Kamloops Birdwatch: Ducking into spring

Submitted by Naomi Birkenhead

Due to Kamloops’ geographical location, its desert-like appearance is in thanks mostly to what is known as the rain shadow effect; essentially mountains inhibit rain producing weather systems from passing and creating a shadow of dryness in their wake. But don’t let this parched landscape deter you on your quest for birds.

One of the most over looked species in amateur birding tend to be water fowl, and our little neck of the valley will play host to an assortment that migrate in sooner than our much sought after song birds.

At the MacArthur island moat as I like to call it, Mallards are the waddle most common and no one usually looks hard enough to realize the variations swimming about. At the beginning of March, flashes of white can be seen bobbing in and out of the frigid waters. It is the Golden Eyes and Buffleheads stirring up nutrients. Their sleek black bodies help to keep them hidden from the larger prey circling above.

A very beautiful duck often mistaken at first glance, is the Wood Duck, or helmet duck as some will call it, due to the dark green plumage gathered off the back of the male’s head. The American widgeon is also similar in colour, but has a defined white stripe that runs the length of its head and beak.

Hooded Merganser, and the American coot also have distinguished white markings allowing for easy identification; the Merganser has large white disk shaped feathers protruding from the sides of its head and longer beak, while the coot is fully black with red eye and stout white beak.

If you head up to the newly cultivated bird area beside Dufferin Elementary, a Northern Shoveler or Gadwall may honour you with their presence.

With the majority of waters warming up, Ruddy ducks and their intriguing blue beaks will start dotting the ponds around McGowan Park and MacArthur Island as well as the elegant swim of the Phalarope. The Killdeer will be joined by more of his shore bird friends such as, Wilson’s Snipe, Greater Yellow Legs, Sandpipers and long billed Dowichers; they have been spotted out Knutsford’s way, along the marshy edges of Separation Lake.

Migratory Birds to keep your eyes open for would be the Sandhill Crane, American Avocet, and Long Tailed duck which have been spotted at times along the flood plains surrounding Tranquille Farms.

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