What birding is truly all about

Yesterday, I went shorebirding at Boundary Bay, not an unusual event for me. However, tonight it seemed everyone had come out which was lovely to see. I planned to meet up with Julia and Warren Flesaker from Nakusp. We have been in touch for awhile through the RBA because they keep finding provincial rarities up there and have been chatting ever since her first Indigo Bunting find. It’s always nice to connect with more younger women birders too. Both were lovely and it was fun helping them get 3 lifers. I also planned to meet up with young birder Kalin Ocana and his girlfriend Nat. Boy they are cute (he’d hate me for saying that!). I’ve known Kalin since I first met him at the 2017 Little Gull (LIGU) twitch in Penticton. I still fondly remember him bouncing up to me at 13 eager to tell me about the LIGU and an accommodating Dipper and how he wanted to join my young birder program. I feel old haha but it was great shorebirding with them too. It was so nice they wanted to stop and bird with me before their backpacking trip. I was pleased to watch Kalin try and make sure everyone got on the Stilt Sandpiper (STSA) tonight. By the way last year we did not get a single STSA in Metro Van. This was my 3rd one in 2 days, a very good sign of things to come.

Stilt Sandpiper at Boundary Bay - Photo: Melissa Hafting

3 out of 5 Red-necked Phalaropes at the Bay - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Black Turnstone (1 of 12 at the bay!) - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Also, it was great to see my dear friends Mike Tabak and Kevin Louth after long absences at the bay.  So many other friends were out too tonight (too many to name) and everyone had smiles on their faces.

Kalin and Nat at Boundary Bay - Photo: Melissa Hafting 

It was one of those magical nights where the tide was perfect. Then there was a litany of shorebirds. So much shorebird diversity from 2pm to 6pm. During this time I saw a Pacific Golden-Plover, Stilt Sandpiper (found by Kai), 5 Red-necked Phalaropes, 12! Black Turnstones (rare in these numbers at the bay), 1 Surfbird (found by Kevin and new for me at Boundary Bay), Willet (he’s returned later than usual), 2 Ruddy Turnstones (which I found a few days back), Red Knot and all the regulars!. The Surfbird was my highlight. The light wasn’t great for photos and many of the birds too distant for good pics but there was awesome scope views to be had. The 3 Hudsonian Godwits that Ilya and I found on Aug 8th have never returned since.  
Adult Pacific Golden-Plover in Delta - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Willet showing diagnostic wing pattern at the bay - Photo: Melissa Hafting

It was so nice to be there. Shorebirding is my fave thing to do in Vancouver in the summers and tonight was one of those special nights. Sabine Decamp was so happy when she got her lifers tonight and so was Andrew Boycott when he got his Canada Bird (RUTU) and Chris McDonald told me he hadn’t seen a Willet in ten years!.  People were asking me why Common Gull was showing up on their rare bird alert and I explained it’s eBird’s taxonomic update. If you haven’t heard Mew Gull no longer exists and has been split into Common and Short-billed Gull. Short-billed is the one that occurs in North America. Also finally Northwestern Crow will be lumped with American and we discussed that too. We chatted about the Heermann’s Gull (HEEG) that Kevin found that I saw yesterday. It’s one of my fave gulls. If you think the photos are bad in this report check out my HEEG shots on eBird from yesterday!. However this post is not about beautiful photos but about friendships and birding. The air and salty bay was filled with joy, good birds and stories. People were showing me photos of Peregrines and Coopers Hawks and Common Terns they got tonight that were outstanding. Others were sharing their amazing vacations including a spectacular trip to Yukon by Kevin and Grasslands National Park by Mike. Quite a few  were asking me to help id birds for them in their scope. We talked about the big shorebird days at Boundary Bay with 28-30 species of shorebirds before 2010 that due to declining species don’t happen here anymore. We also chatted about the high Short-tailed Shearwater numbers and in shore sightings of these and of Sooty Shearwaters on the island. The birds are being seen from Nanaimo to Comox and in Tofino and from Campbell River to Port Hardy. We will have to look for these in shore on the way to my pelagic in a few weeks and keep an eye for them in and around Vancouver too. Near Sointula they are getting pure flocks of almost 300 Short-tailed Shearwaters an unheard of event in BC waters!. I talked to my Westport pelagic leader friend Scott Mills and he’s seeing more but not those large numbers yet. Makes me scared to know what’s happening in the Bering Sea!.
My friend Gord Curry is raking in the STSH by his place - Photo: Gord Curry

I felt I was being pulled in different directions and conversations all night but in a good way. I was overwhelmed and happy all at once. The dancing shorebirds lifted everyone up tonight. The state of Afghanistan and what horrific injustices women will soon endure from the Taliban was on my mind tonight too. So was the earthquake and devastation in Haiti. It’s been a very difficult year too for everyone with COVID-19 and tonight I think we all felt we could do with and needed a break. Being out with these birds really eases anxiety. There may not have been any megas around but the people and the birds made it special, and this is what birding is really all about now, isn’t it?!. 


  1. Great Post Mel. You are an inspiration !

  2. Beautiful thoughts and beautiful birds

  3. mel thanks for all your help yesterday. I really look up to you as a fellow young female birder. you really made me feel included in all the excitement yesterday. I hope to see you out there again. this was a really uplifting post thanks for it! you have knack for making others feel special despite your high skill level.

  4. It was definitely a lovely evening! Thank you for always helping with birds ID and making sure every one sees all the various species present.

    1. thanks it was great to see you out that night was really fun and it was my pleasure :)

  5. Mel you really are a special person and the bc birding community is richer for having you in it. this is one of the nicest things I've read in a while. I'm lucky to call you my friend.

  6. Beautiful uplifting post, it really shows what people can get out of birding!


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