DNCB Outing No. 2017-43 to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and Reifel Bird Sanctuary

More photos at our DNCB Flickr site

Thirty (Wow! See names at end) folk enjoyed another brilliant Fall Tuesday morning in Delta on our DNCB outing to Roberts Bank (aka Salish Sea or Georgia Strait) at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, then through the Ladner and Westham Island farmers’ fields to Reifel Bird Sanctuary.  Lots of beautiful photos, especially of some rare/uncommon sightings, on our Flickr site at:  www.flickr.com/groups/dncb, then click the magnifying glass icon in the “Photo Pool” row, and add 2017-43 to “flickr_search_dncb-photosDNCB Photos” in the Search box at the top of the page.

A bunch(12?) of us met at Petra’s at 7:30 am and car-pooled to our first stop at the pull-off on the causeway to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal.  The tide was fairly high, but receding.  Several Black Oystercatchers along the shore with rafts of Green-winged Teal (GWT) close by.  Near the spit and in the bay between the causeway and the Container Port were rafts of thousands of ducks, mostly American Wigeon, Northern Pintail and GWT.  We also saw Common Loons, Bufflehead (finally arriving), Scoters (mostly Surf), Northern Shovelers, a number of Eurasian Wigeon among the Americans, and a couple of Lesser Scaup (obviously Scaup have not yet arrived).  Lots of great Blue Herons, probably from the Tsatsu Heronry, on the mudflats too.  Flocks of Shorebirds occasionally whizzed by, Dunlin mostly.  We saw hundreds of Dunlin feeding in the mud there the next day (Wednesday) with the visiting Pender Island Naturalists.

On the south side of the causeway were large rafts too, mostly Surf Scoters.  Grebes were there, too, and we saw the three relatively common species, Western, Red-necked and Horned.  Both Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, and we finally located a few Harlequin Ducks.  The exciting discovery and our Target Bird was the Whimbrel, which posed for us among the resident Black Turnstones and Oystercatchers.  We drove to the terminal, searched in vain for the King Eider, and left our parking spots under the No Parking sign at the urging of the Terminal Police.  We were blanked on Snow Buntings and Horned Larks too.

The drive through the TFN was interesting seeing all the new development and Halloween-decorated front lawns, a Brewer’s Blackbird at the Kingfisher Bridge, and other common stuff, Eurasian Collared-doves, Finches, Northern Harriers.  Similarly, through the Ladner farmers’ fields and Westham Island (WI) only regular stuff seen (Woodpeckers/Flickers, Juncos, Robins, Mute Swans at WI Bridge).  We were searching for fields full of Snow Geese and flocks of Trumpeter Swans; also for Rough-legged Hawks, and perhaps early arriving Western Meadowlarks.  We saw Red-tailed Hawks and on Wednesday, did see a Rough-legged on Westham Island on Reynolds Farm, along with a flock of 5000 Snow Geese.

We got to our Mecca, Reifel Bird Sanctuary, at 9:40 am (only 10 minutes late) and there was a cast of thousands waiting.  Walking past the wintering Black-crowned Night Herons, we gathered at the Reifel Info signage for the Group Photo (27 w/o Johnny Mac, Richmond Brian and Jim K who were impatiently touring ahead).  Brown Creepers were in a nearby tree and some saw a Merlin at the entrance.  We followed the east dyke trail and the DNCB kiddies got their thrills as the Chickadees fed off their out-stretched hands.  Among the Mallards and Wigeons along the trail were several pair of gorgeous Wood Ducks which always thrill me.  I only saw Golden-crowned Kinglets, no Ruby-crowned, and heard Pacific Wrens.  Lots of Sparrows, Song, Fox, Golden-crowned, but we couldn’t find the Lark or Clay-colored Sparrows which were allegedly seen there days earlier.  We searched in vain for the Great-horned Owls, and perhaps an early arriving Sawhet.  Some saw a resident Barred Owl at Alaksen next door.

On an inner trail before going to the Tower for another partial Group Photo (21), we checked out Roger’s weird coloured spotted orange Mushrooms (Amanita Muscaria, poisonous, but of course Roger had a bite).   From the top of the lookout tower, while hand-feeding the brilliant Red-winged Blackbirds, a Northern Shrike landed in a nearby tree.  Since hunting season is open, the whole shoreline was lined with Snow Geese; I estimated 200,000 which is more than I have seen here since arriving in 2006.  There was also a flock of about 20 Trumpeter Swans there too, and swarms of Shorebirds occasionally weaving by in the distance.  Harriers and Red-Tails flying over the marsh, but we didn’t spot any Short-eared Owls this day.  The views across to the Islands and north at the mountains, on a clear day is always spectacular, especially with the thousands of birds surrounding you.

Taking the outer trail, we heard Virginia Rails but couldn’t coax them to visibility.  Several Greater Yellowlegs, maybe some Lesser’s too, in the pond, then a flock of Long-billed Dowitchers landed close for our photogs.  Some tried to pick out Short-billed Dowitchers in the mass.  We saw a few Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, American Coots and Hooded Mergansers in these ponds too (missed the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pied-billed Grebes, the dozen Sandhill Cranes that are wintering here, and the Long-tailed Duck).

It was Noon when we got back to the entrance in sporadic groups, as expected with so many participants.  After reporting to Reifel Manager Kathleen, fourteen of us decided to try our old reliable Speed’s Pub in Ladner for lunch.

Before lunch, on leaving Reifel, I stopped at my friend’s barn on Westham Island to check for Barn Owls.  David and Noreen got some good shots of two roosting, but very aware of our intrusion.  Then my Fish & Chips Special with two pints of Okanagan Springs 1516 lager, also on special, hit the spot at Speed’s.  Mike too raved about his Schnitzel Madagascar Special.  David took a couple of table photos as the DNCB Hard Core shared lies and laughs.  It was another awesome DNCB outing.  I got back to Tsawwassen about 2:30 pm and home in time to share a bowl of Fruit Loops with our granddaughter Juliette who got off early from Kindergarten.

The 30 DNCBers included: Roger M & Mike B, Roger K & Glen B, David & Noreen, Guru Anne M, our Godfather Terry C, ILB Tony M, Webmaster Ken w/o Anne A, our DNS Bird Box Crew of Jim K, Chris M & Ladner Jack, White Rock’s Al & Alice, North Delta Liz & Alan & Johnny Mac, Langley Anne G, Newbies Ursula S & BSC’s James C, our Germanics Margaretha & Gabriele, our “real” birders Marion, Kirsten & Jean G, returnee Fern F, Richmond Brian, Denise K (aka Uma) and me (plus Gerhard (31) who met us at Petra’s). DNCBers love their name in print.

Next Tuesday, November 7, we will leave Petra’s at 7:30 am for Terra Nova Park in Richmond.  We expect to meet others at the dyke parking lot by the washrooms around 8:15 am.

Also, next Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm at the Benediction Lutheran Church in Tsawwassen is our monthly Delta Nats meeting with Anne Murray presenting on Sea Bird Colonies in England, Iceland and Peru.  Learn more about this free event, and other Nats info and reports, on our website.


As always, your comments are welcome, and let me know if these seemingly longer and more whimsical messages irritate you and you want off my e-mail list.  Cheers: Tom

Tom Bearss, President, Delta Naturalists Society

About dncb

DNS: Delta Naturalists are a group of nature lovers whose aim is to foster interest in the natural history of the Fraser delta by sharing and enjoying nature and promoting environmental awareness and conservation. DNCB: Delta Nats Casual Birders is a group of Casual Birders who go Birding at different locations each week, usually within the Lower Mainland or in nearby Washington State.
This entry was posted in *DNCB, Barn Owl, Barred Owl, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Brown Creeper, Dunlin, Eurasian Wigeon, Hooded Merganser, Long-billed Dowitcher, Mute Swan, Northern Harrier, Northern Shrike, Pelagic Cormorant, Red-necked Grebe, Red-tailed Hawk, Reifel, Ring-necked Duck, Rough-legged Hawk, Trumpeter Swan, Tsawwassen Ferry Port, Whimbrel. Bookmark the permalink.

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