Birding, May 17, 2024: Follow the blackbird

Where: Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Boundary Bay Dyke Trail (Delta), Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)
Weather: Sunny, 12-16°C

The Outing

After The Burning™ of last week, I made sure to cover myself all over with sunblock and reapplied it midday. As it turned out, it was also so windy (14-20 km/h with gusts up to 35 km/h) that I ended up wearing a long-sleeved shirt, so most of my body was covered, anyway. My legs did not burn again.

We started out with our old standby of Reifel and this time we saw a few black-capped chickadees come out from hiding. Yay. Weirdly, though it was a Friday, there were many kids around. They were relatively well-behaved, but I’m assuming the schools must have closed early for the Victoria Day weekend, or home-schooling has suddenly gotten very popular. The geese were also relatively well-behaved, and I have no explanation for that. One approached me with its mouth open, but it wasn’t hissing or being aggressive, I think it just wanted whatever yummy seed I had in my pockets (I had none). It seemed sad at the loss.

We started along the usual east dyke trail and when a family went to bird blind B, we opted to go to bird blind A next door. After we were done (the return of purple martins to the bird boxes in the marsh flats confirmed), Nic wanted to skip bird blind B (see above: children), insisting we would see nothing (to be fair, most of the time we just see the slough and no birds, whales or anything else). But just as I pressed to go back, a blackbird suddenly appeared and landed on a branch directly above us. It screeched chirped insistently at us and was very loud, then flew off in the direction of the bird blind. It was A Sign.

We went to the bird blind and lo, there was a heron perched on a branch just on the other side of the blind. Granted, herons are not exactly uncommon (though this was the only one we saw on the ground), but still, it was something! Thanks, screechy chirping blackbird!

Reifel was otherwise pretty light on both song birds and waterfowl, with many ponds empty or sparsely populated. It gives the mallards more room to roam, though. We spied no Northern shovellers again, though maybe they’re just hiding. A few pintails were lurking, and the massive turtles at the entrance slough were still hanging out on their favourite logs.

We got more shots of marsh wrens. I guess this is the time of year when they just let it all hang out. Such is the way of love and seeking the same.

We next took a trip to the Boundary Bay Dyke Trail, which we haven’t been to for a while. Again, it was very windy, but we did see Savannah sparrows a-plenty–on logs, on fence posts, on the golf course. They never got very close, as is their way, and I had to use manual focus for all of my shots to prevent them from appearing as bird-shaped blobs, but we got some respectable shots. I opted not to shoot a distant robin.

I shot a lot of planes as we passed under the flight path of nearby Boundary Bay Airport. They’re like giant birds, but a lot more predictable. If I could shoot swallows the way I shoot planes, I’d be an award-winning photographer. In my mind, at least.

We rounded off the day at Piper Spit, which was pleasantly unpopulated by people. Here we saw a lifer: a semipalmated plover, which looks similar to a killdeer, but is somehow more adorable. We also saw (and Nic shot) a cliff swallow, which is a darker, non-shiny swallow uncommon to the area. Surprisingly, a lone wigeon and The Last Coot, which I’d thought had already left, were present.

Goslings a-plenty were being shepherded around, but off the main trails. It seems the adults have learned to keep their babbies away from people. And kids.

In all, a fine day of mid-spring birbing, once again being boosted by some unexpected visitors.

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
  • Cliff swallow
  • Marsh wren
  • Northern flicker
  • Purple martin
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Rufous hummingbird
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Tree swallow

Waterfowl and shorebirds:

  • American coot (one!)
  • American wigeon (one!)
  • Blue-winged teal
  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Long-billed dowitcher
  • Mallard
  • Northern pintail
  • Sandhill crane
  • Semipalmated plover
  • Western seagull
  • Wood duck


  • American crow
  • European starling
  • Rock pigeon


  • Bald eagle


  • Several squirrels
  • Butterflies!

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