Monday, February 25, 2008

A great trip to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary! Part 2!

Continuing from yesterday's post, which was about raptors, today I'll discuss some of the waterfowl we saw on Westham Island.

One of the nice things about going to the Reifel bird sanctuary is the drive across the island (or bike ride, if you are so inclined). It's farmland, as flat as a pancake, with the north shore mountains as a backdrop. In winter there are herons in the ditches, hawks and eagles more or less everywhere, and in the fields, ducks, snow geese...

..and Trumpeter Swans. This is probably the peak of the winter swan visitation in the Fraser Delta. This population breeds in Alaska, and birds start arriving here in November. By the end of February or early March they start heading back north. They are drawn to plowed potato fields, where they probe for leftover tater-bits. This was the largest of several flocks we saw on Sunday (February 24, 2008).
They were very close to the road, and showed no fear of me, or an eagle that buzzed the field and sent the interspersed mallards flying. Several swans were honking loudly and jousting with their necks. Courtship or aggression? Entertaining either way.

From the largest birds (Trumpeter Swans can weigh close to thirty pounds, and are among the heaviest birds capable of flight) to the smallest --this muddy patch is visited by Green-winged Teal, our smallest duck. Canada Goose for scale. And now that I look at it again, that bird is likely the smaller, shorter-billed Richardson's race of Canada Goose.

Once inside the bird sanctuary, you are mobbed by mallards. It's no wonder that our daughter at age three believed that this place was called the Duck Factory.

The sanctuary contains a system of sloughs and channels that wind in and out of mixed forest. Wood Ducks are common in the more enclosed, overgrown spots.

In open areas there is a wide variety of waterfowl, including Northern Shovelers,

American wigeon, this one with some sort of gunk in its bill, oops,

Bufflehead (the only diving ducks pictured here; the rest are dabblers),

and Pintail. Also seen were Scaup (Lesser, I think), Hooded Mergansers and Common Mergansers (the latter in the ditch on the drive in). We saw no Cinnamon Teal. I didn't check the list at the gate, but I'm guessing it's about a month until they return.

I ended with a Pintail picture as a lead in to the next post, which will be about a bird that although not strictly Pintail, is Pintailesque.

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