A day of birding with the youngin's

There's a Glaucous Gull behind us I swear! - Photo: Joshua Glant

17 year old Joshua Glant, from Seattle, WA has been asking me for the longest time to take him out birding. Our schedules finally gelled and his parents drove him up. I hadn't seen Josh since he was up here looking for the Godwit trio. It was great to see him again. I called young birders Bridget and Liron and asked them to join us. Bridget's Targets aligned with Josh's so we were all set to go. I had seen all these birds several times this year and last but always love seeing them again and there was potential to find more goodies along the way. I was just happy to be with the kids we always have so much fun. We went to Brunswick Point to see if we could find the reported American Tree Sparrow but no luck, we did see some beautiful Northern Harriers, Black-bellied Plovers, Double-crested Cormorants, Trumpeters and plenty of Wilson Snipes and Dunlin though!. We drove by to check if the Bohemian Waxwings Mike and Sharon Toochin found on New Year's Day were still around but they were not there. We also dipped on Mute Swans at Canoe Pass but ended up finding 2 beauties at Finn Slough later in the day. Finding Mute Swans was a big target today which is not typical for Vancouver birders who take them for granted but it was a lifer for Josh. Some birders want them shot because they are invasive and damage the habitat for native Trumpeter Swans. They have caused a lot of damage in Ontario but the thing is... it's not their fault it's another human caused problem where we shift the blame on the animals and they pay the price. I hate seeing the cygnets ripped away from their parents in West Van and I hate knowing that other wild swans have their eggs suffocated. They are elegant and stunning creatures. All animals are sentient when will we humans learn and have more empathy?  There are other methods of humane mitigation efforts but they "cost too much".
Anyways, I love when they wag their little tails as they feed. I just love looking at them, with their heart shaped wings.

A beautiful Mute Swan in Finn Slough - Photo: Bridget Spencer

We then went on and found Linda Koch's Blue Jay in Richmond at Woodward's Landing. Birders at the gate said no one had seen him that morning. I left the kids there and walked along the road by the dyke and found him in the back of the campground jumping around and caching peanuts in the fir trees. I texted the others and they came over as he sat briefly in a bare tree before disappearing again until 3pm. We also missed a large accident by 5 mins on the way that blocked the road in the opposite direction. Boy were we lucky!

We picked up those Mute Swans down the street at Finn Slough and were off to the Summer Tanager. We met up with Liron here and in 20 minutes had the Summer Tanager. Bridget spotted him feeding on suet on the upper balcony. We talked to a few neighbours who have been keeping him alive with a constant supply of suet. The homeowner who initially found him went away to Australia and her neighbours pitched in, what a great community. We were hungry now and had a nice lunch with Liron at Subway.

Summer Tanager on a neighbour's suet - Photo: Bridget Spencer

Here we parted ways as Liron wanted to check Acadia Beach for the White-winged Crossbills that were seen yesterday. Unfortunately he dipped but had to go home early anyways. We went downtown to try for the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches. There we ran into young birder Adam and we saw 20 Rosy-finches. We also picked out an Interior Subspecies along with the Coastal (Hepburn's) Subspecies. It was so cool seeing both subspecies side by side. The Hepburn's race has a fully gray face and the Interior subspecies have mostly brown faces with a grey crown.  As far as I knew at the time from all the photos I have seen and people I have talked to no one had seen any Interior Subspecies in the flock prior to this day. I checked also with Camille Bock who found them and she said no, as she checked the flock thoroughly. However Brian Avent emailed me and he had noticed the lone interior bird so that was pretty cool! Hopefully he brings more of his friends. In 2015 there was both subspecies in North Vancouver as well at the top of Mt. Seymour.

Here are a few photos:
Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch in Vancouver - Photo: Vancouver

Interior Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch in Vancouver - Photo: Adam Dhalla

We then were off to get Bridget a lifer; a Northern Goshawk. We pulled up to Maplewood Flats and walked along the west salt marsh it was beautiful and peaceful. Bridget commented on how pretty the moss covered trees were in the marsh. The Goshawk wasn't in his "normal" spot. He's been there since Nov 27, 2017. We ended up finding him on the middle trail a 100m east of the Pump house. Joshua had first spotted him and Bridget's smile was a mile wide.

Bridget's Lifer Northern Goshawk in North Vancouver - Photos: Bridget Spencer

We all gave each other high fives. So far we hadn't dipped on anything but a Tree Sparrow! Pretty darn good.  I had walked ahead of the two as they photographed the Northern Goshawk no offence to that beautiful Hawk but I've seen him more than 10 times already in 2 months.

I ended up seeing a lovely Long-tailed Duck male that swam fairly close to shore. It's a heavy crop but had to photograph this stunning duck.

A stunning Male Long-tailed Drake in North Vancouver - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Camille Bock had called me and told me she had found a first winter Glaucous Gull. John Reynolds told me Moose and Rob Moore has found a Greater White Fronted-Goose at the adjacent Rocky Point Park. Since. It was just 3 pm and still daylight (we think... it was so much fog we could barely see)... we trekked on. We chatted the whole way about what bird, young birder forums, a young birder I birded with in San Diego that we all mutually know (Ryan Andrews), a young birder messenger service that Josh created and how to draw bird art on computers and by hand. If you are into drawing birds or want to get better at it click HERE.  We also talked about Winter Finches.. since it's that time of year and I had just seen some White Crossbills recently at Acadia Beach in Vancouver.

Just a friendly reminder since it's winter... try to reduce your salt use as much as possible because birds will try to eat it on the road and many get killed. In the 1980's over 2000 Evening Grosbeaks were killed in Manning Park doing just that...

Just as Moose told us on the phone the Goose was feeding in a flock of Canada Geese in the field directly across from the boathouse Restaurant. It took a few minutes to see him through the thick fog! We had seen some Long-eared Owls earlier in the morning and they were fogged in but it seemed as the day went on the fog just got more and more dense!

Greater-white Fronted-Goose taken the day before in Port Moody - Photo: Moose Stoffregen

We then went on to Shoreline Park. We parked at the back of the community centre and walked down to the Noons Creek salmon spawning channel that feeds into the sea. We walked along the boardwalk.. I love this boardwalk. It's the same place that a completely leucistic Willow Flycatcher was earlier this year...

Leucistic Willow Flycatcher in Port Moody in August, 2017 - Photo: Moose Stoffregen

Anyways at the boardwalk we ran into Neil and Andrea MacLeod looking into the fog. We peered in as well but the only gulls there were not Glaucous and my scope was useless in this dense fog. We just used our bins and looked into the abyss. You really couldn't see 50 feet in front of you. All of a sudden, like on cue, a mass of gulls flew in and sat on the water almost at our feet.. and can you guess what? The 1st winter Glaucous Gull was right there!! His primaries were fully white and he was just a beauty.

Since it was so foggy when we were there, I am uploading my friend John Reynolds' photos with permission.

1st winter Glaucous Gull in Port Moody - Photos: John Reynolds

We ended the day with that Glaucous Gull. I drove Josh back to his waiting parents in Delta for their 3 hour drive home and Bridget and I headed homeward to Vancouver.

I was touched with how grateful the kids were and honoured that even Josh who lives in WA felt I was his mentor. Bridget also thanked me for getting her so many of her lifers in her birding life.

I thank them for giving me so much joy and making my life better. Working with youth has been a driving force in my life. It is not an understatement, it is a fact. These kids have changed my life for the better. I am proud of the young birders in the province and in the young birder program I started when I pass it on to someone in the future as the kids age out, I hope it will continue to flourish.

Look at them then:

They were mere tots then! Some here are in University - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Them growing up....

Guess I'm feeling nostalgic time passes way too fast... - Photos: Melissa Hafting

We have shared so many incredible memories together getting a lifer Flam and Boreal Owl for Bridget and finding 44 grouse of 4 different species in one day with Liron, hiking Mt Cheam & Flatiron with the whole group looking for Ptarmigan. It just doesn't get better than that!. I may not be a millionaire but my life is rich because of these children.

Today 17 year old Bridget was telling me about universities she wants to go to and some are out of country and I've had these same conversations with other young birders like Ian and Liron. It just reminds me how quick these youth are growing up and how much I'll miss them as they graduate out of the program. However, we will continue to bird together like we did today. I started birding with them each on their own when they were much younger kids and that will continue even when they pass 18. You can't break our bonds.

All I know is, they do now and will continue to make the world a better place; through active conservation, progressive attitudes and hopefully mentoring other youth as well.

In a world where the President of the United States is a white supremacist, who says utterly hateful things akin to Hitler, they give me hope when it is needed most.

My next blog post will hopefully involve a Steller's Eider... time will tell.

For now I'm celebrating a great day with great people and so happy there were many lifers between these two....

Young Birders walking home after a successful day of birding; Shoreline Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting


  1. We really did have a successful day! Thanks again for everything, even if it means having to see those Rosy-finches and Goshawk and Blue Jay so many times. ;) I hope you know how much the young birders appreciate everything you do for us.

  2. Glad you guys got my gull even if he was in the fog! I wonder if he was on the rock island i originally sent you before flying back in!

    1. Haha yep he was on that island, I'M guessing at least lol we couldn't see it through the fog.


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