I’m baaack! after 6 glorious weeks holidaying in Western Australia, with friends and relies. Nine birders (Rick & Marg, Lorna, Roger, Terry, Anne, Hans-Ulf, Jimmy and me) enjoyed an almost sunny and raptor-filled Monday morning (Dec 13) at Reifel Bird Sanctuary and next door’s Alaksen Wildlife Refuge. Our destination bird was the Yellow-breasted Chat reported in the fields around the Bird Studies Canada offices at Alaksen, and we saw it on our second visit there at the end of our Reifel walk. It was hiding in the grass in front of some photographers when an excited Lorna spotted it.
We began the morning (late because a number of us are still on Aussie time) with a stop near Stan Reynold’s farm (where the Barn Owls roost) on Westham Island Road. The Northern Hawk Owl was posing in one of his regular tree perches where he’s been seen for the past 12 days. An adult Bald Eagle was in the neighbour’s tree and Jim got some nice shots of both birds with the favourable sun behind him. Check out the easily accessible and beaut photos of our outing on Rick, Terry and Jim’s Picasa sites at: http://picasaweb.google.com/crossfyre/, http://picasaweb.google.com/terrancecarr/, and I forget Jim Ronback’s site.
We arrived at Alaksen and, although blanked on the Chat, the Barred Owl in the trees in front of the offices was open for viewing. We wandered the refuge for a bit and Roger spotted a Peregrine Falcon for us, then a Merlin on the other side of the path. Also got some nice looks at Golden-crowned Kinglets (saw Ruby-crowned later at Reifel) and American Goldfinches flitting in the trees.
We moved on to Reifel next door where the water was very high and chocker-block full of wildfowl. In the parking lot we saw the resident family of Sandhill Cranes on the lawn. While I was feeding the Dad, others were watching a Cooper’s Hawk which dive bombed some ducks before screaming over my head. Three Black-crowned Night Herons (the only known ones in Canada in Winter) were sleeping in their usual spots at the entrance. At a nearby feeder we had a Casual Birder’s ID class dream as four Sparrow species, all in nice plumage, were at the feeder at once: Fox, Song, White-crowned and Golden-crowned. Also there were male and female Red-winged Blackbirds, Dark-eyed Juncos (Oregon), Spotted Towhees and of course House Sparrows feeding as well. Along the east path, in a Holly bush, we saw our first Sawhet Owl. Then there was another just around the corner on the path to the blind. Both were clearly visible and the second was clearly agitated with wide-open, frightened eyes. We looked above and two Great Horned Owls were perched on a branch looking down on us. And one tree over was a Barred Owl. No wonder the Sawhet was scared.
We continued along the path enjoying nice looks at Marsh Wrens and a Pacific (formerly Winter) Wren. Wood Ducks, my favourites, were in gorgeous breeding plumage. A flock of over 20 Cedar Waxwings stopped in a tree, but we could not get good enough views to determine whether any Bohemians were among them. Several Northern Flickers were near the outer dyke; we assumed they were red-shafted, but another birder reported later that a couple were yellow-shafted (normally eastern and rarer here). Some saw the Northern Goshawk, but I missed it while watching the wrens. Several Northern Harriers glided by but the amazing sight along the shore was the line of 60,000 Lesser Snow Geese, which would occasionally be rousted (often by Eagles), filling the sky with beauty. A flock of hundreds of Dunlin also swooped up in unison. Interestingly, I think these were our only Shorebirds on the day.
Reifel’s ponds were loaded with ducks and most in breeding plumage. We saw them all, up-close-and-personal, including: Common and Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Lesser (and at least one Greater) Scaup, American Wigeon, American Coots and Mallards and Canada Geese. We were blanked on the Pied-billed Grebe and Canvasbacks seen there on the weekend.
On the ride back to Tsawwassen at around 1:00 p.m., we saw a few flocks of Trumpeter Swans in the fields, several Eurasian Collared-Doves and another Peregrine Falcon. What a super morning!
The Delta Nats monthly meeting on Monday night at Cammidge House was packed as Ron Long spoke on the Wildflowers of Pink Mountain. Some Delta Nats will be helping with Reifel’s Bird Box maintenance program on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Next DNCB outing will be Monday, December 20 leaving Petra’s at 8:30 a.m. We’ll be going to Pt. Roberts, so bring your Passport. We are going to get more civilized like Australian birders, with a morning “tea break”. Bring your own drink, nibblies and a chair. Don’t forget the Christmas Bird Count on Monday, December 27. Contact our guru Anne Murray (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to join us doing the Tsawwassen area. Check out our Blog at http://www.dncb.wordpress.com and, please let me know if you want to be removed from my list to receive these reports.