Posts Tagged 'West Vancouver'

Little Gull at Ambleside Park

With school out of the way I’ve had a lot more time to bird, so it was a no brainer to twitch a Little Gull sighted at Ambleside Park on December 21. Ambleside is fairly easy for me to get to which also meant I could go after it the day after it was first seen (December 22) instead of having to wait who knows how long for a ride. The weather on Saturday wasn’t looking that great with a forecast for light showers. It turned out to be even more miserable with full on rain and a steady breeze at times…

My gloves soon soaked through, numbing my hands in the cold, and my jeans and thermals weren’t doing much after they got wet. I started off at the wood pier at the west end of Ambleside Park and worked my way eastward; thoroughly scanning off the two rock jetties as I went. There were scattered groups of gulls as far as I could see out onto English Bay, most of which were Mew as well as the occasional Glaucous-winged (or some hybrid variation) and Bonaparte’s. I paid particular attention to the Bonaparte’s as the Little Gull is similar in appearance and had been reported associating with them. Eventually I made it to the rock jetty near the dog beach where I could scan the straight spanned by the Lion’s Gate Bridge. There were a fair number of Bonaparte’s Gulls here but, try as I might, none of them matched the field marks of a Little Gull. I also ran into two other birders here who were similarly unlucky. After two hours I decided to take a break so I could warm up. Over some tea I checked the local reports and, much to my frustration, I saw the bird had been seen at 0930; half an hour before I arrived on scene!

After warming up I went to the northern section of Stanley Park’s seawall. I was similarly unlucky here despite putting in another hour and a half’s worth of scanning the strait and bay. Not content with calling it a day I went back to Ambleside Park with a few daylight hours remaining. I spent most of my time searching the bay from the wood pier with my scope. I could see quite a few Bonaparte’s Gulls feeding, resting, and preening at a reasonable distance but, again, I couldn’t locate the Little Gull. After another hour and a half I had to head home but made my mind up to come back the next day for a second attempt.

I decided to leave a bit earlier on Sunday (December 23) so that I could make the most of the daylight. When I arrived at Ambleside it was raining lightly but it soon stopped as I scanned the bay from the wood pier. Even though visibility was much better now that the rain had stopped I couldn’t see as many gulls out in the bay as I’d seen the day before so I quickly moved on to the next rock jetty. When I made my way to the easternmost rock jetty near the dog beach I ran into two other birders who had just seen the Little Gull in a group of gulls feeding over the mussel covered sand bars of the mouth of the Capilano River! We couldn’t locate the bird in this group and switched to scanning the birds out in the strait. After a couple of minutes we all got onto the bird as it flew up and down a section of the Stanley park seawall! Even though the Little Gull was closer to Stanley Park itself than Ambleside, the dark underwings combined with the white primary tips really stood out amongst the other flying gulls. I watched the gull for a mere ten minutes or so before losing it in the flock, but a successful chase always makes up for the time spent searching in my view, no matter how brief my time with the bird is.


Diving Mallards

Here’s a video that I shot last week at Ambleside Park showing a bunch of Mallards, with a few Lesser Scaup and American Widgeon, going after some bread that somebody threw into the pond:

It was quite intriguing to watch these dabbling ducks trying to force themselves down to the bottom of the pond while the Lesser Scaup easily slipped underwater and resurfaced outside the Mallard mêlée. The American Widgeon didn’t even bother trying to dive for the bread; perhaps, they didn’t want to sink to the level of the Mallards.

The individual that fed them also left behind the plastic bag that the bread came when there was a garbage bin only five or ten metres away. Personally I don’t feel that it is ethically responsible to be feeding wild animals of any sort, be they birds or bears, but littering is an entirely different level of idiocy.

Northern Goshawk at Ambleside Park

I stopped in at Ambleside Park today as part of a tour to some of the north shore’s smaller birding destinations. As I was glassing some European Starlings in a tree situated along the western arm of the pond, a Northern Goshawk made a sudden appearance into the midst of the group.

Northern Goshawk often attempt to capture their prey by ambushing the victim (1). The attack may involve a silent glide to the target from an elevated perch; although, if detected, the bird will propel itself forward in an attempt to get to the prey before it escapes (2, 3). The Goshawk I observed was unsuccessful in its attempt to capture a starling; however, a very brave (or foolish) Black-capped Chickadee rushed to the scene and began scolding the hawk. It was almost made into meal when the hawk rushed forward along the tree branch, exhibiting the persistent and often reckless hunting behaviour that these birds are known for, in an effort to make the best of a failed capture (2). The chickadee was too good for the hawk as it made a quick getaway to a perch out of reach and resumed its scolding.

After the hawk flew off I went to check out the action in Burrard Inlet but on my way back to the car I swung by the pond again. This time I found the Goshawk perched in a conifer on the golf course that makes up the northern bank of the pond…

I’m really enjoying this two week break I have from university thanks to the Olympics; today was my fourth straight day of birding and I’m looking forward to the fifth. This Northern Goshawk was a great bird to look at and to watch it hunting was quite spectacular, though it would have been nice to see it take one of those starlings out of action.


  1. Squires, John R. and Richard T. Reynolds. 1997. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:
  2. Beebe, F. L. 1974. Goshawk. Pages 54-62 in Field studies of the Falconiformes of British Columbia. Br. Columbia Prov. Mus. Occas. Pap. Ser. no. 17.
  3. Schnell, J. H. 1958. Nesting behavior and food habits of goshawks in the Sierra Nevada of California. Condor 60:377-403.

Ambleside Park: January 30th 2010

After a hectic week of school it was nice to get out from behind the desk, but the weather today wasn’t particularly cooperative. It was raining off and on throughout the day so I decided to head out to Ambleside Park in West Vancouver which offers some decent birding, even in the wet.

The pond was pretty busy, as usual. Common Goldeneye, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Mallard, and American Widgeon were all going about their daily activities.

Some of the male Common Goldeneye were partaking in courtship displays. Several males were doing the “masthead” display “in which the male lowers and stretches his head parallel to water for up to 3 s, then quickly jerks his head upright pointing bill vertically, then snaps his head back down to water level and holds it there while paddling” (1).

Out on Burrard Inlet there was a group of Harlequin Ducks swimming in single file and making the occasional dive for marine invertebrates or small fish (2).

Even though the weather was a bit iffy I still had an enjoyable, if short, time out birding.


  1. Eadie, J. M., M. L. Mallory and H. G. Lumsden. 1995. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:
  2. Gaines, W. L. and R. E. Fitzner. 1987. Winter diet of the Harlequin Duck at Sequim Bay, Puget Sound, Washington. Northwest Sci. 61:213-215.

Ambleside Park: December 12th 2009

A quick bit of birding was in order in between studying for exams and so I got out of the house and went to Ambleside for a little under an hour. The duck pond was partially iced over forcing the birds swim and forage in a smaller area. It was almost comical to watch some of the ducks gingerly walking across the ice as it began to crack underfoot.

Several Lesser Scaup were diving close to the edge of the pond and so it was possible to view them zooming around underwater from the trail. Their main source of food includes insects, crustaceans, and mollusks; although seeds and aquatic vegetation are also consumed in some areas (Austin et al 1998). I’m sure I’ve also seen them occasionally surface with a fish in their bill. Prey is primarily consumed underwater (Tome and Wrubleski 1988).

Other duck species included Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and large numbers of Mallard and American Widgeon. The resident Mute Swans were also foraging and occasionally bullying other ducks that got too close.

It’s amazing what birding can do in terms of recharging one’s batteries. Once I got back to studying it almost felt as though I had just woken up from a good night’s sleep.


Austin, Jane E., Christine M. Custer and Alan D. Afton. 1998. Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Tome, M. W. and D. A. Wrubleski. 1988. Underwater foraging behavior of Canvasbacks, Lesser Scaups, and Ruddy Ducks. Condor 90:168-172.

Dundarave, and Whytecliff and Ambleside Parks: November 14th 2009

School work has kept me tied to my desk for the past three weeks but I managed to get in a few hours of birding in West Vancouver last Saturday. I visited Whytecliff Park first and then travelled east to Dundarave and Ambleside Park as the day wore on.

The weather was somewhat miserable with overcast skies and light showers but I find this is the best time to visit Whytecliff Park as it typically attracts quite a few people on the weekend (early morning is another good time to visit). While still in the parking lot I spotted Song and Fox Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee, and Varied Thrush. The tide was in when I arrived so I spent most of my time looking west at the section of Howe Sound that separates the mainland from Bowen Island. Several Species of Gull were flying up and down the Sound, and a single female Surf Scoter and two Common Golden eye also flew past. Looking down over the cliffs I observed a female Red-breasted Merganser diving in the water. After about fifteen minutes she was scared off by a boat that passed to close.

Two Pelagic Cormorants were foraging in Batchelor Bay and a Bald Eagle flew over the area for a bit before moving on to the west.

By the time I arrived at Dundarave beach it was raining lightly and a stiff breeze was blowing off of Burrard Inlet. I immediately noticed six Harlequin Ducks diving in the water to the east of the pier. Overhunting is a major cause in the decline of the species in eastern North America (Goudie 1989). I cannot understand why anyone would want to shoot such a good looking duck. The eastern population is currently listed as “endangered” in Canada; however, the global population is listed under “least concern” (Goudie 1991 and Birdlife International 2009). In BC the Harlequin Duck is on the “yellow list” meaning the population is not at risk (Anonymous 1995). Ten minutes was all I could stand in the cold out on the exposed pier.

The rain had stopped when I reached Ambleside Park allowing me to view the Hooded Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Lesser Scaup, and Bufflehead on the pond with some measure of comfort. Quite a few Mallard and American Widgeon were also present in addition to the resident Mute Swans.

Well I’m glad I finally managed to get out and do some birding. Three weeks of seeing nothing but crows and pigeons from the window of my bus ride to school is really pushing the mental limits of any birder.


Goudie, R. I. 1989. Historical status of Harlequin Ducks wintering in eastern North America – a reappraisal. Wilson Bull. 101:112-114.

Goudie, R. I. 1991. The status of the Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) in eastern North America. Committee On the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada (COSEWIC) Ottawa, ON.

BirdLife International 2009. Histrionicus histrionicus. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. <>. Downloaded on 21 November 2009.

Anonymous. 1995. Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals not at risk in British Columbia; the yellow list (1994). Wildlife Bulletin no. B-74. Ministry of Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.