About 15 DNCBers participated in our Tuesday outing to Alaksen National Wildlife Area (NWA) and Reifel Bird Sanctuary. We saw lots of neat stuff, up-close-and-personal, at our “DNCB Mecca” for birding. Check out the photo evidence by Liz, Pat, Glen, Jack and Jim K on our DNCB Picasa site.
Leaving Petra’s at 8:00 a.m., six of us car-pooled nicely in two vehicles (Roger K took Mike & Jim K , Chris McV took Glen & me) on our drive through Tsawwassen First Nations (TFN) land and the Ladner fields. First stop was the Kingfisher Bridge and, as always, the Kingfisher missed the meeting. We did see a raft of Northern Shovelers and a Northern Flicker. Next stop was the west end of the TFN land where a Red-tailed Hawk posed on a telephone pole. Above us, a Bald Eagle was squabbling with a Rough-legged Hawk and the Rough-legged flew right over us for great looks. Next stop was the Lookout at Canoe Pass on the Fraser River. The tide was high, the water flat as a pancake, and the sun was shining brilliantly on the snow covered mountains across the Strait on Vancouver Island. No birds here, but a glorious vista.
We continued across the historic Westham Island Bridge to Alaksen NWA. On arrival at Alaksen, we met Ladner Jack, Richmond Donna, North Van’s Roy & Gordon, and North Delta Jean who were watching both Common and Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon and “Shovelers shoveling” in the pond near the entrance. We walked to the Reifel Homestead CWS (Canadian Wildlife Service) Office under the Fir trees and found lots of pellets but no Owls. Behind the office buildings, a beaut Northern Shrike posed on top of a tree. We walked past the old “prohibition beer” cellar to the other slough where more Hoodies, a Pied-billed Grebe and a couple of Lesser Scaup were cruising along near the shore. Approaching 9:30 a.m., we left Alaksen to meet the others at Reifel, next door.
At the Reifel entrance, a flock of Cedar Waxwings (no Bohemian) caught a few people’s attention. White Rock Al, Liz and Roger M were impatiently waiting for us at the office with Reifel Manager Kathleen. Roger flaunted his photos taken earlier this morning of the Hoary Redpoll and 5 Common Redpolls taken at Queen Elizabeth Park. Jean saw a Merlin fly by and some saw Dowitchers in the office pond. I tried, in vain, to get everyone together for a group photo, then I got in a snit and went off alone up the trail. A few Black-crowned Night-Herons were roosting in their regular spots. All the regular little birds were on the path including Song, Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows, Towhees, Robins, Juncos and, of course Black-capped Chickadees eating from one’s hand. Gradually, the group caught up to me and we followed Kathleen on an Owl search. One of the Great Horned Owl pair was in a tree where they regularly roost. We couldn’t find the mate and don’t know where they will be (or are?) nesting. Kathleen also found a Barred Owl for us too. These sightings got me out of my snit.
Further along the trail, Liz fed a Red-breasted Nuthatch from her hand. Some saw the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, while others fed Red-winged Blackbirds from their hand too. At the tower, we could see lots of Trumpeter Swans and Snow Geese along the outer shore. I had made the group feel so guilty that they all gathered meekly on the tower steps for the Group Photo. We corralled another Reifel visitor to take the photo using Roger M’s camera.
We continued along the inland trail, avoiding/ignoring the No Entry tape and pumping machine (We’re real rebels). Most waterfowl are in beautiful breeding plumage and at Reifel it is so awesome to see them so close. Pairs of my favourite, Wood Ducks, were plentiful. Gadwall, American Coots and two Ring-necked Ducks were there too. And the wild Sandhill Cranes that winter at Reifel seemed deceivingly tame as they ate seeds from our hands. We sporadically got back to the entrance and many dispersed, while eight of us (all guys: Mikie B, Jim K, Prince Rupert boys Roy & Gordon, WR Al, Chris McV, Ladner Jack and me) decided to lunch at Speed’s Pub in Ladner. We sat on the outside patio, enjoyed the Cod & Chips Special with two pints of Canadian, watched Mute Swans in the slough around the retired fishing boats, and solved the problems of the world. It was a fitting end to another very enjoyable outing.
Next Tuesday, December 29, we will leave Petra’s at 8:00 a.m. for Burnaby Lake Park. For more info, reports and photos, check out our website. And join us on Sunday, December 27 for the famous Ladner Christmas Bird Count (CBC). As always, comments encouraged, and let me know if this drivel annoys you and you want off my List. Meanwhile, to each of you and your family, have a Merry Christmas and I hope Santa responds favourably to your Wish List. Cheers: Tom
Tom Bearss, President, Delta Naturalists’ Society