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lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

lyskonoh úzkozobý, samice / Red-necked Phalarope, female (Phalaropus lobatus)

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Monday, 08 September 2008 13:34

Birds of British Columbia I – Vancouver and surrounding

1D3_6305PS mapvanc The half business half holiday trip during which we spent almost 4 weeks in British Columbia (Canada) was full of good opportunities for birdwatching in spite of the fact, that the end of July and beginning of August are not the best times for watching birds, especially given that the Autumn migration starts during August and reaches the peak during Autumn months. Thanks to the climatic diversity of British Columbia that spans from desert climate through the Pacific coast with shallow muddy deltas to mountain areas with all-year-round snow, this part of Canada is adequately rich in bird species – including the smallest birds – hummingbirds, great number of waders, passerines, raptors and others. What surprised me first and most when I went out for the first time was the totally different bird-singing from what I know from Europe! Thus the recognition of some of the birds I was making picture of was hard task for me quite often so I photographed the birds with having in mind I would try to recognize them later by looking into the books I bought in Canada. Although the trip was not photo-trip at all, there was so much to see and to photograph that I have to divide the British Columbia birding story in a few parts, let’s begin with the birding spots around Vancouver…




1D3_9905PS Situated on the Pacific coast, sheltered from the rough weather and fed by the Fraser River are Vancouver and its surrounding great places for the stop-over of migrating birds of different species. The most common species here during the Spring and Fall migration is no doubt the Western Sandpiper (Calidris maura) migrating annually in great numbers along the Pacific coast. Besides the fact that the entire coast in Vancouver area is globally important stop-over for bird migration, we can find several smaller reserves and natural parks here managed especially for the protection of migrating or nesting birds. There are so many interesting spots in the area that it is not possible to visit and explore them all sufficiently during few-weeks visit. So I focused on the coast south of Vancouver and the Mud Bay and Boundary Bay areas in immediate vicinity of USA borders – here there are the most significant birding spots in British Columbia.


Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

1D3_5420PS This reserve, the most important in Vancouver area, is situated within the delta of Fraser River, which flows into Pacific Ocean here. The reserve is located at the northernmost tip of Westham Island south of Richmond. Diverse biotope together with mild climate provides very good chance for birdwatching in any season during the year. The Reserve is open all-year-round from 9.00 til 16.00, the entrance fee is 4 CAD per person (there is some discount for children and retired). Although the access to the Reserve is time-limited, the place is really worth to visit and when you are lucky enough to have nice weather (and light of course), you can make really beautiful images of birds here.1D3_7587PS The species recorded in the Reserve numbers over 280 different birds and the locality is especially good for watching passerines and waterfowl and during migration this place is great for waders. During our few visits we were lucky to see pair of Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis), Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), flocks of Red-winged Blackbird (agelaius phoeniceus), and in small muddy pools there were some common waders as for example Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), Little Stint (Calidris minuta) or Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus). More detailed information about the locality and its bird species can be found on the official website of the Reserve www.reifelbirdsanctuary.com.



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1D3_7391PS Boundary Bay and Boundary Bay Regional Park

The entire area of Boundary Bay and Mud Bay is an ideal place for the stop-over of migrating birds. Pretty shallow and soft coast becomes a several kilometres wide land of mud during the low-tide and attracts thousands of birds during their migration to rest and feed. According to the internet source the area of Boundary Bay between 64. and 112. Street (in fact it is rather scarcely inhabited land with few farms and the streets are more like local roads than streets as we know from Europe) is by far the best place for watching migrating waders in Western Canada and the same is true for wintering raptors here. The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is then very common species in this area; it can be often seen sitting on the top of the tree or electric pole near the road.







Mud Bay and Blackie Spit

The same what was said about Boundary Bay is true for the nearby Mud Bay and small sweep of the land called Blackie Spit. Although the spot was almost empty (given the local measure of what “empty” means) by the time of our visit, when the migration is on this place becomes one of the most interesting spots for birdwatching. Because of the large retreat of the coast line during low-tide, the best time for watching birds is rather the higher water level; surrounding vegetation provides good chance for watching diverse species of passerines.

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1D3_5848PS Serpentine Fen Nature Reserve

The place I favoured most during our Canada trip is located south of Surrey close to the Serpentine River estuary. At the first sight there seems to be nothing that would attract birds to come and rest here given the Reserve is quite small area situated between two busy highways and Serpentine River. Contrary is the case. The already mentioned mild climate and suitable vegetation with shallow muddy pools surrounded by dense underbrush and trees attracts numbers of birds, whether just for a little rest on the long journey or for nesting or wintering. From the most common waders we have seen in the Reserve let me mention the local common Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) or ever-present flocks of Little Stint (Calidris minuta). Wating for the Barn Owl (Tyto alba), which was supposed to appear regularly by the end of the day, was not successful the very last evening in Canada.




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The coast along the Fraser River estuary as well as the Boundary Bay and Mud Bay areas are one of the best places for birdwatching in British Columbia. Although not in the best time of the year for birds, our visit of this area was an amazing experience, especially for us as inlanders. It must be great to be here during the migration – and we were quite close to that, it would be enough to stay few more weeks – the number of waders in Serpentine Fen Nature Reserve counted several hundreds at maximum at the end of July but one week later it was already far more than thousand birds.

The concise summary of the best birding palces in Vancouver area can be found on the site www.naturevancouver.ca




Related articles:

Birds of British Columbia II - Vancouver island

Birds of British Columbia III -inland

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 February 2011 08:42
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