Thursday, March 31, 2011

Serpentine fen

Yellow-rumped Warbler
The Serpentine Fen Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Area is Located in south-west Surrey near Mud Bay, the sanctuary offers a refuge for thousands of migrating birds during Spring and Autumn as well as a home for many year-round residents. The habitat has over 4 kilometers of trails passing through meadow, marshland, waterways and fen.

Rob and I arrived to a glorious sunny day which started off well with what seemed like an influx of Yellow-rumped Warblers, at least twelve were recorded on the path leading up to the fen. A Bewick's Wren was singing from the telephone wires and I recorded my first Brown-headed Cowbird of this visit on the same wires, bringing my species total up to 119. My 120th species was recorded when a quick look into a nearby hay-barn produced a roosting Barn Owl!

We spent a pleasant 90-minutes touring the rest of the reserve recording of note: Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfisher, House Finch, Bald Eagle, Coopers Hawk, Tree Swallow and Marsh Wren. As we made our way along the Serpentine River path a very pristine looking Peregrine was perched atop a power pylon, unfortunately too high for any good photographs but a magnificent sight in the sunshine.

Brown-headed Cowbird
After a good start to our day things deteriorated somewhat when we made our way across to Crescent Beach and Blackie Spit. The last time we visited around 10 days ago it was a gloomy and rainy day with very few people around. With the glorious sunshine and balmy 17C, today was entirely a different matter!

As a visitor to Canada, a place I love, it's very difficult for me to criticise what I can only describe as a mindless minority, but I feel that I must make comment on my observations today. I would also say that having walked the seawall of English Bay on numerous occasions the same observations would apply.

I refer to Dog-on-Leash rules which seem to be blatantly disregarded by a lot of dog owners, despite the prominence of many signs in the area both at English Bay Beaches and Blackie Spit. As a former dog owner myself I watched in despair today at Blackie Spit, a sight which boasts 'A Haven For Migrating and Wintering Birds', while irresponsible dog owners simply let their dogs run free, even though there is a designated Dog-off-Leash Area!

The Spit itself has some excellent habitat and it was probably no coincidence that Rob and I recorded very little in the area today. We even witnessed two couples, one who walked directly through a track which had a clear sign stating 'Path Closed to Improve Habitat', and another who walked off one of the perimeter routes and over a fence to the waters edge, flushing several Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, and a number of waterfowl, a HAVEN it is not! As my birding buddy Rob stated "There's simply nobody around to police it", apparently there are only twelve animal control officers in Vancouver to watch over the estimated 100,000 dogs in the city, a great shame and unfortunately with so few officers the onus must be on the owners!

Anyway, my cup is always half full and we did manage to record a number of species in the area, mainly far out in the bay which included: Horned Grebe, Barrow's Goldeneye, Common Loon, Greater Scaup, and a trio of Mergansers, Common, Red-breasted and Hooded, a nice end to a frustrating day!