Weekend of Vancouver Birding (long but humorous report of our mishaps)

Chris Charlesworth c_charlesworth23 at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 2 20:12:22 PDT 2002

Ryan Tomlinson and I ventured to Vancouver on Saturday, August 31st for a
weekend of birding. We got a little birding done in between a few
unfortunate incidents. Read on.....I'll tell you about it.

Saturday, August 31st

Our scheduled start at 5 AM in Kelowna, ended up being a little later than
planned, however, when we finally got on the road, we were eager to have an
exciting weekend of birding on the coast. The trip down was uneventful. We
made a brief stop at Kidd Lake, on Hwy 5A near Aspen Grove and saw the

Kidd Lk (Hwy 5A at Aspen Grove)

1 Cedar Waxwing, 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch, 1 Hooded Merganser, 15 American
Coot, 3 Eastern Kingbird, 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2 Common Raven, 4 Song
Sparrow, 7 Yellow-rumped Warbler, 4 Mountain Chickadees, 2 Dark-eyed Juncos,
1 Northern Flicker.

We arrived at the ParkCanada Campground in Tsawwassen in the late morning
and began setting up camp. Ryan had just purchased a new tent and,
frustratingly, it took us nearly an hour to get it set up! Finally, with
camp set up, we left for some birding. As we pulled into the driveway at the
Reifel Refuge in Ladner, I pulled the car off the road to view some Bushtits
and a Bewick's Wren. I felt my heart drop into my stomach when I turned the
ignition and got nothing. The truck was dead and it was parked precariously
in the left hand lane of the road. After summoning a tow truck we did a
little birding along the driveway but saw nothing too exciting. All we
needed was a jump from the tow truck (an expensive $30 jump) and then we
booted in to a service station in Tsawwassen to see what the problem was. It
was the battery! A little discouraged, and with a new battery, we decided to
head for Iona. The mudflats just South of the jetty were packed with peeps:

Mudflats at Iona

2600 Western Sandpipers, 8 Baird's Sandpipers, 10 Least Sandpipers

At the sewage ponds we met John Vooys and saw the following:

1 Red-necked Phalarope, 1 Wilson's Phalarope, 22 Baird's Sandpipers, 2
Semipalmated Sandpipers, 2 Semipalmated Plovers, 50 Western Sandpipers, 5
Least Sandpipers, 5 Lesser Yellowlegs, 10 Killdeer, 1 Lincoln's Sparrow, 4
Bank Swallows, 1 juv. Sora, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk and 5 Sanderlings were on
Iona Beach.

As we settled into camp for the night, Ryan and I looked in amazement, and
horrow, at the sky as 2000 Northwestern Crows descended to a roost in our
campground!! Yikes.

Sunday, September 1st

Our plan to walk the Iona Jetty at first light was hampered by the fact that
the gate doesn't open until 8 AM so we decided to bird along MacDonald Beach
Road on Iona Island:

Macdonald Beach Rd - Iona Island

Common Yellowthroat 7, Orange-crowned Warbler 12, Yellow Warbler 6,
Black-throated Gray Warbler 1 (lifer for Ryan), Wilson's Warbler 1,
Lincoln's Sparrow 1, Bewick's Wren 2, Western Tanager 6, Black-headed
Grosbeak 1, Cooper's Hawk 1 imm.

We then walked to the tip of the Iona South Jetty and back, an 8 km
roundtrip and saw virtually nothing! A bittersweet bonus was a juv.
WANDERING TATTLER near the base of the jetty.

Iona South Jetty

Caspian Tern 20, Sanderling 67, Surf Scoter 30, Black Turnstone 1 juv.
Pelagic Cormorant 1, Common Loon 1, Double-crested Cormorant 20, Common Tern
13, WANDERING TATTLER 1 juv (lifer for Ryan).

We raced towards Tsawwassen to catch a 12 noon ferry to Victoria, but the
parking lot was full and this ultimately made us miss the boat. Ryan and I,
excited to be taking a ferry trip through Active Pass for possible Terns and
Jaegers, auklets and whatever else, bought our tickets and I made a quick
dash for the bank machine. Turning around, I was shocked to see Ryan wasn't
there! I frantically ran up to berth # 5 and....no Ryan! The clock was about
12:45 and the other foot passengers had all loaded when we sighed a breath
of relief as we saw each other! Whew. In the end we saw virtually nothing on
the ferry crossing:

Tsawwassen to Victoria Ferry Crossing

Pigeon Guillemot 4, Bonaparte's Gull 20, Glaucous-winged Gull 15, Pelagic
Cormorant 3, California Gull 5, Mew Gull 1

Once in Victoria, we met up with Wayne Campbell and made an unsuccessful
attempt for Sky Lark at the Victoria Airport. Wayne later dropped us off at
Clover Point in Victoria, where we had an enjoyable evening:

Clover Point - Victoria

Heerman's Gull 4 ad., Mew Gull 5, California Gull 10, Glaucous-winged Gull
100, Double-crested Cormorant 6, Brant's Cormorant 1 ad, Savannah Sparrow 1,
WANDERING TATTLER 1 juv, Black Turnstone 25, Harlequin Duck 1, Barn Swallow
1, European Starling 50, Northwestern Crow 20, Rock Dove 30.

In the dark, on the ferry trip home, I got a great chuckle as Ryan spilled
pop all over his shorts in the most unfortunate of places. This large
"central" splotch, coupled with some almost strategically placed dribble
marks made for an embarrassing ferry ride I am sure (sorry Mr T, but I
couldn't resist).

Monday, September 2nd

The rain and wind against the walls of my tent woke me up before light. I
awoke Ryan and we proceeded to take down camp (much faster to take down than
to put up) before more rain hit. Lucky we did because as soon as we pulled
out of the campground Hurricane Weber unleashed its violence on the coast.
Why hurricane Weber? Well, I am fairly certain we saw Wayne in his car,
waiting out the storm and reading a paper! Is this true?? Our first stop was
at the Tsawwassen Jetty. We saw 2 Black Oystercatchers andabout 5 Black
Turnstones there.

Next, it was back to Reifel, for one more shot at birding the place. As we
got out of the vehicle, rain pelted against my frozen face and the wind
chilled to the bone. I being the good samaritan that I am, gave Mr T (aka
Ryan Tomlinson) an umbrella to shield him from the elements. I pulled my
rain jacked on and got a friendly hello from John Ireland. We were the only
people on the Lower Mainland stupid enough to go birding today it seems! On
what would normally be a very busy day at Reifel, today there was just me
and Ryan. We saw:

Reifel Refuge - Ladner

Wood Duck 4, Green-winged Teal 10, Mallard 150, Canada Goose 30,
Short-billed Dowitcher 6 (they called and we saw striped tertials on the
juvs), 2 Long-billed Dowitchers, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Spotted Sandpiper,
12 Orange-crowned Warblers, 8 Yellow Warblers, 6 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 2
Common Yellowthroats, 3 Bank Swallows, 50 Barn Swallows, 2 Bushtits, 15
Black-capped Chickadees, 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets, 1 Cooper's Hawk, 1
Red-tailed Hawk, 1 Great Blue Heron, 1 Green Heron, lots of House Sparrows,
House Finches, Rock Doves, Northwestern Crows etc.

Just as we were ready to leave Reifel, the last of a series of ego-lowering
blows occurred. The remote for my car alarm shorted out because of water in
my pocket! This meant we could not disarm my VERY loud car alarm. You can
imagine how dumb I felt as I tried to explain to people inside the giftshop
that this really was my truck and I was not stealing it, all the while my
alarm blasting off, John Ireland looking at us with a confused expression.
We finally drove off, down the road, sirens blasting out across the vast
birding plains of Lander, standers by looking on in awe as two young guys
drove down the road with a pickup truck full of camera gear, binoculars,
scopes, baggage etc. They must have thought we were very novice theives.
After the droning alarm noises finally penetrated our inner brains I decided
enough was enough. I opened the trunk and snipped the wires heading to the
alarm. In the end the alarm remote did eventually dry out and worked fine,
but my snipped wires will have to be replaced. One last stop at Boundary Bay
also turns out to be bittersweet. Sweet in the fact that was saw a few
hundred Black-bellied Plovers and a "fallout" of a few hundred grounded Barn
Swallows at 112th St. Bitter in the fact that a Bar-tailed Godwit, lifer for
both of us, turned up a couple hours after we left. We had to leave the
Lower Mainland though! I felt as if some high and mighty birding god was
hinting that we should GO HOME!

Hope your next weekend of birding goes better than this!

Chris Charlesworth,
Kelowna, BC, Canada

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