Sunday, May 30, 2010

Alaska Holiday - Day 3, Bellingham

We'd decided to visit the Reifel Bird Sanctuary ( on Sunday. This nature reserve is less than an hour's drive from Bellingham, across the border in British Columbia, Canada.

Sat down to breakfast before we left, Helen spotted a pair of Evening Grosbeaks moving in to feed on Alison's garden feeders (which we noticed had multiplied somewhat from our last visit with her!). Of course, my camera was in our room and by the time I'd grabbed it, they were gone...

We got a day visa at the border and headed on to the reserve, arriving just after opening time, as only the third car. I like getting to places early, it's the best time of the day both because of fewer people and therefore less disturbance, but also birds are generally most active in the few hours after dawn.

In the car park various swallows were picking-up nesting material, including this Tree Swallow:

The feeders and their locales were busy. One had attracted a Rufous Hummingbird:

Go on, have a closer look, that's an un-cropped picture, as indeed is this one:

Having paid the entrance fees we headed into the reserve, following a short path to the outer loop or perimeter of the reserve. As the trail forked, Golden-crowned Sparrows were browsing on the path:

Further along we got really good views of Wilson's Warbler:

And more Song Sparrows:

The path reaches a junction with a couple of shorter trails to hides/blinds, however this junction proved to be a very productive spot. We added Townsend's Warbler to our holiday list:

Brief glimpses of a Western Tanager:

Another Black-headed Grosbeak:
And a pair of Cedar Waxwings:
The male had been providing food for the female and they were generally pair bonding while we watched them.
Heading out alongside one of the series of ponds, Marsh Wren showed well:

We reached the watchtower, spotting both Cinnamon Teal and Green-winged Teal in an adjacent pond:
As well as distant views of some waders/shorebirds. We proceeded on around the perimeter path, getting closer to the waders, the larger of which turned out to be Long-billed Dowitchers:
With the smaller birds being Dunlin:
We cut out one small section of the perimeter loop, heading down a trail where we'd seen Sandhill Crane landing. Out on the water, a pair of Blue-winged Teal:
On a log in the pond, a drake American Wigeon:
Immediately behind him sat a pair of Gadwall:
From the inner trial we saw both a Sandhill Crane on a nest:

And the male on the path as a family wandered past. By the time we got there the male had flown off in search of food. We waited a while but he didn't return while we were there.
We were now headed in the general direction of the car park, in order to head back around lunchtime, as we had planned, but there was still plenty to see including a Great Blue Heron, very close to the path (reminding me of the views we had in the Everglades - see January 2009):

A new species, Hooded Merganser:

And a familiar one, Northern Pintail:

I would recommend a visit to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary at any time of year, it was a really lovely place, though popular with families so an early start would also be recommended.
From Reifel, we headed back into the USA and on to first Birch Bay (a holiday location where Alison's family has a flat) then back to Bellingham to confirm arrangements for our planned birding trip to San Juan Island on Monday.

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