Note: the subscribe tool is not supported on all broswers

(scroll to bottom for blog archive) 

 

Boundary Bay - the shorebird migration begins!

Posted by Liron on Thursday, June 26, 2014
Or in other words, the mud crawling begins! :lol: 

Well I have to admit that if you head down there now (like I did) you are rushing the shorebird season a bit. I saw very few migratory shorebirds when I was there yesterday (June 24), but it was still a fun day!

The goal of the day was to see if I could find any of the first migrant shorebirds. Because I had the whole day, I arrived on my bike at 10:35 when the tide was at its lowest point for the day at about 1 metre (about 3.3 feet). The tide wouldn't be high enough for ideal shorebird finding conditions for about 5 and a half hours though, so I had lots of time to kill! The mudflats when I arrived were as far out as I could see, and the ocean was probably multiple kilometers away from the dike.

At low tide it is hard to find shorebirds because they are spread out across a huge expanse of tidal mudflats. This early in the shorebird migration there are very few shorebirds to begin with, so after biking along the dike and wandering far out on the mudflats covering everywhere from the mansion between 88th and 96th all the way to 112th street, it was not too surprising that I had not seen even one migratory shorebird. It was still very interesting out on the mudflats to see what sort of stuff had been washed up from interesting sea sponges and other sea creatures to car tires to small jars.

After a while on the mudflats I decided it would be best to ride my bike along the dike and see what birds I could find in the bushes alongside it. First up was this Common Yellowthroat. At first he wasn't very cooperative but he ended up perching out in the open and singing after a few minutes!

Image

Image

Image

Image


There were many birds along the dike including many other Common Yellowthroats that I heard singing, a couple fly-by Caspian Tern, a male American Wigeon (good for this time of year), Eurasian Collared-Doves, an American Kestrel and many singing Savannah Sparrows including this one:

Image


I continued to cover more and more area on foot and on bike. Still no migratory shorebirds. The tide was now beginning to rise at a fast pace, but the mudflats still went a couple kilometers out. As I was biking, I spotted a pair of Killdeer on the rocks beside the dike and I slowed down, hopped off my bike and pulled my camera out of my backpack. I crept over to the rocks and lay down for a low angle. Then something weird happened. The Killdeers (there were two) started walking TOWARDS me. What?!? Killdeer are supposed to be very shy birds! As one bird got closer, it began to limp and wave around its wing, doing a distraction display where the male Killdeer attempts to lure away a predator from its nest by faking that it has a broken wing. I took a few shots than backed off, not wanting to disturb them any further!

Image

Image

Image



I got back on my bike and had barely pedaled more than a few times when I saw a little shorebird on the mudflats close to the dike. I stopped and identified it through my binoculars as a Dunlin, who had just returned after its breeding season! The bird was still in breeding plumage so it was a great photography opportunity as they are in nonbreeding plumage most of the time when we see them around Vancouver. I opened my backpack to grab my camera again, and then quickly locked my bike up on a pole beside the dike. I went down onto the mudflats, and began to mud crawl, using small patches of sea grass as cover. I soon was quite close to the bird, so I stopped and got ready to shoot. The bird was behind a clump of sea grass, but it soon emerged and began feeding. I got lots of nice shots, and then after a while I backed away to let it continue feeding. At last, a migratory shorebird!

Image


After backing away I realized that a heron had flown in while I was photographing the Dunlin. I took some shots of it an then went back up on the dike.

Image



I got back on my bike and road it some more along the dike. Nothing new was around, so I parked it and went out on the mudflats again. The tide was coming in fast now, and the best time for shorebirds based on the tide was coming up. Still, there were no migratory shorebirds. After covering a large area again, I went back to my bike and road it to where I had spotted the Dunlin from the dike. Sure enough, the Dunlin was still there, but it now had been joined by four more shorebirds, which were Western Sandpipers! I parked my bike again and went down to the mudflats. I began mud crawling. The only problem was that with the rising tide a large deep tidal pool had formed and I had to photograph the birds from across the tidal pool. To my luck they came out into the pool as far as they could go and still stand, coming into my "good photo range". The Dunlin began take a bath:

Image

Image


Once it was done bathing it got up and began feeding again:

Image


The four Western Sandpipers (including some that were also adults in breeding plumage) now came in and started bathing:

Image

Image

Image



After they finished this juvenile Western Sandpiper also came in for a photo:

Western Sandpiper


The juvenile shorebirds mainly come through later (late July through to early October for some species), and now is when most of the adults are going to begin passing through, but we will see them in much smaller numbers than the juveniles that come through later.

Despite the lack of migratory shorebirds it was still a great day at the bay! In addition to getting good shots I got some good exercise by biking and walking a total of about 32 kilometers. About half of those were on foot!

I am looking forward to more mud crawling as the migration picks up in a few weeks!

Thanks for looking! :)



 

 

 

Photos on this site are on low resulution. Do not use the photos on this site without permision.