My favourite thing about Ladner is indeed the George C Reifel Bird Sanctuary, located in the far north-west corner of Ladner, on Westham Island.
Ladner is located at the mouth of the Fraser River on the Fraser estuary. An estuary is a wetland ecosystem when a freshwater river mixes with a saltwater body. This is a prime nesting and feeding area in BC for migratory birds, songbirds, raptors, and waterfowl.
Admission into the bird sanctuary is $6 for an adult, and cheaper for children, families and seniors. For 50 cents, you can purchase a small paper-bag of bird seed to feed the birds.
The trails are set up over an extensive plot of land along the Fraser River estuary. The sediment-enriched Fraser River forms the northern boundary of the park, while the reed and cattail-ridden banks of the Strait of Georgia mark the western boundary. An extensive network of trails meanders along the channels, ponds and ditches.
The scenery is excellent. You can look out to Steveston directly across the river, or as far to Vancouver and the north shore mountains. To the east is Mount Baker, and to the west is Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the San Juan Islands. They even have a lookout tower (which is where I took this picture from). The view is amazing on a clear day.
Some of the more common birds you'll encounter are ducks (mallards, wood ducks), geese (Canadian, snow), American coots, American robins, red-winged blackbirds, grebes, chickadees, sandpipers, finches and sparrows. If you're lucky, you'll spot woodpeckers, hawks, owls, great blue herons, peregrine falcons, bald eagles and sandhill cranes.
This, of course, is just scratching the surface. There are dozens of species of birds to be seen!
The George C Reifel Bird Sanctuary is a must-see if you're a bird or nature lover, and you plan to spend a bit of time in the Greater Vancouver region. It's located about a 45 minute drive away from downtown Vancouver and makes for a pleasant afternoon outing.
Fondest memory: I have many fond memories of being at the bird sanctuary, both with my family, and with my grandparents. It was actually my grandparents who took me here for the first time when I was a child. I absolutely loved hand-feeding the ducks and geese. I still do!
This is a secret I learned in Ladner in the late 90's while observing a couple who had chickadees eating out of their hands!
When you purchase a bag of birdseed at the entrace to the George C Reifel bird sanctuary, there will be sunflower seeds within the mixture. (The sunflower seeds are the largest, and have the black shells).
Go to a place in the park, preferibly along the trails next to the bushes, like an area featured in my photo. You can usually see the chickadees fluttering from branch to branch, singing their trademark "chicka-dee-dee-dee".
Pour a little bit of birdseed in your hand, making sure there are sunflower seeds visible. These are the seeds that the chickadees eat.
Hold you hand away from your body, keeping your palm very flat. Keep very, very still. If you have sunglasses, or anything noticeably shiney on, take it off - the reflections scare away the birds.
But if you are still, and the black sunflower seeds are visible in your hand, you'll start to notice the chickadees fluttering closer to you. You can look up, and you'll see their heads turning to get a better look at your hand.
"Does it have sunflower seeds?" they're thinking. "Why yes! Yes! It does!"
Still, being very cautious, after the chickadee makes sure it's completely safe, they'll quickly fly onto your hand where they'll scoop the sunflower seed in their mouth... and then they'll speed off, flying back into the tree where they'll crack open the shell and eat the seed inside.
This takes less than 2 seconds. They are VERY fast. It's amazing I was able to catch this on camera! But I did! The picture you see is a chickadee that landed on my hand for all but 2 seconds. You can see that he's pausing to see if I have a sunflower seed (which I do!). A split second after, he scooped it up, and flew away to the nearest branch.