Full set of photos by Glen (GB) & Marion (MS) at DNCB Picasa site
For a trip that was on the brink of cancellation, this DNCB outing turned out surprisingly well. Tom, Terry and Roger had all abandoned the leadership position claiming various reasons, so I had been volunteered to spearhead the ascent of the Fraser Valley despite my claims of jetlag. After rising bright and early at 2 am Eastern time, I picked Glen up in Tsawwassen and we carpooled bright and early to Ladner Park and Ride where we met up at 6.15 am PST with four other keeners (Jack, Hans, his friend Doug from Calgary, and Lorna). Curiously, Tom was also there, anxious to see us off and make sure we could manage without him. Abandoning him to his relatives, we confidently headed east up the valley, with rain showers looming.
Last time we went to Cheam Lake (pronounced Sham) it poured with rain so we were prepared for the worst, which fortunately didn’t happen. The drive was a smooth 1.5 hours, and shortly after our arrival the rest of the non-Delta gang showed up: White Rock Al, Patricia and Maureen, Marian and her friend Susan, Kirsten and Marion, and trailing the bunch, Otto. While waiting, we read the brand new interpretive sign which explained how an ice storm had destroyed about 30% of the trees in January 2015.
Despite this dire news, there seemed to be almost as many trees as on previous visits, as the cottonwoods were branching out to compensate for the destruction. Glen took the group photo, minus the two latecomers.
While waiting for people to unpack themselves, many of us saw a fidgety Willow Flycatcher, calling its characteristic fitz-bew, a sound that became very familiar through the morning.
The first of several Western Wood-Pewees gave its peeeerrr call from the woods, and a couple of American Goldfinches flew over.
A Downy Woodpecker by the trail to the lake lookout was the only woodpecker we saw, though Northern Flickers were heard. Singing Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats serenaded us and revealed themselves eventually.
Someone saw a Belted Kingfisher dart by, while the rest of us managed to see the more leisurely Osprey overhead.
Green Frogs made a lot of noise in the very still, shallow water of the lake, exciting the interest of a surprising number of the group.
It seemed that many birds were on their nests and keeping quiet, and the orioles that are usually seen here were elusive – just one brief glimpse and a quick chatter; later we heard a couple more but failed to get the full-glory views that Lorna was after. Nonetheless we gradually cranked up more species: Tree Swallows busy at the nest boxes,
Barn Swallows and 2 Vaux’s Swifts overhead, a Pied-billed Grebe swimming in a weed patch, Mallards and Wood Ducks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow, and a couple of Swainson’s Thrushes that couldn’t resist the lure of Marion’s twit.
We went back to the car park for some refreshment and discussion over the location of all the calling flycatchers (Willows and Western Wood-Pewee), then headed down the loop trail along the marsh edge and into the forest. This turned into a symphonic experience as every bird in the neighbourhood realised it wasn’t a wet day and that it was worth singing its heart out. Black-headed Grosbeaks and American Robins were among the most melodious, with Yellow Warblers keeping up their sweet sweet sweet trills and Warbling Vireos making us crane our necks trying to spot them high in the trees. Some of us saw one when a crow (NW or American?) got too curious and a Vireo emerged on a branch to shoo it off. A female Purple Finch hopped along the path, looking odd, and later we heard a male singing. As usual the horticultural group chattered about plants and ate salmonberries.
Small flocks of Cedar Waxwings flew by or perched on the tops of snags. Good views of a Western Wood-Pewee were finally got by everyone. A mystery bird that didn’t pose long enough was likely a female Western Tanager, but it was the only one we saw. Five Turkey Vultures suddenly appeared circling in the sky; later we saw more in the valley, while driving home. The coniferous forest had many singing Swainson’s Thrushes, a loud Pacific Wren, and a Brown Creeper. Another singing Vireo had us puzzling whether it was Red-eyed or Cassin’s but as its song went on and on and on, we unanimously concluded it was a Red-eyed Vireo.
A Great Blue Heron flew over, Marsh Wrens called from the marsh (where else?) and a Steller’s Jay screeched, kindly adding to our species total. Only a couple of Rufous Hummingbirds put in brief appearances – not many flowers in bloom in this very green environment. The trees were so leafy and tall that most birds were hidden from sight and we had to be content with brief glimpses – frustrating for the photogs. Every time someone located a bird and pointed it out, the bird immediately moved! However, our birding-by-ear skills got a good work out, we saw and heard some birds we don’t see so much in Delta, and the sun almost emerged.
A number of us headed to Chilliwack Great Blue Heron Reserve en route for home. By this time it was midday and lots of school kids were visiting the rather bird-quiet grounds, but we enjoyed views of Wood Ducks and Mallard busy shepherding ducklings, and a couple of Common Mergansers.
Some people went off to explore the dyke trail and heronry views, while others just sat and ate a relaxed lunch by the visitor centre.
The rain stayed away, birders birded, and a fun time was had, so Tom’s worries went unrealised.
Report by Anne Murray
Next week, Wed. June 10th: Birds on the Bay Outing (see details on Rochelle’s poster below); meet at Cammidge House at 9 am, back to Cammidge House for refreshments at 11:30 am.