photos by Liz (LS), Terry (TC), Glen (GB), Marion (MS), Pascale & Alberto (P&A) at DNCB Picasa site
At little after 8:00 on another sunny Wednesday morning, nineteen DNCBirders began flocking together in the parking lot of Serpentine Fen. The area, which covers almost 240 acres (97 ha) of the lower flood plain of the Serpentine River, was dyked and partially drained in the early 1900’s and, thus, transformed from a salt marsh into a fen. Much of it served as farmland until 1961 when it was expropriated by the Province during the construction of Highway 99. Although the Fen is owned by the government, Ducks Unlimited manages it for the benefit of wildlife with a variety of habitats: shallow open ponds, pastures and grasslands, hedgerows and treed areas bordering the waterways and fields. Many of the trees and shrubs were planted between 1975 and 1983 by the White Rock and Surrey Naturalists as a habitat improvement project.
While waiting for others to trickle in, several early birders wandered over to the nearby barn and promptly scared a squirrel which scared the feathers off the resident Barn Owl. It escaped so quickly that no one managed to take a picture. Others surveyed the treed area around the parking lot and observed and photographed pairs of Red Crossbills, several Yellow-rumped Wobblers, Bushtits and a Robin with a smorgasbord of worms and caterpillars in its beak. Siskins, House Finches and their Purple Cousins were heard, and a Belted Kingfisher flew over while the troop assembled for the customary group portrait. Only 16 photogenic faces can be seen in the photo – Terry as the camera operator is missing and Surrey’s Liz with son Ross had run off to the first observation tower. At that location, latecomers Pascale with Alberto and the routinely unpunctual Otto showed up, bringing the total to twenty two participants.
The leisurely walk from tower one – from where a Harrier was seen feasting on a vole – to the river took about an hour, as there was much to explore and view. The trees and shrubs, both native and introduced, and the reeds along the path yielded a Common Yellowthroat, many rattling Marsh Wrens, both species of Hummers and a lot of squeaky Red-winged Blackbirds, one of which was feeding its young in the nest. Squadrons of waterfowl paddling on the ponds included Mallards, Gadwalls, Cinnamon Teals – all three with little offspring – as well as Coots, Bufflehead, a Ruddy Duck or two, a Scaup and one Pied-billed Grebe. Many of the nesting boxes were occupied by Tree Swallows, some of which were photographed cavorting with Barn Swallows on a hydro wire. A Sora appeared briefly right beside the path for a photo-op, both sexes of Cowbirds were sighted en-route and a Pheasant called from a nearby field, likely a descendant of birds reared in the Fen in the 1970s for hunting by the ducks folks.
Except for a couple of GB Herons and a Greater Yellowlegs, there was little activity along, on and in the river between towers two and three, but in the bog near the latter stop, Shovelers, Wigeons, Pintails, Green-winged Teals, a reed-munching Muskrat and a pumped up Bullfrog were encountered. On the way back to the starting point, the expected species such as Song and White-crowned Sparrows, Towhees and Collared Doves were seen and/or heard.
The majority of the outing participators travelled as planned to Kwomais Park, where the nest of the Barred Owl was soon located. Tail feathers protruded from the cavity in an Oregon Maple and Mr. Owl was spotted and snapped at a relatively low height in a small Douglas Fir. A Creeper was tending its nest tucked behind a piece of bark in an adjacent tree, and in the surrounding woods, two Steller’s Jays were screaming, Pacific-slope Flycatchers were whistling and the songs of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Bewick’s Wren were audible. While the second group photo was being taken at the viewpoint overlooking Point Roberts and Tsawwassen, one of the resident Baldies and a black-headed gull – most likely a Bonaparte’s – soared by. As a grand finale, a Black-headed Grosbeak sang its heart out, accompanied by a Goldfinch, and on that note, everyone had to agree that it was another fabulous DNCB outing. After all, the weather had been excellent, many trees, bushes and wildflowers were in bloom, the scenery was great and more than 45 avian species had been seen and/or heard.
Next Wednesday we will leave Petra’s at 730 and meet at Colony Farm about 830.