Great Blue Herons at Roberts Bank

Casual Birding #84

Just a few of the nests in the heronry

Nine participants (Roger, Hans-Ulf, Val, Gord, Lorna, Eleanor (aka the “second Mary” in my Saturday Birds-on-the-Bay report), John & Kay and me) enjoyed a gorgeous Monday morning of birding at the Tsa-Tsu Shores Heronry, Reynold’s Farm on Westham Island and Reifel Bird Sanctuary. The number of nesting Great Blue Herons at the Heronry was astronomical. There were at least 200 pair crowded in the “condo trees”. Although a mature Bald Eagle was posted across the road, we could not locate a nest among the herons.  The last couple of years there has been a nesting pair of Bald Eagles in the middle of the Heronry that seem to “protect” the families from other eagles and predators. We checked out the Bay behind the real Tsa-tsu Shores Condos where a flotilla of Brant Geese entertained us. Also saw lots of Northern Pintails, Bufflehead, and a grebe-like Red-breasted Merganser. Winter Wrens seemed to be calling everywhere.

We drove quickly through the Tsawwassen First Nations Reservation and the farmers’ fields to Canoe Pass.  Lots of Mallards and American Wigeon in the fields, but I guess the Trumpeter Swans have gone north.  A Red-tailed Hawk was roosting beside his nest at the Bay end of 34th Street. As many as nine Western Grebes were in the river at Canoe Pass, but we did not see a Clarke’s. Lots of Mute Swans, Gulls (Ring-billed, Mew and Glaucous-winged), Double-crested Cormorants and Bufflehead in the river and Green-winged Teal near the 100 year-old Westham Island Bridge. A flock of many thousands of Lesser Snow Geese flew over and we stopped at my friend Stan Reynold’s Farm on the island to watch a grazing flock of a few thousand. We met Stan on the road and he took us to Brother Hugh’s barn where we were at first blanked on the Barn Owl. After a few minutes hanging around and examining the owl pellets, a bird flew into the barn and at the same time another owl left the owl nesting box and flew out.  The arriving Barn Owl surveyed us intently, flying back and forth in the rafters, then posed to stare at us intruders.  We, and our friend Francois Cleroux, got some good photos of the owl.  The Barnies are probably nesting in this box, as they have in the past according to Stan.

We finally got to Reifel and spent 10 minutes examining and analyzing a nesting hummingbird-like Stick Bird in a tree near the parking lot.  Some heavy-duty ornithology. In the pond behind the shop were the Northern Shovelers “shoveling”, Northern Pintail, Canada Geese and a Lesser Scaup pair among the many American Wigeons and Mallards, including the resident first-year White Mallard. A Rufous Hummingbird flitted by. Lots of Tree Swallows have arrived, but it was interesting to see the number of House Sparrows that seemed to have occupied their nesting boxes around the warming hut.  A couple of Black-crowned Night Herons were in their tree. Common Mergansers and several pair of Wood Ducks were in the next pond. Indeed, we saw at least 10 pair of gorgeous Wood Ducks, close-up-and-personal throughout the sanctuary. At the feeders we had great looks at each of the Sparrow species, including Golden- and White-crowned, Fox and Song.  Noisy Red-wing Blackbirds and Spotted Towhees were everywhere and Dark-eyed Juncos are still around.  We walked to the interior ponds; new species seen other than the afore-mentioned included; Gadwalls, Hybrids (e.g. Mallard/Pintail, Mallard/Shoveler) and a pair of beautiful Hooded Mergansers (we saw three Merganser species today).  Marsh Wrens were buzzing everywhere and we heard the loud rattle of the Sandhill Cranes, but did not see them. Perhaps two pair will nest there this year.  At the tower, we took our obligatory Group Shot. The Gulf Island view from the tower was awesome today, clear and calm. Small flocks of still-here Dunlin were feeding on the shore beyond the marsh. A few Northern Harriers glided by and the herd of Harbour Seals was lounging on its distant island. On the walk back we met a small flock of Kinglets, identifying Golden-crowned.  A great day of birding and almost-stimulating conversation.

Barn Owl


About dncb

DNS: Delta Naturalists are a group of nature lovers whose aim is to foster interest in the natural history of the Fraser delta by sharing and enjoying nature and promoting environmental awareness and conservation. DNCB: Delta Nats Casual Birders is a group of Casual Birders who go Birding at different locations each week, usually within the Lower Mainland or in nearby Washington State.
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