See more photos at DNCB Flickr site
With the day still in darkness 9 of us met at Petra’s and left in three cars for the ferry jetty. Roger (myself… still without volunteers to do this blog), Gerhard and the other Roger, who still stubbornly refuses to change his name to Stuart, in one car, Mike and Terry together and Glen and Jim in the third. With dawn breaking we arrived at the taxi pullout on the jetty having seen 14 Black Oystercatchers on the shoreline on the way.
Our timing with the sunrise was just right and next week it might a bit darker but, with standard time coming in to effect the following week, it will probably be OK to keep to the 7:30 am leaving time. Highlight sightings included massive clouds of starlings flying overhead maneuvering like shorebirds and great rafts of American Wigeon, Mallards, and Pintail ducks. Mixed in with the wigeon were a few Eurasian ones. Three species of grebe were found as well; several Western, a few Red-necked and Horned. Both Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Common Loons were present on the water. Out on the mudflats and along the shore were the usual Great-blue Herons, crows, varied gulls (Ring-billed, Glaucous-winged, and others not identified).
Having exhausted the north shore, we crossed over to the south side where the brisk wind made it difficult to see through watery eyes. We did however see a few rafts of Surf Scoters with a few White-winged ones mixed in with them. Returning to the cars, we drove to the terminal and parked along the south fence to check out that side but were told, almost immediately by security, to remove ourselves as the next ferry was arriving. Mentioning that we had Tom Bearss’s permission seemed to have no effect but they did write his name down! As we approached the beginning of the jetty a small flock of shorebirds, probably Dunlin, crossed over the road.
Moving on to the TFN road, we stopped at what should probably not be called Kingfisher Slough as it’s been several years since we’ve seen a Belted Kingfisher there. In the slough we, Glen I think, scared off a flock of Green-winged Teal. One bush on the side of the slough had five Northern Flickers in it. The highlight of this section, though, was our discovery of the new board walk from the TFN offices leading out to the dyke on the foreshore. A joint project of several agencies, the walk was obviously built sparing no expense. Wide enough to drive a truck on, its boarded surface is coated with slip preventing paint! The sign indicates that it is part of a Bicycle Network Improvement Project. This walkway will provide a much better access for birders to the birds in the foreshore marsh, something that might be a project Reifel Island could undertake! The birds we saw there included a few Northern Harriers and 14 Great-blue Herons. There was nothing much else to see until the end of the TFN road where we stopped to check out a hawk in a tree where we have seen Rough-leggeds… however, it turned out to be a female Harrier.
Leaving the TFN lands we entered the farm lands where we encountered thousands of Snow Geese and the sounds of hunter’s shotguns. A Ring-necked Pheasant was seen landing in a field. From the river dyke viewpoint we saw a Pied-billed Grebe, four Trumpeter Swans, and many Snow Geese. The ride across Westham Island to Reifel provided nothing new… lots more Snow Geese though. Our original intention was to check out Alaksen, but having run out of time before our 10:00 am meeting with the Pender Island birders, we decided to head right for Reifel.
Waiting for us in the Reifel parking lot were the following Delta Nats; Julie, Nance, Brian, Jack, Marion, Pat and Maureen. We took a Delta Nats group photo with Brian trying to herd two Sandhill Cranes into the picture (they resisted). The Pender Island contingent arrived, eight in all and we took their group photo and then a picture of the combined group (22 in all). Sorry, Tom, I neglected to get all the names…mea culpa. A single Cooper’s Hawk had been seen by the gift shop.
For the Reifel walk we followed our usual pattern with a counter-clockwise route. Three Black-crowned Night-Herons were in their usual spot across form the warming hut and there was a small flock of Ring-necked Ducks in the middle of Fuller’s Slough. Along the east dyke we had the usual; Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, a Brown Creeper (spotted by Pender Island Dan), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Fox Sparrow and the highlight of the outing… a beautiful Barred Owl spotted by Pender Island Jan! From the blind looking into Alaksen there was a single Belted-kingfisher fishing from a branch over the water. Out over the north dyke we saw several Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles and a single Red-tailed Hawk.
Out of nowhere, Burnaby Roy appeared, sans Solveig, boosting our number to 23. A few of us went up the tower but there wasn’t much to see in the ponds except Northern Shovellers, Pintail, Mallards (including a strange very white sided one) and a flock of Green-winged Teal. The south-east pond had the same ducks and added several American Coots to our list. From the observation platform a flock of Dowitcher species had been seen but were scared off by a Peregrine Falcon leaving behind a single bird? A few Yellowlegs were seen (probably Greater), a male Hooded Merganser, and a single Bufflehead. Closer to the parking lot some members were feeding Red-winged Blackbirds out of their hands.
So, the trip ended at 12:20 pm giving us 10 minutes to get to The Landing for lunch. Roy, though, elected to stay behind and get more out of Reifel. Since Jack had arranged things ahead of time, we had a whole section of the Landing to ourselves and a great lunch was enjoyed by all, except Mike whose food never arrived. Oh, one more member arrived, just a bit late. Margaretha… we’ll have to get you an alarm clock! We had a most enjoyable time with our Pender Island counterparts and were invited to visit them some time in the future. All, in all, it was a most enjoyable day, and we were sorry Tom wasn’t able to be with us. I’m sorry if I’ve missed any species seen as I don’t have Tom’s photographic memory.
Next week Tues. 1 November we re-visit Point Roberts for looks at Jaeger’s, Heerman’s Gulls, Murrelets, and other exotic sea birds. Still meeting at Petra’s for a 7:30 am departure… don’t forget your passports!
Also, don’t forget DNS Meeting Tues. Nov. 1 at 7:30 pm at the Benediction Lutheran Church. Guest speakers David Hoar/Noreen Rudd will speak on “Greenland to Cambridge Bay: Transiting the Eastern Arctic“.