Archive for April, 2010

Reifel: April 10th 2010

On Saturday I managed to get out to Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island. It was pretty windy; though, not as windy as at Iona over Easter. Normally Reifel is a bit of a zoo on the weekend, but I think the wind kept all the families with screaming children around the entrance and off of the outer trails as I only encountered fellow birders.

Before I got to the sanctuary, though, I stopped to watch a flock of several hundred Snow Geese feeding in a farmer’s field along Westham Island Road.

These birds feed on grasses, grains, aquatic plants, berries, and the “young leafy stems of various agricultural crops” throughout the Fraser River delta (1). A map showing the sightings of Snow Geese in BC is available on eBird. It’s likely that some of the birds I saw spent the winter in areas to the south of BC as the spring migration started in February (1). By mid to late May most birds will be on the breeding grounds (1). The Snow Geese that winter on the west coast will likely end up on the arctic tundra of Alaska, Yukon, North West Territories, and north east Siberia (1).

The sight and sound of hundreds, if not thousands, of Snow Geese is quite something to behold and surely ranks as one of BC’s most spectacular animal congregations.

At Reifel Sanctuary there was a fair bit of activity along the shoreline of the Fraser River and the Straight of Georgia. Although it was a little distant and the wind was blurring the view somewhat, I was able to see a flock of Dunlin, some Greater Yellowlegs, and, of course, Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, ducks, and an accoutrement of mostly unidentifiable gulls.

Standing on one of the islands in the south west pond were two Sandhill Cranes. Here is one of them…

Once I had finished checking out the trails I decided to take a walk along Robertson Road which leads to the parking lot. Although the road was quite busy, there were large numbers of Tree Swallows swooping about and I managed to spot a single Barn Swallow; my first of the year.

Reifel on Saturday was certainly worth the $4 I paid to get in. Perhaps the best $4 one can spend in the entire Lower Mainland?


  1. Mowbray, Thomas B., Fred Cooke and Barbara Ganter. 2000. Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Easter at Iona

End of semester projects and tests kept me from writing a trip report last weekend but I did manage to get in some decent birding so I thought I’d talk about what I got up to before discussing this weekends outings. On Saturday I managed to get out to Iona Beach near the airport.

Iona was incredibly windy on Saturday but the weather was otherwise quite nice. At one point I almost had my tripod and scope blown over by a strong gust but luckily I managed to grab it just in time. The wind also made digiscoping very difficult as my camera had trouble focusing through all the atmospheric turbulence. Despite this I find something enjoyable about birding in adverse conditions; I think a good bird or a difficult ID is a little more special when you’ve been through hell to get it.

At the pond by the parking lot Tree and Violet-green Swallows were having rough time of it in the wind. They would frequently come down to rest on the railing of the boardwalk and many of them appeared to be breathing quite heavily. The wind was a bit of a blessing for the observer as the swallows were practically stationary when flying into the wind; this allowed for some excellent looks of the birds in flight.

Over by the washrooms I managed to locate a group of four Savannah Sparrows taking shelter in the brush.

Just past the gate that heads out onto the North Arm Jetty a Northern Shrike was flying from bush top to bush top. The bird would barely rest on a high perch for a few seconds before lifting off and flying, seemingly in slow motion due to the wind, to the next one.

Not long after spotting the shrike an American Tree Sparrow made a brief appearance from the depths of the nearby brush. After patiently observing the area for a quarter of an hour I was able to discern at least two birds but more have been reported by other birders.

On the northern bank of the North Arm of the Fraser River I managed to pick out these two Eurasian Widgeon:

I had a great time at Iona but I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of off leash dogs. Dogs are supposed to be leashed throughout the park yet I counted eighteen running about compared to three whose owners had the decency to follow the rules and, more importantly, respect the environment. It seemed as though some of the birds were already having a bit of a rough time in the strong wind, the last thing they needed was for some dog to come tearing through the brush where they’re trying to take shelter.