Snow, and Some Birds

Wow. I’d thought that a maritime climate meant that we wouldn’t have to worry about precipitation of the white flavor, but I was wrong.

The north shore mountains were white when I stepped outside, and they stayed that way all day. Fortunately, the dusting on roofs and lawns here in town vanished pretty quickly, and my doughty Long Weekend crew had a great morning on Sea and Iona Islands.

Here we are standing on the Iona causeway, admiring the same flock of 3,100 Dunlin that caught the eye of an adult Peregrine Falcon. As we watched, he (a small bird) dropped out of nowhere onto a hapless Dunlin, which he carried across the little cove to eat from a conspicuous perch. That’s one falcon that’s got it made for the winter, I’d say!

The sturdy Snow Geese grubbing in the marsh at low tide had nothing to fear from that bird, of course, though I noticed that they deigned to raise their heads and move a bit into the vegetation whenever one of the local wintering Bald Eagles got up and around. Not even the eagles seemed to trouble the Trumpeter Swans, though, grumbling contentedly to themselves a bit offshore.

This species is clearly arriving in the Fraser Valley: we saw small flocks at every one of our stops, and the last was trailed by three Tundra Swans, a nice surprise and an uncommonish bird here on the coast.

Passerine birding was a little bit harder this morning in the cold and the breeze–and it wasn’t made any easier by the presence of two dashing Northern Shrikes on the island.

This one, perched above the outer ponds at Iona Beach, had his eye on the Golden-crowned and Song Sparrows, but I bet he wouldn’t have turned up that hooked beak of his had one of the four late Barn Swallows we found happened to come within easy reach.

Our timing once again proved excellent. Just as we started to get a little tired, a little cold, and a lot hungry, the skies open and we got the first real rain of the day. So it was into the cars and back to Kitsilano for a warming lunch and a review of our list, which after two mornings is now approaching 80 species.

Tomorrow: Vanier and Jericho Parks. I checked Vanier after dropping the group off at their hotel–a nice selection of ducks on the little pond, including the winter resident Eurasian Wigeon, and a couple of thousand Surf Scoters on the waters of the bay.

It’s going to be another good day. Cold, but good.