Birding, May 11, 2024: It burns

Where: Tsawwassen Beach Trail (Tsawwassen), Iona Beach (Richmond), Tlahutum Regional Park (Coquitlam), Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)
Weather: Sunny, 15-25°C

The Outing

Today was kind of a weird birding day, with maybe the greatest number of steps to the smallest number of birds seen. Part of that is due to migrants having left for the warmer months, but we also didn’t see a number of the usual birbs, like black-capped chickadees. Also, the last coot at Piper spit has apparently finally joined its brethren to make more freaky-footed offspring elsewhere.

I logged just over 30,000 steps and despite putting on sunblock (twice!), still managed to get a bit burned in a few spots. Not too bad, really, and the second application was too late to help (I kind of knew this as I put it on, but put it on, anyway). As you might suspect, it was sunny and quite warm, rising to at least 25C by mid-afternoon. We started out at Tsawwassen Beach Trail, or more accurately, the gargantuan Tsawwassen Mills mall, where we parked. We walked to the beach trail from there (only a few blocks) and covered probably around 11 km there alone, looking for shorebirds or any birds. And we did see some, including killdeer, some gulls, barn swallows and some smaller shorebirds that were too far off to positively ID (I did not get shots). And that was the main issue I had with Tsawwassen–we didn’t see much, and what we did see tended to be well off the shore (the tide was extremely low). Nic did get multiple chances to shoot Savannah sparrows, but they regularly foiled him by having their backs turned, or the lighting was bad and whatnot. Also, the kelp was really stinky.

I got some good shots of tires, though. And also some nice pics of a couple of cute marmots and a juvenile heron who wasn’t fully-developed yet, but already had perfect stabbyface eyes. And I would be remiss to not mention a trio of female buffleheads in a pond that apparently decided migrating isn’t for them. They were diving and swimming and having a good ol’ time without any pesky men ducks around.

We next went to Iona Beach, hoping to find a yellow-headed blackbird that has been seen in the area. We did not see it. We did see more swallows and regular blackbirds, but again, not much in the way of shorebirds. The tide was so low that the first cut in the north jetty (so the fishies can swim through) was passable by just walking across it. The most abundant creature was probably crabs and, well, they were all dismembered and dead.

Undaunted, we moved on to Tlahutum and its community gardens. We were teased by one crow, who almost let us shoot it up close, then flew off, probably doing the crow equivalent of a Nelson “Ha ha1”, but other than that it was mostly swallows again. I’m not complaining. Swallows are pretty and fabulous, but a little more variety would have been nice. We only went as far as the bridge over the Coquitlam River, as by this time we had walked about 5,000 km.

We made our last stop at Piper Spit and got a nice treat there–a Wilson’s pharalope, which could have been a bit closer, but gave us plenty of time to capture it on virtual film as it waded through the shallows, often with a smaller shorebird in tow (a least sandpiper, apparently). We’re outside the pharalope’s breeding range, so they are considered rare here. Neat! There was also goose drama, of course, but even fewer bird species than the last time. The remaining coot decided to scoot, I didn’t see any Northern pintails, even though they allegedly don’t migrate, but the one Sandhill crane was still hanging around. And several geese families had their new broods in a fenced off area adjacent to the park, which is a pretty smart way to keep the goslings clear of twerpy little kids (and adults).

In all, it wasn’t a bad day of birding, but the variety and quality of my shots were both a bit lacking. At least I know the extra spots to apply sunblock for next time.

The Shots


The Birds (and other critters). Rare or rarely-seen birds highlighted in bold.

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Barn swallow
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Marsh wren
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Tree swallow

Waterfowl and shorebirds:

  • Bufflehead duck
  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Killdeer
  • Least sandpiper
  • Mallard
  • Sandhill crane
  • Wilson’s pharalope
  • Western seagull
  • Wood duck


  • American crow
  • Rock pigeon


  • Bald eagle


  • Several squirrels
  • Two marmots or one teleporting marmot
  • Butterflies!
  • A fat bumblebee
  • Those weird beetles again at Iona Beach
  • Tires (more than you’d think)

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