Delta: bird watching

By Jan Westell   Trail Canada

Visitors to Delta (between Vancouver and the US border) can enjoy panoramic views of mountains to the north, Georgia Strait to the west, and Boundary Bay to the south. Yet, despite great potential for aquatic adventures, it is bird watching that has become this community’s greatest tourist draw. Since the majority of Delta is rural and flat, with vast tracts of agricultural land that are wetland-rich, the area makes an appealing winter oasis for thousands of birds that head south along the Pacific Flyway migratory route.

All four types of migratory birds can be spotted in abundance in this area, at any time of year, which are: water birds (such as ducks and geese), raptors (such as hawks, eagles, falcons, osprey and owls), shore birds (such as cranes, herons, gulls, and sandpipers), and land birds.

One of the most spectacular sights in the fall is the arrival of thousands of snow geese, which travel approximately 4,000 miles from Wrangel Island, Russia, and tend to feed and rest on Delta’s Westham Island, often within the vicinity of the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary. The bird sanctuary features 344 hectares (850 acres) of managed habitat and estuarine marsh, with over 280 species of birds that have been spotted and recorded in the area.

Patrons to the bird sanctuary can feed the ducks and geese, follow a trail around the perimeter, or climb a man-made lookout for a greater vantage of Ladner Marsh or Georgia Strait. Avid naturalists can also take cover in a blind, for closer observation of wildlife activity. Observant bird watchers may chance upon the once-threatened Pacific Coast trumpeter swan, which is commonly spotted in local farm fields on Westham Island, near Burns Bog, or elsewhere in east Delta, during their migratory fall stopover.

Delta’s Boundary Bay dike offers ideal vantage for viewing birds of prey, some which are in greater abundance in winter, including bald eagles, hawks, falcons, snowy owls, and osprey. The dike borders a flat grassy area that buffers the bay’s foreshore, a common area for spotting wading birds, such as herons, and hundreds of sandpipers.

Winter weather can be less desirable in this coastal area, but that doesn’t stop the enthusiasm amongst local naturalists who gather for the annual Christmas bird count, and vie for top spot. The bird count is a North American tradition that dates back over 100 years, and was intended as a means to monitor the status of resident and migratory bird populations.

Despite the occasional winter squall, South Delta offers some of the most warm, and sunny weather in the Lower Mainland, throughout the year.

Delta Features

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