Sunday, August 30, 2009

Birding Iona Island

Today, I wanted to study shorebirds and after a little research, I discovered that Iona Island was the best place to observe them.

Located in west Richmond adjacent to the Vancouver International Airport, the island includes the federally-owned southern jetty which provides a four kilometer walk out into Georgia Strait.
A second, federally-owned jetty (the north jetty) was originally constructed as a rock wall to divide the river, however sand accumulation has resulted in the development of a small sand spit that supports a developing sand dune ecosystem.

I started off strolling the beach, which is said to be an international stop on the Pacific Flyway. According to some rather impressive signage at the gate, over 300 different species of birds, from 3 continents and 20 different countries touch down at Iona Beach. They rest their weary wings and fuel up on the rich insect, plant, and fish buffet of the Fraser River Delta before they continue their long journeys on the Pacific Flyway.

Iona offers a selection of suites for every kind of traveler: wide tidal mudflats for shorebirds; marshes for ducks and blackbirds; sand dunes and fields for hawks; open ocean for sea birds; and hedgegrows and trees for songbirds.

So where do you think a person, dressed in inappropriate footwear, should start? That's right! I went straight for the tidal mudflats.

The tide was way out and left behind small shallow ponds where Semipalmated Sandpipers had stopped to dine on insects.

By the time I finally reached the shoreline, my shoes were full of mud. Here, I was able to observe Ring-Billed Gulls preening on the wet sand, and floating about near the waters edge. This is the first time I had observed this particular gull and was especially struck by their penetrating eyes.

I had hoped to see some Common Terns, Dunlins or Black-Bellied Plovers, said to be abundant at this location. Unfortunately, I did not see them on this day.

Next time, I will try the southern jetty.

For a Bird Checklist of Iona Island, Richmond, please visit HERE

Friday, August 28, 2009

Birding the West Dyke Trail

Today, I decided to take a walk along the West Dyke Trail in historic Steveston, enroute to Terra Nova Natural Area. I began at Garry Point, just off Chatham, stopping first at Scotch Pond to view the Historic Moorage Site. Through a cracked window, I could hear the 'hooting' of an owl I could not see.

While I was there, I heard the high-pitch hiss of a cedar waxwing perched high atop a nearby apple tree.

I made my way through the trail, admiring the beautiful view of the Sturgeon Bank marshes, Howe Sound mountains, and the Gulf Islands in the distance. It was a humid 25c and there were few trees on the trail to offer shade.

On one side of the trail were the marshes, bristling with colorful wild flowers and cat tails. The sound of crickets filled the air.

On the other, ponds brimming with lily pads and floating platforms with Red-Eared Sliders soaking up the morning sunshine.

Mallards swam gracefully through the water without a care in the world, it would seem.

I was about halfway to Terra Nova when I noticed a few black n' white masses grazing out in the marsh. A rather odd sight, or so I thought.

After stopping to talk to a cyclist resting on a park bench, I learned that the cows were from the local Steve's Family Farm. This small farm has been operated by the Steves family since 1877. I then realized that this is the very family the historic Steveston Village is named after. According to the cyclist (a long time resident of Steveston), these dairy cows are escorted across a small wooden bridge, across the West Dyke Trail, and out into the marsh to graze every morning.

I finally reached Terra Nova Natural Area - a 35 acre
old-field habitat that is situated adjacent to the West Dyke Trail and Sturgeon Banks. Featuring native plantings, viewing platforms, pathways and a slough, this site provides habitat and food to a variety of wildlife including raptors, herons and migrating birds.

Almost on cue, my camera battery died - Gahhh!

Quite honestly, I think the highlight of the morning was learning more about the namesake of the historic Steveston Village; the Steve's family. Mind you, observing the flocks of Cedar Waxwings or sunbathing red-eared sliders wasn't half bad either ;)

Observed on this day were:
- Bald Eagles
- Red-Tailed Hawks
- Countless Swallows
- Mallards
- Red-Eared Sliders
- House Finches
- House Sparrows
- Cedar Waxwings
- Gulls
- American Crows

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Birding @ the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Part 3)

When Robbie and I finally reached the south west marsh, not only did we see many Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, but we noticed something a little taller, near the waters edge. At first, we thought we were looking at one or two Great Blue Herons, but as we got a little closer, we realized we had hit the mother-load - a family of Sandhill Cranes (7 in all).

A couple were busy preening:

Soon, a few others became a little self-conscious of their appearance and began preening as well.

We watched as a few fought over territory:

Soon, they settled back into preening:

Truly, a beautiful bird!

In all the years I have visited the Migratory Bird Sanctuary, I have never seen so many Sandhill Cranes in the same place. For more information about the Sandhill Crane, please visit The International Crane Foundation HERE

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Birding @ the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Part 2)

While Robbie and I visited one of the Display Ponds, near the look-out tower, we found this lovely female Blue-Winged Teal (or female Mallard, depending on the bird guide you use) preening herself on a nearby log.

Soon, this beauty will either make the long journey south, to Central or South America or the Gulf Coast and Coastal California. No matter where this darling ends up, I'm glad I got the chance to observe her today. May she find her way back safely to the waters of the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary next Spring. Have a safe trip.

For more information about the Blue-Winged Teal, check out the Ducks Unlimited Website HERE.
For more information about the Mallard, check out the Ducks Unlimited Canada Website HERE.