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Blog: Delta birders visit Alaksen & Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Ten hardy DNCBers braved the cold (-8C) on a “changed” outing to Alaksen National Wildlife Area (NWA) and our “Mecca” Reifel Bird Sanctuary.
American Robin
American Robin

Ten hardy DNCBers braved the cold (-8C) on a “changed” outing to Alaksen National Wildlife Area (NWA) and our “Mecca” Reifel Bird Sanctuary. We saw many neat species, 50 total according to David’s eBird list (see below), and our photogs got lots of beaut shots you can enjoy by clicking on our DNCB Flickr site.

Seven of us left Petra’s at 7:30 a.m. and drove through Ladner to Alaksen NWA (Roger wimped out and stayed home drinking hot chocolate in his Hot Tub).  We/Organizer Terry changed the destination the night before because of the predicted snow and cold spell that hit Delta and the Lower Mainland. Wet Coasters, especially Deltans, are not used to snow and cold at all. Surprisingly, the roads were mostly plowed and the ride was smooth, with a couple of Red-tailed Hawks welcoming us at the Alaksen entrance.  We didn’t find the resident Barred Owls in the Cedar trees, but a Pacific Wren, Brown Creeper, and both Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets were neat sightings.

In the open water (rare, as all the ponds later at Reifel were frozen) behind the new washrooms we got 20 species in 10 minutes.  A posing Merlin, Belted Kingfisher, and most regular waterfowl species (Common & Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, brilliant Wood Ducks, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, etc.) were some of the highlights. Walking toward the circular trail and into the tractor barn, “someone” scared out two gorgeous Barn Owls. We were unsuccessful trying to locate any Great Horned or Sawhet Owls this day, but did see a Bewick’s Wren and Varied Thrush.


Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes - photocourtesy Noreen Rudd


Shortly after 9 a.m., we drove next door to Reifel, and met the other three (Colin, Stephanie & Angela).  Fifteen Sandhill Cranes were jostling on the frozen pond behind the entrance building.  Two Black-crowned Night-Herons were sleeping there too, along with about 20 Great Blue Herons that looked like frozen statues.

We took the mandatory Group Photo (Thanks David for the “photo-shopped composite” of Glen and Noreen’s photos) with the Ring-necked Ducks behind us, and surrounded by the voraciously feeding Chickadees (from seed on our hands and head).

We followed the south-east trail in search of the Goshawk and Black Phoebe. It was quite cold, and we weren’t very vigilant in our unsuccessful search, but there were hundreds of entertaining little birds on the trails (helped by Reifel’s full feeders).  We have never seen so many Spotted Towhees and Fox Sparrows. The ponds were frozen, but in the few bits of open water, we saw an American Coot.  Some almost saw a Peregrine Falcon.  The hi-lite at Reifel was the Swamp Sparrow by the Tower, interestingly the same place we had seen one last year (same bird?).

From the tower, there were over 40 Trumpeter Swans just at the waters edge past the marsh. A swarm of Dunlin flew over them. There were hundreds and hundreds of ducks in the strait (too far away to identify), and a large flock of Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintail in the marsh area.  Several large flocks of Snow Geese flew over in V’s, one landed in the field at the Reifel entrance which we saw up-close-and-personal on departure.

We got back to the entrance around 11:30 a.m. and all 10 of us decided to go to Speed’s Pub in Ladner for lunch. We had a very cozy lunch, my regular 2 piece Cod & Chips Special with a pint of Speed’s Lager hit the spot with the “colourful jeweled” Calli giving us excellent service.  We were back in Tsawwassen before 1 p.m. and I got back to my 1:30 p.m. doctor appointment in Ladner early; all good, except that he again suggested that I cut back on my sugar and beer intake. Another awesome DNCB adventure.

The 10 participants were: Guru Anne, Organizer Terry, Photogs/eBirder David & Noreen, White Rockers Colin & Stephanie, Rookie Angela A, Historian Mike B, Flickr Guru Glen and me.

On Tuesday, January 21, we’ll leave Petra’s at 7:30 a.m. for Iona Regional Park, meeting others at the washroom parking lot around 8:15 a.m.

For more details on this and other outings, reports and photos, see our website.  As always, your comments are encouraged. Cheers: Tom

Tom Bearss, President, Delta Naturalists Society 

eBird Lists by David Hoar:

Alaksen National Wildlife Area, 14-Jan-2020

28 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 27

Wood Duck 3

American Wigeon 4

Mallard 2

Green-winged Teal 2

Lesser Scaup 2

Bufflehead 3

Hooded Merganser 7

Common Merganser 7

duck sp. 16

Glaucous-winged Gull 5

Great Blue Heron 1

Bald Eagle 3

Red-tailed Hawk 1

Barn Owl 2

Belted Kingfisher 1

Northern Flicker 2

Merlin 1

Black-capped Chickadee 3

Golden-crowned Kinglet 3

Bewick’s Wren

Pacific Wren 1

European Starling 15

Varied Thrush 1

American Robin 2

Fox Sparrow 1

Dark-eyed Junco 15

Golden-crowned Sparrow 22

Song Sparrow 2

Spotted Towhee 4


Reifel Bird Sanctuary, 14-Jan-2020

35 species

Snow Goose 600

Trumpeter Swan 41

Wood Duck 1

Northern Shoveler 65

Gadwall 2

American Wigeon 9

Mallard 18

Northern Pintail 2

Green-winged Teal 4

Ring-necked Duck 2

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 22

American Coot 1

Sandhill Crane 15

Dunlin X

Double-crested Cormorant 2

Great Blue Heron 25

Black-crowned Night-Heron 2

Northern Harrier 1

Bald Eagle 10

Downy Woodpecker 2

Northern Flicker 2

Peregrine Falcon 1

Black-capped Chickadee 28

Golden-crowned Kinglet 1

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1

Brown Creeper 1

American Robin 6

House Sparrow 4

Fox Sparrow 7

Dark-eyed Junco 10

Golden-crowned Sparrow 16

Song Sparrow 9

Swamp Sparrow 1

Spotted Towhee 34

Red-winged Blackbird 14