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SLIDESHOW — The birds of Boundary Bay

Last week we made a quick trip Boundary Bay, an internationally recognized Important Bird Area on the Fraser River estuary.

It is an area well known for the number of hawks, owls and eagles that overwinter there, attracted to the Townsend’s voles and other rodents that proliferate in the large, grassy inter-tidal marshes south of Ladner/Delta.

A multi-use dike stretches several kilometres along the edge of the bay. We joined mountain bikers, dog walkers, horseback riders, and other bird watchers and photographers for spectacular wildlife viewing. Eagles of all ages were seen lounging in the trees while the stars of the show — snowy owls — quietly perched atop the graveyard of driftwood littering the marsh.

Although it was amazing to see the snowies up close, the biggest thrill for me was to see the many short-eared owls patrolling the area. It was also interesting to see so many northern harriers all in one place.

The hawks and owls spend their winter days hunting in the marshes, seemingly oblivious to the throngs of humans staring at them. We observed that, when a harrier or owl managed to snag a meal, a horde of bald eagles — true to their scavenging nature — would harass the hunter until it dropped its catch mid-air. The eagles would then scuffle among themselves to decide who got to gobble down the pirated bounty.

If you are looking for an interesting winter wildlife getaway, I highly recommend a trip to Boundary Bay.

Myrna Pearman is the biologist and site services manager at Ellis Bird Farm. She can be reached at mpearman@ellisbirdfarm.ca.

 
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