July 28th, 2019: Great shorebirding at Brunswick Point
Today I had a car and a full day to look for shorebirds in Delta with my scope! I headed to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary again first. I was hoping to find a few shorebirds that are passing through and hit some riparian habitat in the morning. There wasn’t much there: over a hundred Long-billed Dowitcher, and a handful of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs was it for shorebirds (eBird list).
The highlight at Reifel today though was a trio of Cinnamon Teal. They took me a while to ID, not having seen Blue-winged or Cinnamon Teal outside breeding plumage in a while. I digiscoped the photo below where you can see the shoveler-like bill, absent white under the chin (and weak light patch at base of bill), dark eye, and warmer, darker tones that are all indicative of Cinnamon over Blue-winged Teal. Neither is particularly common in the summer. They were fun to see, and a bit of an ID challenge is always good.
After Reifel, I headed to the Tsawwassen Ferry jetty.
I was hoping to find some Black Turnstone and this time I did! They were right where they should be: literally turning over stones along the rocky south side of the jetty. There were also a small flock of Harlequin Duck and several Black Oystercatcher (eBird list).
A fun bonus on this visit was watching one of the adult Bald Eagles catch a fish just offshore and take it back to its two young on top of a telecom tower on the jetty.
Next, I was excited to catch the high tide at Boundary Bay. I had decided to bird the stretch that’s usually best: between 96 and 88 St. at the “mansion” outflow.
Before the tide was at its height, there were already plenty of shorebirds visible through the scope: Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Baird’s Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. There was even a solitary Bonaparte’s Gull out with a large mixed gull flock in the distance (eBird list). In the photo below, you can see some shorebirds already congregating even with the tide a ways out.
Sadly, the volume of birds did not grow appreciably as the tide came in and the main flock of Black-bellied Plover–which also often has other less common shorebirds mixed in–left to feed elsewhere. Several of us that had gathered decided we’d head out to Brunswick Point since the tide was expected to remain high and we still had several hours before sunset.
We arrived to almost perfect shorebirding conditions at the mudflats at Brunswick Point! The tide was receding incredibly slowly and was only a few feet back from the marsh grasses.
I was there with two great birders too, so between the three of us (and our scopes) we picked plenty of exciting birds. Among the usual suspects were Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, and Lesser Yellowlegs (eBird list). And I counted 142 Caspian Tern today! But we also found an early Sanderling, a lone Pacific Golden-Plover, Red Knot, Willet, and 6 Marbled Godwit!
It’s not difficult to see Marbled Godwit in the White Rock area if you go to Blackie Spit to see the near-resident few. But they’re highly unusual anywhere else along Boundary Bay, especially if you see more than one or two.
I find their stunning red-brown plumage mesmerizing, especially alongside their long, swordlike, bicoloured (pink and black bill. Plus, they’re bigger shorebirds with an authoritative posture that jump out of the crowd. I’d enjoyed seeing a couple wade through the short prairie grasses back in MN several weeks ago and I was excited to see them foraging along the short back in the Vancouver area.
We counted 15 shorebird species in all: not too bad for late July. This will likely pick up even more in the coming weeks. It’s a great time of year to bird the Fraser Delta. And even if you didn’t see a single bird, Brunswick Point is a lovely place to visit in the evening…