Maplewood Conservation Area is managed by the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia. It is the largest section of tidal mudflats remaining on the North Shore.
To get there by car take exit 23 of Highway one heading east on Dollarton Highway. After a few minutes you’ll reach the entrance; it’ll be on your right. Note that the parking has a gate so make sure you’re out of there before 4PM on weekends or 6PM during the week. Alternatively you can park outside the main parking across the street or at the pullout to the west of the entrance.
If you’re using public transit visit Translink’s trip planner to figure out how to get there. Phibbs Exchange is only a twenty to twenty-five minute walk from Maplewood at a brisk pace and this is often a more reliable way to ensure you make your connection than waiting for the 212; which I’ve found can be off schedule by as much as ten to fifteen minutes.
The first thing I do upon visiting Maplewood Flats is to check the sightings board at the entrance for anything interesting…
Below you’ll find a map of the area with particular locations that I feel are worth checking out. I don’t mean to say that these are the only places worth visiting but they tend to be more “birdy” than other areas (depending on the time of year). A more detailed trail map can be found on Outdoor Vancouver’s post regarding Maplewood Flats.
- Bird Feeders at main entrance.
- First mudflat viewing area.
- Second mudflat viewing area.
- Osprey Point.
- Otter Point.
- Westernmost West Pond Lookout.
- Easternmost West Pond Lookout.
1. Bird Feeders at Main Entrance
Inside the fenced off maintenance/gardening area are a number of feeders that are almost always stocked. There’s generally quite a bit of activity going on here throughout the winter when food is harder to come by elsewhere on the property.
Birds that can be found here at any time of the year include various species of sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Black-capped Chickadee. Also be sure to have a look for any birds of prey that may be perched in one of the trees nearby; I have seen a Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting at this location before.
In the summer this spot can be a bit hit or miss as more food is available elsewhere than during the winter and birds are partaking in breeding activity, but seeing as though it’s right at the entrance you may as well spend a few minutes checking it out.
2. First Mudflat Viewing Area
In my opinion this is the must see location at any time of the year; I’ve often spent over an hour just at this spot when the birding has been good. I’d recommend that you check the tide charts and time your visit so that the tide is coming in; that way the birds are being pushed towards the viewing area. When it’s low tide I find that most of the birds are a bit too far away to accurately identify everything with binoculars alone. The pylons often have Bald Eagle or, at the right time of year, Osprey perched atop them.
Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorant as well as the occasional Common Loon can usually be found in the deeper water past the pylons.
Another place to have a look at is where the brush and waterline meet to the south of the viewing area. This stretch often attracts birds feeding on the insects/flies that also inhabit the shoreline.
If you look to the north you’ll see a narrow path that leads to a place where you can get a better view of the northern section of the mudflats and the Blueridge/McCartney Creek outflow.
The winter months attract a fair number of gull and duck species in addition to Greater Yellowlegs. During spring and fall migration several species of shorebirds use the mudflats as a brief refueling stop.
3. Second Mudflat Viewing Area
This spot provides a better view of the southern section of the mudflats and, when the tide is out, several sandbars.
The brush to the west often has a fair amount of activity when it’s berry season. This is the same location two juvenile Lewis’s Woodpeckers were sighted in September of 2009.
4. Osprey Point
As the name implies this is a good place to check out the Osprey nest anytime during the late spring, summer and early fall. It can be found on the very last or southernmost pylon in the series that is visible from this location.
The footbridge that spans the Old Barge Channel separates the east section from the larger west section of Maplewood Flats. If you look north up the channel you’ll notice a pylon jutting out of the water with a nest box attached to it. I’ve found that this is a good place to spot Belted Kingfisher. A lone bird is often perched here staring down at the water.
5. Otter Point
Otter Point is located at the southwest corner of the property. Looking south towards the Second Narrows you’ll note that this area is a little more rocky than the mudflats. This is a good spot to check for Black Oystercatcher.
Double-crested and Pelagic cormorant can regularly be seen from here in addition to several species of gull.
6. Westernmost West Pond Lookout
This lookout has been raised a little above ground level and provides an excellent view of the pond. With that said, the reeds can get a little tall in the summer months resulting in the part of the pond directly in front of the viewing area being blocked from view.
Luckily most of the really interesting activity occurs during migration and winter, with several species of duck making use of the pond to rest and refuel. When the weather is cold enough the pond sometimes freezes over resulting in reduced access to food and, therefore, a reduced number of birds making use of it.
7. Easternmost West Pond Lookout
The easternmost lookout at the West Pond views the same section of pond as the westernmost lookout in addition to a part of the pond stretching to the north west.
If you plan to bird the whole area I find this typically takes me four to six hours depending on the weather and the amount of activity.
Ideally one would be able to set aside the time to thoroughly canvas the entire area but if you need to budget your time I don’t think you can go wrong visiting any of the aforementioned locations. Sometimes, when the birding is a little slow or during the winter when there isn’t much going on in the brushy/wooded areas, I don’t feel the need to cross over the footbridge to the western side and instead just visit both mudflat viewing areas, Osprey Point, and the birdfeeders. Other times I might cross the bridge and take the first trail to the right leading to the easternmost West Pond lookout. I think this provides the most birds for your time.
It’s thanks to the management and care of the Wild Bird Trust that we can all enjoy Maplewood Conservation Area so please consider making a donation or becoming a member.