Monday, 10 October 2011

Stanley Park, Vancouver, Oct 2011

Nearly 3 years ago I did a trip to Vancouver’s Stanley Park with the inestimable Charlie Moores. It was he that inspired me to start Redgannet (although some less charitable observers have suggested that the blog is perpetrated rather than written), following the style and format of his much-missed charliesbirdingblog. Charlie has given up flying around the world and can now be found talking naturally with guests on his podcast website.

The light came late this morning and I had to back-track to get any decent photographs, so shadow-watchers may see some crazy time lines in the sequence of photos in this post.  Follow W. Georgia St. north-west to Google Earth Ref;  49 17 40N 123 08 14W and you will find yourself at the south-east corner of the 18 (-ish) hectare Lost Lagoon. The season is still a little young for the great variety of ducks that might be found here during the winter. Instead, there was a big head of Canada Geese as first light fell.

I get plenty of bad photographs in my pursuit of half-decent ones, but occasionally I fluke an atmospheric picture through no intention or talent of my own. Often overlooked as a trash bird, the geese were in their place and time today and a smaller version amongst them was a life-first Cackling Goose. The split from Canada Goose was made in 2004, but looking at the size and bill shape makes me wonder what took them so long.

Raccoons were seen on the path as I walked around the lake in a clockwise direction towards the bridge. They are often fed by well-meaning park visitors, but they have become very used to people and often come into conflict with dog walkers and parents with small children.

I was using a bicycle this morning and my intention was to take a gentle ride around the sea-wall, but this meant returning to W. Georgia St. and crossing over to comply with the one-way bike trail which runs anticlockwise. This should be the best way to chase the light, but high trees and raised ground cast long shadows out onto the water to shade anything close to the shore.

Any visit to Vancouver will inevitably include gulls. Glaucous-winged Gulls were the most common today, but in fewer numbers than I recall. The only other species seen was the Short-billed (Common) Gull. One of the Glaucous-winged Gulls was trying to swallow a starfish and looked to be gagging on it. A couple of walkers stopped to watch, but became grossed out by the constant regurgitating to get a better grip. Another passerby was very impressed giving it a high score for technical effort and artistic impression. The fay, English critic gave it a “Yes” and it went through to the next round. For the full performance and to vote for the Glaucous-winged Gull, click this link.

Out on the water were Pelagic Cormorants as well as Double-crested Cormorants with their much thicker bills and orange chin. The only ducks seen along the first stretch were American Wigeon. Good numbers of Horned Grebe were seen and a Harbour Seal came quite close to shore.

At around the 3.8km mark, the Ravine Trail leads up to Beaver Lake. This is always a good place to look for Spotted Towhees, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees. They are often fed here and are very approachable.

Beaver Lake, as the name suggests has a Beaver lodge and the rodents constantly block the overflow drain to increase the depth of the shrinking pool. It is choked with weeds now and is becoming quite swampy with only a tiny piece of open water left. The Wood Ducks love it here and also like to endear themselves to the people who come here to feed them.

Back out on the sea-wall I passed under the Lion’s Gate Bridge and was rewarded with a view out across the open water towards the Strait of Georgia which separates Vancouver Island from the mainland. There was a large flock of Scoters out there.  The big white face and head patches of the Surf Scoters stood out from a distance, but there were a couple of oddities amongst them. I took a seat with Stan and Mary Stanford (who so loved the view from here) and scanned the flock carefully. A small group who stayed very slightly removed from the main flock proved to be White-winged Scoters and there was one Long-tailed Duck mixed in with the melee.

In a small bay close to Third Beach a pair of Harlequin Ducks rode the gentle swell of an incoming tide. I wanted to get a closer picture and clambered down onto the rocky shoreline to wait for them to round the headland, but the tide pushed me back as the ducks paddled further out at my approach.

I had come full circle now and stopped for a passable fish and chips at a café near to First Beach. A Glaucous-winged Gull was keening pitifully for its parent who was watching my chips with a dark eye.

Back at the bridge and the Lost Lagoon, I managed to get a few of the photographs that I missed in the horrible light of an overcast morning. The Raccoons were out in force with at least 8 of them begging for scraps from anyone who passed.

The Great Blue Heron was in a better position with some nice warm afternoon light falling on him, but still he looked grumpy.


Species seen; 29
Horned Grebe 25, Double-crested Cormorant 12, Pelagic Cormorant 35, Great Blue Heron 5, Mute Swan 6, Cackling Goose 1, Canada Goose 400, Wood Duck 15, American Wigeon 120, Green-winged Teal 5, Mallard 80, Harlequin Duck 2, Long-tailed Duck 1, Surf Scoter 350, White-winged Scoter 8, Cooper’s Hawk 2, American Coot 8, Short-billed Gull 15, Glaucous-winged Gull 35, American Robin 2, Varied Thrush 1, Black-capped Chickadee 6, Chestnut-backed Chickadee  8, North-western Crow 400, Spotted Towhee 12, Song Sparrow 40, White-throated Sparrow 3, Golden-crowned Sparrow 6, Dark-eyed Junco 35, Red-winged Blackbird 1.

The path along the sea-wall passes the First Peoples’ totem poles and the attendant interpretative centre.
Stanley Park, Vancouver, YVR