On Sunday, I drove east to the Cheam Lake Wetlands, in the Fraser Valley. I had heard that there would be a lot of trumpeter swans there, but it was important to arrive early, as they all leave within an hour or so of daybreak. I was richly rewarded for the effort. There were probably a thousand swans on the lake.
The water was pitch black and the swans were a brilliant white. They were trumpeting at irregular intervals. Every so often there would be a vigorous flapping of wings, and splashing as groups of trumpeters would take off, literally running on the water and flapping their wings hard against the water until they achieved lift-off. This generally required close to 100 metres.
The swans would then circle around the lake, slowly gaining altitude before disappearing into the Fraser Valley.
This was repeated over and over for about 90 minutes, with groups of anywhere from 2 to 12 lifting off at a time.
With all the rain we have been having lately, I took advantage of a break in the weather to return to the Harrison River. It was a good move as water levels have dropped and the number of eagles present was astounding!
From the moment I arrived, until the time I left, there were eagles everywhere, with the occasional eagle gliding right over me.
The river was full of spawning salmon, swimming and jumping, with many more dead salmon on the banks.
At one point in the woods, I looked up to see a dead salmon stuck in branches above me. Clearly, it had been dropped by an eagle!
On other trips, the eagles were aggressive to each other. Yesterday, when one eagle approached another, generally the standing eagle would yield its position to the new arrival. I suspect they were all very well fed, and had little desire to fight, other than to offer token resistance.
The river also had lots of ducks including goldeneye, hooded and common mergansers, mallards and American wigeon.
Just as I was preparing to go, four trumpeter swans landed in the water beside me. (There were hundreds further out in the water and the entire time I was there, I was “serenaded” by the whistling of eagles and the trumpeting of swans. What a day!
The Fraser Valley, with its mild winters, open fresh water and proximity to the coast is a good wintering location for many of the birds from the north. Added to that, there are many spawning salmon in the lower Fraser in October and November. When the salmon die, they become feed for bald eagles, which flock to the rivers of the lower Fraser Valley. The following photos were taken this past week at the Nicomen Slough and the nearby Harrison River which features an exceptionally high concentration of eagles in November and December.
Yesterday, I went to Brunswick Point in Ladner. It is a point of land , south of Vancouver, bordered by the Fraser River and the Salish Sea. I had read reports of an ash-throated flycatcher spotted there. This is normally a bird of drylands and desert and at this time of year is found in Mexico, not on the coast of British Columbia! I was lucky enough to see and photograph this misplaced bird, and managed to see another 30 species as well. It is clear that the eagles are returning to the Fraser and to the Coast now (I saw more than 20) and their numbers will peak in the winter months. I also managed to see some 2000 snow geese, which arrived in the area in the last two weeks, from their summer grounds in Siberia. It was a great outing!
I enjoy watching and photographing great blue herons. They are easy to find, easy to photograph and interesting to watch, particularly when they are fishing. The following photos were taken at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC. While there were not as many there as we normally see, they were close to the trails, and that provided great opportunities to watch and photograph.
We have long waned to visit the West Kootenays. We finally made it this month. We had exceptional weather until the smoke from the fires of the Western United States arrived. Here are a few of the photos from the region.
With the closure of the Reifel Bird Sanctuary and the American border this year, due to Covid, we missed seeing the Spring migration of shorebirds this year. Now that late summer has arrived, the Autumn migration has started. With a recent trip to Victoria and the re-opening of the Reifel Sanctuary, we are now starting to see some of these amazing birds. There are a number of shorebirds that spend the winter on the Coast near Vancouver, but many of the others that we are now seeing spend the summers in the Far North and winter much further south. I look forward to seeing many more as we move into Autumn.
August 4th, 2020 has been declared International Owl Awareness Day. Throughout this past week, around the world, there have been events set-up to increase awareness of owls in general, and to highlight the environmental needs and concerns regarding these amazing birds. With Covid-19, many of the activities have had to be “virtual” and moved on-line. Earlier this year, I had been looking forward to attending activities at the Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Program, her in the Fraser Valley, but these activities have had to be cancelled. This program supports a critically endangered species of owl found on the West Coast, which has suffered from loss of habitat. Hopefully next year will see a return to “live” activities. I am attaching a number of photos of other owls I have taken over the last few years.
Until this week, I had never seen a barn owl in the wild. While they are found on every continent except North America, they are rare in Canada. It is estimated that there are fewer than 1000 in Canada in total, most of which are found in southern British Columbia. While walking Brock in a local park one evening, we met an individual who said he had seen a barn owl in that very park, at dusk. The next day, we returned to the park at dusk, and were fortunate to encounter the owl. It flew right over us. I did not have my camera with me, so I again returned to the park at dusk with my camera the following evening and was fortunate to encounter the owl. (It is likely that there is a nest in a barn owl nesting box located in an inaccessible part of the park.) In four visits at dusk, we were able to see the owl on each occasion.
This most recent trip to the Rockies was exceptional for seeing both black bears and grizzly bears. However, we were unable to spot any mountain goats or moose. As always, there are many birds to be seen, although this is a relatively quiet time of year for birds.
In mid-July, we took a trip to the Canadian Rockies. After living in Eastern Canada and the USA for so many years, it was a surprise to realize that we now live less than eight hours by road from either Banff or Jasper. With travel restrictions in place, the parks were not as busy as usual, and we were readily able to camp in the parks, and maintain social isolation. As we have had a cool spring and cool early summer this year, there is still a lot of snow and ice in the mountains. The scenery is spectacular.