Feeding & Loafing Around

15 November 2020 – We haven’t even reached the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary yet, and we are already being gob-smacked by birds.

The autumn stubble in this field is snowy-white with the creatures — and isn’t that appropriate, because they are Snow Geese. “That poor farmer,” I breathe, imagining the annual losses to these voracious hordes.

Well, I got that wrong. We are already in the Alaksen National Wildlife Area where, under cooperative agreements with the federal government, wildlife & farmers co-exist.

I particularly like that last sentence. Of course feeding is important, but so is somewhere safe to just loaf around.

We are about to enter the Reifel Sanctuary (booked online, per all the new COVID protocols), which covers almost 300 Ha of the Fraser River estuary, with its riches of managed marshes, wetlands & dykes, bordering the Strait of Georgia south of Vancouver.

Right here, at the point of that arrow.

We park, and a duck promptly bustles right up to my toes. Many more follow. They all know that the gift shop, where visitors check in, sells little packets of seeds. We are being mugged by a multitude of mooching Mallards! It is a whole new experience.

And yes, one of my friends buys a packet, and begins to dole out little treats as we head up the East Dyke Trail.

There are railings high and low between the trail and the surrounding marshes. Each time we pause, we have company on the railings.

Expectant birds high (female Wood Duck and Red-winged Blackbird) …

and expectant birds low (male/female/male Wood Ducks).

After visiting the bird blinds at the far end of that trail, we turn west along the North Dyke to the 10-m. observation tower, for hallucinatory long views across the estuary on out to the ocean.

Back down, and into conversation with a helpful birder. He assures us we’ll almost certainly see some Sandhill Cranes near the parking lot — a hoped-for sighting, though we’re happy to enjoy whatever turns up.

Later, I check the website for the latest weekly count. Seventy-eight different species were sighted, November 1-7, from mighty Snow Geese to humble House Sparrows. Fifteen species are singled out as “highlights” and printed in red. (You want to know, don’t you! Highlights include the Cackling Goose, the Ruddy Duck, the Black-crowned Night Heron, the Peregrine Falcon and the Hermit Thrush.)

We start looping back south through the Sanctuary, this time following one of its designated “no bird feeding” trails. Ohhh, birds are smart. They know which trails forbid handouts, and there’s not a moocher in sight.

Everybody is left in peace to go about their business.

Back at the parking lot … Sandhill Cranes! Just as that birder predicted.

It’s a suitably impressive farewell moment, to a very impressive facility.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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