Local Hazelton residents Ray and Maureen Sturney headed out a few weeks back to once again take part in the annual Baillie Birdathon.
This year they broke all kinds of personal records.
Most importantly, Sturney said, they raised more money this year than they ever have, bringing in more than $2,400.
More than $1,800 of the funds will go to the closest bird-banding station, which is located in Mckenzie.
As in years past, the couple added two more birders to their journey and headed up the Suskwa early on the Saturday morning.
Fortunately, logging had kept the road open this year, so despite the heavy snowfall still in the mountains the group was able to access past Cataline Creek to approximately the 56 kilometre mark.
“We started the Birdathon with a boreal chickadee which was a first ever sighting on our Birdathon and a lifer for Maureen,” Ray said.
“Then an olive-sided flycatcher and several common species appeared.
“As we worked down the valley we added Suskwa specialties such as the fox sparrow, blackpoll warblers, mountain chickadees, Tennessee warblers, a solitary sandpiper, grayjays, Wilson’s warbler, Townsend’s warbler along with orange-crowned and yellow rumped warblers, golden-crowned kinglets and a golden-crowned sparrow.”
This brought the foursome to a total of 40 species by the time they hit the Suskwa River bridge.
Before leaving the Suskwa Valley, they headed towards Wernli’s Mill where they added a brewer’s blackbird along with barn, tree and violet-green swallows.
This was topped off by another highlight for birders when they saw a mountain bluebird, another first for the Birdathon.
On their way to their next destination, Ross Lake, they came across a common yellowthroat and added it to their quickly growing list.
Once at the lake they added several more species including a commongoldeneye, common and Pacific loons, red-necked grebe and least flycatchers.
From there it was on to New Hazelton.
“We headed past Melody and Pete’s place and picked up the purple finch, evening grosbeak and a killdeer,” Ray said.
“Maureen and I then headed out to Hospital Lake to see a white-winged scoter and a ring-necked duck.
“Next we went to our friend Mary’s and caught cliff swallows, white-crowned sparrows and the european starling,” Ray said.
Next it was time for swamp observations starting at Glen Vowell turnoff where they encountered bank swallows and Vaux’s swift.
From there they headed to Forsythe’s swamp where they glassed a Canada goose, green-winged teal, belted kingfisher, mallard ducks, hooded mergansers and a red-tailed hawk.
Upon their return home they were able to add a calliope hummingbird to bring their total for day one to 79 species.
Sunday morning started early at 4 a.m. with coffee and then they walked up to Station Creek.
“As we left home a western tanager settled on a branch, then at the blue gate a red-breasted sapsucker drew our attention,” he said. “As we walked a chesnut-backed chikadee completed our list of all four chickadee species in the area. It’s the first time we have ever done that.”
Soon after they added a Pacific wren and on the way back to their vehicle they picked up a Cassin’s vireo. Add to that an Alder flycatcher at the tourist booth and then they headed home for breakfast.
At the Hazelton’s sewage lagoon a northern shoveler and yellow warbler showed their colours. At Seeley Lake the couple saw a bald eagle, pileated woodpecker and common merganser before heading west towards the old Carnaby Mill site.
“There we counted a northern rough-winged swallow and carried on to visit Walkers corner where we saw a MacGillivray’s warbler and blue-winged teal,” Ray explained.
“At the Mill Pond we found a bufflehead and greater scaup and as we always get a highlight bird there, we traveled to the far end to pick up number 96, the semi-palmated plover. On the way to Kitwanga Lake we had another highlight, a Swainson’s hawk.”
Only a few species followed that with a sooty goose, Pacific slope flycatcher and a white-throated sparrow to round it off at 100 species.
“Getting all the chickadee’s and all the resident warbler’s was definitely a highlight for Maureen and I,” Ray shared.
“Yet we take our hats off to all the people who’s generosity helped us break our record for money raised.”
For information on the annual Baillie Birdathon or the local counts, contact the Sturney’s or visit www.birdscanada.org.