Subject: Best Sites (fwd)
Date: Sep 24 15:54:50 1994
From: Michael Price - Michael_Price at MINDLINK.BC.CA

re: Best Places.

In the list of 'Best Places' (and I realise that the original article was
limited to US sites) may I humbly submit that Boundary Bay, just south of
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, may qualify for entry in any article
called 'Best-kept North American Birding Secrets'? For shorebirding, it
must qualify as one of the best on the continent: 47 species of shorebirds,
40 of which occur regularly or more often than (pun resisted here) not,
including Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit.

Mega-rare sp. seen here include Far Eastern Curlew, Spotted Redshank,
Little Stint, Rufous-necked Stint (how's this for an Aud moment: not 1, but
2 Rufous-necked Stints standing next to a Bar-tailed Godwit) and Bristle-
thighed Curlew. There was a single-obs by a very good local shorebirder of
a bird he thought a Great Knot, and a sighting by at least one competent
observer of a runty curlew he thought might have been a Little in a flock
of Whimbrel, though neither sighting was definitive. The adjacent
agricultural lands support large numbers of raptors in winter, including at
times all five northern falcon species and good numbers of Bald Eagles,
both resident in the immediate area and migrants from the BC interior. The
last couple of years of prey species-crash have seen comparatively large
(15--25) numbers of Snowy Owls. For several weeks last winter it was
possible to see no less than 21 Snowy Owls on the foreshore within a
300-meter radius.

Slaty-backed Gull has become virtually annual in the standing roosts in
fields around the Bay (for further detail on the pattern of increasing
occurrence of this species in North America check out Birders' Journal, Feb
94, vol. 3 no. 1: an excellent article on, among other things, its
distribution in N America to 1993). In winter, the place is lousy with
Thayer's (Iceland?) Gulls.

Among the tens of thousands of wintering waterfowl, the Eurasian race
'nimia//crecca' of Green-winged Teal is a regular rarity, and Eurasian
Wigeon is uncommon rather than rare.

Red-throated Pipit has shown up at least once.

Should anyone be interested in visiting, the only slack period is between
the last of the northbound shorebirds in mid- to late May and the arrival
of the first southbound nonbreeding Western Sandpipers around June 20-25.
The rest of the year, there's rarely a dull moment.
--The best time for shorebirds is from mid-April to mid-May in Spring, and
from the second-last week of June to the end of September in Fall.
--for raptors, try late November to early March.
--for gulls, November to March seems to the best time.
--waterfowl are present all yr but the great numbers start arriving in
September and stay to April.
And all within a 20-45 minute drive from several large population centers
in the Greater Vancouver Regional Area.

Unfortunately, that's the problem: the Bay is very close to Vancouver and
its expanding suburbs, and its quality degrades daily as human encroachment
and non-nature-oriented usage grows apace.

Of all the major shorebird, raptor, or waterfowl staging areas in North
America, Boundary Bay is, in practical terms, unprotected. Such protection
as exists is barely even token due to a combination of the inability &-or
unwillingness of local birders to organise effectively, federal and
provincial nature bureaucrats threatened by and often actually hostile to
any 'civilian' conservation plans which might lessen their accustomed
control, hunter-dominated government 'environment' departments, a tiny,
intransigent, but very well-organised and well-connected hunting lobby
which managed to get the proposed 12% amount of protected foreshore further
reduced to a even more contemptible 8% (from 1.2 miles down to 0.8 miles of
a 10-mile-long foreshore), a rat's-nest of conflicting several municipal,
provincial, and federal jurisdictions, government and private industrial
and commercial plans for the area (such as a container port and oil & gas
drilling, etc.), private landholdings, and so on and so on.

So here is this magnificent site, certainly the most important shorebird
staging area in Western Canada, and easily one of the most accessible
anywhere on the continent, slowly going down the tubes. If anybody wants to
see it, I'd suggest doing it sooner than later.

Michael Price
Vancouver BC Canada

michael_price at