George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

If you have the time this Autumn & Winter and live near Delta, BC, consider making a trip down to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary. It's 300 hectares of walking paths, intertidal marshes, and ponds, and a wonderful place to wander and bird watch. We visited the sanctuary early this October, as the leaves began to turn and birds were beginning their migration.

$5 entry for adults. $1 for a bag of bird seed to share. And then, you wander in...

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The park at first seems to be entirely full of Mallard ducks who will eagerly try to chase you down for some bird seed. But look at the swarm waddling toward you and you'll spot other species, like cute Eurasian Wigeons and the creepy-but-cute, red-eyed Wood Ducks.

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Further into the sanctuary and it gets quieter. In the ponds that fall on either side of the walking path, you can spot Gadwalls, pretty Northern Pintails, and Northern Shovelers. I don't actually know much about birds, but we had a couple of friends to point them out. Binoculars are also very helpful if you want a close-up look.

I like animals a lot, but I think the appeal of seeing and identifying different birds is that it reminds me of Pokemon. Gotta see 'em all! Y'know?

As we walked past the ponds, we heard a strange rattling call. My friend quickly pointed out, in the treetops, a small Belted Kingfisher, patrolling the pond for some seafood. It was so cute! My friend also loaned me her binoculars so I could see it up close.

 Somewhere in here is a Belted Kingfisher. He's small. Can you see him?

Somewhere in here is a Belted Kingfisher. He's small. Can you see him?

 A Blue Heron, chilling.

A Blue Heron, chilling.

Eventually, another friend in our group directed us towards the Sanctuary's tower.

The last time I visited the Reifel Bird Sanctuary I was a very small child. I remembered coming up to the tower and seeing what looked like hundred of birds. Not just ducks, but snow geese and Sandhill Cranes. Sandhill cranes can grow up to 4'5", I believe, which wouldn't be as daunting now, but was terrifying back then.

As we reached the tower on this early October today, there wasn't a crane in sight.

 There were some pigeons, though.

There were some pigeons, though.

But up at the top of the rickety metal tower, we were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the marshes, which lead out to the ocean.

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It's little trips like this that make you feel serene and happy to be away from the city, just for a bit. (Unless you're afraid of birds. Then it probably sucks.)

We live in such a beautiful world and views like the one from the tower make you slow down and appreciate it. We really lucked out with the weather, too. That precise autumnal mix of crisp, cool air and warm sunshine made it easy to appreciate the beauty of the wetlands.

I enjoyed the view for some time, until my friends tried to feed some chickadees hanging onto the wire fencing and instead perked the interest of some very aggressive pigeons.

 Not a pigeon.

Not a pigeon.

 Below the tower, ducks kicked up little patterns of mud as they waded around in the shallows, nibbling at food under the water.

Below the tower, ducks kicked up little patterns of mud as they waded around in the shallows, nibbling at food under the water.

We walked back down the tower and turned back into the wooded part of the sanctuary. There we made a more earnest attempt at feeding chickadees.

They're very used to being fed. Other than being less frightening than pigeons and having less of a horde mentality than ducks, chickadees are skittish and incredibly cute, from their little black-capped heads to their little sing-song voice. Maybe I like them so much because they're about as Pokemon as you can get--not many other birds sing their own name!

Feeding them is easy. Hold out your palm, be still, and make sure they can see their snack.

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This is the kind of thing I loved as a kid but still get a kick out of now. (It's the city-person in me, I guess.)

We spent the rest of our time wandering back to the entrance, stopping every once in a while to feed the ducks and chickadees. We spoke with one of the volunteers at the park and it turns out we apparently missed out on a small family of river otters and a couple of great horned owls, but that just made me excited for my next visit. Next time, I plan on seeing some Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. To be honest I'm more interested in otters and owls, but I feel like chances are the birds will be easier to spot. Set the bar low and maybe be surprised! Good idea, right?

Have you been to the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary? Besides the birds, it's a great environment for photography and an inspirational place for painting, too, if you're into those sorts of things. Michael took all the photos in this post for me.

If you have been, what's the coolest thing you saw there? I'm looking forward to my next visit, and want to know what cool birds and animals people have seen!

Cheers,

Miriam

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All photos were taken by Michael.