Young Birder Delta CBC - Jan 1st, 2023

Some (not all) of the young birders at the CBC 4 Youth today - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We had an epic start to our new year during the Delta youth CBC held on Jan 1st at Reifel. Coming in to Reifel many of the youth stopped for the Townsend's Solitaire (TOSO) and California Scrub-Jays in the Ladner townsite. Early in the morning the TOSO was calling loudly. I made a recording you can listen to here.

Some of the youth arriving at Reifel - Photo: Jim Lai

We met at 9 am and had 21 youth! It was a large group today and some youth came down sick or were out of town so couldn't make it. We had 73 species in the park. We started off by seeing 2 Black-crowned Night-Herons at the entrance. We then proceeded on and saw a Mallard X Northern Pintail Hybrid which was cool. Anica spotted some Bald Eagle adults in the sunshine which makes you really appreciate the beauty of these elegant raptors.

Adult Black-crowned Night-Heron at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Graca

Northern Pintail X Mallard Drake at Reifel - Photo: Raymond Liu

Northern Pintail X Mallard Drake in Delta - Photo: Toby Ye

Northern Pintail X Mallard Hybrid drake at Reifel - Photos: Josh Yiu

Bald Eagle at Reifel - Photo: Josh Yiu

We went down the east dyke searching for a Northern Saw-whet Owl but came up empty. However eagle-eyed Julia spotted a Great Horned Owl deep in a conifer. We all were mystified by how she did this!!!!It was barely visible! In fuller's slough we saw some Pied-billed Grebes, Common Goldeneye and Double-crested Cormorants. We also had 7 Eurasian Wigeons in Fuller's Slough and Hooded Mergansers, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks. Cam was able to find a Lesser Scaup but the group couldn't find one.

Double-crested Cormorant at Reifel - Photo: Heather T.

Northern Shoveler Drake at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Graca

Ring-necked Duck drake at Reifel - Photo: Heather T.

Ring-necked Duck Hen at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Graca

Northern Pintail drake at Reifel - Photo: Anica Gorlick

We looked for the Northern Waterthrush seen by my friends Rob and George but think with this arctic winter we had that it probably died. We searched on the west dyke for Ben Lambert's Swamp Sparrow but could not find it either. We also did not see a Bittern or Short-eared Owl. Shorties are sadly dramatically declining in North America and the low numbers everywhere including in Vancouver are evident. You used to see so many more shorties at Boundary Bay and Brunswick Point shand elsewhere and now it is sad. They are impacted by climate change, habitat loss and agriculture. If you want to read more on the decline of Short-eared Owls check out this article.

Hooded Merganser Drake in Delta - Photo: Josh Yiu

Gadwall Drake at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Graca

We saw several Snow Geese fly over and Canada Geese and when the geese touched down on the field I was able to pick out two Cackling Geese for the group. As we continued on we looked in spots we had Bohemian Waxwings and Common Redpolls last year but sadly it was not to be this year. In their place we got to see some lovely American Goldfinches and House Finches. Bewick's and Pacific Wrens, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were out in full force. There were lots of Spotted Towhees both Oregon and 3 Maculatus subspecies. We also saw Fox Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows. Just like last year we were able to find a Red-breasted Sapsucker at the sanctuary. It is not common here! As we continued on we were delighted to see Brown Creepers singing and climbing up the trees in front of us. The youth also had fun hand feeding many Black-capped Chickadees. 

Anica feeding Black-capped Chickadees - Photo: Jim Lai

Youth birding at Reifel - Photo: Jim Lai

Spotted Towhee (Maculatus subspecies) - Photo: Heather T.

Male House Finch in Delta - Photo: Daniel Graca

At the tower we scoped and hoped for a Ruddy Duck like last year but came up empty. From the tower we saw a Red-throated and Pacific Loon and some Surf Scoters, Short-billed Gulls and many Trumpeter Swans and some Buffleheads. Unfortunately, many of the swans kept their heads down or were too far out to ID a Tundra. Josh and the other youth had fun hand feeding some Red-winged Blackbirds.

Josh Yiu feeding a Red-winged Blackbird at Reifel - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Cam's keen ears picked up a Downy Woodpecker for us. At the top of the tower Jim Lai took a very cool selfie of us all that was 3D! It was so much fun and a new experience learning how to do this. Jim Lai also want to say thank you so much for the fun conversation and for taking photos of the group since I was not able to bring my camera today!  

A cool 3D selfie of our group at Reifel by Jim Lai

Downy Woodpecker at Reifel - Photo: Heather T.

Trumpeter Swan at Reifel - Photo: Heather T.

In the west field ponds we saw Gadwalls, Coots and Green-winged Teals, Marsh Wrens, Great Blue Herons and a few Virginia Rails. As we continued on the west dyke we looked for Rough-legged Hawks but couldn't find one but as I was scanning for one I picked up an adult Northern Shrike that all the youth got on once Jim got it in the scope for everyone. On the marsh foreshore we had several Northern Harriers which was super cool. We also found a perched Red-tailed and Cooper's Hawk and several Bald Eagles. As we were looking out there we heard a Belted Kingfisher fly over and we then found it and thought it was eating a frog but it turned out to be a fish with some fins sticking out when Heather got a photo for us!

Young Birders and adults looking out on the foreshore at Reifel - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Great Blue Heron at Reifel - Photo: Francesca Gorlick

Cooper's Hawk in Delta - Photo: Heather T.

Belted Kingfisher in Delta - Photo: Heather T.

We then had a Greater Yellowlegs call and fly over us and stopped to watch Golden-crowned Kinglets flit around us at eye level. We had several flickers, American Robins and a Varied Thrush which was nice. Even the House Sparrows were nice on this beautiful sunny crisp day. As we were checking out the display ponds Raymond spotted 3 storm wigeons!!! They are such a pretty colour variant to our common American Wigeon. We also spotted 2 intersex Mallards! We also got to get up close and personal to 5 beautiful Sandhill Cranes which the youth adored. One of the cranes tried to eat a vole in front of us but the vole got away. We had a great discussion about ethical nest photography thanks to Lukas. Francesca also brought up some great discussions about feather moulting in wild birds. Raymond discussed his recent trip to Hawaii and a White-tailed Ptarmigan that his friend found recently in Whistler. Josh talked about getting into biology at Cornell University in NY!! He plans to be an ornithologist! Congrats Josh! We all talked about our upcoming year plans and Paul talked about some incredible photo opportunities he had earlier this year with some Black Bears.

Storm Wigeon variant of American Wigeon at Reifel - Photo: Daniel Graca

Intersex Mallard at Reifel  - Photo: Heather T.

Sandhill Cranes in Delta - Photos: Heather T.

Sandhill Crane in Delta - Photo: Toby Ye

Young birders photographing Sandhill Cranes at Reifel - Photo: Jim Lai

We had a nice lunch at the warming hut where Anica's mom baked us some delicious mint chocolate cookies and then we searched at the gate entrance for the Harris's Sparrow that was present in December but we came up empty but had an impressive 50 Golden-crowned Sparrows and some White-crowned Sparrows. I won't be surprised if it turns back up at this spot!

Some of the youth (not all as some didn't want to be in the photo) on the CBC - Photo: Melissa Hafting

It was a super fantastic Christmas Bird Count at Reifel. Thank you to Kathleen Fry and Reifel for letting all the youth in for free. Thanks also to Jim Palmer and the other parents for helping me out today with the large group of youth. Thank you also to Raymond for drawing me such a beautiful owl Christmas Card and to Anica for the colouring book and to Krista for the delicious chocolate and mint cookies and to Jim Lai for the lovely card and beautiful birds and photography.

An epic day at Reifel with great people - Photo: Jim Lai

After the great day at Reifel I took some of the youth home and as we drove out over Canoe Pass we had some Mute Swans, a Peregrine Falcon and some Yellow-rumped Warblers. We were going to check if the Red Knots were in the field in Delta and we ran into Grant and Ben looking but they didn't find it so we continued on. We decided to go to Iona and check out the Rock Sandpiper which my friend and young birder program graduate Bridget Spencer relocated this morning! It was a lifer for her so I was sooooooooo happy she got it!

Rock Sandpiper at Iona - Photo: Bridget Spencer

The youth wanted it for a lifer so we walked out and found Young Birder graduate and friend Josh Brown searching for his Metro Vancouver life bird. He didn't find it when we saw him but the youth and I weren't giving up and encouraged Josh to do the same. We had just spotted one Snow Bunting and the 4 youth with me Heather, Daniel P., Toby and Raymond were so excited. We had some White-winged and Surf Scoters, Barrow's and Common Goldeneye and some Horned Grebes out off the south jetty

Barrow's Goldeneyes at Iona in Richmond - Photo: Heather T.

At the very end we saw a River Otter eating some fish. After a while some Black-bellied Plovers flew in and some Western and Least Sandpipers and some Dunlin. We decided to start walking back when a flock flew by us and guess what I spotted a Rock Sandpiper with the flock and all of us got good views of the bird in flight and I texted Josh and he saw it too and came and gave me a hug. I miss that kid! All grown up and at McGill and I am excited and proud of him for his upcoming Africa study trip! 

River Otter in Richmond - Photo: Heather T.

Yipee a truly great ending to a fabulous day! We ended up with 89 species for the full day!!! Daniel Poon said it was one of his best days ever which meant a lot to me.

We had so much fun we decided to make a plan to come back the next day with our bikes and bring more young birders to try and get them their lifer. So here is hoping we will be successful two days in a row!

Thanks to all the youth that came out today and for the supportive parents! You made my day full of a joy and a great start to 2023!


  1. Oh Wow! What a fantastic birding day for everyone! Thank you Mel for getting these young people outside into nature and encouraging their interest in birds! Days like this will be long remembered!

    1. Thanks for your kindness Kate and Happy New Year!

  2. Thank you for such a fun trip! We got so many great birds and the NOPI x MALL hybrid was definitely one of my highlights! Look forward to the next trip!

    - Raymond


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