Posts Tagged 'Iona Jetty'

Iona: October 28th 2012

The last time I was able to get out birding was when I wrote about my walk through Queen Elizabeth Park weeks ago. Luckily on Sunday I wasn’t entirely swamped with homework and the weather seemed cooperative, enabling me to get briefly for a walk down Iona’s south jetty with my mom.

The first thing I noticed upon exiting the car was a series of bangs set off by the airport workers in charge of keeping the birds out of the paths of the aircraft. This was followed by the over flight of a number panic stricken Snow Geese and other waterfowl in a hurry to get out of there! At the base of the south side of the jetty a number of ducks were sleeping or resting; apparently undeterred by the airport staff’s fireworks. A quick scan of this group produced a Eurasian Wigeon sleeping amongst its American brethren.

As I set up my scope to scan the area to the north of the jetty I noticed another birder waving and pointing at something. It was a Short-eared Owl flying right past my position! I quite likely might have missed the owl if it hadn’t been for the other birder, so thank you!

The walk down the rest of the jetty held only the regular species one might expect to see at this time of year; including Horned Grebe, Surf Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser. As I was with my mom we opted not to walk the full length to the jetty’s end but turned around about halfway out. Although I was only able to bird for a short while, any amount of time outside after spending so long behind my desk was a welcome reprieve!

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Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch at Iona

I got up early on Saturday morning (20 Nov) in order to get a head start on the day’s birding but when I looked out the window I found light rain mixed with snow falling upon the street. I went to Iona anyway as the forecast called for clearing skies; I only had to endure fifteen minutes of light snow as I made my way down the south jetty before the weather began to clear. It was freakishly cold on the jetty as Vancouver is in the midst of an arctic front; the low temperature combined with a light breeze quickly numbed my gloved hands. One would certainly not have wanted to lick their tripod.

Luckily my walk out there was worth it. Just before 1000 I found a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch foraging along the grassy edges of the road that runs next to the sewage outflow pipe. It was nearby the 3.0km mark when I first sighted it. Seeds form a large part of this species’ diet and this particular bird was quite adept at stripping what little grass and weeds there are on the jetty of theirs (1). The bird slowly made its way down the jetty as it fed and I followed it until we reached the 3.5km mark; here the bird turned back and I continued to the jetty’s end.

Around Vancouver Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch normally inhabit alpine environments but they may descend to lower elevations in winter; particularly during inclement weather (1). The snowfall on the North Shore Mountains combined with the frigid temperatures may have been enough to force this bird down from its mountain home.

After enjoying some smashing looks at a very handsome Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch I positioned myself at the end of the jetty for a bit of sea watching. There were quite a few birds out there; though most of them were quite distant. A group of three Common Murre was of note as well as good numbers of Red-throated Loon. My walk down the jetty turned out to be quite enjoyable; despite almost freezing to death.

Reference:

  1. Macdougall-Shackleton, Scott A., Richard E. Johnson and Thomas P. Hahn. 2000. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis), 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/559doi:10.2173/bna.559