Saturday, January 27, 2018

First Visit to Reifel Bird Sanctuary in 2018

There's no place like Reifel for adding to the list early in the year. The variety in winter is amazing. On this visit I only toured the North-eastern part of the sanctuary and added seven species to my 2018 list.

After checking in, I looked for the Black-crowned Night Herons just off the trail to the right. As usual, they were sleeping, but they were more out in the open than usual.

Black-crowned Night Heron - Reifel Bird Sanctuary
2017 Bird # 48

A common Dabbling Duck at Reifel is the American Wigeon. Dabbling Ducks feed in shallow ponds on plant matter and insects. They are the ones that have their heads in the water and their rear ends facing upwards.

American Wigeon - Reifel Bird Sanctuary - 2017 Bird # 49

Sandhill cranes are common sights at Reifel, they mix in with the crowds. I always get nervous when they're around small children but there don't seem to be any incidents.

Sandhill Crane - Reifel Bird Sanctuary - 2017 Bird # 50

Here's a movie of one feeding on the bird seed that litters the ground.

If you're looking for House Sparrows, the entrance to Reifel is a good place to find this European Species. I don't know if the abundance of seed attracts them, but they are much scarcer in the rest of the Sanctuary.

House Sparrow - Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Reifel is one of the best places to see the Ring-necked Duck. This photo shows the orange band around the neck that gives them their name.

Ring-necked Duck - Reifel Bird Sanctuary - 2017 Bird #51 

Out on the large pond to the North there were some ducks perched on a floating log. Amongst them was a male Common Merganser.

Common Merganser - Reifel Bird Sanctuary - 2017 Bird # 52

During the winter the Golden-Crowned and White-crowned Sparrows are abundant on the Lower Mainland. This Golden-crowned is still in it's Basic (non-breeding) plumage.

Golden-crowned Sparrow - Reifel Bird Sanctuary

I was now halfway down the East Dyke trail. There is a turnoff to the south that takes you deeper into the forested area. I noticed a couple of photographers looking up into the trees and went over to investigate. They were shooting a flock of small finch like birds. They confirmed that they were Common Redpolls.

These are a northern species that is closely related to the Pine Siskin. We've had an irruption of Redpolls and Crossbills from the north this winter. I started snapping photos,  but the light was poor and the birds were moving constantly.

Common Redpoll - Reifel Bird Sanctuary - 2017 Bird # 53

Here's another shot, other than the red on the head, they are quite similar to Pine Siskins.

I returned to the main trail and met up with some people looking up into a dark area of a large tree. There was a Great Horned Owl up there. The photo below was the best I could get as it was facing away from us.

Great Horned Owl - Reifel Bird Sanctuary - 2017 Bird # 54

I started heading back to the entrance and was able to get a more open shot of a Common Redpoll.

Further along there was a Male Wood Duck that looked like he was losing his head.

Wood Duck - Reifel Bird Sanctuary

And here's a couple of pairs of Wood Ducks, enough to play bridge if they could find a table and some cards.

Finally, many people visit Reifel so they can feed the birds. It's very common to see Chickadees eating out of people's hands. I've started to see Red-winged Blackbirds doing the same.

But I've never seen this before:

This ended my visit to Reifel and my birding for this weekend.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Rainy Weekend Birding

Saturday - Deas Island Regional Park

The weather was not good on this weekend, but I saw some clearing in the west and decided to try for a quick outing at Deas Island Regional Park in Delta. It's only a 10 - 15 minute drive from home so I could bail if the skies opened up again.

This park is adjacent to the Fraser River and has trails along the river on the north, and trails around Deas Slough on the south. This is the northern trail:

It was very quiet but I did find a Hairy Woodpecker making some noise to my right. The photo is poor as it was quite dark in the forest.

Hairy Woodpecker - Deas Island Regional Park, Delta BC - 2018 Bird # 45

This shot is a little clearer.

The most common bird here was the Bald Eagle. It seems like there weren't enough trees to go around.

Bald Eagle - Deas Island Regional Park, Delta BC

It just seems like a bird you don't want to mess with.

I left the park and returned home on River Road. At an intersection I noticed a Dove on a telephone wire. Traffic was light and I was able to get one photo.

Eurasian Collared-Dove - River Road, Delta BC - 2018 Bird # 46

Sunday - Bushtits in Backyard

We have a suet feeder hanging from a drainpipe just outside our sunroom. This can give us some good closeups of the birds that come to feed there. We had a flock of Bushtits come in and I tried to get a photo of them through our very dirty living room window. The results were not pretty.

Bushtit - Backyard, North Delta BC - 2018 Bird # 47.

Here's a similar shot taken a few years ago when the windows were clean. It should be noted that our living room window is 30+ feet about the ground, which is quite uneven. We need to get professionals in to clean it.

I'm sure I'll get some better photos of these little guys sometime in the near future.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Foggy Sunday Birding

Finally! A dry day was in the forecast. However, as I was leaving North Delta it became apparent that the entire metro area was enshrouded in fog. My only hope was to head for a high point above the fog.

Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area

I felt this was my best bet for a fog free environment. But would there be any birds there? The fog lifted as I climbed up the mountain, here was the view from the parking lot.

My first stop was to check for Pine Grosbeaks by the parking area, but there were none. I walked the Trans-Canada trail up a few hundred meters, but there was no bird activity at all. After returning to the parking lot, I head a familiar croaking call. It was a Common Raven further down below me.

I walked down and located the Raven perched atop a tall evergreen tree.

Common Raven - Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, Burnaby BC
2017 Bird #37

Because it was so high, it wa difficult to get a sharp shot. Here's the best I could manage.

Common Raven - Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, Burnaby BC

Burnaby Lake Regional Park

I drove back into the fog and decided to stop at Burnaby Lake Regional Park. There were certain to be a number of duck species I hadn't seen yet in 2018. Although it was foggy, I was able to take a number of decent shots and tweak them in post-production.

The part of Burnaby lake I visit is Piper Spit. There's a boardwalk that juts out into the Lake, and there are copious amounts of waterfall there, partially because they are well fed by the visitors to the park.

However, the first bird I saw at the foot of the boardwalk was a Rock Pigeon high up on a snag. 

Rock Pigeon - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - 2018 Bird # 38

The first Duck species I observed was the Lesser Scaup. I'd seen one the previous day, this one was a male in normal breeding plumage.

Lesser Scaup - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC

One of the ducks I expected to see was green-winged Teal. The male of this species has a distinctive colour pattern. What you really notice is how tiny they are compared to the larger ducks like Scaup and Mallards.

Green-winged Teal - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - 2018 Bird #39

I still had not recorded a sighting of the common Canada Goose for 2018. They were present at Piper Spit, along with many of the duck species.

Canada Goose - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - 2018 Bird #40

Only slightly larger than the Green-winged Teal are the Wood Ducks. Here's a male (left) and female (center) next to a male Teal.

Wood Duck - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - 2018 Bird #41

Even the most common duck, the Mallard, had eluded me so far this year.

Mallard - Burnaby Lake Regional Park, Burnaby BC - 2018 Bird #42

Backyard Birds

I left Burnaby Lake and returned home. While looking at our seed feeder I noticed an unusual visitor, a Chestnut-backed Chickadee.

Although we see them occasionally, they are more common at a feeder down below us at the entrance of Burns Bog. I noticed the feeders were empty down there recently, perhaps the owners were on a winter vacation somewhere.

I opened up a living room window so that I had a clear view of the feeder and took some shots with the Nikon. The first one was our visitor. This is the only shot I got, it did not reappear.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee - Backyard, North Delta BC
2018 Bird #43

I decided to keep the window open and see what else would appear. First up was our Downy Woodpecker, a year round resident in our backyard. It's strange to think of them eating sunflower hearts (shelled), but it's not unusual to see it at the seed feeder, as well as the suet feeder. It was my first sighting for 2018.

Downy Woodpecker - Backyard, North Delta BC
2018 Bird #44

Here's another shot of it.

I was on a roll, the next bird to show up was a male House Finch. It's a little awkward at the feeder compared to some of the other birds.

House Finch - Backyard, North Delta BC

And finally, a Pine Siskin put in an appearance. These are a member of the finch family that always seem to appear in numbers. They tend to hog the feeders when they are around, but don't seem to stay in the yard for too long.

Pine Siskin - Backyard, North Delta BC

This ended birding for this weekend, I would be back at it on the following one, weather permitting.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

South Delta and Point Roberts

The weather was better on this Saturday, overcast but not raining. My plan was to visit Point Roberts for gas and a visit to Lighthouse Marine Park, and then visit some locations in Ladner and Tsawwassen.

I took a different route than usual for the first leg, heading south rather than west to start. I was rewarded with an American Kestrel on the wires along 104 St in Delta. This road is narrow and quite busy, so I couldn't stop for too long. This was my best shot.

American Kestrel - 104 St. Delta BC
2018 Bird #22

Point Roberts

I proceeded to Point Roberts, my go to spot for grebes and ducks. As usual there were a few Horned Grebes reasonably close to shore.

Horned Grebe - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - 2018 Bird #23

Our most common gull on the West Coast is the Glaucous-winged. You're never quite sure if the ones you see are pure or are hybrids with Western and other Gull species. I''ll count this one as a Glaucous-winged.

Glaucous-winged Gull - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - 2018 Bird #24

There's been a solitary female Bufflehead Duck on my recent visits and it was there again.

Bufflehead (F) - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - 2018 Bird #25

If you want to see Loons, visit this location or the White Rock Pier. I've seen three species of Loon at Point Roberts. The most common one is the Common Loon. They're in their Basic plumage in the winter, occasionally I'll see one in Alternate (Breeding) plumage in early spring.

Common Loon - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - 2018 Bird #26

The last species seen at this location was the Harlequin Duck. The male is very colourful while the female is more brown and black with a white facial spot.

Harlequin Duck - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA - 2018 Bird #27

Harlequin Duck (F) - Lighthouse Marine Park, Point Roberts WA


I left Point Roberts and drove into Ladner for a coffee break. I then visited a private location on River Road where some Mountain Chickadees had been seen in December. I believe they are gone now, but the multiple feeders in the back yard had many birds. I'm not sure if the residents were still welcoming birders, but no one seemed to notice me.

The first bird I saw was a familiar ground feeding Sparrow.

Golden-crowned Sparrow - River Road, Delta BC - 2018 Bird #28

Also on the ground was a Fox Sparrow.

Fox Sparrow  - River Road, Delta BC - 2018 Bird #29

Perched on top of a feeder bracket holder was a Red-winged Blackbird, my first of the year.

Red-winged Blackbird  - River Road, Delta BC - 2018 Bird #30

Although, I like that photo, the next one where he was joined by his mate is one of my favourites of the year.

Red-winged Blackbird  - River Road, Delta BC

At the feeders was my first American Goldfinch of the year, a female still in Basic plumage.

American Goldfinch (F) - River Road, Delta BC - 2018 Bird #31

I saw, but did not photograph an Anna's Hummingbird here, this was 2018 Bird #32.


My next stop was on the Tsawwassen Indian Reserve. There is a natural area there with a dike and some ponds along the foreshore. I had a good conversation with one of the band members about his dog, who was digging for moles in the dike.

I saw a few other 2018 firsts here:

Hooded Merganser - Tsawwassen Indian Reserve, Delta BC - 2017 Bird #33

This photo of a Lesser Scaup shows the high peaked back of the head which distinguishes it from the Greater Scaup.

Lesser Scaup - Tsawwassen Indian Reserve, Delta BC - 2017 Bird #35

Also present was a single Pied-billed Grebe.

Pied-billed Grebe - Tsawwassen Indian Reserve, Delta BC - 2017 Bird #36

I made one more stop on the Tsawwassen Ferry jetty. There is a small pullout on the road that is used by taxis. In winter it is not very busy and is a convenient place to park. I didn't venture far but I did spot a single Black Turnstone on the rocks nearby. I'd see more of them in the coming weeks.

Black Turnstone - Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty, Delta BC
2017 Bird #36

The bird didn't mind my presence and I was able to get a few shots from quite close.

This was a nice end to my day and that was it for this weekend.