Wednesday, March 23, 2011

10 Mile Hike

Vancouver International Airport
Out with Rob Catchpole once more and the plan for today was to take the Skytrain from Downtown Vancouver to Templeton Station, and then walk the five miles out to Iona Island.

Iona, is home to a primary sewage treatment plant, an animal refuge and a park. In fact it's actually no longer an Island, but is now a peninsula physically connected via a causeway to what is now known as Sea Island. Sea Island itself is in the estuary of the Fraser River and is actually the home to Vancouver International Airport. I hope that's all as clear as mud!

We arrived to clear blue skies, very little wind, and a pleasant temperature of around 12C, perfect conditions for a 10 mile hike. This was birding with a difference! The hustle bustle of an international airport on one side, and the tranquility of lagoons, meadows and estuary on the other.

Northern Shrike, 1st Bird Of The Day!
Within minutes of beginning our birding day our first species of note was a Northern Shrike, which we located perched on a nearby Birch. As we continued along our chosen route a farmers field yielded at least 24 Killdeer, which were happily feeding in the bright sunshine, a terrific start.

As per normal it wasn't long before our first Bald Eagle's were noted, by the day's end we had probably encountered around 50 of these iconic birds. Northern Harrier were also affluent with about 12 birds recorded. The surrounding brash had Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Spotted Towhee, Song and Fox Sparrow plus good numbers of Red-Winged Blackbird.

Arriving at the estuary large numbers of Green-Winged Teal, Pintail, Greater and Lesser Scaup were seen, plus huge numbers of wintering Dunlin were constantly in flight. We continued to the sewage works, which is a well known migration hot-spot and boasts four treatment ponds. The ponds unfortunately were in flood, much to Rob's annoyance, and so despite good numbers of wildfowl no shorebirds other than several Killdeer were seen.

Rough Legged Hawk
The Beach Regional Park, our final destination before heading back, hosts two artifical ponds, constructed with the aim of restoring marsh vegetation and providing wildlife habitat, and they are a significant stopover for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.

Here we spent a few hours locating of note: Rob's first American Bittern of the year, my first Pied-Billed Grebe of this visit, plus Tree Swallow, Canvasback, Common Goldeneye, lots more Scaup, American Wigeon, Snipe, Red-Breasted, Common and Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead and a Garter Snake, which I almost stepped on!

The long walk back gave up superb views of Rough-Legged Hawk (pictured), other Hawks of the day were Coopers and Red-Tailed. Two more Northern Shrike were also seen. The only downer on yet another superb days birding was the lack of migrants, which seem to be only arriving in small numbers within the province, and completely evading Rob and I at the moment!