Posts Tagged 'Terra Nova Rural Park'

Townsend’s Solitaire at Terra Nova

According to the BC bird alert page for the Lower Mainland a Townsend’s Solitaire has been seen at Richmond’s Terra Nova park since December 31st. Yesterday was the first opportunity I had to head out that way and take a look for it. Arriving at the parking lot for the community gardens (49.170753,-123.196398 from google maps) around 0830, I witnessed several hundred Snow Geese in flight overhead! The birds were flying in a south easterly direction and must have come from the waterfront.

The Solitaire had been seen around the parking lot for the community gardens as well as in the gardens themselves. I started off by scanning the bushes on the west side of the parking lot. Near the red barn looking building I found a Bewick’s Wren. Occasionally the bird would call and pop into view before dropping back down and foraging through the undergrowth. As I was enjoying the wren a bird flew into a tree just at the edge of my field of vision. It was the Townsend’s Solitaire! I followed the bird as it moved south from tree to tree before flying across Westminster Highway and out of sight into the trees in that part of the park (this part of Westminster Highway is not really a “highway” but more of a quiet street).

I spent the next twenty minutes checking out what else was going on; which included some close up views of a group of Purple Finches feasting on berries. After scanning the marshes from the dyke at the end of Westminster Highway I turned around to find the Townsend’s Solitaire perched close by in a tree! Here the bird provided some of its best views yet. For a “grey bird” this species’ plumage is quite beautiful in my opinion; a subtle smooth grey, accented by the dash of buffy yellow on the wings and the white eye ring.

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Western Scrub-Jay at Terra Nova

On Thursday (11 Nov) I went to Terra Nova Rural Park in Richmond for the second time in a week to have another go at trying to track down the Western Scrub-Jay that had been reported in the park since at least November 3rd. My first visit on Saturday was a bust despite spending several hours combing the area, but thankfully after an hour’s worth of searching on Thursday I located the bird in the southern half of the park not far north of Westminster Highway.

The Western Scrub-Jay was skulking about in a brushy hedgerow that separated a field and an open area comprised largely of a man made hill. I sighted the bird from the southwest corner of the park right where a trail meets up with Westminster Highway nearby the dyke. The Jay stayed mostly within the confines of the brush; never venturing out into the open for more than few seconds at a time. After just five minutes of observation the bird dropped down to the ground on the other side of the bush and disappeared out of sight. I quickly rushed around to the trail on the other side of the brushy hedge, stopping only to admire a juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk, but I could not relocate it.

The northernmost extent of the Western Scrub-Jay’s range is typically the southwestern region of Washington stretching up to Seattle(1). You can view a map of this species 2010 distribution in Washington on eBird as well as this years sightings in B.C. These birds prefer drier and more open habitat at lower altitude as compared to Vancouver’s regular species of jay; the Steller’s Jay (2). I don’t know about a dry environment but Terra Nova is certainly low in elevation and composed of some nice open field type habitat.

Western Scrub-Jay is a very good looking bird and, after dipping on my first attempt, the victory of sighting it was that much sweeter.

References:

  1. Smith, M. R., P. W. Mattocks, Jr., and K. M. Cassidy. 1997. Breeding birds of Washington State. in Washington State gap analysis-final report. Vol. 4 (Cassidy, K. M., C. E. Grue, M. R. Smith, and K. M. Dvornich, Eds.) Seattle Audubon Soc. Publ. in Zool. no. 1, Seattle, WA.
  2. Curry, Robert L., A. Townsend Peterson and Tom A. Langen. 2002. Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica), 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/bna/species/712doi:10.2173/bna.712