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A Great Day at Reifel

Posted by birder on Monday, August 20, 2012
On August 18th 2012, I went to the George C. Riefel Migratory Bird Sanctuary for about 4 hours with a birder named Andrew Farnsworth who came to Vancouver for the ornithology conference. Together we heard and saw over 75 bird species (though I have to say that if I hadn't had him with me the total would have been closer to 40-50 bird species). Highlights for me were many shorebirds including 12 Stilt Sandpipers, two Cackling Geese, many Bank Swallow, and more.

We started birding the road that leads up to the parking lot. On this road, we saw and heard many birds. Among them, a Merlin was the highlight for me.

The Merlin appeared to be eating a small bird that it had caught. Other than the Merlin, a Bald Eagle also provided some nice photos:


 Birds that Andrew and I saw and heard on this road were the ones on this checklist: 

About 40 minutes after we started birding on the road, we got to the parking lot at Riefel. In the pond by the lot, there were many Mallards, one Canada Goose, a Northern Shoveler, and some other birds that flew by. Here is a photo of the Northern Shoveler on that pond:

After seeing the birds at the pond, we entered the sanctuary. The wetland by the entrance and warming hut had very little water (mainly mud). This seemed to have attracted many shorebirds because at this spot we saw and heard many Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, both Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers, Least, Western and Pectoral Sandpipers, one Solitary and a couple Stilt Sandpipers, and some Wilson's Phalarope. Here are some photos from this spot:

  Dowitcher sp.:


  Long-billed Dowitcher:


 Short-billed Dowitcher:


 Solitary Sandpiper:


 Least Sandpiper:


 Pectoral Sandpiper:


 Western Sandpiper:

Greater Yellowlegs:


 Greater Yellowlegs with Wilson's Phalaropes:

Lesser Yellowlegs:

 Stilt Sandpipers:


 Wilson's Phalarope:

After spending some time with the shorebirds, Andrew and I continued our walk. Also in the area by the entrance there were other birds including tons of House Sparrows, Barn Swallows and one Bank Swallow, Mallards, a Wood Duck, many Great Blue Herons, and more. Here is a photo of a juvenile great blue heron and a female Wood Duck from this spot:



After seeing those birds, we walked down the first trail that you can enter (the one that is to your left when you are facing deeper into the sanctuary when you are by the entrance). On this trail, there was a variety of birds including a distant Cackling Goose, some Gadwall, and more. Also on the this trail were tons of Great Blue Herons, a Peregrine Falcon, and some Northern Pintails flying over. Here are some photos of a heron, a falcon, and a pintail:


We continued walking and soon we arrived at the blue observation tower. From the top of the tower, we saw and heard many bird species including these ones:

Bald Eagle (juvenile)  

 American Goldfinch:  

 Cedar Waxwing: 

 Red-winged Blackbird: 


 Sandhill Crane:

 At the top of the tower we also heard a Virginia Rail call, but there was also lots of swallows flying around. Among them, a couple were Bank Swallows, a more uncommon visitor to the Lower Mainland:



After birding from the top of the observation tower for a while, we went down to the ground and began walking the trail that goes around the outside of the ponds near the observation tower. From this trail, we saw many shorebirds including these species:

  Red-necked Phalarope:  

 Wilson's Phalarope:  

Western Sandpipers:

 Semipalmated Sandpiper:  

 Among the shorebirds, there was also some Stilt Sandpiper. The Stilt Sandpiper is an uncommon but annual bird in the sanctuary. I had photographed this bird at the entrance to the sanctuary, but there were some Stilt Sandpipers in good positions for photos here as well. Here is a photo of one of the Stilt Sandpipers in this spot:



In the one of the ponds that the shorebirds were in there was also many eclipse Northern Shoveler and a couple Gadwall. Here is a photo of a group of shovelers from one of the ponds:


 Past the shovelers, towards the end of this trail, we saw two Sandhill Cranes that we had seen flying over the observation tower earlier. One of the birds was a bird that is seen in the sanctuary every year. This bird has multiple bands and a broken radio transmitter. The bird that this crane was with though, also has some bands, but not as many (two bands). Here are some photos of these two cranes:



After seeing the Sandhill Cranes, Andrew and I headed towards the entrance/exit. When we got to that area, there were some birds of interest around. The shorebirds that had been around before were still present but in smaller numbers, but new birds had moved in including three Sandhill Cranes, another Cackling Goose that was being bullied by Canaidian Geese, and a Cooper's Hawk. Here are some photos from this spot at this time:

  Sandhill Crane: 


 Cackling Goose: 

I like this photo of the Cackling Goose because you can see how small it is compared to the Canada Goose behind it:


  Cooper's Hawk: 

After seeing these birds, Andrew and I exited the sanctuary and birded the entrance and exit road one more time. This time there was not as much activity, but we did spot a Bushtit nest that had probably been active this year:


 Andrew and I had to go now, but we had a great time in this sanctuary together, and I had gotten three lifers- Stilt Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, and Cackling Goose.




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