The rain of the previous day had cleared, and although the conditions were still murky they were much better for birding. We decided once again to head to Iona Island to check for any new arrivals. Because we arrived earlier in the day we were present for the high tide, and scanning the bay produced a good number of wildfowl sat on the water. In order to check more of the wildfowl we opted to walk down the South Jetty, which, in contrast to the North Jetty, had no vegetation cover but would allow us to get excellent views of the birds sat on the sea.
The Jetty protrudes out some 4km into the bay, so the walk took us some time. There were occasional bursts of rain that made us regret our decision but the views we were able to obtain of a number of the wildfowl made it worth it. The rocks at the end of the jetty had a small group of Gulls roosting on it, with more appearing on the mudflat as the tide went out as well as a few waders. Many of the sea ducks drifted out on the tide, but until then we were able to get excellent views of a few new species for the trip.
Harlequin Duck - Right at the very end was a pair of these stunning birds, feeding amongst the rocks that made up the base of the Jetty. The male was an absolute cracker, and one of the best birds we saw in Vancouver. Although we saw a couple more of these during the trip, none of them were as close as these birds.
Buff-bellied Pipit - Along the Jetty we had at least two of these pipits foraging among the rocks. It’s always nice to familiarise yourself with a potential European vagrant in its natural range, to study and learn features that could be used to clinch one as a vagrant.
North American River Otter - On our way back from the end we had an awesome encounter when an Otter ran out onto the mudflat in front of us. It stopped and watched us, before deciding we were not worth bothering with; and began to slide along its belly across the mud. For a chance animal encounter it did not get much better than that.
-North American River Otter
Iona Island - South Jetty: Snow Goose, Gray-bellied Brant Goose, Mallard, Pintail, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Greater Scaup, Harlequin Duck, Shoveler, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Grey Plover, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Glaucous-winged Gull, California Gull, Slavonian Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great-northern Diver, Pelagic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Bonaparte’s Gull, Mew Gull, Great Blue Heron, Barn Swallow, Northwestern Crow, Savannah Sparrow, Buff-bellied Pipit, Audubon’s Warbler, North American River Otter,
By the time we returned from the jetty it was already mid-morning, but the weather had cleared substantially, leaving us with very pleasant conditions for birding. We spent the rest of the morning walking around the bushes and trees around the central part of Iona Island. The vegetation was generally tall and thick, but in the open areas we saw quite a few passerines. The islands habitat was clearly managed for ringing (banding) given that we passed a number of mist net rides in the bushes but sadly they were all furled.
Varied Thrush - Our number one target for the trip! We were just watching our first Wilsons Warbler of the trip when a female flew into the top of the tree. Instantly recognisable, we were both immediately overjoyed at our number one target on just our second day. The views were not ideal, as it generally remained high in the vegetation and usually within cover, but still excellent to see.
Hammonds Flycatcher - Our first Empidonax was just as confusing as we expected it to be. We watched it for some time, and documented it well with photographs, but frustratingly it remained silent. With what we saw in the field and the photos that were taken, we were happy that it was a Hammonds.
Cliff Swallow - We had been scanning through the flocks of Tree and Violet-green Swallows for this species, so we were pretty thrilled when we finally picked one up hunting over the islands ponds. As with Buff-bellied Pipit, it’s nice to become more familiar with a potential Western Palearctic vagrant.
Iona Island: Pied-billed Grebe, Mallard, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, American Coot, Canada Goose, Shoveler, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Glaucous-winged Gull, Wilsons Snipe, Least Sandpiper, Rufous Hummingbird, Cliff Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Northwestern Crow, Hammonds Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Varied Thrush, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Wilsons Warbler, Audubon’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Brown-headed Cowbird, European Starling,
In the afternoon the sunshine that we had enjoyed late morning gave way to more cloudy conditions. We decided to head to Maplewood Conservation Area to the north of Vancouver, as it is a site that offers great potential for a number of migrant species, as well as being excellent for Warblers. When we arrived we were immediately greeted by a feeding station offering amazing views of many common species, as well as a number of species that we were encountering for the first time; Oregon Junco, Purple Finch and Pine Siskin to name a few. The site is a fairly small area of woodland with a few loop paths. For the most part we saw very little, but when we did encounter flocks moving through they were often in good numbers and variety. We spent the rest of the afternoon here enjoying the awesome variety of birds on offer.
Glaucous-winged Gull - Although not an outstanding species in general, the novelty value of seeing one of these birds try to swallow a Starfish that was far too big for its bill was certainly a trip highlight. Clearly it had given up mid-way through its attempt to devour the echinoderm, so opted to sit on the beach with half a starfish hanging out of its gob!
Townsends Solitaire - A scarce migrant through the Vancouver area, but also one of our most wanted species for the trip. Only in our most optimistic moments did we dare to dream that we might actually see one, so when one appeared in front of us chased by an American Robin, we were absolutely buzzing. The colour of the wing bar is just stunning, and merges subtly with the overall mottled grey colour of the bird.
Mixed flocks - As mentioned, for the most part we saw and heard very little through our wanderings through Maplewood. However, on the western edge of the sanctuary we encountered a mixed flock of passerines moving through the trees, and they kept us busy for some time, filtering through looking for different species. We all but cleaned up on warblers, with Orange-crowned, Townsend’s and Black-throated Grey moving through with the flock, as well as Cassin’s Vireo.
-Black-throated Gray Warbler
Maplewood Conservation Area: Canada Goose, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, Glaucous-winged Gull, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Anna’s Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Northwestern Crow, Townsends Solitaire, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bushtit, American Robin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Townsend’s Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Audubon’s Warbler, Wilsons Warbler, Cassin’s Vireo, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Oregon Junco, Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow,