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Our trip today is the one we cancelled last week due to the snow and ice on the roads. Today, the weather has cooperated with a slightly overcast sky but much warmer temperature. A small group, Terry, Mike, Gerhard, Val and myself, Roger (filling in for our absentee leader, Tom who is off in the wilds of Ontario) met at Petra’s and left at 7:40 for the ferry terminal.
We stopped at the usual pullout, where we were met by Brian, Pat and Maureen; our total was now 7. We had a quick scan, but there were very few birds on the water on the north side… a few Horned Grebes and a Common Loon.
In the distance between the two ports, a small raft of White-winged Scoters were barely visible. The same was true on the south side where we had dodged cars to get a look.
Brian suggested looking for the Whimbrel which has been reported as usually being seen near the condos at the foot of the jetty so we headed to the terminal, made the turn, and stopped at the first viewing area in the “no stopping” zone where the cars are unloaded from the ferries. On parking, right in front of us on the rocks was a pair of Black Oystercatchers and the Whimbrel!
Talk about luck! Nothing much was on the water there except a few more Horned Grebes, a Common Goldeneye, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, and some Surf Scoters.
Our trip through the TFN lands provided nothing except a few Bald Eagles, but at the end of the road where it meets the overpass we stopped at the recently formed ponds where we had a number of duck species including Gadwall, Ring-necked, Northern Shovellers, Mallards, American and Eurasian Wigeon, Buffleheads, and a male Northern Harrier cruising overhead.
We’ll have to pay greater attention to this new gem in the future.
The remainder of the roads to the river offered only a few ducks in the farm fields, mainly Mallards and Wigeon and a few Red-tailed Hawks.
We had hoped to see a Northern Rough-legged Hawk as there are a few in that area but none to be seen today. On the usual stop on the dyke we saw a number of Red-breasted Mergansers, Trumpeter Swans towards the mouth of the river and a few Double-crested Cormorants. Somewhere on the way we seemed to have picked up Marion bringing us up to 9!
The parking lot at Reifel was busy as there was another group getting ready with their equipment. Marion recognized them as photographers taking a course with two well known experts. I didn’t get all the details, but they were getting prepared to lie on the ground with their yoga mats (I’m sure Marion can provide you with more detailed information). We were joined by Glen, Margaretha, Roy and Solveig bringing us up to that magic number 13! Once on to the trail we were joined, at some point, by David for our final total of 14.
We started off by spending some time looking for the White-throated Sparrow that has been there for some time now… but not today! I have included, though, a photo taken a few days ago showing the bird that we would have seen.
The regulars were at the usual spots: three Black-crowned Night Herons, eight Sandhill Cranes, etc.
On the slough there were Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shovellers, Hooded Mergansers, etc. Again, the usual suspects were on the north trail but not wanting to be hand-fed… overfed already, or getting getting wary the way they do when they are mating?
At one point someone (modesty prevents me from naming him) noticed a Sora running across the trail and into the undergrowth where several of us had obstructed looks at it as it moved through the tangled vegetation.
Terry managed a photo and it was determined to be a Virginia Rail. Now, embarrassment prevents me from naming the person who had identified it as a Sora! At the junction of the north and west trail, Brian was able to locate a Saw-whet Owl fairly high up, and quite open, and in a tree where we often find a Barred Owl!
From the blind at the north end of the west trail Gerhard located three Hooded Mergansers on the water.
We decided to take the group photo on the viewing tower. So we organized on the second tier, oblivious to the fact that Tak (well-known bird photographer) was now trapped in the middle of our group and just managed to escape before I took the photo. Tak was looking for the Swamp Sparrow which requires a lot of patience and quiet and wasn’t too happy about being mobbed so he, and his wife, moved off down the outer dyke to look there… ten minutes later he was swarmed again as we left!
The outer ponds had lots of ducks, mainly Northern Shovellers, and Mallards with a few Green-winged Teal.
Lots of Trumpeter Swans could be seen on the foreshore and a few Northern Harriers searching the marsh. One tree along the way held a family of Northern Flickers. In the brush on the inside of the dyke, Brian sighted a Marsh Wren, his second wren of the day, the first being a Pacific Wren along the north trail. The ponds by the small viewing platform had an enormous number, and variety of ducks, from Mallards,
to Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, etc. On the way out we paused to look for the White-throated Sparrow again with no luck. A Peregrine Falcon made a quick fly-by over the slough and we were finished with Reifel.
Being only 11:30, we decided to have a quick look in Alaksen for the Barred Owls. No owls, but we did find lots of pellets, one of which we opened to find a vole skeleton inside. The canal south of the Alaksen road contained a very large number Common Mergansers!
A short, but important discussion, was then taken to decide where to go for lunch, Speeds being the winner! Ten of us had a pleasant meal accompanied with a beer that Tom had recommended on a previous visit, all-in-all a very pleasant morning.
Tues. 21 February we will go to Blaine/Semiamoo, leaving Petra’s at 7:30 and carpooling from the border park behind the duty free at 8:00. We will meet others on Marine Drive, near Blaine Marine Park, around 8:15 am.