Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reifel Bird Sanctuary - British Columbia (#182-187)

The great thing about "coming out" as a birder is that there are tons of people who are like, "hey, ya, I've been a birder all along!"

And so it was with Matt's uncle Al and aunt Deb. They asked if we would like to go to Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Ladner BC for a guided bird walk a few days after the cruise. Would we?!?! This post was the tail end of our West Coast trip. What an amazing way to finish it off!

It was a gorgeous day, and our Sunday morning walk started at 10 (ha! birding is my church). Right away there were a ton of ducks and shorebirds in the pond at the entrance. We admired those (a lot of mallards in eclipse plumage, with a few green-winged teals mixed in). We were treated to a peregrine watching over the scene on a nearby tree.

We barely turned around and started up the path, someone spotted a black-crowned night heron perched in a tree in the sunlight. We all got spectacular looks through the scope. This is the great thing about group outings - 20 sets of eyes are certainly better than 1, and there were lots of birds I just wouldn't have pointed out. You also get the way more knowledgeable birders too, and there's lots to learn.

Then, in the same patch of trees, someone sees a little yellow bird. Yeah, little yellow cause for a stir there. But thank goodness this group is here to say, "Western Tanager!" Oh my,  I surely would have brushed it off as a finch or something!

#182: Western Tanager; Reifel Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, September 4, 2011

A bunch of mallards (now is that mal-erds or mah-lards?) were eating on the trail and I spotted one that didn't quite match the other females. I pointed this out to one of the guides, and she said, no, it's quite different isn't it? Do you know which one it is? At which point i grunted hard in comtemplation and was only able to muster up, "uh, gadwall?" birder FAIL. She's a beautiful northern pintail...her patterning is so delicate!

All the male mallards were in awkward eclipse plumage!
I've got to say, sometimes it's just as much fun to take pictures of birders as it is birds. Let me ask you...have you found a better place to keep your Sibley's?
All keenly paying attention!

Again, the group outing really did for me. Let's be honest, these birds pretty much all look like grey/white things with long bills on long legs. I could never, ever realize that there's something I need to be looking out for on one bird versus all the other birds that are darn near identical. Maybe one day...
I am SURE that I never would have picked these out. However, snapped the shots, pulled out the book when we got home and confirmed all of their IDs!

#183: Western Sandpiper; Reifel Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, September 4, 2011

I think I accidentally called 101 a Lesser Yellowlegs, but it was a greater, so here is #101 again:

One amazing thing being out west was seeing sandhill cranes. Totally magnificent birds that are seen only briefly as they pass near Ottawa.We saw them on a few occasions out there, and they are much more common. Still a treat to see. One had a bright orange band around its one leg, which was apparently a radio tag.

not a great shot, but there's the radio band
Ok, this part is a little disappointing because the next birds could have been 2 lifers for me. We saw a group of dowitchers and now I can't remember if they were short- or long-billed. Well, it was a group of lots of one with a single of the other, and I can't tell which is which or which is the single in any of my pics. So I guess it will have to suffice to say that I saw...dowitchers.

#184: Stilt Sandpiper; Reifel Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, September 4, 2011
I really thought this guy was a yellowlegs. Our wonderful companions pointed out the dark legs and the distinct downward pointing bill and we were on our way with another lifer under our belts!
Stilt sandpiper on left, dowitcher on right.
Gaswall getting some shuteye. Pattern on the underside is not nearly as fine as you normally see...interesting
#185: American Coot; Reifel Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, September 4, 2011
At the farther end of the pond, I thought I saw a black duck swimming....with white on its head. I was quite sure of it, but was drawing a blank as to what it could be. I asked the guy next to me, who says, "could it be a coot?" Omg! How could I forget?

Inside I squealed with excitement for triumphing over my friend Ron in spotting the elusive coot first. Poor Ron has been looking for one for years, and even visited Coot Bay Pond in the Everglades, where he left a comment card indicated in the suggestion box: "Coot Bay Pond should be renamed - no coots present." I have had similar un-luck --I can pull out a virginia rail most days but not a silly coot. Not today! The coot drought was over, and I can confirm, Ron, that they do exist.

Of course I'm sure the other "serious birders" questioned why I got so excited. I certainly couldn't understand why they weren't jumping with joy as I was.

#186: Northern Shoveller; Reifel Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, September 4, 2011
I've never had the pleasure of seeing these at home. I probably wouldn't have spotted these either on my own as they were pretty far out, but once spotted, it's hard not to miss that broad bill on the shoveller.

#187: Eurasian-Collared Dove; Reifel Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, September 4, 2011
A bird that wasn't on my radar, but it really stood out for me so I shot some pics. I checked the book and it wasn't even showing in BC on the range maps. As it turns out this bird is native to Asia and Europe, but it's "it has been one of the great colonisers of the bird world." Here's some more interesting info:
The Collared Dove was introduced into the Bahamas in the 1970s and spread from there to Florida by 1982. It has become invasive; the stronghold in North America is still the Gulf Coast, but it is now found as far south as Veracruz, as far west as California, and as far north as Alaska, the Great Lakes, and Nova Scotia.
We ended up also seeing them near the cabin we were staying at in Point Roberts. So maybe keep an eye open for a Eurasian-collared dove near you!
We actually saw other birds that I haven't even touched on. It was an incredibly successful day...about 40 types of birds seen, and so many lifers!


Tiffanie said...

What a productive trip for life birds! Great photos :). I got a chuckle out of you coming out as a birder....and I can relate :)

❦ fitcetera said...

I love birders, birds and birding. No matter how crappy I am at it, I love it all. :D
I love that you can walk around with a book down your pants and no one bats an eye or thinks you're weird. :D

Congratulations on all the lifers and thanks for sharing all your wonderful pics and stories.

Funkysandman said...

so many great shots in this post and the way you write-
sort of feel like I've been there now.
I'm surprised the sanctuary doesn't open until 9

shyanni said...

I just made a winter trip to Ladner a couple of weeks ago -- wanted to see the Snowy Owls on the Dike. Incredible birding -- Harrier Hawks circling like gulls, Short Eared Owls perched on fence posts, even Long Eared Owl! Then we went to Riefel and saw more 'lifers' -- the Black Crowned Night Herons were still there, in that same tree! Chickadees ate out of my hand! I got awesome pictures of Wood Ducks, Pintails and Shovellers, which I had only seen before from great distances. Even got pictures of a Great Blue Heron catching a rat! Can't say enough good things about this area, and can't wait to go back!