Archive for May, 2010

Naheeno Park: May 12th 2010

Wednesday was the start of the summer term at SFU and, happening to have a break between classes and no homework as of yet, I decided to have another look at Naheeno Park. The last time I wrote about birding Naheeno Park it was winter and the birds were common and not particularly abundant. This time, however, there was a fair bit more going on.

The trees were now covered with leaves and the understory was a thick tangle of brush; insects were everywhere. There were quite a few American Robins about, many of them singing and out of sight in the forest but I flushed quite a few as I made my way down the trails. More interestingly (not that American Robins aren’t interesting in their own right) numerous Wilson’s Warblers and several Orange-crowned Warblers were singing up in the canopy.

I spent most of my time along the trail that parallels the power lines as this is where a large amount of the activity was occurring. I had brief looks at a Warbling Vireo followed by some spectacularly close up views of a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers and at one point a Red breasted Sapsucker clambered up one of the utility poles. A Swainson’s Thrush, which was darting in and out of cover along the trail, was probably my best bird of the day as I’m used to seeing them as a distant speck singing at the top of a tall conifer.

Naheeno Park seemed like an entirely different place when compared to my outing in December. Hopefully I’ll be able to wrangle some spare time during the coming semester to visit it again!

Iona: May 7th 2010

On Friday evening I was able to get some birding done at Iona Beach. It was a pleasant time of day and although there were a fair number of people there most of them where out on the south jetty taking a walk leaving the more “birdier” areas to the birds and the birders.

Upon arriving I immediately noticed a pair of Ospreys hunting at the pond by the parking lot. I spent a good fifteen minutes observing them take a couple of dives into the water but each time they were unsuccessful. Finally, one of them made a spectacular plunge right in front of my position and came up with a small fish; the bird promptly flew off and landed in the brush just to the west of the parking lot. Not five minutes later I saw the same Osprey flying over the pond again… this time with a group of crows in tow; all after the fish still in the Osprey’s talons. The chase continued over the sewage ponds and then out of my sight; I hope the Osprey was successful in keeping its catch.

Seeing the Ospreys up and close and watching them hunt is always great but the pond to the north of the pond by the parking lot was where most of the action was. After staking out a position at its southwest corner a drake Blue-winged Teal landed and promptly disappeared into the reeds. It was shortly followed by a male and female Cinnamon Teal; the hen also vanished into the reeds but the male stuck around out in the open allowing me to take a few pictures.

While watching the ducks the unmistakable song of the Yellow-headed Blackbird was emanating from several locations amongst the cattails. You can listen to this song at xeno-canto. Eventually one of the birds popped into view. It was followed shortly by another and the two proceeded to chase each other around before settling back into their respective reedy corners.

There used to be a much larger Yellow-headed Blackbird population here. Before Vancouver International Airport was constructed on Sea Island the area was all marshland and presumably home to much larger numbers of the birds (1). As the wetlands were filled in to make way for the ever expanding airport the birds were eventually relegated to their current location on Iona Island (1). I counted just three birds whereas in 1970 there was a colony containing 36 nests; meaning, there must have been at least 72 mature individuals (1).

The north arm of the Fraser River also had a fair bit going on. A small flock of Western Sandpiper was flying up and down the northern bank and to the west a group of Caspian Terns sat on an exposed sand bar.

My trip to Iona didn’t disappoint; but then I think it’d be hard to have an unsatisfactory time out birding during spring migration in Vancouver.

Reference:

  1. Campbell, R. W., N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, G. W. Kaiser, A. Stewart, and M. C. E. McNall. 2001. The Birds of British Columbia. Vol. 4. R. Br. Columbia Mus. Victoria. (You can view a limited preview of this book, including the part about Yellow-headed Blackbirds on Google books here)

Reifel: May 1st 2010

With my exams finally over and having had a bit of a break, which involved two Chipping Sparrows at Stanley Park, I managed to get out to Reifel Bird Sanctuary. It seems my exams were perfectly timed to coincide with the main push of the spring migration; sufficed to say it was quite difficult trying to study while all of this was going on outside but I’m glad they’re over and done with so that now I can focus on what really matters…birding!

The weather was fairly pleasant, though a touch breezy, and it was not as busy as I had expected it to be; the parking lot was only three quarters full. Frankly, it could have been below zero and hailing and I still would’ve had a good time.

In the pond nearby the entrance a pair of Blue-winged Teals were busy feeding on any invertebrates, seeds, or aquatic plants present there (1). I had some excellent looks at the two but frustratingly as I was about to take some pictures they took flight. This did, however, provide the opportunity to observe the species’ namesake; its blue wing coverts.

Along the easternmost trail I came across a splendid Common Yellowthroat in full song. You can listen to a number of recordings for this species at xeno-canto. Further along both Myrtle and Audubon’s variety of Yellow-rumped Warbler were active in the trees along the path.

Looking west across the marsh and out towards the Georgia Straight there didn’t appear to be much going on besides swallows, mostly tree with a couple of Barn, and Red-winged Blackbirds. I decided to wait it out a bit and after ten minutes or so a Peregrine Falcon surprisingly took flight from a clump of brush. I didn’t notice him land there so I wonder if it wasn’t feeding on something. The falcon caused a bit of a panic with the other birds and it managed to flush out a small flock of Western Sandpiper and an American Bittern. It’s amazing that, with a little bit of patience, a seemingly deserted marsh can hold so many great birds!

Reference:

  1. Rohwer, Frank C., William P. Johnson and Elizabeth R. Loos. 2002. Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/625doi:10.2173/bna.625