Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lousy with woodpeckers.

We always take the River Road route across Ladner on our way to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary, which is a nicer route than the larger road that follows the main drag. It affords glimpses of forest and slough, and halfway along there's one of those tantalizing binoculars roadsigns indicating a wildlife viewing area. "Wonder what's there?" we ask as we drive on by. A wooden bridge leads off the road into an unknown place of islets and boats. Today we decided to stop for a look. We found ourselves at Ladner Harbour Park, which is a modest greenspace-avec-sewage lagoon on the downstream end of a silty pan of land on the south bank of the south arm of the Fraser River, part of the complex of islands and sloughs that fills the water between the cities of Delta and Richmond.

"Yay! A playground!" yelled the youngest, as we drew into the parking lot.

So the ladies went to the playground, and son and I went exploring. First we walked east, to the sewage lagoon, which I didn't recognize as such. It is largely filled with cattails and is surrounded by dykes fringed with willow, elderberry and salmonberry.

Salmonberry blossoms, Rubus spectabilis.

The salmonberries were beginning to bloom, and I expect within a week will be impressive. And you know what blooming salmonberries means, right?

Zzzzzzinnnnng! [Weirdly mechanical buzzing noise.]

Correct. The RUHUs are back!

Rufous Hummingbird, male.

In the hour or so we were there, I don't think we went more than a minute without hearing a Rufous Hummingbird. We saw only a few (all males), but they kept us spinning.

We headed back past the playground, said hi to the youngest who had, I later learned, instructed her mother not to mention anything about birds, because we weren't there for nature walks, which are BORING. We continued on into the west end of the park, which is an impressive forest of black cottonwood (very fun to hug) with an understory of salmonberry, Rosa sp. (nutkana?), Indian plum, etc.

Northern Flicker, male (note red "moustache").

Eagles adorned the tallest trees (ho-hum), and snags were being worked over by woodpeckers--Northern Flickers, Hairy and Downy--and even a Pileated. We didn't see the big bird, but we heard it laughing. We met a birder on the trail who verified that they were around.

Downy Woodpecker, male. Note the dinginess of the Pacific race.

The Downies and Hairies were drumming away, staking claim to swaths of forest. The place was lousy with woodpeckers, thanks to being lousy with wildlife trees, and a bonanza of woodpeckers means, of course, future homes for other species.
I expect the park is also quite batty. We'll have to return on a warm summer evening with a bat detector.

I much enjoyed visiting this place. Even the dogs were friendly. I discovered that, as the crow flies, Ladner Harbour Park is closer to home than is other favourite birding spot, Terra Nova. Unfortunately, it's on the other side of a large stretch of river, and the tunnel beneath is closed to bicycles.

Form the birder who verified the Pileated Woodpecker, I got a tip on an active Great Horned Owl nest not far away, which two of us wanted to check out. However, this was vetoed. Owls are BORING.



Victoria Williams said...

Birds are "boring" huh? ha ha. Kids.

PSYL said...

Sounds like a great place to visit. I haven't seen a hummingbird this year yet. None here in Terra Nova.

Hugh Griffith said...

I'm not sure, but perhaps we oversaturated them as tots. Seeing an owl isn't really a novelty. We're going to have to work on reassembling the sense of wonder thing, I fear.

Hugh Griffith said...


Terra Nova doesn't have much classic RUHU habitat. It's too open, too far from complex forest with native flowering shrubs. But they buzz through--listen for that buzz.