BY THE BAY: Birds bound for Alaska

The Boundary Bay region is a major stopover for flocks of sandpipers and other birds winging their way north

This is the time of year that over a million shorebirds visit local beaches as they head north for the nesting season.

The smallest sandpipers, collectively known as “peeps”, are tiny birds, each weighing only as much as a granola bar.

Individual birds are easily overlooked since their brownish-grey plumage blends with the mud. A large flock is much more noticeable, especially when they perform their amazing aerial displays.

Peeps fly 11,000 km on migration from their wintering areas in South America to their breeding grounds in Alaska, and the Fraser delta is one of only a few stopovers en route.

It is essential that the mud and sand flats of Boundary Bay, Roberts Bank and Sturgeon Banks remain viable habitat.

According to a 2014 study by Environment Canada and Bird Studies Canada, it is possible that the entire Pacific Flyway population of Western Sandpiper and Dunlin may be found on the Fraser River delta during migration.

The study authors calculated that 600,000 Western Sandpiper and 200,000-250,000 Dunlin, another sandpiper species, stop to feed just at Roberts Bank, with similar numbers occurring on Boundary Bay and Sturgeon Banks.

Each bird may stay only two to three days, foraging and roosting, before pressing on with its journey.

Sandpipers feed by probing in the mud for small creatures or by sucking up biofilm from the surface. If disturbed, they try and resettle just a few metres along to resume their feeding.

With the tide going out, the shorebirds become very spread out and distant, and can be difficult to observe. However, when the tide turns, the incoming water coaxes the feeding birds closer to shore.

With no more mud exposed, the birds sleep, preen, and relax, restoring their energy for the kilometres to come.

At this time, they are very vulnerable to attack from falcons and eagles and disturbance by dogs and humans.

Anne Murray,  the author of two nature books available in local book stores, writes monthly in the Peace Arch News – www.natureguidesbc.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Popular rector retires after 12 years with St. Mark’s Anglican Church

‘A good moment to step away,’ says Craig Tanksley

South Surrey couple donates $250K to students in honour of late son

Joseph Chung Scholarship Fund helps out 100 post-secondary students

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

Surrey RCMP investigate report of explosion at home

‘Emotionally elevated’ person taken ‘safely’ into custody: police

Man killed in fall from 3 Civic Plaza balcony in Surrey

Heavy emergency services presence in plaza at the skyscraper, at 13475 Central Ave.

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

Coronavirus concerns cause cancellation of Langley Lunar New Year celebration

Close to 1,000 were expected to attend the annual Live In Langley event on Saturday

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Most Read

l -->