Seven participants (John & Kay, Hans-Ulf and his Calgarian brother-in-law Derek, Lorna, Terry and me) spent a very interesting morning at Reifel Bird Sanctuary. On our way to Reifel, we stopped at the Tsawwassen First Nations’ “Kingfisher Bridge” and he was in the same tree on the same branch as on previous outings. Many Bald Eagles were around, often in pairs. We stopped at Deltaport Way and 41B and “think” we saw the Gyr Falcon on his tower quite far down the Way. Several Red-tailed Hawks were also around, including on other towers. Interestingly and regretably, the hedges along 41B which normally house many sparrows in the Winter and warblers in the Spring and Fall have all been cut down. Not sure why. We saw lots of dabbling ducks, Trumpeter Swans, Great Blue Herons and Northern Harriers feeding in the fields. Three Western Grebes were at Westham Island Bridge along with many Green-winged Teal, Mute Swans and one of the two resident weirdo white Geese (Moskovy I think).
On entering Reifel, we were surprised by a Cooper’s Hawk swooping down onto an American Coot on the path. Some of our squeamish participants were not as fascinated as I was to see this Hawk strangle the Coot and stay on top of it while we photographed the activity some 10 feet away. He pecked at the Coot occasionally but mostly kept his eyes on us. He tried to fly away, but the prey was too big and heavy. After about 15 minutes, he finally dragged his prey off the path and under the fence into some brush. We went on our walk and on return to the entrance bush about 2 hours later, there were piles of feathers beside the hawk who still had what was left of the Coot grasped in his claws, and resumed staring at us. We left him for our lunch as he enjoyed his.
The juvenile and adult Black Crowned Night Herons were also on their regular roosts near the entrance and Common and Hooded Mergansers were in the first pond with some Double-crested Cormorants. A Pied-billed Grebe joined them later. The huge Carp were also wrinkling the water near the blind. We walked the west path and saw the four common Sparrow species (Song, Fox, Golden-crowned, White-crowned). Also saw lots of Spotted Towhees, House and a Purple Finch. The Wood Ducks were spectacular, posing in pairs on the fence and in the trees, as well as in the slough. Then we found our “Bird of the Day”, a Sawhet Owl, roosting in a Holly bush about two feet off the path. Several Marsh Wrens were calling and some even saw one or two. We were unsuccessful at calling in a Virginia Rail with Terry’s new gadget i-phone.
On the tower, the Red-winged Blackbirds and Rock Pigeons ate peanuts from our hand. The herd of Harbour Seals was lounging on an island over the marsh. We only saw one small swarm of Dunlin near Steveston. We looked down on several duck species feeding in the pond including Gadwalls, Northern Shovellers, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon and Mallards. In other sloughs we saw beautiful Bufflehead and Lesser Scaup as well, but did not find a Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback or Redhead which have all been seen there recently. It’s always a pleasure at Reifel to see all these species in breeding plumage and up-close-and-personal. I heard the Sandhill Cranes, but didn’t see them; I fed seven of them on Sunday morning. Another very enjoyable morning of casual birding for all and good conversation for some.