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
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