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Birds at Richmond’s Iona Beach Regional Park

A male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) singing in the marsh at Iona Beach Regional Park in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

song spread display red-winged blackbird male at iona beach

“Song Spread” display by male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) (Purchase)

In early June I visited Camosun Bog in Vancouver’s Pacific Spirit Park but found myself with enough of the evening available to visit another location. I chose to visit Iona Beach Regional Park, in order to take a look at getting some better bird photographs than the last time I visited in the Winter (photographing Snow Geese). Iona Beach Regional Park is well known for the 4km long Iona Jetty that includes a walking/hiking trail. There are also two ponds that are popular with bird watchers and photographers. A lot of long lenses at this park!

The primary bird species I was expecting here in large numbers were the Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and I was not disappointed. I’d not seen “tame” individuals before, but I guess enough people visit Iona and feed them next to the parking lot, that some resort to begging when new people show up. One male Red-winged Blackbird even got so close to me on a boardwalk railing I had to back up in order to photograph it. There was a possibility of seeing a Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) at Iona Beach, but I didn’t manage to spot it. What I did see was a display by the male Red-winged Blackbird shown above. This posture of hunching forward and spreading the tail (while singing) is called a “Song Spread” display. As with a lot of other bird displays, this one is largely for territory defense and to attract females.

red-winged blackbird male in mountain ash tree

Male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) in Mountain Ash Tree (Purchase)

While walking around the various ponds at Iona Beach, I photographed this singing male in a Mountain Ash tree. The marsh/pond area there is not a quiet place, with a lot of different species singing and calling. There was also periods of quiet when a Bald Eagle would fly over. The birds here didn’t seem as concerned with the Osprey that kept showing up, fishing in the ponds. I saw it drop down and pick out a fish at one point, and heard it hit the water a few more time after that. It likely had a nest with hungry mouths nearby.

perched tree swallow calling out at iona beach

A Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) calls at a passing swallow while perched on a Blackberry branch (Purchase)

There are a lot of Swallows at Iona Beach Regional Park darting around catching insects. The park also has quite a number of nesting boxes available the Swallows use, so that likely adds to its popularity. The photograph above shows a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) perched in some Blackberry bushes, calling to another Tree Swallow that periodically joined it. At the time I was unaware we were standing right next to one of the nest boxes and once we backed up, these two went back to tend to their nest inside. Ooops!

immature tree swallow landing

An immature Tree Swallow has a rough landing (Purchase)

At another nesting box further up the trail I noticed this juvenile attempt a landing on top of the box a number of times. It would land on the top edge, then slide off the back on its initial attempts. The photo above shows the first successful, if a bit shaky, landing on the top of the box. I presume the other adult swallow present is one of the parents supervising flying and landing lessons soon after this one has fledged.

flock of cedar waxwings perched

Group of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) Perched in the Blackberries (Purchase)

I have photographed Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) before, but never this many in one frame. These birds were fairly elusive when I visited, preferring to stick to the top of some nearby Cottonwood trees versus anywhere I could photograph them. Then I noticed one in the blackberry bushes in front of me. Then another, and another. Can you spot all 5 Waxwings in this photo?

For more of my bird photography visit my Bird Photos Gallery in the Image Library.

Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens) Migration at Fraser River Delta

A flock of Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens) take flight from a farmers field in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, Canada.

snow geese flock flying in delta bc

Snow Geese Taking Flight (Purchase)

Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens) were one species I was interested in photographing with my new Canon 100-400mm lens, and so I made 3 day trips to photograph them. The first one was to Ladner and Tsawwassen in Delta, BC. I didn’t really have a good idea as to where to find them, so I drove around Westham Island first, and saw zero Snow Geese. I then drove around Ladner looking at the various fields and saw zero Snow Geese. I decided to head to Tsawwassen, and when I was on my way down there I didn’t see Snow Geese – I heard them. I got out of the car and a large flock flew out of a field, likely stirred up by a passing bird of prey. They circled their field for a minute and then flew off. This was not a photo opportunity but at least I’d seen some at last! When I reached Tsawwassen I found another field with geese in it, and this time they stayed put for a moment. I made the second photo here at that time. The geese were feeding on the various roots and seeds of the cover crop in the field, and there were many comings and goings. Eventually a Hawk passed by and the entire flock took to the sky – and I made the first photograph above. It seems fairly clear that most of the opportunity to photograph these birds will be either a bunch of fairly relaxed birds in a field, or a bedlam of cacophony as they all vocalize their displeasure at having to leave the same field. They are not quiet when doing so!

snow geese landing in a farmers field

Snow Geese Landing in Farm Field (Purchase)

Snow Geese breed on the Arctic tundra – and many of these migrating down west coast of North America will have come from breeding grounds such as Wrangel Island in Russia. Over 100,000 pairs breed on that island alone – one indicator the Snow Goose population is doing very well. The Fraser River Delta and the farm fields in Delta and Richmond, as well as local wetlands, are a good source of food for the geese as they migrate south. They will also make a stop here on the way back north to breed in the spring.

snow geese flock resting at iona beach

A Flock Rests at Iona Beach (Purchase)

On my second trip to photograph Snow Geese I had little success and saw zero Snow Geese. I drove all around the south Delta area and what was really odd was I didn’t even spot a Great Blue Heron – a fairly common species to see in the farm fields and along the roadside ditches. Just not a good day for birding I guess! The next trip I made I headed to Richmond to visit Iona Beach Regional Park – a place I had never been. There were several hundred Snow Geese along the shoreline of Iona Beach, and they were not disturbed by a human nearby. The photograph above shows a flock of geese resting along the shore. Most of the geese were in a flock, a few looked to be broken off into small family groups of 3-6 geese (like the pair in the photo below), and there were a few that seemed to be relatively independent.

a pair of snow geese at iona beach

Pair of Snow Geese at Iona Beach (Purchase)

From Iona Beach Regional Park I drove south and visited Terra Nova Rural Park and walked along the West Dyke Trail – both places I had not been before. I’d heard there were a lot of geese here, and there were, but not really close enough to photograph. There was a lot of wildlife around though, so I think this will be another good spot to revisit in the future. When I last visited Steveston in Richmond I noticed these odd, wooden contraptions placed periodically along the shoreline. There were more near the north end of the dyke trail, and so I decided to look them up later. Turns out they are old radar reflectors – though I’m not sure if they have any use at this time, or were used by ships or aircraft. Richmond doesn’t really have much in the way of topography to bounce a radar signal off of, so I guess this was a method of getting around that. This one did add a bit of interest to the photograph below as a large flock of geese flew in from the fields nearby (I could hear them coming for many minutes) and landed in the water.

snow geese flying at the fraser river delta in richmond

The Fraser River Delta in Richmond (Purchase)

For more of my photographs of animals visit my Animals and Wildlife Gallery.