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Vancouver Day Five: Steveston – Richmond Nature Park – Jericho Beach

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harbor seal

Perfect weather for harbor seals today here in Vancouver. For us, the rain was a welcome excuse for a late start — it was 9:30 by the time I picked Soheil up.

We started in Steveston, where mew gulls streamed over on their way, I suppose, to feast on earthworms in the wet fields. There was a small selection of ducks on the river, including red-breasted mergansers, and we enjoyed lingering close views of glaucous-winged and Olympic gulls loafing in the drizzle.

Olympic gull glaucous-winged

Soon it was too damp for us, so we headed to a place I’d never visited, Richmond Nature Park.

Richmond Nature Park in the rain

fox sparrow

We found comfortably dry seats beneath one of the picnic shelters, and watched as rufous and Anna hummingbirds darted between rain drops and fox and song sparrows scratched up the seed knocked from the feeders by the spotted towhees and purple finches.

purple finch

Among the many Oregon juncos was an especially pretty bird with symmetrical facial crescents, as if it were wearing a Prevost ground sparrow mask.

Oregon junco

To our surprise, at one point the sun came out, and the birds celebrated — with a bath, of course.

fox sparrow

sooty fox sparrow, Richmond, BC

We took advantage of the sudden change in the weather for a quick walk in what looks like a very birdy area indeed, then hopped back into the car for the drive to Jericho Beach.


Just a short walk from our apartment in Kitsilano, Jericho was my neighborhood “patch” when we lived in Vancouver, and I was excited to see it again — even if the rain did set in again just as we arrived (and even if they still seem to have done nothing, absolutely nothing, about the off-leash dog problem).


Though it wasn’t overly birdy, it was great to be walking a portion of my familiar route, watching pelagic cormorants and common goldeneye in the water of English Bay and bushtits in the blossoming trees. We were surprised to see only American wigeon on a first scan of the small flock, but eventually we found a single Eurasian wigeon on the edge of the pond; I remember excitedly reporting one here on our very first day in Vancouver, only to learn with some dispatch that the species is more common in this area than just about anywhere else in North America.

The rain grew steadier.


Of all the places to seek shelter in the city, the UBC Museum of Anthropology may still be my favorite.


There is vastly too much to look at in a single visit, and I long ago gave up trying, adopting the strategy instead of just looking at one object or two in the knowledge that I’ll be back. After all, it had been only seven years between this visit and the one before….


Yes, tempus fugit, and this week fugit faster than most.


Canada Goose, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser

elagic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant

Common Loon


Great Blue Heron

Northern Harrier, Cooper Hawk, Bald Eagle


Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull

Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove

Anna’s Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird

Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker

Peregrine Falcon

Northwestern Crow, Common Raven

Violet-green Swallow, Purple Martin

Black-capped Chickadee


Pacific Wren, Bewick Wren

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

American Robin

European Starling


Oregon Towhee, Song Sparrow, Sooty Fox Sparrow, Oregon Junco, White-crowned Sparrow

Western Meadowlark, Red-winged Blackbird

House Finch, Purple Finch


Eastern Gray Squirrel

European Rabbit

Harbor Seal

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An Afternoon at Jericho Beach

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Gellert and I set out this noon to take as many lousy photos of distant Eurasian Wigeon as possible.

With a goal like that, there’s no place like Jericho Park, where at least one female–perhaps the same female as in today’s dozens of really, truly, phenomenally lousy photos–has been hanging out for a month or more. Happily, my intention wasn’t aesthetic but educational: I’ve now got plenty of material to pore over as I try to learn more about identifying these birds.

Not even a Labrador retriever can watch ducks indefinitely (though he was very good through the whole exercise), so we walked out on the crab pier to see what was to see.

The lone fisherman out there had attracted a lone first-cycle Bonaparte’s Gull, along with the usual raggedy assortment of Glaucous-winged-type Gulls. We looked carefully for anything Westernish, but couldn’t come up with anything better than this hybrid with fairly dark wingtips and a slightly brighter than usual bill.

Pretty unconvincing. Nothing to write home about, this one!

Gellert finally grew impatient.

So we checked the ponds, where there was a single drake Bufflehead, another 100 or so American Wigeon, and a grumpy-looking Great Blue Heron having a post-prandial preen.

Common stuff, usual stuff, wonderful stuff! I’ve got three Nature Vancouver trips to Jericho coming this week. Join us?
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Jericho Park

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How beautiful these past warm mornings have been here in Vancouver!

The birds have been enjoying the weather, too, and I walked through Jericho this morning to the accompaniment of all kinds of song, from Red-winged Blackbirds to Golden-crowned and Sooty Fox Sparrows.

The voice of the morning, though, belonged to the Pacific Wrens.

After weeks of relative silence, these little feathered blobs have started to sing and sing and sing, and the woods and the brambles once again sound alive.

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Jericho in the Sunshine

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I arrived at Jericho Park way too late on this beautiful autumn morning, but in spite of my tardiness, there were still birds waiting for me. The bright sun had wakened insects all over the park, and so the flocks were not as concentrated as they had been yesterday, but I still ran across a nice batch or two of migrant parulids, including Black-throated Gray, Yellow, and Orange-crowned Warblers. I’ve been interested these past few days to see just how gray-headed most of the orange-crowns are; I assume that even the most obviously hooded birds are “just” of one the western races, as I think celata moves pretty strongly east on its southward journey.

Sparrows seem to be building, too, with Lincoln’s Sparrow far the commonest today. And a chuckle and a flash of yellow revealed a female Western Tanager trying to hide in a flock of White-crowned Sparrows. Tomorrow may be another exciting day–for those who can get there early, at least!

Categories : Canada, Recent Sightings
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Jericho Gulls

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Again and again it strikes me how much Jericho Beach reminds me of Mount Auburn–without the dead bodies, of course, and with a much better gull selection.

I don’t have my lists at hand, but I’m pretty much certain that my larid list for the Massachusetts cemetery comprises three species: Great Black-backed, American Herring, and Ring-billed Gulls. Without any of those three, this morning’s Jericho Beach walk produced four species.

Four species–depending on how you count ’em. Sooner or later I’m going to have to come to terms with the pugetensis problem. Our most abundant gull here in Vancouver is Glaucous-winged Gull, or at least birds that look more or less like Glaucous-winged, with pale upperparts and blue-gray wingtips (whence the name).

An awful lot of those birds, however, have wingtips that are slightly too dark for a classic Glaucous-wing, suggesting that somewhere on not too high a branch in their family tree perches an American Herring or Western Gull. Some of them have primaries so sooty as even to be mistaken for one of those species.

I try to look at such birds when I can, but until this morning hadn’t run across anything overly convincing. Then, while I was watching my first Bonaparte’s Gulls of the spring off the beach, in came this beauty.

When it landed on the pier–in less than ideal light, unfortunately–the dark upperparts and broad secondary “skirt” were obvious.

Those features plus the black wingtip and very bright bill left me satisfied that if this wasn’t a pure Western Gull, then it was at least so near the dark end of the hybrid spectrum as to make its mixed ancestry undetectible.

The bird was aggressive, and I had some excellent comparative views of its upperpart color with the paler mantles of the Glaucous-wings in flight; this, sadly, is the best photo I got of the combination.

Pretty exciting, and a state (uh, sorry: province, eh?) bird for me. Short of putting the blird in a bender and dipping in some litmus paper–or whatever the scientists do–we’ll never know whether miscegenation lurks in its ancestral past, but I found it pretty convincing. [But see here for my later recanting.]

And the day’s fourth gull species? No surprises there: Mew Gull. There are relatively few around right now, but one fine adult was on the first pond with the ducks.

I especially like this picture and the way it shows the smudgy “shawl” on the hindneck, already lost at this time of year on most adult Mew Gulls.

I still don’t have a handle at all on distinguishing these “Short-billed” Gulls from Common and Kamchatka Gulls, though apparently the pale eye is a good indication that I didn’t miss a major vagrant.

More gulls tomorrow, I hope!

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