Mayne Island Conservancy Society

Birding in the Southern Gulf Islands

About This Page

The Mayne Island Conservancy Society is a joint caretaker of the Active Pass Important Bird Area, habitat for three nationally or internationally significant bird species: Pacific Loon, Brant's Cormorant and Bonaparte Gull. As an organisation with such an ongoing project the Society offers this page to the local birding community to provide a forum for reports and observations. For instance new or unusual sightings can be posted here, and the results of the Christmas Bird Count and the annual "Baillie Birdathon" will be put up as soon as they become available.

To contribute to this page scroll down to our feedback form or call Michael at 5745!

Christmas Bird Count 2016

Calling all birders!
Our Annual Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday December 17, 2016 . This is a fun and healthy event that has been going on for over 40 years on Mayne. If you like, love or are passionate about birds then this event is for you. We have teams of people assigned to various routes in which they spend a portion of the count day identifying and counting all the birds that they can see. We usually mix the groupings so that there are good birders paired with new birders which makes of a great learning experience.

If you are interested, please contact Michael Dunn at the MICS office (5168) or at home (5745) to sign up. This is a great way to get out to explore our island in the early winter.

Pender Island Field Naturalists' Event

Burrowing Owls with Dr Geoff Holroyd Community Hall – Friday, February 26, 7:00 pm

On Friday, February 26, 2016 the Pender Island Field Naturalists will welcome Dr. Geoff Holroyd to Pender Island. Dr. Holroyd is a former research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service who has spent many years studying Burrowing Owls on our prairie grasslands and elsewhere. He has also studied a variety of birds from Peregrine Falcons to Tree Swallows and has been a primary driver for the conservation of species at risk and their habitats within prairie grasslands. Geoff will discuss some of the factors that have led to the decline of this iconic grassland species.

Depending on the weather, the evening meeting will be followed by an “Owl Prowl” in a local area to be determined. Come prepared for a brisk evening outing! However, only 16 people can be accommodated, so if you plan to attend the outing, please let us know at When we reach the magic number of 16, the list will be closed. The outing will be cancelled if it rains.

Admission is by donation at the door.

Christmas Bird Count 2015

Michael Dunn's Report

The Christmas Bird Counts are held every year and for every year we do them, there are always surprises. 2015 did not disappoint in that regard. December 19, 2015 was reasonably good weather wise with no rain, but some wind. Thirty-eight Mayne Islanders spent a cumulative total of 128 hours either walking, driving or boating the lands and shores of our island. By all accounts from the counters the general numbers were down, particularly among the common birds and bird species we usually see in numbers during the winter. A couple of factors were possible – the almost complete lack of Arbutus berries this year which in past years have attracted large flocks of Robins, Varied Thrush and other birds and the very high tides on the count day which meant no intertidal feeding areas for shorebirds and gulls.

So how did we do? Well the hunches of our counters were correct, for we tallied 4,535 individual birds, which is considerably down from last year’s total of 7,404. The incredible news is that we also tallied 82 species, a record for the Mayne Island count (compared 72 for last year). Within this number were new records for Mayne island including Wood Duck and Long-tailed Duck plus some uncommon (for Mayne) species including Northern Shrike, Steller’s Jay and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Incredibly, this year, most of the possible daytime raptor species were observed (Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, and Red-tailed hawks, as well as Merlin, American Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon plus Bald Eagles). All the possible woodpecker species were also observed (Downy, Hairy, Pileated woodpeckers, Red-breasted Sapsucker and Northern Flicker). Both these factors have never been achieved before in previous counts.

Notable species tallies are the highest for the count Barrow’s Goldeneye (536), followed by Dark-eyed Junco (410), Golden-crowned Kinglet (291), Canada Goose (286), Surf Scoter (263) and Bufflehead (245). Other interesting numbers were for Black Turnstones and Surfbirds with only 4 and 1 seen respectively and compare this with last year with tallies of 127 and 372 respectively. Surf Scoters have a distinct cyclical overwintering population that is based on the availability and size of their preferred food- the Blue Mussel. This year was a low cycle (263 counted), while last year was a peak cycle (1033 counted). Robins, one of our most identifiable birds, were way down from previous years with only seventy-three seen compared with even last year’s total of 383. Anna’s Hummingbird, one of our newest resident species, showed a slight increase over last year totaling 61 birds seen. Black Oystercatcher numbers were notable with 42 seen even with the high tides compared with only 14 last year.

The Mayne Island count is part of a larger Audubon count area, which includes the Penders and Saturna Island. The grand totals for this area include 14,597 individual birds of 94 species were observed, 2 species less than the previous year. As usual, Dark-eyed Juncos were the most abundant songbird with 1422 being counted, followed by Golden-crowned Kinglets at 1140 and in third place, Chestnut-backed Chickadees with 687. However, waterbirds ruled as 2165 Mew Gulls were noted, most seen off Saturna Island. Buffleheads were common at 764 followed by Barrow’s Goldeneye at 708. Some pelagic bird numbers were lower as were the rock loving shorebirds. A record number of Bald Eagles was noted, 173, and Anna’s Hummingbird at 167, slowly continued its range expansion. The number for Mew Gulls was also a record.

Mayne Island recorded the highest number of species at 82 followed closely behind by Pender, 76, and Saturna, 75.

To view the full tally click here.

Latest BC News from Bird Studies Canada

Call for Volunteers: Shorebird Surveys, Coastal BC

22 March 2013 – Bird Studies Canada and Simon Fraser University are collaborating on a hemispheric-wide effort to study potential causes of declines of Western Sandpipers. Because they use many distinct migratory sites in the Salish Sea region, British Columbia is in the unique situation of supporting a large proportion of the Western Sandpiper population each year. This study aims to census about 20 sites in the Salish Sea and Vancouver Island, and northern Puget Sound Region. To cover this number of sites simultaneously, we are seeking help from volunteer birders.

If you’re skilled at shorebird identification and accurately estimating flock sizes (or are willing to learn estimation skills), please consider volunteering. A time commitment of three to four hours on April 28, and during two to three days on the weekends of July 19 and August 16, is required. Training will be available. The survey sites will focus on the following areas: Metro Vancouver, Victoria/Capital Region, Tofino, and Eastern Vancouver Island. If you’re interested in participating or learning more, please email David Hope ( or Karen Barry ( with the subject line “WESA Survey,” and state which area you’d be willing to survey.

New Sightings for Mayne Island

  • If you see or hear a "new arrival" in the coming Spring do let us know. You could phone Michael at 5745, or better yet, use the on-line form below. Photos can be attached to an email message sent to

Unusual or Rare Sightings

April 12, Alice Harris reports hearing a Western Screech Owl off Bowsprit - close to the "Level 3 Habitat" zone indicated on our Species Home Range maps.

January 31, Michael Dunn saw a Snowy Owl in the Glen Echo Road area. This is a very rare occurrence and the first he's observed in his 21 years on Mayne.

January 13 and 14, 2013 a Western Screech Owl, a bird species at risk, has been heard calling (there may be two) around Gallagher Bay and Purcell Roads.

January 12-14, 2013 a large flock of up to 1200 Surf Scoters has been seen along the Strait of Georgia side of Mayne Island feeding between Active Pass and Campbell Point. This is the largest single flock recorded for Mayne in the last 15 years at least.

December 31, 2012 An adult Golden Eagle observed over and around Reef Bay moving toward Edith Point. This is likely a first record for Mayne and this is not a very common observation for our area.

December 17, 2012 A pair of Yellow-shafted Flickers at Gallagher Bay Road and Purcell Road. While considered to be the same species as the Red-shafted Flicker (both classed as the Northern Flicker), it is still a striking bird to see.

December 15, 2012 Ringed-neck Duck sighted Windover Farm and Spotted Sandpiper at pond off Fernhill Road.

*   For complete listing of 2011-2012 sightings & arrivals visit our Sightings Archive

Birding Refresher Course had Good Results

A wonderful break from the cloud, wind and rain, Sunday, December 2, 2012 proved to be a beautiful sunny day for ten bird enthusiasts. The birds, too seemed to be rejoicing in the brighter day judging from the numbers and diversity of species seen. The outing was hosted by the Mayne Island Conservancy under the wing (pun intended) of Michael Dunn. It was to give people a chance to improve their field observation skills as well as practice techniques for counting large flocks. Over the course of about 3 hours, the group visited Miners Bay park and bay, Georgina Point, Merryman Road and Village Bay at the boat ramp. In all, 36 species were observed representing about 850 individuals. The highlight was seeing two Anna’s Hummingbirds in Miners Bay Park. A partial list of birds sighted and numbers follows. Note that this is not a complete listing of total numbers encountered.

  • Miners Bay Park and Bay
    Pacific Loon – 42Common Goldeneye – 2Double-crested Cormorant – 8Pelagic Cormorant – 2
    Bufflehead – 8Bald Eagle – 4Golden-crowned Kinglet – 14House Sparrow – 6
    Song Sparrow – 3Fox Sparrow – 1Red-breasted Merganser – 4Anna’s Hummingbird – 2
    Unidentified Gulls – 42Spotted Towhee – 4  
  • Georgina Point
    Bald Eagle – 5Bonaparte’s Gull – 15Pacific Loon – 100+Common Murre – 40
    Pigeon Guillemot – 4Barrow’s Goldeneye – 26Unidentified Gulls - 120House Sparrow – 6
    Song Sparrow – 3Fox Sparrow – 1Red-breasted Merganser – 4 
  • Merryman Road
    Pine Siskin - ~350Pacific Wren – 3American Robin – 4Northern Flicker – 3
    Red-shafted/Yellow-shafted Flicker hybrid – 1Red Crossbill- 2Song Sparrow – 1Golden-crowned Kinglet – 4
    Dark-eyed Junco – 1Bald Eagle – 2Common Raven – 2Red-breasted Nuthatch – 1
    Northwestern Crow – 3  
  • Village Bay
    Belted Kingfisher – 1Bufflehead – 8American Wigeon – 9Glaucous-winged Gull – 4
    Mew Gull – 25California Gull – 1Double-crested Cormorant – 12Pelagic Cormorant – 2
    Thayer’s Gull - 4Common Merganser - 4  

2013 Mayne Island Christmas Bird Count

One day within the last two weeks of December Mayne Island birders, along with thousands of others throughout North America, took to the roads, forests, fields and marine waters to census the birds of winter on our island. For this year’s count it was December 14, 2013 (note that this is for the 2014 count as the count period straddles the new year). The weather was calm and mild as we had just come out of the previous week’s freeze up so there was still ice on some of the ponds; which is significant and I will explain later.

This year 30 Mayne Islanders participated in the count, which is our highest birder count on record. While the weather was great for visibility and sound, the consensus of the counters was that the numbers were way down from previous years. This observation was likely true for parts of the island which are most exposed during freezing weather. This would mean that birds which frequent fields and freshwater bodies would have a hard time getting enough food to survive the frigid temperatures. That is, the ground was too frozen for foraging and the ponds were frozen over (also a source of water for birds). In these cases, wintering birds move a little further south to better feeding opportunities. They eventually return as the weather warms up. It is likely the day of our count was too soon after the freeze up to have those b

This year Mayne Island tallied, despite the above, 74 species with a total of 6,009 individual birds. In the scheme of things this was about average (our average over the last ten years is 6062) although this is well below the total count numbers over the last two years – 7105 (2012) and 6488 (2013). Our average for species over the same 10-year period is 72. So we are slightly above average in that regard and higher than the last two year count totals- 64 (2012) and 71 (2013). The table at the end of this article will provide you with the run down of the last ten years. It is quite revealing in that our species and individual bird count highs were at the beginning of this period and have fluctuated quite a bit since.

With respect to the table, you will note a column with Anna’s Hummingbird numbers from 2004 to present. Before 2004, Anna’s were a rare sighting around here at any time of the year. Their established range was more south around California. However, this diminutive species began to be observed over wintering in areas further north. The first winter records that I am aware of were in Victoria and all exclusively related to people keeping hummingbird feeders out over winter. Mayne Island’s first confirmed winter record was 2004, though likely the Anna’s was present before this time. As the table indicates, the number of Anna’s detected over the years rose slowly at first then jumped to our 2014 total of 35 a count record for us. The reason for this is that at some point in around 2010 or shortly thereafter, the Anna’s Hummingbird began breeding on Mayne and as of this timeframe is now a year-round resident bird, which is quite remarkable.

Some of the interesting observations this year include count highs for those pesky (hard to identify) gulls (600), Chestnut-backed Chickadees (477), Canada Goose (450), Surfbird (434 and an historic high), Golden-crowned Kinglet (420), Dark-eyed Junco (416), and American Robin (365). Other significant numbers were for Varied Thrush (108) another historic count high and amazingly, 12 Red-winged Blackbirds. Our two rare birds of the count were the Eurasian Wigeon (2), among a larger flock of American Wigeons and two Spotted Sandpipers foraging along the shore.

Another feature of these Audubon Christmas Bird Counts is that species that are observed within a week of the actual count day can be recorded as Count Week birds. This category only applies to species not seen on the actual count day. So for Mayne Island we tallied three count week species – Black Brant (a sea goose) (30) off Georgina Point, a Great Horned Owl and a pair of Barred Owls.

Thanks to the great group of folks who participated this year and a special thanks to landowners who gave us permission to count on their properties.


To view a complete recap of the count of numbers and species for each of our local teams click here

Sunday Ramble

Birding outing held on Sunday September 16 focused on what you might see in your own backyard and neighbourhood. We started at the Gallagher Bay Road residence of Michael Dunn and did a casual walk to Piggott and Gallagher bays, hoping to spot the Spotted Sandpiper. We did not unfortunately but along the way, we did see 20 species of birds. There were 10 participants. The total list was:

Turkey VultureSpotted TowheeSong Sparrow
Pine SiskinRed-breasted NuthatchOsprey
Cooper's HawkCommon RavenChestnut-backed Chickadee
Brown CreeperWinter WrenRed Crossbill
Northern FlickerHairy WoodpeckerGreat Blue Heron
Belted KingfisherRuby-crowned KingletCanada Goose
American RobinMew Gull 

2014 Baillie Birdathon Report

Michael Dunn writes:

The Weather Disrupts the Day

I decided to do this year's birdathon on Thursday May 8th. I was encouraged by the good weather on the 7th and the number of bird species I was detecting leading up to that date. As you know, I again set my goal as 80 species and these early samples convinced me that this number was again very possible.

Lo and behold, the weather had changed and the day was mostly overcast with a good rain in the afternoon. While the conditions were not ideal ( not sure if this means for me or the birds), I ventured out starting at 630 am to try to hear or see our resident Barred Owls (who [no pun intended] were very vocal on the previous three nights) but they were silent. The dawn chorus of heartier birds was in full swing and I quickly tallied warblers, sparrows, towhees and chickadees. I was dropping off my wife Jess at the water taxi at Miners Bay, so began the more intense search on the marine side. The visibility was good at that time so had a clear view of Miners Bay and Active Pass where I was hoping to get some of the staging Spring migrants before they left. It was pretty barren, but I did see likely the last Bufflehead, the spectacular Purple Martins and Violet Green Swallows and to my great surprise, an Osprey perched in a tree at eye level. The great flocks of gulls that were present a week earlier, were not to be seen.

I moved along the coast to Georgina Point and was happy to see a small flock of Bonaparte's Gulls which likely were the last till the fall, some Mew Gulls and the ubiquitous Glaucous-winged Gull. I also saw the last of the Pacific Loons. Bald Eagles were present and I was delighted at spotting a Golden Eagle wheeling over Active Pass just off Gossip Island. I was ever hopeful that the flocks of Black Turnstones and Surfbirds were still around as well as the Black Oystercatcher. None were seen at the point. The land side of Georgina Point provided a MacGillvray's Warbler which was a good addition, as well as Brown Creepers. I moved along to Oyster Bay hoping for shorebirds, but again none. As I was leaving,, I got a great view of a pair of Western Grebe flying by just off from the islets. Reef Bay was next and always a good site for a diversity of marine and forest birds, Harlequin Ducks were there as were Barrow's Goldeneye again likely the last winter stragglers before heading to breeding sites elsewhere; no shorebirds and no oysterecatchers here though.

At this point it was raining heavily and the birds seemed to be in hiding too. I did not add anymore species to my list from Dinner Bay, East West Road, Navy Channel, Gallagher and Piggott bays. I made a stop at my place for rain gear and saw a Red breasted Sapsucker. On the road again, I visited a very productive feeder at a neighbour's house that reported a Black-headed Grosbeak present. It did not appear, though Purple and House finch were in abundance and Cliff Swallows were active near the barn. Moving on I happened to get a glimpse of a pair of Mallards feeding in a puddle in a field. My next stop and search was Horton Bay at the dock where Pigeon Guillemots were present and a Belted Kingfisher. I decided to search along Beechwood Drive up to the Henderson Park parking lot. In the past, when weather conditions were better Olive-sided Flycatchers and Sooty Grouse could be detected, but not this year. I did however, spot a very wet Red-tailed Hawk and a Hairy Woodpecker. On to Horton Bay at the boat ramp, another very productive spot, I did not see any birds to add to the list.

Based on last year's knowledge, I visited a large pond/wetland off Fernhill Road hoping to call out Marsh Wrens and perhaps spot a Hooded Merganser. Neither appeared, although I did see and hear Pine Siskins. I decided to revisit the marine areas I did in the early morning, just to see if I could find those elusive shorebirds and oystercatchers.. Miners Bay provided a Thayer's Gull, Georgina Point a Red-throated Loon and Oyster Bay had one lone Oystercatcher. By this time, it was raining heavily and I had been out for about 11 hours. I retreated to my home territory, hoping for sightings of Barred Owl, Hermit Thrush, or the Black-headed Grosbeak that were known to be around. None of these species appeared.

The birdalogue above captures some of the highlights of my travels around Mayne on that day. In the end I tallied 79 species over the 24 hour period of the count, just one short of my goal. At about 8:30 pm Friday evening, outside of my birdathon timeframe, the Barred Olwls began to call again.

There is still time to donate to my fundraising goal and for those who have already, thank you very much. If you wish to donate online please go to the Bird Studies Canada website and click on the Baillie Birdathon link , then Sponsor a Participant or use the link below:
Happy Birding!

Winter Bird Walk 2011
Knowing Winter Birds on Miners Bay
Winter Bird Walk 2010
Knowledge from 2010 Helped in 2011!
Bonaparte Gull
And this what they were looking at
One of the Conservancy's Sunday Walkabouts
Birders' Ramble - Walkabout 2011
Photo of a Barred Owl
Barred Owl does her Exorcist Trick
Copy us your photos for this Birder's Gallery with details of what is shown and a mention of the name of the photographer to be credited - we'll put up a selection every now & then. Send an e-mail with attachment to

The Purple Martin Stewardship Program

In 2011 The Mayne Island Conservancy Society (MICS) invited your financial participation in saving the Purple Martin Stewardship Program.

Purple Martin & Nestbox: photo by R. Hocken, courtesy Western Purple Martin Foundation

The Western Purple Martin, our largest swallow, a short ten years ago, was almost gone from our region. Today, due to the efforts of the Georgia Basin Ecological Assessment and Restoration Society, Purple Martins are back! The Society is a group of volunteers who are dedicated to Purple Martin recovery. In 2009, the BC Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program (coordinated by the Georgia Basin Ecological Assessment and Restoration Society) found itself in a financial shortfall for the summer season, as an expected $10,000 Summer Jobs Grant has been denied. As a result they launched an appeal for assistance. Michael Dunn wrote:

"Western Purple Martin's almost disappeared from the south coast of British Columbia due to losses to their preferred breeding habitat (cavities in trees) as well as, competition from introduced bird species such as starlings and house sparrows. The Western Purple Martin Stewardship program was launched to try to restore and increase the breeding populations of these magnificent birds. For Mayne Island this was in 2005 with establishment of artificial nest boxes in Miners Bay and Bennett Bay. Since these have been installed, martins have been breeding successfully at both sites. The Miners Bay population is within the designated Active Pass Important Bird Area."
With this in mind MICS made a contribution from the IBA Project and our supporters donated via the Conservancy or directly to the Western Purple Martin Foundation. Full story from 2010 here....

As a result Charlene Lee (Administrator - Western Purple Martin Foundation) wrote:

Mayne Island Purple Martins - Photo: Toby Snelgrove
Mayne Island Purple Martins - Photo: Toby Snelgrove
Purple Martins on Mayne
- Toby Snelgrove
"We managed to raise enough money so far to hire the second student for about 3 weeks during the nestling banding period which will be mid July to early August this year. I had an email from Michael yesterday that the Mayne Island Conservancy Society had raised an additional $350 so that's another few days which is great. We also had two people from Mayne Island donate directly to the Western Purple Martin Foundation for an additional $100. That is very close to the additional $500 Michael was hoping to raise for us.

Please extend a big thank you to all those on Mayne Island who helped us out with our summer student funding appeal.

If anyone asks if we still need funds please let them know that yes we do. We'd like to have the second student for an additional 2 weeks to help out if the data entry and applying data loggers to adult birds for the second year of our migration study....."

The Purple Martin Project on Mayne

For the last seven years Herbie and Bernard Rochet have undertaken all the martin stewardship activities on Mayne. This included the placing of nest boxes and their maintenance to intensive but non-intrusive monitoring & recording during the nesting season. And what a splendid job they have done! Responsibilty for this stewardship program will be transferred to Conservancy staff and a new team of volunteers from the latter quarter of 2012. Herbie's survey of what has been accomplished so far, together with some photographs taken by Bernard, appears on our "Species Stewardship" page. Read it here

Western Bluebird Restoration

Western Bluebirds nest on Vancouver Island for the first time since 1995

The Bring Back the Bluebirds project is excited to report the first confirmed Western Bluebird nest in the Salish Sea area since 1995. A re-introduced bluebird has laid five beautiful blue eggs at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve (CGOP) near Duncan – Western Bluebirds nest on Vancouver Island for the first time since 1995 The Bring Back the Bluebirds project is excited to report the first confirmed Western Bluebird nest in the Salish Sea area since 1995. A re-introduced bluebird has laid four beautiful blue eggs at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve (CGOP) near Duncan. The eggs are in a nestbox claimed by an adult pair of Western Bluebirds that was released at CGOP on June 11th. This is the young pair's first breeding season, and they’re already working on their second brood. Meanwhile, they continue to provide food for the four fledglings from their first brood (the entire family was translocated from Washington on June 6th). The fledglings are often seen perched in a small Garry Oak tree near their parents' new nestbox.

The full story appears on our "Species Stewardship" page. Read it here

Report a Sighting

Your sighting may be published in the "New" or "Unusual" sections on this page, with attribution. Please indicate "Anonymous" if you do not want your name mentioned in connection with the sighting report. If you have a picture please send it attached to an email addressed to - we may need to resize and/or crop your photo to suit its positioning on the page.

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Last modified: October 19 2016 16:35:02.

Last modified: October 19 2016 16:35:02.