Sunday, September 6, 2009
Blackie Spit is one of the best bird watching areas in Canada with almost 200 species of birds recorded in a calendar year. The park is managed as a wildlife conservation area and habitat enhancement activities are ongoing throughout the park.
The sandy spit, surrounded by tidal marsh and eelgrass beds, is an important stop for migrating and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds, as they make their way up and down the coastline of North and South America. Fall migrants start arriving in late August and September.
On this day, Robbie (@YsMum) and I arrived just as the tide was heading out. As we crested the parking lot, we both noticed an odd shape floating in the water. As we approached, peering through binoculars, we compared notes on what we were seeing. The bird looked smaller than a duck, with a rather unusual bill and plumage. I snapped a few pictures, not knowing what I was shooting until later -- a Common Murre (Non-Breeding). Not a great picture but a record, none the less.
We continued to the east where we observed a small flock of Greater Yellowlegs. We proceeded out to the mudflats to get a closer look. Sadly, about halfway there, Robbie lost her balance and started sinking RAPIDLY in the mud. I tried, in vain, to pull her out but when it looked like I was going to go in with her, I let go and bailed quickly (like friends do). In the end, she lost both boots and walked out of the mudflats in her stocking feet. We retreated to a nearby bench, but soon, the lure of the Greater Yellowlegs proved too much for me, and I ventured out to the mudflats solo.
If there is one thing I can say about these shorebirds, it's that they're quick on their feet. They moved rapidly from one puddle to the next, almost as quickly as a tennis ball at a Wimbledon match.
Across the Bay, on the adjacent shoreline, we observed what we thought were Gulls. I snapped a few photos with the telephoto lens, and once home, determined that the shorebirds were Terns and not Gulls. They were either Caspian or Common Terns.
As the tide started to drift further out, we noticed a number of Glaucous-Winged Gulls and Ring-Billed Gulls gathering along the western shoreline. As we walked, we noticed a first-year Glaucous-Winged Gull struggling to retrieve something from the sandy beach. Remember my Wimbledon reference above?
Eventually, the Gull was successful at retreiving his bounty and quickly sped off along the shoreline. It wasn't long before he was challenged by another. Someone dropped the ball.
After spending some time out at Iona Beach last weekend, I discovered my love for the Ring-Billed Gull. With striking black wingtips, a black ring on the bill, and gorgeous yellow eyes with legs to match; they're the beauties of the shoreline.
If there is one thing we've learned from our trip to Blackie Spit on this day, it's that we should never attempt the mudflats without hip waders and a decent pair of gloves. Next time, we will be better prepared.
For more information about birding in British Columbia, visit the Birding in B.C. Website
Some of the introductory information was found at the City of Surrey Website