DNCB Outing No. 98 to Pitt Polder

Band-tailed Pigeon at Pitt Polder

Casual Birding outing #98

Ten birders (John & Kay & Miyako, Rick & Marg, Lorna, Anne, Eleanor, Roger and me) spent a very enjoyable, comfortable and rain-less Wednesday morning at Grant Narrows Regional Park, aka Pitt Polder.  This was an “away” outing as it took us a little more than an hour to get to the park from Petra’s in Tsawwassen.  But it was an almost interesting, and occasionally circuitous, drive through Surrey and then over the new Golden Ears Bridge, with Golden Eagles sticking out of it, not unlike ears.  On arrival, following “ladies stops”, we decided to take the 6 km “hour-long” woods trail.  It turned out to be a “six-hour” trail, but we saw lots of stuff.  About 50 Black Swifts circled us in the parking lot, occasionally seeming to peck at a passing Turkey Vulture.  One Swift came uncharacteristically low giving us a good view.

Shortly after our start we saw our two main “destination” birds, gorgeous Bullock’s Orioles and Gray Catbirds.  And we had great looks at several of them, even singing.  We found a Bullock’s Oriole nest with parents entering sporadically, but Anne made us leave it alone so we did not interfere with their feeding.  Cedar Waxwings were everywhere and many Rufous Hummingbirds buzzed by us.  The “woods sounds” were exciting, but confusing.  For example, the “rising flute” of the Swainson’s Thrush (most had long looks at this reclusive bird in John’s scope), along with numerous singing Common Yellowthroats, Warbling Vireos, Wilson’s and Yellow Warblers, Savannah and Song Sparrows, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Willow Flycatchers, and of course the many Red-winged Blackbirds, Spotted Towhees and American Robins.  The main reason why our walk took so long was that most of us wanted to see these birds, especially the less common ones, and enjoy the “eye candy”; and we did.  Unfortunately, we were blanked on the American Redstart.  We all had up-close-and-personal looks at another Pitt Polder destination bird, Eastern Kingbirds, and we heard Orange-crowned Warblers.  The Woodpeckers fascinated Rick, and we had “artistic” (i.e. through a circle in a tree) looks at a few including Downy, Hairy and Northern Flickers.  House Finches and American Goldfinches gave us more eye candy.  Several Band-tailed Pigeons flew by and Roger got a nice photo of one perched, then scared it away before the rest of us could see it.

When we reached the look-out tower, which is about the half-way point and end of the wooded portion of the trail, the speedy Miyako had been waiting there for an hour.  Fortunately, she had enjoyed watching the Beaver swimming in the swamp below and a Black Bear foraging along the mountainside, and then a White-crowned Sparrow capturing a Dragonfly.  We continued along the dike, avoiding the Canada Goose (and Otter) scat.  We heard a “winnowing” Common Snipe and Killdeer, but could not see them.  Not many ducks in the water, but a few Wood Ducks, Mallards with ducklings, and a Pied-billed Grebe with a tiny youngster trying to keep up with Mom, provided us with fun entertainment.  The two Osprey pairs were around their nests on the pylons.  Indeed, beside a parent on one nest, we watched two chicks stick their heads up to see us.  Their beaks seemed huge attached to their little heads.  Among a flotilla of Canada Geese parading among the pylons was a “leucistic” goose (i.e. white bird with reduced pigmentation, not albino, see Rick’s photo).  A couple of pairs of Common Mergansers rested on logs near shore.  A Spotted Sandpiper was heard along the rocky shore.  Thousands of colourful and sparkling Damselflies fascinated us among the flowers along the road.

Finally, arriving back at the boat launch around 2:00 p.m., we watched the Tree and Barn Swallows, and Anne saw one Cliff Swallow.  Although starving, we took the mandatory group photo before venturing off via another circuitous route to an almost nearby Swiss Chalet, where I wolfed down a jug of Canadian and a double leg meal.  All other plates and glasses were similarly void of substance before we left for the trip home, which incidentally was marred with exceedingly heavy pre-July 1 holiday traffic.  And Eleanor and Lorna snoring in the back seat hardly bothered me at all.

Tom Bearss

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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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