DNCB Outing No. 2019-08 to Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty, TFN and Reifel Bird Sanctuary

With a weather report of a strong wind from Squamish producing a minus 13 degree wind chill, I was amazed to find Petra’s DNCB table crowded with 10 dedicated birders.  It was mind-numbing just to picture us on the unprotected ferry jetty trying to hold our binoculars steady!  However, when we reached it we found a light breeze but a bit of a chop on the water and a workable plus 3 degree temperature.

Check out the photo evidence on our DNCB Flickr site.
Now, up to 12 participants, we scanned the north side of the jetty where most of the birds were on the spit enclosing the compensation pond.  Huddled together was a mat of several hundred Dunlin, scattered American Wigeon, Pintail, Gadwall American Coots, Mallards and a Brant Goose.  On the water were a number of  scattered Bufflehead.  Crossing over the highway to the south side we found a single Black Oystercatcher and a few Harlequin along the shore line with small flocks of Surf Scoters, a few Common Loons and Double-crested Cormorants.  The angle of the morning sun, low above the water made if very difficult to determine other species.  Also seen were Canada Geese, Brant and Snow Geese.  (Check the link to Brian’s e-Bird report for a full listing of the species seen… I’m not going to include all the Robins, Starlings, House Sparrows and such.  Not that I don’t like those birds, but let’s assume they are everywhere we go!)

Leaving the ferry jetty, we wound our way through the TFN lands where we saw little until we reached the recently constructed ponds at the north end just before the overpass to the Super Port.  The ponds contained numerous ducks including Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Buffleheads, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal and some coots.   In the rushes we could see the Red-winged Blackbirds which were calling.  Debbi sighted a Northern Shrike on a wire and we all managed a good look at it.  Northern Harriers were cruising over the marsh, and the Bald Eagles were everywhere.  Across the road from where we had parked we noticed a hawk sitting on a dirt pile.  It was partly  camouflaged by tall grass but when it was spooked by us trying to get a good angle for a photo it flew and we could see it was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.  Notice I’m not mentioning Robins, and the different sparrows that are in all the locations we visited!

Moving on, we crossed the Delta Port highway and turned left onto 33A Ave.  This was where Terry and Mike had seen the Rough-legged Hawk the previous week and, sure enough, it was there again.  We watched it for a few moments and lots of photos were taken.

As it was getting close to 9:00 am, we had a very quick look out on the river from the viewpoint on River Road…saw nothing…and carried on to the Westham Island Bridge.  Mike 1 saw two Mute Swans below as we crossed  the bridge.  Nothing of note was seen the rest of the way to Reifel.

Delta Nats at Reifel photo by Jim Kneesch

Arriving at the sanctuary parking lot, we were met by the remaining 6 of our group bringing us up to the 18.  We were very fortunate to be joined by Mary Taitt who has an incredible knowledge of the sanctuary flora and fauna and she was able to point out features we would never have recognized by ourselves.  As usual, with a large number of participants, we managed to get spread out so those at the front may have seen birds those at the back did not, and vice-versa.  Again, see Brian’s e-Bird list for a full account of the birds seen.

Right at the entrance though, a male Anna’s Hummingbird was displaying.  In the yard between Kathleen’s house and the office/gift shop  there were 9 Sandhill Cranes feeding from a bucket of food hanging from the  office wall.  Two Black-crowned Night-Herons were resting in their usual tree and the hoards of ducks, sparrows, pigeons, and blackbirds were mobbing anyone with food.  With us being there at opening time, and the cold weather, the birds were ravenous to the point where some of us were walking about with Red-winged Blackbirds on our  head, shoulders and eating from our hands (I hope someone has posted  photos of this.)  Even the Wood Ducks were sitting on our hands!

Although the slough was partially frozen, we did see a few Common Mergansers in the distance.  Along the trails we came up with all the usual sparrows; Song, Golden-crowned (lots), a Lincoln’s (ouch… I missed that one), lots of Spotted Towhees (more than I’ve ever seen), Dark-eyed Juncos, more Red-winged Blackbirds, a Killdeer (I missed that one as well).  Mary had seen, briefly, a Red-breasted Nuthatch and Anne Murray found a Purple Finch for us.  A Brown Creeper and two Golden-crowned Kinglets were also seen… other ones  I missed.  At Owl Corner (end of the East Dyke path), Mary located three Saw-whet Owls.  Even when pointed out, they were still virtually invisible, and if their pictures are posted I’m sure it will be like “Looking-for-Waldo” trying to separate owl from holly leaves!  I don’t think we would have seen any of them if it weren’t for Mary!

The blind at the end of the short walk left at the end of the East Dyke provided only two Common Mergansers in the distance… far distance.  Turning south we walked the path between the inner slough and the salt marsh looking out towards the ocean.  Brian lists 35 GBH (Great Blue Herons), in one of the little outer canals, and in one we saw a male and female Hooded Merganser. One of us mistook the female for a Ruddy Duck… (I’m too embarrassed to mention his name).  I mean, really, with it’s little tail sticking up and the body crunched in due to the cold… anyone could have made that mistake!  There were a few Northern Shovelers  there as well.  There was no Roseate Spoonbill, in my opinion, behind the tuft of reeds, by the outfall pipe.

The viewing tower showed no birds on the large pond, but looking out onto the shoreline there were spotted patches of Trumpeter Swans, Snow Geese, and large numbers of Dunlin and unidentified gulls.  Several Northern Harriers were cruising the outer marsh, and we had seen several inside the reserve as well.

The trail back on the outer dyke was uneventful except for a few Northern Flickers, however when we reached the pond in front of the viewing platform near the east end of the inner trail (we need a map for this report) there were lots of ducks and American Coots.  These included Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks (I want their name changed to Ring-billed), Mallards, Northern Shovelers, etc.  Colin reports a Cooper’s Hawk on a tree in the inner ponds, seen by a trailing group of 4, or 5, near the end of the walk.

Back at the parking lot discussion revolved around lunch arrangements.  Tom, having completed his Flamenco lessons apparently was able to attend this event which I hear later was quote “very tasty”!  I can’t report on that as I was having a very “tasty” sushi lunch with Rose.

I apologize for missed sightings, but we had failed to conscript a blog writer at the time, so you’ve been stuck with me!  Again, thank you Mary Taitt for your wonderful help.

Next week TUESDAY March 5 we will be going to DeBoville Slough & Blakeburn Lagoons in Coquitlam.  We will leave Petra’s at 7:30 and meet at the intersection of Cedar & Victoria Drives about 8:30 am.

Also next TUESDAY March 5 is the DNS monthly meeting, with guest speaker Misty MacDuffee speaking on Southern Resident Killer Whales: Is their time running out?  (7:30 pm at Benediction Lutheran Church)

Roger Meyer

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, Bald Eagle, Black Oystercatcher, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Cooper's Hawk, Dunlin, Harlequin Duck, Hooded Merganser, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Mute Swan, Northern Harrier, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Northern Shrike, Purple Finch, Red-tailed Hawk, Reifel, Ring-necked Duck, Rough-legged Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Trumpeter Swan, Tsawwassen Ferry Port. Bookmark the permalink.

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