Trip Report by Janet Snell and Jan Lowcock
On Sunday, November 13, a group of nine enthusiastic birders visited Lighthouse Park in Point Roberts, Washington. For quite a few participants, this was their first visit to Point Roberts and we couldn’t have picked a better day. A sunny sky and calm seas provided good visibility and excellent conditions for birding.
Point Roberts is a squarish peninsula that juts into the Salish Sea as the coastline turns the corner from south to east towards Boundary Bay. The “lighthouse” situated at the southeast corner is a prime location for birding and sea mammal watching. At this location, just beyond a cobbled beach, a deep underwater bluff extends down providing deep water foraging for birds hunting for small schooling fish like smelts. As a result, a wide variety of bird groups can be seen; from sea birds (eg. pigeon guillemots, murres, murrelets), sea ducks (eg. scoters, harlequins, golden-eye, mergansers), shore birds (eg. sanderling, turnstones, sandpipers) as well as cormorants, loons, and grebes. (See bird list below).
Coleader Jan Lowcock brought her viewing scope for the group to see the more distant sea birds. As well, we were fortunate to meet several highly skilled birders (including local bird expert, Melissa Hafting) who kindly shared their knowledge and viewing scopes with us. They pointed out the flocks of Ancient Murrelets, Murres and Guillemots just beyond the range of our binoculars. It was an extraordinary day of birding for they had counted approximately two hundred Ancient Murrelets already.
In addition to these counts, both Jan Lowcock and Melissa Hafting spotted a Rock Sandpiper in flight along the rocky shore. This was added to the rare BC Bird list for the day (https://bcbirdalert.blogspot.com/p/vancouver-and-fraser-valley.html).
We also viewed some sea-going mammals including Sea Lions (likely Stellars) lolling about and Harbour Porpoises bobbing in the distance. One participant arrived early and saw a River Otter patrolling the shoreline.
Our group continued away from the beach area into the terrestrial portion of the park where shrubby rose and hawthorn species provide cover for many small songbirds. Here we saw Golden-crowned, Fox and Song Sparrows. Unfortunately, we did not see the White-throated Sparrow that had just been spotted before we arrived. Overhead, a Red-tailed Hawk circled.
As we reached the parking lot, our three hours of birding was up, and we had recorded 34 species on eBird. Our trip photographer, Adam Wang, took many beautiful photographs to record the day. Our original plan was to also visit other Point Roberts birding hotspots such as the Marina Jetty and Lily Point. Those sites will be the destination for another day.
Postscript: In the early afternoon, a remaining group of Nature Vancouver birders found 10 additional species including a small flock of entertaining Sanderlings on the beach near the Marina Jetty, a surprise Western Meadowlark in the nearby grasses. Redhead Ducks were also spotted on the nearby Edwards Drive pond. These ducks are considered rare in our region and we were alerted to them by Melissa Hafting and others. What a great finish to the day.
Species count – Lighthouse Marine Park, eBird
|Canada Goose||Common Loon|
|Harlequin Duck||Brandt’s Cormorant|
|Surf Scoter||Pelagic Cormorant|
|Black Scoter||Double-crested Cormorant|
|Common Goldeneye||Red-tailed Hawk|
|Red-breasted Merganser||American Crow|
|Pied-billed Grebe||Black-capped Chickadee|
|Horned Grebe||Ruby-crowned Kinglet|
|Black Turnstone||European Starling|
|Rock Sandpiper||American Robin|
|Common Murre||House Finch|
|Ancient Murrelet||Fox Sparrow|
|Bonaparte’s Gull||Dark-eyed Junco|
|Ring-billed Gull||Golden-crowned Sparrow|
|Glaucous-winged Gull||Song Sparrow|
|Pacific Loon||Spotted Towhee|