Balwyn meeting report – Member’s topic

24 February 2015
The George C. Reifel migratory bird sanctuary

Rodger Scott told us that the sanctuary is located to the south of the city of Vancouver, just north of the US border. In the 1960s, George H. Reifel, the son of George C. Reifel, granted the first lease to the British Columbia Waterfowl Society for a bird sanctuary to be named after his late father. Ducks Unlimited Canada, an amateur hunting group, was brought in to assist with water management of the many wetland habitats on the site, and has continued to be an active partner in the management of the area. The provincial government supplemented this effort by establishing a game reserve on the adjacent intertidal foreshore. It is not uncommon to hear gunshots from the game reserve as you walk around the sanctuary, which caused Rodger some discomfort.

Map showing location of the sanctuary, just south of Vancouver
Map showing location of the sanctuary, just south of Vancouver

It was Rodger’s second visit to the Reifel Sanctuary, in which over 250 bird species have been recorded. Although it was cold it was sunny, making the weather good for photography. There were large numbers of waterbirds and plenty of bush birds, and he saw many new species.

The visitors to the sanctuary feed the birds. In fact, on entry one can buy feeds for the different kinds of birds. For this reason it was almost impossible not to step on them, and many are so tame they would eat out your hand. That made it excellent for photography.

Rodger showed us some of the birds that he had encountered, including Black-capped Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, Cedar Waxwing, Song Sparrow, Golden Eagle and others, including his favourite Canadian bird, the Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photographer: Rodger Scott
Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photographer: Rodger Scott

Rodger missed a Great-horned Owl that had been unexpectedly seen in the open, looking down on people in a photogenic manner, but managed to see photos taken by others.

Each year, Snow Geese leave Wango Island north of Siberia and some 20,000 of them arrive at Vancouver in October, where observers with telescopes record their tags and numbers. These birds must like the cold, for they spend the winter in Vancouver then fly back to the Arctic for the summer.

Other birds Rodger talked about included the Black-crowned Night-heron, as well as the Blue Heron, a big bird, and quite a formidable predator. Apparently Blue Herons even eat prairie dogs. They split them with their bill, toss them into the air and eat them. The Sandhill Cranes also have a long sharp bill, so Rodger wisely kept well clear of them!

We all enjoyed Rodger’s talk but it does raise a question: Is it the traveller that makes the birder, or the birder the traveller? A good bet is both!

Contributor: Ron Garrett

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