley, in the East Kootenay region, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was at St. Mary Lake, 12 Sep (Wendy Roberts). In Kelowna, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the log booms at Sutherland Bay, 25 Oct (Chris Charlesworth, et al.). A first year Lesser Black-backed Gull was discovered at the Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary in Kelowna on 13 Nov and the bird was seen by many during its stay until 21 Nov (David Bell, m. obs). In Penticton, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the beach at Okanagan Lake, 16 to 19 Nov (Alex Bodden). The only Lesser Black-backed Gull reported outside of the Southern Interior was an adult at Whiffin Spit in Sooke, on Vancouver Island, 18 Sep (Joachim Bertrands). An adult Slaty-backed Gull was at the Ken Forde Boat Launch at the Willow Point Estuary in Campbell River, 28 to 30 Sep (Keith Matthieu, m. obs). Arctic Terns appear in the Southern Interior annually as fall migrants, where one was at Rotary Beach in Kelowna, 20 to 23 Aug (Ryan Tomlinson, Chris Charlesworth, m. obs). Another, or perhaps the same tern was seen at the mouth of Mission Creek in Kelowna, 30 Aug (Nigel Eggers), with a second bird present on 31 Aug (Brad Vissia). An alternate plumage Red-throated Loon was a nice find on Upper Arrow Lake, at the mouth of Kuskanax Creek in Nakusp, 9 to 10 Sep (Julia Flesaker, m. obs). In Kamloops, two Red-throated Loons were on Kamloops Lake at Tranquille, 14 Oct to 9 Nov (Clinton Zaik, m. obs).

Albatross through Pelicans

Though Laysan Albatross is not particularly rare in BC waters during the fall, on observer on a boat off Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, noted 25 of them, 20 Nov (Kaiden Bosch). An immature Short-tailed Albatross caused excitement on a pelagic out of Tofino, at Clayoquot Canyon, 29 Aug (Mike Toochin, m. obs). The bird was banded, and the numbers were legible in photographs taken by the observers. A little detective work revealed the albatross was banded in its nest at Torishima Island in Japan, 7 Mar 2021. Manx Shearwater reports came in from observers on boats along the northeast side Vancouver Island, where one was found in Cormorant Channel, near Alert Bay, 17 Aug (John Cooper, et al.). Three Manx Shearwaters were seen at Bold Head in Blackfish Sound, 18 Aug (Jared Towers). Over the coming days several other observers noted 2-3 Manx Shearwaters in the same area up until 24 Sep. Further north, at Nigei Island, two Manx Shearwaters were seen 2 Sep (Guy Monty, et al.). The occurrence of the Manx Shearwaters coincided with an unprecedented number of Short-tailed Shearwaters appearing in the Salish Sea. While fall reports of Brown Pelicans are becoming routine along the coast of Vancouver Island, the appearance of these large seabirds from the south is still unusual in the Vancouver checklist area, where one was present at the south jetty at Iona Island in Richmond, 22 Aug (Bridget Spencer). Another Brown Pelican was at Sullivan Point at Crescent Beach in Surrey, 9 Oct (Frank Lin, m. obs).  A Brown Pelican was at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal 19 Aug to 16 Oct (Kevin Louth, m. obs), and another was viewable by boat at the tip of the Sand Heads Jetty in Richmond, 1 to 3 Oct (Andy Scheffler). Even more unusual was the discovery of a Brown Pelican at Harrison Lake, in the Fraser Valley, well away from the ocean, 31 Aug (Lance Vanbasten). On 6 Oct, a Brown Pelican was seen near the same location at Harrison Hot Springs, and may have involved the same bird (John Gordon, m. obs).

Egrets through Woodpeckers

Great Egret reports were too many to list this fall, with reports coming in from various locations in the Fraser Valley and the Vancouver area. Six Great Egrets were seen together on a sand bar at the north end of Vaseux Lake in the Okanagan Valley, 25 Aug (Matthias Bieber), and a single Great Egret was at Stubbs Island near Tofino, where the species is quite rare, 13 Aug (Adrian Dorst). Cattle Egrets, once an expected fall migrant in the 1990s throughout much of southern BC, have become much rarer in occurrence over the past two decades. Single Cattle Egrets were noted on the Lower Mainland along Hornby Drive in Delta, 3 Nov (Wayne Weber), and along Cole Road near Campbell Road in Abbotsford, 7 to 10 Nov (Gabi Cuff, m. obs). Quite rare in the Southern Interior of BC, an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron was found at the north end of Vaseux Lake, 13 Aug (Matthias Bieber). A White-faced Ibis was found in a field on Yale Road at McGrath Road in Rosedale, in the Fraser Valley, 7 Oct (Bentley Colwill). Another White-faced Ibis was seen in flight over 72nd Street at Boundary Bay in Delta, 19 Oct (Rob McLean, et al.). Though spring reports of White-faced Ibis are increasing rapidly in BC, fall sightings remain quite unusual.

An extremely tardy immature Swainson’s Hawk was along Black Rock Road in Vernon, 26 to 28 Oct (Jack VanDyk, m. obs). In Edgewood, in the West Kootenays, an immature Ferruginous Hawk was found, 30 Aug (Gary Davidson, Catherine McLean). Out of range Lewis’s Woodpeckers showed up at the Hope Airport, 25 to 29 Aug (Gord Gadsden, m. obs), with two present at the same location 13 to 24 Sep (Gord Gadsden, Jack Delair, m. obs). In Vancouver, a Lewis’s Woodpecker was at the Lumberman’s Arch in Stanley Park, 3 Oct (Ben Freeman, Alexa Freeman, m. obs), and another Lewis’s Woodpecker was on Vancouver Island at the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Metchosin, 4 Sep (Danniel Donnecke). A fairly rare winter visitor to the interior of BC, a Gyrfalcon was photographed along Highway 97, south of Freeman Road near Quesnel, 14 Nov (Suzy Wright).

Kingbirds through Jays

The fall of 2021 brought a surge of Tropical Kingbirds to Vancouver Island, with 11 birds reported, though some of the sightings could have involved the same individuals. All reports were of single birds, at locations including Olson Road in Tofino, 29 Sep to 10 Oct (T. Theriault, m. obs), Matterson Drive and Imperial Lane in Ucleulet, 12 Oct (J. Saydam), Larch Road in Ucluelet, 17 Oct (Kaiden Bosch), the Shelter Bay Resort in Campbell River, 17 Oct (M. Armstrong, Kyle Fitzpatrick), 4th Street in Tofino, 23 to 25 Oct (Kaiden Bosch, m. obs), along Wharf Street in Tofino, 28 Oct (Emily Upham-Mills), Kingsway Avenue in Port Alberni, 30 Oct (Donald L’Heureux). Dallas Road at Holland Point Park in Victoria, 29 to 31 Oct (Sharon Caldwell, m. obs), Cowichan Bay at West Can Terminal Road, 30 Oct to 1 Nov (Luke Downs, m. obs), the Salmon Point Trail in Campbell River, 1 Nov (Russ Petersen), and at Macaulay Point in Esquimalt, 3 to 5 Nov (L. Petersen, m. obs). Single Black Phoebes were found at Cheam Wetlands near Chilliwack, 7 to 10 Aug (Marc Sole, Catherine Denny), and at McDonald Park in Abbotsford, 10 to 24 Sep (Susan Fennellow, m. obs). An out of place Say’s Phoebe was on Denman Island at a private residence, 13 Oct (Dennis Forsyth).

In BC, Blue Jays are regular in the Peace River area and in parts of the East Kootenays, though in the rest of the province they show up annually in small numbers, especially during the fall. In Summerland, a Blue Jay was at Trout Creek Point, 11 Oct (Robyn DeYoung). Another Blue Jay was in Kamloops, frequenting feeders along Glenwood Drive, 3 to 4 Nov (Michael Dupre, m. obs). In Logan Lake, a Blue Jay was a private residence, 5 Nov (Loekie Van Der Wal). On Vancouver Island, a Blue Jay was at Tower Point in Metchosin, 18 Sep (Dave Aldcroft), and another was at the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, 4 Sep (David Bell, et al.). In Saanich, a Blue Jay Jay was along Obed Avenue at Harriet Road, 13 Oct (J. Gaskin), and another was at a private residence on Marsett Place, near the Royal Oak Golf Course in Victoria, 19 Nov to winter period (Ann Nightingale, m. obs). Further north on Vancouver Island, a Blue Jay was along Goodwin Road at Milford Road in Campbell River, 18 to 28 Oct (T. Sierz, m. obs).

Skylarks through Grosbeaks

A Eurasian Skylark was found on Haida Gwaii at Mather’s Bight, in Sandspit, 18 Nov (Margo Hearne, et al.). The bird is presumed to be of the migrant pekinensis ssp., rather than one of the birds introduced onto southern Vancouver Island. The long-awaited first Black-capped Chickadee for Vancouver Island was at Island View Beach in Central Saanich, 20 to 22 Aug (A. Jacobs, m. obs). Single Rock Wrens, rare along the BC coast, were at Centennial Beach in Delta, 27 Oct to 3 Nov (Haichi Huang, m. obs), as well as on Vancouver Island at a private garden along Bay Street in Ucluelet, 13 Sep (Janel Saydam), and at Macaulay Point in Esquimalt, 31 Oct to 7 Nov (Jeremy Gatten, m. obs). The Okanagan Valley’s third Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was seen by many at Munson Pond in Kelowna, 4 to 22 Nov (Huw Williams, m. obs). A White Wagtail was present at Queen Charlotte City on Haida Gwaii, 18 to 29 Oct (Paul Levesque, Christine Rock, m. obs).

In Castlegar, in the West Kootenay area, a late Clay-colored Sparrow was found at the Selkirk College Trails, 12 Nov (Craig Sandvig). A Lark Sparrow was found at a private residence in Williams Lake along Opal Street at Bann Street, 11 Nov, remaining into the winter period (Leslie Harris Jr., m. obs). Very rare on Vancouver Island, a Grasshopper Sparrow was a nice find at Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, 5 Nov (Kaiden Bosch). It was a busy fall for Harris’s Sparrow reports with over 20 of them sighted at various locations in southern BC. A rare fall migrant on Vancouver Island, two Bobolinks were at Panama Flats in Victoria, 27 to 30 Aug (Carl Hughes, m. obs). The province’s 10th Orchard Oriole, a female, was banded at the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Metchosin, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, 28 Sep (David Bell, et al.). Common Grackles are very rare in coastal BC, so the appearance of one at the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Metchosin, 28 Sep (David Bell), and another on Haida Gwaii, along Oceanview Drive in Queen Charlotte City, 6 Oct (Carey Bergman), were noteworthy. A rare fall migrant in coastal areas of BC, single Magnolia Warblers were found at Island 22 in Chilliwack, 19 Aug (Gord Gadsden), and at Uplands Park in the Oak Bay area of Victoria, 18 Sep (Geoffrey Newell). Also, quite a rare fall migrant in coastal BC, single Tennessee Warblers were at Deering Island, near Vancouver, 19 Aug (Mike Toochin), and one was banded at Pedder Bay in Metchosin, 16 Sep (David Bell, et al.). Also on Vancouver Island, a Tennessee Warbler was seen along Hallberg Road in Cassidy, at a private residence, 4 Nov (Blair Dudeck).

Lightning struck for the second time at a private residence on Edward Street in Revelstoke, with the appearance of a female type Brambling at a feeder 19 Nov to the winter period (Darlene Cancelliere, m. obs). The same garden hosted a Brambling in the winter of 2012/13 as well. Rare in southern BC, a Hoary Redpoll was found at Duck Lake in Creston, 27 Nov (Sachi Snively). In Grand Forks, a Lesser Goldfinch was at feeders at a private garden, 23 Nov into the winter period (Eva Froese). The Kootenay region’s second Smith’s Longspur was photographed at the Selkirk College Trails in Castlegar, 20 Aug (Craig Sandvig). The only other record of a Smith’s Longspur in the Kootenays is of a specimen at North Kootenay Pass in 1858 (The Birds of British Columbia). In the southern interior, at Kamloops, an immature male Rose-breasted Grosbeak patronized feeders in the Pineview area, 23 Aug to 10 Sep (Tana Coezter, m. obs).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 12 Mar 2022.

Photos–British Columbia: Fall 2021

British Columbia’s 17th White Wagtail was seen by many Haida Gwaii birders during its stay at Queen Charlotte City, 18-29 October. The bird, believed to be of the ‘black-backed’ race, was photographed here on 24 Oct by © Carey Bergman.

The Okanagan Valley’s third Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was found at Munson Pond in Kelowna on 4 Nov and remained until the temperatures dipped significantly below zero degrees Celsius on 2 of Nov. © Chris Charlesworth photographed this bird on 4 Nov.

The second record of Oriental Turtle-Dove from Prince Rupert this year, and the fifth for British Columbia, if accepted by the Rare Birds Committee, with both reports being ‘one day wonders’. This bird showed up in a backyard and was photographed by © Teresa Weismiller on 14 Nov.

This immature female Orchard Oriole, British Columbia’s 10th, was banded at the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Metchosin on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. © David Bell, who was the bander, and the photographer, caught the bird on 28 Sep.

This immature Short-tailed Albatross was seen on a pelagic trip off the West Coast of Vancouver Island at Tofino, on 29 Aug. Photographers managed to capture the numbers on a band on the leg and a little detective work revealed the bird was banded as a chick in the nest at the Hatsunezaki colony in Torishima, Japan on 7 Mar 2021. Photo by © Melissa Hafting.