Christmas Bird Count For Youth in Delta 2022!

Young Birders on the Delta Christmas Bird Count for Youth - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Today, I held the Youth CBC in Delta. This year we held the event at Reifel Bird Sanctuary. Thanks to Kathleen Fry for letting us in and for allowing the youth to come in for free. The weather forecast was awful saying it was going to be sleet, heavy rain and wind. Luckily the weather was beautiful, no rain and even some sun! 15 youth turned up and we all had a blast. The kids were all masked and were happy to be socializing with their fellow young birders. We started out with a bang as we saw 2 Black-crowned Night-Herons in the open and a Merlin flying close and fast by our heads!

Young Birders looking at 2 adult Black-crowned Night-Herons at Reifel - Photo: M. Hafting

Young birders on the East Dyke searching for birds - Photo: Jim Lai

Young Birders at Reifel during the CBC 4 Youth - Photos: Jim Lai

We walked on and quickly spotted 14 Bohemian Waxwings with 1 Cedar (which allowed for a nice comparison) on the east dyke. We ended up seeing the flock in other areas of the sanctuary. It was as if they guided us along with their angelic trills. We also spotted 3 Common Redpolls that were traveling with a flock of Pine Siskins. We searched in vain for a Northern Saw-whet Owl. A Northern Shrike delighted us that Cam spotted though!
Common Redpoll at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Graca

Record shot of 2 of 14 Bohemian Waxwings in Delta - Photo: Melissa Hafting

The kids were really excited after this and just as we were high-fiving and celebrating, a Barn Owl swooped down over the east dyke and flew away from us! We later refound him off the West Dyke and while watching him we spotted 2 Short-eared Owls! We were all so excited!! Kathleen Fry(manager of Reifel) called me as she had spotted a Barred Owl so the youth got to see that too! We also had lots of fun hand feeding the Black-capped Chickadees and Red-winged Blackbirds. 

Barred Owl at Reifel - Photo: Clay ZR

Daniel G. feeding a Red-winged Blackbird with Anica at Reifel - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Young birders during the Christmas Bird Count for Youth - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Josh, Harry, Cam, Paul and Clay during the CBC4Youth - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Black-capped Chickadee - Photo: Clay ZR

We went up the tower and saw many Trumpeter Swans and there were quite a few Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks flying around. We searched for American Bitterns and Virginia Rails. We thought with the snow, we would easily find them but nope! We also didn't see any Swamp Sparrows or Marsh Wrens surprisingly. One highlight from the top of the tower though was a female Ruddy Duck!. As we came down from the tower we saw a beautiful Red-breasted Sapsucker tapping away!!

Young Birders up the tower at Reifel - Photo: Jim Lai

Red-breasted Sapsucker at Reifel - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Young birder Anica got some stunning shots of the Wood Ducks and Lukas and Daniel P. and Daniel G. got some great shots of the Common Redpolls, Anna's Hummingbirds and Cranes. Daniel Graca even got a pic of the Barn Owl before it flew off. We also got to have great views of a Peregrine Falcon that Harry spotted! There were hundreds of Robins and some Varied Thrushes too. A massive flock of Snow Geese flew over us to our delight and we had fun watching the American Coots flop over on the ice.

Wood Duck at Reifel - Photo: Anica Gorlick

Barn Owl at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Graca

Male Anna's Hummingbird at Reifel - Photo: Lukas Miller

Sandhill Cranes at Reifel - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Fox Sparrow at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Graca

Golden-crowned Sparrow in Delta - Photo: Clay ZR

Anna's Hummingbird at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Poon

The youth had fun watching the Coots on the ice - Photo: Clay ZR

I loved hearing the stories of Julia's recent trip to London and Evan's trip to SF and the birds they saw. Plus seeing the enthusiasm from Evan, Clay, Harry, Paul, Cameron and the other youth. Anica was pointing out tracks in the snow with perfect accuracy. She spotted coyote, river otter, squirrel and heron all correctly! You guys are all amazing to me!

Everyone had such a great time. It was so nice to see the youth connecting with one another (even during this difficult covid time) and being so grateful to me for coming out and organizing and leading it.

Thanks to Ilya Povalyaev and Jim Lai for helping me today on the count.

I got a beautiful gift of chocolates from Anica and also from Raymond, thank you both! Raymond also gave me this touching New Year's card, which meant the world to me.

New Year's Card from Raymond to me :) - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We ended up with 60 species. You can see our eBird checklist HERE. We had some big misses like Red-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's and Marsh Wren etc, but we also had some great unexpected birds. Most importantly we all had a great time.  Thanks to the youth who sent me nice emails and text messages after the count about the fun day they had! Thanks as well to all the parents who thanked me in person and on email!.

The young birders and I had a great time on the CBC4Youth at Reifel - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Being out with the youth really lifted my spirits in a very sad time in my life. It was the best type of medicine! Thanks to all the young birders who came out and made the day so very special.


  1. Sounds like an amazing bird count this year congrats!

  2. Mel!! This is fantastic!! There is nothing more important than introducing young people to birds and nature! WTG!! And what an exciting day at Reifel - so many birds - that's awesome - I bet the kids were excited! I'm so happy you could could do the CBC as the conditions were not great, that snow lol but it looks like an amazing day was had! I just know your Mom is so very proud of you! Great work! i'm proud of you too!

    1. thanks kate. the youth were so excited and their energy uplifted me to no end in a very depressing time. my mom told me before she died that she was proud of the work i did with young birders she told me and always supportive of my work with them in conservation education and getting the youth outdoors. it was nice of reifel to honour this booking for the youth and birds canada which we had booked months in advance. ive been a member of reifel for over 30 years and it's a great organization. it is the place i first came to love birds as a child.

  3. Thank you Mel. What a wonderful day you had under less than perfect conditions. You have set a hook in some of those kids that will last a lifetime. Looks like you have already been repaid in spades :-) Please keep up your wonderful work.

    1. thank you so much. yes the youth ive worked with through my life have enriched my life tenfold and have brought me joy in even the darkest times. thank you for your kindness.

  4. Nice to see the youth partaking in a great citizen science project as well. Thanks for sharing this post and continuing to help educate young people about the state of bird declines and the importance of conservation


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