Boundary Bay Birding

January 26th, 2013 | by | 4 Comments
Published in Bird Watching, Birds, Estuaries, Hawks, Nature Photography, Nature Viewing, Owls
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Last weekend I went over to Vancouver with two other birders/photographers to “twitch” the red-flanked bluetail and brambling reported on British Columbia Bird Alert. Part of our plan was to spend the remainder of the day out looking for owls and other birds out at Boundary Bay.

Stump

Large drift logs with root masses make for great places for lichen to grow and owls to perch.

There are a couple of places to access the dikes at Boundary Bay, but 72nd Street and 64th Street (see Google Map below) are both particularly good. Short-eared owls and northern harriers are regularly seen hunting out over the salt marsh and perched out on drift logs. Typically snowy owls show up every seven years or so—however this is the second year in a row when they’ve made an appearance at Boundary Bay.

Our first stop was 72nd Street. We walked east on the dike away from the parking area and past a golf course. The open area of the golf course and the fence line on the ditch side of the dike was excellent for perching short-eared owls (Asio flammeus). Several were out hunting over the salt marsh as well. We also got great looks at a rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus) at the top of a tree in the golf course.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

A Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) perched on a fence post beside the golf course at 72nd Street, Boundary Bay.

Further down the dike we spotted a single snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) out on the drift logs well out of range of my 105mm lens. Entering the marsh to get closer to a snowy owl in order to photograph it is frowned upon. Most of these birds need to rest and conserve energy during the day—when they’re flushed they burn calories that they need to survive.

Salt Marsh Ice

I ventured a short distance into the salt marsh (just beyond the drift logs) to capture this image.

Signage instructs visitors to “Please Respect the Wildlife—Do not approach, please stay on the trail… Use a telephoto lens or binoculars instead.” Here’s where I ran into a bit of trouble. When I saw the pattern created by a patch of ice in the marsh and the dramatic sky I thought that it would be OK to get a little closer to make the photograph. First I checked for wildlife—nothing within range of my binoculars. My interpretation of the signage was that it referred to wildlife and since there was none to approach it would be fine to make a brief sortie just beyond the drift logs to get the right composition. I tried to explain this to a couple who started harassing me while I was out there to no avail. As far as they were concerned, I was stalking snowy owls and not simply taking a picture of the ice. To be fair, I was off the “trail” but there wasn’t any other way to get that wide expansive feeling of the salt marsh. I’m pretty careful about not flushing birds, but I guess maybe I was setting a bad example.

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)

An American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) at 72nd Street on Boundary Bay, Ladner, BC.

Further down the dike we got a great look at an American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) which was standing stock still on the ditch side of the dike until it was flushed by a person walking by (on the trail, incidentally). We had been talking about bitterns on the way over and it was a weird coincidence that we saw one later in the day, not a bird I see regularly. Birding is like that sometimes. At the parking lot at least six photographers were in the fields on the ditch side of the dike setting up to photograph short-eared owls which were actively hunting around them. Nobody seemed to be giving them a hard time even though they were on the other side of an “Authorized Access Only” gate.

At this point we headed back to the car and drove over to the 64th Street access. The day was edging toward sunset but we had enough time to walk down the dike to where a group of about a dozen photographers were located watching snowy owls. I experienced a bit of lens envy looking at the impressive array of glass pointed out at several owls out on salt marshes. As it got closer to sunset they began to fly from the marsh, over the dike and onto the top of the buildings in a massive greenhouse complex on the land side. I did a quick count and tallied 15 on top of the buildings and another 5 out in the salt marsh.

Again, the owls were well beyond the reach of my lens, but on the way back to the car in the setting sun we found one perched conveniently on a post on the other side of the dike ditch. The snowy owl seemed comfortable with the water between it and us and we were able to get some excellent views of it before the sun went down and we rushed off to catch our ferry back to Vancouver Island. It was a great way to end a great day of birding!

Photographers

George and Barry photographing a snowy owl on the other side of the ditch.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

A close encounter with a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) on the opposite side of the dike ditch at 64th Street, Boundary Bay.
Photo © George Bowron

Snowy Owl photograph courtesy of George Bowron.

Getting There:

Two good access points for birding at Boundary Bay are the parking areas at 64th and 72nd Street. These can be reached via Highway 10 (Ladner Trunk Road).

 

 


Responses

  1. DNADEB says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 11:37 am (#)

    Do not leave the trail means do not leave the trail. Respect signs please!

  2. IslandNature says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 7:54 pm (#)

    Hi Deborah – thanks for stopping in and commenting.

    Not sure if you’re familiar with Boundary Bay, but make sure to visit if you ever travel out to the West Coast from Pennsylvania. You might just be tempted to step down off the long man-made dike that separates the salt marshes here from the golf course, the massive greenhouses and the farm fields that are slowly being encroached upon.

    The signage does focus on reducing negative wildlife (specifically owls) human interactions and flushing of birds. What was interesting was that it was predominantly owls and other birds on the inland side of the dike that were being moved along, simply by the presence of casual walkers on the dyke.

    I chose intentionally to write about my decision to enter the marsh (again I didn’t go much beyond the drift logs and spent at most 10 minutes less than 10 meters from the dike) as a way to illustrate that there are many ways in which people can interact with the natural world – some have more impact than others. I could have left that out, but wanted to be honest about the day and to contrast my behaviour with someone who might enter the marsh to get a better photograph of snowy owl. Personally, I’m always careful to monitor what I do and minimize my presence in any environment.

    FYI – I do monitor comments on this blog and they have to be approved before they’re posted. I deleted your second slightly negative comment since it said much the same as your first one.

    Thanks again for stopping in!

  3. Timothy Chu says:

    February 5th, 2013 at 6:26 pm (#)

    I was on the trail a few weeks ago and unfortunately didn’t see any snowies. Perhaps I didn’t walk west far enough.
    It’s unfortunate that in order to keep the owls from being spooked by humans that we need to put out blanket rules prohibiting leaving the trail, and worse yet that there are individuals with super-telephoto lenses (not you nor I) who believe that their freedom to get a closeup of an owl supersedes the public’s opportunity to see them from a distance.

  4. Island Nature  :: Thinking about Wildlife Photography says:

    February 27th, 2013 at 10:24 pm (#)

    […] was out at Boundary Bay in late January as the tail end of a trip to see the red-flanked bluetail in New Westminster. I wasn’t really […]

Record a Comment

by

Related Posts

Follow Island Nature

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 98 other subscribers

Blogging Events

Circus of the Spineless Macro Monday Berry Go Round Skywatch Friday I and the Bird Bird Photography Weekly An Inordinate Fondness

Photos of the Day from Island Nature’s Flickr Group

Member of

  • Wildlife Photography Blogs

Call for Writers

Got an interesting nature story or hosting a nature related event that is based on Vancouver Island?

We're always looking for articles about wildlife viewing, nature activities, ecotravel, and natural destinations. Check our Submission Guidelines for articles and photographs!

Disclosure

Island Nature is a member of the Canadian Amazon Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to books on amazon.ca. A small percentage of each sale helps support this web site and you pay no additional fees for the book!

Copyright

Creative Commons License

Images and writing by Dave Ingram are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Island Nature copyright.