Yesterday morning I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Colony Farm banding station run by the Vancouver Avian Research Centre or VARC. Bander in Charge is ex-pat birder Derek Matthews who along with his wife Carol and many other ringers (banders) made me very welcome.
Late June probably isn’t the best time for bird ringing but there were plenty of Common birds being processed, Willow Flycatcher (still tricksy even for the Canadians in the hand – so take that all you who reckon Alder Flycatcher is on your British List). I did ID a couple on call out in the field so there! Red-winged Blackbird and House Finch were the commonest birds banded with other stuff thrown in. Highlight for me was a stunning male Lazuli Bunting.
Other common birds around the park were Common Yellowthroat a bird that I’ve seen once in Britain on my first Scilly trip back in 1997. I’d love a full male to turn up though.
Another belter was Black-headed Grosbeak, apparently a tough bird to handle and well able to wreck and inexperienced ringers hands.
Tree Swallow nest all round the area in nest boxes with one right under the eaves of the banding station.
One of the tiniest birds I’ve ever seen was a Rufous Hummingbird. Along with the larger Anna’s Hummingbird they are the two species regularly found in the metro Vancouver area. The Rufous weighed in at just over 3g, about the same weight as a Canadian penny. That these birds migrate between Mexico and Alaska is mind-blowing. By comparison the Anna’s are real monsters with one (probably with an egg) coming in a whopping 4.7g! These tiny things are now regularly over-wintering in B.C.
This American Robin juv is one banded with a red band to denote it was raised in a rehabilitation and rescue centre… something to look out for in Britain.
Finally a walk to the ponds brought me a Pied-billed Grebe which means I’ve now seen 50% more in Britain than North America. Too distant to photograph but this Song Sparrow was pretty tame.
I’d like to thank everyone at VARC for a great morning and especially Kerry for giving me a lift back to Kits, saving me time and money!