Outing #111 to Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Nine birders (John & Kay, Rick & Marg, Lorna, Eleanor, Terry, Anne and me) enjoyed a very productive outing this morning on the way to and at Reifel Bird Sanctuary.  Weather was cloudy, but mild and the tide was high (for a pleasant change) so we saw lots of birds pushed closer to and on land.  We started on our usual route through the Tsawwassen First Nations (TFN) Reserve, but we got blocked by a construction road closure, so had to turn around and go via 52nd Street.  I guess on another day, we’ll have to check for any new habitat disruptions being caused by the construction of the “TFN Business Development” area and the expanded Deltaport Highway.  Anyhow, we got to the farm roads 33A Avenue to 34th Street and saw a few Sparrows in the hedge rows, identifying White-crowned, Song and Savannah with some House Finches.  Several Northern Harriers were around, often being harassed by Northwestern Crows. Along 34th we were amazed to see a flock of 23 Sandhill Cranes foraging in a field with a flock of Canada Geese.  They watched us as we watched them, and we picked out at least two with leg bands, and one with an orange transmitter with a wire sticking out.  Among the Canada Geese were three White-fronted Geese, which really stood out nicely for us to ID them.  Both Terry and Rick took lots of photos, so I hope/expect them to be posted shortly at: http://picasaweb.google.ca/terrancecarr and http://picasaweb.google.com/crossfyre respectively for our enjoyment.

We continued on to the banks of the Fraser River at Canoe Pass where a couple of Mute Swans were squabbling over territory.  After a puffy wing maneuver, the other one flew off.  On Westham Island, we stopped at Hugh Reynold’s barn to check for Barn Owls.  We all entered slowly and quietly and searched in vain for about 5 minutes.  Lots of new pellets on the floor.  We chatted loudly and then a resident Barny flew across the ceiling to the opening and left the building, too quick for photos or even good looks.  Great birders we are eh?  After chatting with my friend, farmer Stan Reynolds about the crisis the rain has caused preventing him from being able to harvest his potatoes, we spotted three Sandhill Cranes in the field.  I wonder whether these are the resident pair and chick that nested in Reifel this year.

On entering Reifel, the pond along the driveway was chocker block with Mallards.  We stopped for Rick to get his umpteenth shot of a Northern Flicker on the wire. In the parking lot there was a weirdo hybrid Mallard, not to be confused with the two completely white resident Mallards (leucistic, not albino), which we saw later. Inside, near the entrance, a gorgeous pair of Wood Ducks posed for us on the path. Although most of the ducks we saw today were in eclipse plumage, several were already in their breeding plumage which makes them not only easier to identify, but also much prettier for us Candy Birders. We watched a small flock of Warblers, including Yellow-rumped and one Yellow. An Osprey was posing in what I call the “Raptor Tree”.  Later on a Peregrine Falcon similarily posed in it. Although there was lots of activity near the entrance, because the tide was in and the water high, we decided to walk quickly to the outer tower to check out the Shorebirds.

At the tower the flock of I guess a few thousand Dowitchers feeding up-close-and-personal was amazing. Because they were so close, we did not mind Anne hogging the scope and doing her Masters on determining the difference between Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers (it’s not bill size).  Also in the pond were a few Green-winged Teal, one on shore that appeared to have an injured leg.  From the tower, we saw a few Bald Eagles, several Northern Harriers, Double-crested Cormorants and perhaps Black-bellied Plovers perched on the pylons near Steveston (we guessed because that’s normally the species that is there).  Some “anxious” Red-winged Blackbirds were already beginning their mating/territorial calls.  A few still-here Barn Swallows and a small flock of American Goldfinches flew by while Rick was focusing, again, on a couple of Downy Woodpeckers.  As we were leaving the tower, a dark (juvenile) Peregrine Falcon gave his first of two fly-pasts, dive bombing the Dowitchers.  Fun to watch.

We took the outer path to check other ponds.  Lots of Northern Shovellers and Green-winged Teal in the next pond, along with three Yellowlegs which landed next to the Dowitchers giving us an interesting comparison.  Anne will do her Doctorate next on the Differences between Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, although the three note call of these birds made them Greater.  One of several Marsh Wrens heard, made an appearance.  It started to rain lightly so we walked a bit quicker back inward.  The next waterway had lots of American Wigeon, Northern Pintails, American Coots and a few Gadwalls, some in nice breeding plumage.  We stopped at the middle covered lookout for a break from the rain and took the required Group Photo.  A couple of Hooded Mergansers caught our attention as did another adult Peregrine Falcon in the Raptor Tree.

On the way back to Tsawwassen at Noon, the Sandhills were still in the same field.  I apologize for the length of this report, but we saw lots of neat stuff today.  Comments are welcome, check out our Blog at: www.dncb.wordpress.com, and please advise me if you don’t want to receive these missives.

I will be at Petra’s next Monday, October 4 around 7:30 a.m. for departure at 8:00 a.m.  We will probably be going to UBC’s Farm where Bev Ramey (former BCN President and a very nice lady) will meet us at 9:00 a.m. and “guide” us around this beautiful, mixed “second-growth” forest.  We might also see a few birds. And BCN’s Fall General Conference is this weekend in Langley.

Cheers:   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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