November 5, 2018
Pender Island birdwatchers Bob Vergette, Julie Johnston, Roz Kempe and son Nick joined Chris, Glen, Jack and I for a full day of birdwatching in the delta on Monday November 5. The group had intended to meet on the previous Thursday but forecasts for heavy rain postponed the trip and meant a few islanders had to drop out. Chris drove the Delta team and provided door-to-door service for me and Glen. We left for the BC Ferries jetty meet-up before 9am, but having such a short distance to go, we were of course second to arrive, as Bob and the Pender gang were already there!
The weather and visibility were both excellent so we crossed the jetty and walked along the north side spotting huge flocks of American Wigeon out in the bay, with at least one Eurasian in among them. There were also Northern Pintail and some Northern Shoveler and Mallard. Gulls included Glaucous-winged, Icelandic (aka Thayer’s), Mew and a California. In the distance, nearer the port structures and in deeper water, were many Bufflehead, Greater Scaup, a dozen or more Western Grebe, Horned Grebes and probably a couple of Red-neckeds too. The usual cormorants, Common Loon, and Great Blue Herons were also seen. We didn’t walk all the way along to the pull out as we were mindful of time, but returned to the car along the same grassy path on the north side. A flock of Black Oystercatchers were seen in flight on the south side.
From the jetty, we drove through the Tsawwassen First Nation reserve and up scenic back roads to Ladner to pick up patiently waiting Jack, then on to Iona Regional Park, through the usual heavy highway traffic. Julie was thrilled with a coyote that trotted over the road in front of our car as we drove into the park, and the ponds immediately awarded us with a beautiful male Canvasback, my first of year. Two river otters cavorting in the water were a nice sight, as were the two Bald Eagles having a bath off the log across the pond. No Meadowlarks were spotted, and bushes were fairly quiet as we only found a handful of Fox and Song Sparrows, an Anna’s Hummingbird buzzing overhead, Spotted Towhees, and House Finches.
The Pied-billed Grebe family were in their usual pond, rather hard for some of us shorties to see over the tall reeds. The main task of the day was sorting out all the duck species, including females and younger males. In addition to the Canvasback, we saw Ring-necked Duck, Northern Pintail, Mallard, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, and Northern Shoveler, and some Green-winged Teal. (The very next day’s DNCB trip yielded a female Redhead but we didn’t get it on Monday). Brewer’s Blackbirds and some Red-wingeds were feeding on the muddy ground around the inner ponds. The Peregrine Falcon was in its usual spot on one of the distant trees.
Our next stop was Terra Nova park across the river for picnic lunch. Our Pender friends were able to get super close looks at the giant flock of Snow Geese in the field behind the community gardens, despite an increasingly drizzly rain shower. Thousands of geese were gathered here making a lot of noise and getting thoroughly excited about something. There were not many young ones in this flock but a later flock seen near highway 17A had plenty. A short stroll near the pond was disappointing as some strange algae seemed to have invaded the water. However, the dyke trail gave us another perched Peregrine Falcon, which I first mis-identified as a Cooper’s Hawk, following on from my triple misidentification of a large flock of American Goldfinches, where a number of alternative species was unhelpfully but enthusiastically shouted out! I calmed down enough to see the Northern Harrier over the marshes, another neat bird for the islanders.
We decided on one other destination, as Nicky really wanted to see some owls, so we headed to the 72nd Street dyke at Boundary Bay around 4pm. A beautiful stub of a rainbow lingered over the water to the east while immense flocks of Dunlin did their swirling flock murmurations far out over the water. A few flocks of Black-bellied Plover were out there too, along with a big congregation of ducks. Right on cue, Nick spotted a Short-eared Owl flying over the marsh towards us, soon joined by another over the golf course, giving us great views. A male Northern Harrier perched in a tree and then chased the owls around. A nice end to a fun day.
Pictures from Chris, Jack and Glen can be found on the DNCB Flickr site by searching for PIFN.