Birding, December 2, 2023: The sun also sets

Where: Centennial Beach and Boundary Bay Dyke Trail (Tsawwassen)
Weather: Sunny, 8-11°C

The Outing

The first birding of December was pleasantly sunny and mild, though we got a late start, due to me having an appointment to get stabbed multiple times in my left arm.

After the stabbings, we headed to Centennial Beach, and we saw an actual raptor in the vicinity of Raptor Trail. We also saw various bald eagles, some in trees, some flying too high to really get good shots of. I got probably my best eagle butt shots ever (it was sitting above us in a rather tall tree).

Sparrows proved to be surprisingly plentiful here, as well later along the Boundary Bay Dyke trail. The light was low and a bit golden even from the start, but we made due. We skipped the usual journey onto the mudflats, as the tide was in, but spied numerous shorebirds further out, including dunlins that kept flying about, dwarfed by the occasional seagull towering over them. There were even rarely-seen surf scoters, but they were far enough out that they just looked like duck-shaped blobs through my telephoto lens. Too bad, because they are seriously freaky looking.

By the time we arrived at the dyke trail, the sun was quite low, but we pressed on to The Big Pond™ near a private residence…that proved to be waterfowl-free. Bummer! The adjacent and smaller pond on the western side of the property was populated prodigiously with perpetually propelling and peeping wigeons, mallard and others, however. The wigeons, as in our previous outing, were constantly nipping at and chasing each other. Maybe they are going through the wigeon equivalent of Pon Farr.

By the time we reached the pond, the sun was already sinking over the distant trees, but it did mean we got our first set of sunset shots in a while. We got back to the car three minutes after sunset and returned for dinner in darkness…at 5 p.m.

The Shots

Soon™

The Birds (and other critters)

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American bushtit
  • American robin
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • European starling
  • Fox sparrow
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Northern flicker
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • White-crowned sparrow

Waterfowl:

  • American wigeon
  • Eurasian wigeon
  • Dunlin
  • Great blue heron
  • Green-winged teal
  • Long-billed dowitcher
  • Mallard
  • Northern pintail
  • Northern shoveler
  • Surf scoter

Common:

  • American crow
  • Seagull

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle (adult and juvenile)
  • Northern harrier

Non-birds:

  • Black squirrel

Birding, October 28, 2023: Brr-ding and the return of the waxwings

Where: Reifel Bird Sanctuary and Boundary Bay Dyke Trail (both in Delta)
Weather: Sunny, 5-8°C

The Outing

It was sunny but cool in that mid-fall way today, with the temperature a mere 5C to start and only climbing up to 8C in the afternoon. I wore my lined hoodie and was fine, mostly due to there also being very little wind.

We started at Reifel and were delighted to see the Sandhill cranes right at the start, though one of them mostly kept its head in a Rona bucket filled with food. We moved in and it was sleepy time for most of the ducks.

The Chickadee Empire is still in force, with many of its loyal citizens gathered around one apparently very interesting bench (probably because of nearby seed). Towhees, juncos and various sparrows were joining in as well.

Several ponds were curiously empty, though, and we did not see any wood ducks the entire day. Maybe they all went to Piper Spit on a field trip.

We think we saw five–not just four!–avocets in the pond adjacent to the West Dyke trail, but were unable to confirm 100% as they were snoozing, with their heads tucked in and their legs completely submerged. We also saw some harrier activity and would see even more at Boundary Bay.

Most of the winter migrants have arrived now, and we could only count scaups as a notable omission. Apart from the missing wood ducks, we actually saw quite a large variety of birds at Reifel, everything from grebes to pintails, ring-necked ducks and a few white-crowned sparrows.

For the first time that I can remember, we saw sparrow drama, so it looks like all birds can be dicks, just like people! There was no coot or goose drama this time out, however.

We started our trek around Boundary Bay at Beach Grove Park, which we hadn’t done for quite a while, going as far as just before the golf course before turning back. The tide was out, so we ventured onto the flats to start to get some scenery shots before moving back up to the trail. At first, the picking were pretty slim, but eventually we saw a lot of birbs and birds, including some we hadn’t expected, like yellow-rumped warblers, cedar waxwings and a Cooper’s hawk apparently picking on a northern harrier. We also saw the first bufflehead duck of the season.

Overall, today’s outing was a bounty of birds, and the cold weather actually wasn’t that bad. I could still feel my fingers when using the camera! However, I had a weird and higher-than-average number of blurry shots, so boo on that. I will try to camera better next time.

The Shots

Soon™

The Birds (and other critters)

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American blackbird
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Chestnut-backed chickadee
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • House finch
  • Lincoln’s sparrow
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Steller’s Jay

Waterfowl:

  • American wigeon
  • Bufflehead duck
  • Canada goose
  • Cormorant
  • Great blue heron
  • Hooded merganser
  • Mallard
  • Northern shoveler
  • Pied-billed grebe
  • Ring-necked duck
  • Sandhill crane
  • Snow goose
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • Rock pigeon
  • Seagull

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle
  • Cooper’s hawk
  • Northern harrier

Non-birds:

  • Fuzzy caterpillar
  • Gray squirrel
  • Various fixed-wing birds in and around Boundary Bay Airport

Birding, September 30, 2023: Hello fall

Where: Centennial Beach (Delta), Boundary Bay Dyke Trail (Delta), Crescent Beach (Surrey), and Piper Spit (Burnaby)
Weather: Sunny, 12-17C

The Outing

We hit four sites on our first official fall bird outing and the weather, though sunny, was indeed fall-like, with it starting at only 12C at Centennial Beach, along with a brisk wind. It warmed up to around 17C by late in the afternoon.

Centennial Beach: Raptors on Raptor Trail once again failed to materialize, but we did see a bald eagle out on the tidal flats. Shorebirds were also scarce, possibly due to the tide being way out, as it often is when we visit. We saw gulls, a Brewer’s blackbird couple, a wigeon or two, plus a bunch of goldfinches that would not stop flitting about.

Boundary Bay Dyke Trail: Planes were plentiful, and birds were, too, but much like earlier, they were flitting like mad from tree to tree and branch to branch, making good shots a fun (?) challenge! We did see a Northern harrier or two, as well. As always, the view was nice.

Crescent Beach/Blackie Spit: Seagulls were flying around in abundance, as were some herons, but no loons, alas. We did see some more yellowlegs and a few cormorants. The beach and park were fairly busy, which surprised me a little. Apparently everyone wanted to be outside on the first nice Saturday of fall. By now it was warm enough to doff jackets, if desired.

Piper Spit: This place was crawling with people and children (not that children aren’t people, but you know what I mean). Coots were croaking, but all the shorebirds were in one tight group, snoozing. Golden hour was setting in, so light was rather harsh. We shot a heron grooming up in a tree. They always look weird up in trees. I did not notice any pigeons or seagulls, and the land mass seems to be continuing to expand, so I assume they are letting more water flow out of the lake, Or maybe it’s magic.

Overall, it was a good day of birding, even if we didn’t see anything super exotic, and even though a lot of the birds were even more uncooperative than usual. Don’t they know we just want to capture them in all their pretty glory?

The Shots

Soon™

The Birds (and other critters)

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American blackbird
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Brewer’s blackbird
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Goldfinch
  • Northern flicker
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Steller’s jay
  • Yellow-rumped warbler

Waterfowl:

  • American coot
  • American wigeon
  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Greater yellowlegs
  • Green-winged teal
  • Mallard
  • Northern pintail (possibly)
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • Glaucous-winged gull
  • Ring-billed gull
  • Pacific gull (?)

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle
  • Northern harrier

Non-birds:

  • Douglas and gray squirrels
  • Dragonflies
  • Grasshoppers
  • A fuzzy little caterpillar dude (or dudette, who can tell?)
  • Various aircraft

Birding, August 26, 2023: Still on P, plus raptors, brewers and more

Where: Blackie Spit (Surrey), Centennial Beach (Delta), Boundary Bay Dyke Trail (Delta), Tlahutum Regional Park (Coquitlam)
Weather: Smoke haze and sun, 23-26C

The Outing

Two bits of good news to start:

  • Despite the return of the smoke haze after a brief respite, it wasn’t as bad as previously. The main change is it was no longer causing a distinct yellow cast to the lighting. Today it mainly affected the visibility of distant scenery (no shots of Mt. Baker) and the sky looked whitish-blue instead of just blue.
  • I never had any of the shenanigans that happened last week with my camera. I set it to P (Program) mode before heading out, and it stayed there the entire day. Woo. All lousy photos were my own fault, just as nature intended.

We hit four places today. It was kind of crazy, but the good kind of crazy. Mostly.

We started at Blackie Spit and at first the birds were as scarce as the water (it was low tide). Once we moved away from the beach, our luck improved with some house finches, purple martins, a northern flicker, distant herons, a gaggle of ducks in a creek huddled against the shady side (smart ducks–it was hot!) but best of all, a group of greater yellowlegs hanging out on a couple of logs, most of them initially snoozing. They were eventually joined by others, along with a pair of short-billed dowitchers, and began feeding and bobbing and doing the things they do.

We moved onto Centennial Beach next and there we saw some Brewer’s blackbirds, a couple of waxwings, some raptors (not on the Raptor Trail but technically above it), herons and more shorebirds, including a variety of gulls, some terns, more yellowlegs and the ever-cute and weird killdeer. We also saw a very shiny beetle, which ended with Nic taking a photo of his own foot. Nic got some really nice shots of a red-tailed hawk and was able to crop out all the weird stuff that showed up in multiple images, then mysteriously went away on its own. We agree that my dial of doom curse had somehow transferred over to his camera, at least for today.

From there, we moved on to fill our tummies with lunch, then headed for an unplanned trip to the Boundary Bay Dyke Trail. We saw many grasshoppers, though Nic has declared he is done with them, but they remain a freaky favourite of mine. Birds were a bit scarcer here, but we did see some more finches, chickadees (however fleetingly) and a trio of red-necked pharalopes, which I’d never shot before. They were not especially close, but I did get some shots that were good enough for Merlin to ID. I also got some extreme close-ups of planes landing at Boundary Bay Airport, of course. We also saw a male and female harrier and were able to get some of our best shots ever. Even I got a decent shot, woo.

After this, we were still not done, and headed to Tlahutum Regional Park for a quick check of the community gardens. We saw more flickers, white crowns, but best of all, hummingbirds that cooperatively supped at flowers nearby. We both got good shots of these pointy-beaked birbs when they weren’t chasing each other in a territorial dispute..

We each also drank our own weight in fluids. Did I mention it was hot?

Overall, a very respectable outing, with enough birb surprises to almost make up for no Savannah sparrows.

The Shots

This gallery has everything. Birds! Bugs! Boats! Black and white! Yes, I indulged myself and converted three photos to black and white, but I kept the originals for comparison.

The Birds (and other critters)

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Brewer’s blackbird
  • Cedar waxwing
  • Goldfinch
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Northern flicker
  • Purple martin
  • White-crowned sparrow

Waterfowl:

  • Canada goose
  • Caspian tern
  • Great blue heron
  • Greater yellowlegs
  • Killdeer
  • Mallard
  • Red-necked pharalope
  • Short-billed dowitcher

Common:

  • Crow
  • Seagull

Raptors:

  • Harrier
  • Red-tailed hawk

Non-birds:

  • Grasshoppers and a beetle
  • Butterflies and things
  • A few squirrels

Birding, July 8, 2023: Yellow, red, blue and gray

Where: Boundary Bay Dyke Trail (Delta), Piper Spit (Burnaby) and Tlahutum
Regional Park1Formerly known as Colony Farm (Coquitlam)
Weather: Sunny, 18-22C

The Outing

My energy level was greatly improved over last week, which was fortunate because as I type this late Saturday evening, I have over 28,685 steps on the day. Also fortunate, it never got hot, though Nic kept insisting the reported temperatures were wrong and it must have been at least 32 degrees or something.

I missed a few spots and got some light sunburn on a couple of small areas around my neck and also above my chin, which I totally forgot to put sunblock on. It looks kind of weird, like the area below my lower lip is angry.

As for the trek, we hit three places again:

  • Boundary Bay Dyke Trail: We walked about 100 km up and down the trail and were rewarded for our efforts with Savannah sparrows, common yellowthroats and a grasshopper with the best camo ever. Also, planes. Lots of planes. And curiously, lots of herons–all of them flying. And bald eagles. Really, there was a lot more than expected, and other than being out in the sun on a dusty trail the entire time, it was pretty good.
  • Piper Spit: This was better than expected. The land mass has returned with the dry weather, and though geese dominated, they entertained with their shenanigans, particularly the young ones testing out their wings on the safety of the water. A male blackbird was again feeding a youngster, though also dropping food for it, so it could learn to stop mooching off of dad. Some pigeons unexpectedly posed for us at the end of the pier, and I got my requisite cute squirrel shot.
  • Tlahutum Regional Park (formerly known as Colony Farm): We did not get the bounty of shots at the community garden that we were hoping for, but we did get a few shots of finches, flickers and the always=gorgeous cedar waxwings. The Coquitlam River was unusually shallow, allowing us to venture well out beyond where we normally could, though the river bed was covered with thick and extremely heavy mud. It came off on the dusty trail and grass later without much effort, though. By the end, we were both starting to get a little tired. At the end of the day, Garmin credited me with burning an impressive 599 calories and my watch mildly scolded me for overdoing it.

Overall, a good batch of birds, along with weather that was warm, but not hot.

The Shots

The Birds (and other critters)

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Blackbird
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Common yellowthroat
  • Northern flicker
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • White-crowned sparrow

Waterfowl:

  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Mallard
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • Crow
  • Seagull

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle

Non-birds:

  • Grasshopper
  • Ladybug
  • Moth (I am unsure of the variety)
  • Butterfly (yellow and black)

The colours:

  • Yellowthroat
  • Red sunburn
  • Blue sky
  • Gray grasshopper

Birding, March 18, 2023 (Reifel Bird Sanctuary and Boundary Bay)

In which I got a slight sunburn!

Where: Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Boundary Bay
Weather: Sunny, 15ºC

The Outing

The weather for today was unusually mild–it got up to 17C in New Westminster and was around 14-15C at peak at Reifel and Boundary Bay, with little of the wind we saw last time. This is actually record-breaking territory, and one of the few exposed part of my body (the back of my neck) actually got a little sunburned. It’s still technically winter!

The sun meant for lots of light, which was a nice change, but also presented issues with shadows we haven’t had to deal with lately. Still, it was a treat to both have bright light and mild temperatures.

There was some work in the waterway being done near the entrance, with heavy equipment and steel plates being inserted into the water, but I can’t find anything about the work on the official site. I am guessing they are reconfiguring the layout of some of these smaller water bodies for some reason. We were going to ask a staff member, but they were busy helping others. A semi-mystery for now!

Boundary Bay was a complete 180º from the last visit–calm and mild. People were on the golf course wearing t-shirts. In March!

Both Reifel and Boundary Bay yielded a few seasonal returns, notably tree swallows. We did not see a Rufous hummingbird at Reifel, despite the official site confirming their presence, much to Nic’s dismay. But we did spot both a marsh and Bewick’s wren (I got a few decent shots of the latter).

We also observed a weird Sandhill crane, who I figured was going through a rebellious teen phase. There were three cranes alongside the southwest trail and one of them was constantly vocalizing. It then split from the others to come up directly onto the trail ahead of us. The others eventually followed. After a few minutes, the surly teen took off and flew around, landing in the large pond west of the trail. It then made its way back and didn’t quite rejoin the others, staying slightly back because it was obviously too cool for its (possible) parents. It finally joined them and we made our way past the gang.

Also, the geese were back and everywhere, honking and blatting as is their way. A lot of them appeared to be paired up for some sweet spring lovin’. Baby poopmonsters inbound!

The Shots

A banded Anna’s hummingbird at a feeder
Immature bald eagle acting totally mature
Black-capped chickadee in a mossy tree
We rarely see birds near the bird blinds, but this time a great blue heron was on a log right on the other side of one blind
Sandhill crane. Not heard: its constant vocalizations. It had a lot to say.
A differently-coloured towhee, standing in a chicken pose
Plane landing at Boundary Bay Airport. Yes, that is heat shimmer, something I wouldn’t expect to see on the second-to-last day of winter.

The Birds (and other critters)

All birds seen at Reifel Bird Sanctuary unless otherwise noted.

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Bewick’s wren (rare)
  • Blackbird
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Marsh wren (semi-rare)
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle
  • Northern harrier

Waterfowl:

  • American coot
  • American wigeon
  • Bufflehead duck
  • Canada goose
  • Gadwall
  • Great blue heron
  • Green-winged teal
  • Hooded merganser
  • Lesser scaup
  • Mallard
  • Northern pintail
  • Northern shoveler
  • Sandhill crane
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • Crow
  • Pigeon
  • Seagull

Non-birds:

  • Black squirrel
  • Gray squirrel

Close to the borderline

The Canada-U.S. border, that is, not the Billy Joel song.

Here’s a mini-album of pics I took while Nic and I toodled around Boundary Bay and area on Saturday, November 28. The weather was cool but clear, with little wind. Perfect for picture-taking.

Me taking a photo of Nic taking a photo of the sunset at Crescent Beach
Sunset at Crescent Beach without Nic taking a picture of it
Sign in the public washroom at Centennial Beach warning you not to put happy little crabs in the urinals
Berries enjoying the sun at Centennial Beach
Two moons rising at Crescent Beach
Seagull log at Centennial Beach