Saturday 24 June 2017

Birding Tumbler Ridge

June 10 2017 Tumbler Ridge Brassey Creek BC.

Birding with birders can be a most interesting experience. Normally I photograph on my own or car-pool with another photographer. We might spend a morning or sometimes all day stalking one species. Sometimes we come up blank, other days we capture something that makes the outing really worthwhile.

The advantages of joining a birding group are many. The first is you'll see a lot more species, sometimes over a hundred species in a single day. A group led by an experienced leader with local knowledge is the key to finding difficult species. Our group leader in Tumbler Ridge was renowned birder Mark Phinney. His specialized knowledge led us to a number eastern species not normally found in BC. A second group was led by Brian Paterson, another excellent birder. Brian would eventually lead the post extension trip I was to join but that's another story.

We had two mornings of birding before the business part of British Columbia Federation of Ornithologists (BCFO) annual conference. There were a number of trips arranged and I chose the Brassey Creek option. Brassey creek is a forty minute drive north off Tumbler Ridge. When we arrived it looked just like any other areas we had just driven by. Obviously Mark had scouted out the location and was able to pinpoint a number of species before many of us could even see them. Our first stop was a gravel pit where we soon found several Wilson's Snipe, Lincoln's Sparrows and a Townsend's Solitaire.

Townsend's Solitaire.

It was at Brassey Creek Rd that many of us got our first lifer of the trip. Mark took us into the forest of aspen and fir, the understory he explained would be ideal for vireos and warblers.
Soon enough Mark has us on a Philadelphia Vireo, a lifer for me and many in the party.

Philadelphia Vireo.

The more time we spent in the forest the more birds we found. Don't even mention the mosquitos which were soon forgotten when a Black and White Warbler gave us fleeting views before disappearing off into the canopy. 

Black and White Warbler.

Another bird we saw from a distance was the blue-heard Vireo, not a lifer for me but a BC bird all the same. If I was to return to the area I think a week or two earlier when there would be less foliage.

Blue-Headed Vireo.

Thanks to Mark our group was now getting some really good birds. As you can imagine a group of ten can make quite a lot of noise. It always amazes me how when arriving on location birders are great slammers of car doors. I also wonder why some birders don white shirts and hats and bright red anoraks. Don't me wrong I know how ridiculous some photographers can look dressed up in camo but white!


A long distance shot the Ovenbird, another of those eastern species found in Peace River region and nowhere else in BC. Possibly because of the size of the group we were never able to get very close to any of the birds which was fine with me and everyone seemed to be more than happy as long as they had a good views. 

Tennessee Warbler.
Once I have photographed a species a few times I start looking for opportunities that display different  behavoir patterns like this Tennessee Warbler gleaning a caterpillar. 

This bird is obviously distracted by a dozen sets of eyes, it remained long enough for a few frames.

White-throated Sparrow.
The blue skies and warmth of Saturday were replaced by torrential rain Sunday. Despite that we still went out but the inclement meant the birding wasn't as good but that's how it goes sometimes.
Overall the convention was a great success, great company, and new contacts made, two lifers in the bag and the added excitement of leaving for Dawson Creek for four more days of hardcore birding.
A birder's dream!

Below are a some of the Tumbler Ridge sightings.

Fish Creek Community Forest, Peace River, British Columbia, CA

Jun 12, 2017 9:46 AM - 10:51 AM

Protocol: Traveling
1.88 kilometer(s)
19 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  1

Hairy Woodpecker  1
Olive-sided Flycatcher  3
Western Wood-Pewee  2
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
Brown Creeper  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Swainson's Thrush  5
American Robin  4
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  2
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Western Tanager  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1


Swan Lake, Tupper--Road 201 south, Peace River, British Columbia, CA
Jun 13, 2017 6:39 AM - 9:12 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.4 kilometer(s)
18 species

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Western Wood-Pewee  1
Least Flycatcher  6
Philadelphia Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  7
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Swainson's Thrush  3
American Robin  2
Tennessee Warbler  1
Mourning Warbler  3
American Redstart  8
Yellow Warbler  7
Blackpoll Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  3
Fox Sparrow  5
White-throated Sparrow  5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada


  1. Looks like a fantastic trip John! Yep I'm always surprised how some birders Alan doors so hard when running to a bird twitch lol kind of frustrating.

    BCFO trips are great but certainly not photography trips and with large groups you did amazing at getting good photos kudos


  2. Thanks Mel, the upside of being part of those groups is the collective knowledge floating around. Mark Phinney was particularly amazing. I heard a lot about how to "read " the forest from him. I birded with Carlo and George and that was really instructive too.

    1. For sure that's the best part of those trips meeting great and locally knowledgeable people :)