We arrived in Vancouver early in the morning on the 27th to grey skies and heavy rain. We were out of the airport at around 08:00 and headed straight to Iona Island, a popular birding site less than a 10 minute drive away. The rain continued throughout the morning and as a result we gave up after a few hours working the area.
We started by scanning the estuary but sadly we had poorly timed our arrival with low tide, so we did not see as much as we could have. A few wildfowl were still lingering but most seemed to have drifted out on the tide. The bushes around the area had some excellent birds in them, including a number of different sparrow and finch species. Next we moved on to the pools in the centre of the island. Access to the pools was quite restricted but we were able to angle a view over them where we had a few new species of duck as well as our first Killdeer of the trip.
We parked up at the main car park and began working the bushes towards the north arm of the reserve. We had some success but the rain really hampered our progress, and we had large areas with very few birds. As we made our way up the arm we did see our first small flock of waders; all of which were Least Sandpipers. At this point, around 11:00, we decided we’d had enough of the rain, and headed into central Vancouver to get some lunch.
Red-winged Blackbird - Although this species was one of the most common birds we saw, at the car park for Iona there were birds so tame they would happily follow you around, happily taking food from your hand. There were also Brown-headed Cowbird and Yellow-headed Blackbird that were incredibly bold hopping around the car
Northern Harrier - We had really hoped to see this species at some point during our trip, but to have an adult male as we were driving from the airport to the site was completely unexpected. We then saw the bird again hunting over the reedbeds, a superb stunning bird.
Iona Island: Spotted Towhee, Bald Eagle, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, American Coot, Ring-necked Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Mallard, Canada Goose, Gadwall, Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Northwestern Crow, Killdeer, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Violet Green Swallow, Barn Swallow, European Starling, Great Blue Heron, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Harrier, Red-winged Blackbird, Glaucous-winged Gull, House Sparrow, Least Sandpiper, Double-crested Cormorant, Caspian Tern, Yellow-headed Blackbird, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Mew Gull, Yellow-rumped Warbler,
Once we had called it quits on account of the weather we headed into central Vancouver to grab something to eat, plan our next move and twitch Great-tailed Grackle! The bird had been present on a vacant lot from a few weeks prior to our arrival, so we decided it would be worth calling in for. This was only the fifth record for British Colombia and the first for the Metro Vancouver area, so well worth looking at. As soon as we arrived at the location we spotted the bird feeding away inside a fenced area. It was stupidly tame, allowing us to get extremely close.
After a short lunch break the rain eased off a little, although it remained overcast and gloomy. We decided to head to Reifel Bird Sanctuary on the south side of Vancouver, not far from where we had spent the morning. As soon as we arrived at the Sanctuary we knew we were in for a good afternoon, with Sandhill Cranes wandering round the car park, as tame as feral pigeons (But apparently 100% wild birds) and Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbird zipping along the treetops.
The sanctuary itself was a network of pools and woodland trails along the edge of a saltmarsh. The mosaic of habitats offered a wide range of different species. There were feeding stations set up at various points along the trails, and commoner birds had become very habituated to people as a result. Sparrows, finches and cowbirds were all extremely tame foraging along the edges of the paths. On the sites pools there were quite a few different ducks, although not in huge numbers, as well as a nice variety of waders, although again not in huge numbers. It was an excellent site, and had we more time, it would have been nice to go back
-Great Blue Heron
Snow Goose - On our drive up to the site, no more than a kilometre out, we encountered a flock of around 750 Snow Geese feeding in a field right beside the road. Wild goose flocks are spectacular all the time, but to have them so close was really exceptional. The flock did take off and fly right over us before landing in the field on the opposite side of the road. The noise was incredible! We also noted at least two Greater White-fronted Geese in the flock.
Sandhill Crane - As mentioned before, the Sandhill Cranes at Reifel are absolutely bonkers. Its weird being so close to these birds, but awesome at the same time, and well worth seeing, even if it does feel a little unusual.
Audubon’s Warbler - Audubon’s is the western race of Yellow-rumped Warbler. At this site we counted over 150 going through the bushes in just half an hour. The rate at which these birds were moving through was phenomenal. We were unable to pick up on any other warblers moving in the flocks, but Common Yellowthroat was seen with the vegetation adjacent to the ponds.
Hummingbirds - Having never seen a Hummingbird before there was something extremely special about seeing one of these brilliant birds. We saw both species fairly frequently during our trip to the site. The high pitched noise of their wings was a clear indication of their presence.
Reifel Bird Sanctuary: Marsh Wren, Cinnamon Teal, Pintail, Wood Duck, Black-capped Chickadee, Fox Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Canada Goose, Dunlin, Bufflehead, Peregrine, Collared Dove, Song Sparrow, Snow Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, California Quail, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Glaucous-winged Gull, Anna’s Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, Northwestern Crow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Bushtit, American Robin, European Starling, Audubon’s Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Sparrow, American Goldfinch,
By the time we left Reifel the rain had completely stopped. We decided to continue heading south to an area of shore around the southern ferry terminal onto Vancouver Island itself. The site had potential for a few waders and since we had a bit of time still we decided to call in. Sadly there were not many waders at all but there were good numbers of ducks and grebes on the sea, although many of them were distant. We had a small handful of waders; a few Dunlins and a single Semipalmated Plover. We spent less than an hour at the site, but managed to pick up a few nice birds as a result of our visit.
-Bald Eagle & Glaucous-winged Gull
Grebes - It was nice to see summer plumaged birds of both Red-necked and Slavonian (Horned) Grebe fairly close inshore. As most of the time in Europe we encounter winter plumaged birds, it made for a pleasant change to see them in their full finery.
Ruddy Duck - Being such a controversial species in our home country, it was awesome to see these really smart ducks where they actually belong; although the birds we saw at this site just spent their time sleeping.
Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal: Grey-bellied Brant Goose, Mallard, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Slavonian Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, Glaucous-winged Gull, Northwestern Crow, Savannah Sparrow,