Visit Reifel, one of Canada's top birding areas, for the spectacle of tens of thousands of waterfowl, as well as views of raptors, shorebirds, owls, and cranes.
By Anne Murray | Published: 12/22/2011
Reifel is one of Canada’s top birding areas, popular with keen birders and beginners alike. I enjoy visiting during every season because the diversity of habitats means a good mix of birds. Late summer is especially pleasant, when ripening berries attract Cedar Waxwings, shorebirds arrive in the West Ponds, and dispersing juvenile birds wander through.
The sanctuary can be a sociable place, as birders gather to watch Western Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and other shorebirds. Occasionally a Peregrine Falcon will descend dramatically on the flock and stir up the migrants.
Fall and winter are also terrific times. Lesser Snow Geese arrive from Russia beginning in late October and feed in the sedge marshes and nearby farm fields. Waterfowl are abundant, and a dozen species can readily be seen on a winter’s day. Other sought-after birds include Black-crowned Night-Heron, Sandhill Crane, and nesting Great Horned Owl, and I always keep an eye open for an elusive American Bittern or Virginia Rail in the cattails. — Anne Murray
Anne Murray is the author of A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay and Tracing Our Past: A Heritage Guide to Boundary Bay (Nature Guides B.C.). She also wrote about geolocators in the article The golden age of tracking, and also about Drayton Harbor, Blaine, Washington, Hotspot Near You No. 149, and the Boundary Bay Dykes, Delta and Surrey, British Columbia, No. 173.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Marshes, wetlands, ponds, trees, and shrubs surrounded by agricultural fields.
Flat gravel trails; many wheelchair-accessible.
Year-round: Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Cooper’s Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Sandhill Crane, Great Blue Heron, Hooded Merganser, Bushtit. Winter: Lesser Snow Goose, Trumpeter Swan, Northern Pintail, American and Eurasian Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Dunlin, Greater Yellowlegs, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Varied Thrush, Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Rough-legged Hawk, Bald Eagle, Long-eared Owl. Spring and early summer: Wood Duck, Tree Swallow, Rufous Hummingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Marsh Wren. Late summer and fall: Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Western, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Red-necked Phalarope.
When to go
November to mid-December or mid-March to mid-April for tens of thousands of Lesser Snow Geese; fall through spring for owls, dabbling ducks, wintering shorebirds, raptors, sparrows. August to September for migrant shorebirds.
Restrooms, warming hut, gift shop, recent sightings list. Guided walk 10 a.m. every Sunday. Tower at West Ponds offers panoramic view over river and marshes.
British Columbia Waterfowl Society sanctuary. Open 9-4 daily. Fees: $5 adults, $3 seniors and children. Free parking.
The entrance area can be busy with visitors; walk farther down the trails and around the West Ponds for quieter viewing.
For more info
Boundary Bay Regional Park
12 miles south of Reifel on Boundary Bay Rd. in Tsawwassen. Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, migrant shorebirds and songbirds, Brant and thousands of ducks in winter.
Iona Beach Regional Park
North of Vancouver International Airport on Lulu Island, Richmond. Breeding Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Purple Martins. Past rarities: Long-tailed Jaeger, McKay’s Bunting.