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.


  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)

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