Young Birder Trip to Pitt Meadows

Young Birders on a trip to Pitt Meadows - Photo: Melissa Hafting

I led a Young Birder Trip to Pitt Meadows on July 3rd -2022. The weather was awful and a few youth cancelled understandably due to the heavy rain. Incredibly 10 youth still came out and wanted to go look for the rare birds in the area. I was amazed by their enthusiasm and positive attitude and thought it was sweet they wanted to spend time with me and see great birds.

We met up at Pitt Lake and walked the dyke at Catbird Slough to where a Chesnut-sided Warbler had been found a week prior by Mike Klotz and Carli Gilmore. On the walk out we had heavy rain of course but also Osprey, Gray Catbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Swainson's Thrushes, Rufous Hummingbirds, Willow Flycatchers, Cedar Waxwings and a couple American Redstarts including a dazzling male. We also had a few Band-tailed Pigeons and Black Swifts which would only be a small fraction of the huge numbers we got later in the day. At the site the heavy rain made listening for any warblers hard and made visibility poor. However after an 1 hour I heard the Chestnut-sided Warbler everyone heard it but could not see it. It took another hour for the bird to come into view for us and all the youth got to see him. He was chasing a Yellow-rumped Warbler around and a couple Yellows.  He was a lifer for many of the youth and they got some great photos of it despite the rain. On the way out we had one Black-tailed Deer in the middle of the road.

Male Chestnut-sided Warbler in Pitt Meadows - Photos: Heather T. 

Sketch of Chestnut-sided Warbler by Raymond Liu 

A wet Black-headed Grosbeak at Catbird Slough - Photo: Daniel Graca

Bald Eagle on a rainy day at Catbird Slough in Pitt Meadows - Photo: Lukas Miller

After almost 3 hours at Catbird Slough we drove to Thompson Rd. Here we were looking for the Lest Flycatcher that Danny Tyson found a few days prior. The road was really birdy despite the rain. The rain hitting our umbrellas made it hard to hear the singing Least Flycatcher that was doing "Chebek" calls. Only Daniel Graca and I could hear the faint Least. So we decided to bird the road instead and wait for the little flycatcher to pipe up. On the road we had a dazzling male Lazuli Bunting, Red Crossbills, Band-tailed Pigeons, Willow Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Swainson's Thrushes and several Bullock's Orioles. The rain didn't stop but I suggested everyone lower their umbrellas despite the rain and then the Least Flycatcher piped up and everyone heard him. We never saw him but everyone could clearly hear him doing "che-bek" and we made a recording.  We ate our lunch in our cars during the rainstorm and then would head to Sturgeon Slough.

Lazuli Bunting in Pitt Meadows - Photo: Heather T.

After Thompson Road we drove to Sturgeon Slough and walked out on the dyke towards where the returning nesting Yellow-breasted Chats were. As soon as we got out of the car we saw singing Lazuli Buntings and several nesting Chipping Sparrows. One even landed in the path carrying food in its bill for its nestlings! As we were watching this dozens and dozens of Black Swifts flew over our head and some Vaux's Swifts. The one benefit of going out on a rainy day is it is a good swift day! 

Chipping Sparrow carrying food at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Heather T.

Black Swift at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Daniel Graca

Black Swift at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Heather T.

Clay drew our attention away from the swifts when he spotted a Black-tailed Deer feeding in the Blueberry field. This was our second deer of the day! As we continued walking Paul spotted a Black Bear sitting in the blueberry pasture munching away on the berries! This delighted the youth and we stood there watching the bear from a safe distance. 

Black Bear and Black-tailed Deer at Sturgeon Slough - Photos: Daniel Graca

As we continued out we were dazzled by the large number of Band-tailed Pigeons. Wherever we walked they seemed to be. They were either flying over us in both directions, eating elderberries in every tree we passed it seemed. This allowed the youth to get beautiful views and photos of these stunning native wood pigeons. These photos are just a snapshot of the large flocks we had. I listed 90 to be conservative but I believe we had even more!

Band-tailed Pigeons at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Daniel Graca

Band-tailed Pigeons at Sturgeon Slough - Photos: Heather T.

As we continued on the path we didn't immediately see the Yellow-breasted Chat but had fun watching 4 Eastern Kingbirds dive bombing Crows, and just interacting with each other with their noisy vocals an fluttering flights. One of the angry Kingbirds even showed his red crown after his interaction with the American Crow. We also spotted a Spotted Sandpiper and several Willow Flycatchers and Heather got a brilliant photo.

Eastern Kingbirds at Sturgeon Slough - Photos: Lukas Miller

Eastern Kingbird eating elderberries in Pitt Meadows - Photo: Bentley Colwill

Willow Flycatcher at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Heather T.

As we continued on I told the youth to keep their eyes peeled for a Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron and Ash-throated Flycatcher that all had been reported in the area. Very shortly after I said that Daniel Graca spotted an adult Green Heron sitting in the slough towards the end of the trail. It  flew over us croaking and Bentley even got a recording of it. We didn't see where it landed. As we walked right to the end it suddenly flew over us again and flew back to its original location. This allowed the whole group of us to get great views of it and see this stunning little heron in its magnificent breeding plumage. 

Green Heron at Sturgeon Slough in Pitt Meadows - Photo: Daniel Graca

We made our way back towards the Chat location and as we did on both sides of the path the trees were littered with plenty of Band-tailed Pigeons. In the sky above, the skies were filled with Black Swifts.  In one of the trees we could hear a Red-eyed Vireo loudly singing its beautiful song. Ospreys, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Common Yellowthroats were also seen. A few of the youth had Purple Martins as well and we had Tree, Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows!

Common Yellowthroat in the rain at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Lukas Miller

Osprey flying over Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Daniel Graca

Happy Youth despite the rain, gotta love their attitude! - Photo: Melissa Hafting

When we got to the Chat spot. I saw one of the chats low down to the waterline messing around in the bushes. I pointed it out to the youth but only a few got on it before it darted deep in the bushes.  After 30 mins one of the chats began to sing. We made a recording but most of the youth had not seen it yet. After another 30 mins Heather spotted one of them singing from a tree  right in the open. This afforded the youth all to get good photos and views of the bird and listen to their cool song. We likely had 2 birds but never confirmed 2 together so listed only 1 bird. Hopefully they nest successfully this year as they did last year!

Yellow-breasted Chat at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Daniel Graca

Yellow-breasted Chat at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Heather T.

As we were walking out we saw a few Bullock's Orioles and then Heather spotted 2 Sandhill Cranes feeding in the blueberry fields. It was so nice to see as they were in stunning breeding plumage. It was a perfect way to end a rainy but wonderful bird-filled day! We ended up with 63 species! Thanks to all the youth that came out and the parents who drove them!

Sandhill Cranes in Pitt Meadows - Photos: Heather T.

Sandhill Crane at Sturgeon Slough - Photo: Daniel Graca

Our eBird trip report for the day can be found HERE


  1. Thanks for hosting!! I had an amazing time despite the rain and it was unbelievably birds! So happy we got all three target rarities and I got 6 lifers!! I really enjoyed the swifts and there we’re really so many birds out! Thanks again and can’t wait for the next trip! -Raymond

    1. Glad to hear it Raymond thanks again for joining us and for the lovely card :) congrats again on your 6 lifers!

  2. Great article Mel. Always so impressed with the time you give our next generation of birders. I am also impressed with the photography that your charges come up with. Make one a little jeally. Thank you for the shout out on the Chestnut-sided and am so glad everyone got a look. Well done on the day, that would be amazing for a seasoned birder.

    1. Thanks Mike! Your little bird sure brought the kiddos tons of joy! Yes I'm so impressed by the photography of these youth and you know how Liron is now a professional photographer too and all grown up! I feel so old haha

  3. Such great birds!! Thanks Melissa for your leadership and work to connect young birders.


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