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Spot shorebirds along the salt marsh

AUTUMN is showing its wonderful colours - maples sporting gold, orange, and red; mushrooms in a myriad of beautiful shapes and delicate hues - and birds on the move.

AUTUMN is showing its wonderful colours - maples sporting gold, orange, and red; mushrooms in a myriad of beautiful shapes and delicate hues - and birds on the move.

Neotropical (summer resident) birds like warblers, vireos, and tanagers have swept through and largely departed (a few sometimes linger) for wintering areas as far south as South America (Brazil, Chile). Rufous hummingbirds left in September for their winter quarters in Southern Mexico, leaving Anna's as our wintering hummer.

Shorebirds (waders), many of whom breed in the far north, made passage through here in September. A few species winter locally, including sanderling, dunlin, greater yellowlegs and long-billed dowitcher; killdeer, black oystercatcher and Wilson's snipe are locally resident species.

Maplewood Conservation Area's tidal (mud) flats and salt marsh are the best places to watch for shorebirds on the North Shore, but watch the tides!

Keep a sharp eye open for rarities like the marbled godwit and long-billed curlew which have been seen on occasion at Maplewood.

There is usually a good gull variety on the Flats, as well - check for ringbilled, California, mew and Thayer's. For shorebirds and gull watching a good birding (spotting) scope is a real asset.

Ospreys that breed on Burrard Inlet leave us for warmer climes from Mexico to South America. It's a signal to watch for migrating raptors like the turkey vulture, peregrine falcon, merlin and northern harrier.

Sharp-shinned (Sharpie), Cooper's hawk (Coop) and red-tailed hawk which are resident species have their numbers augmented by wintering birds from out of town. Look for bald eagles perched on dolphins and pilings off of Maplewood's Osprey Point.

Small birds like the darkeyed junco, fox sparrow and golden-crowned sparrow are arriving back at the sanctuary and backyards from breeding areas in the mountains.

Don't pass up a chance to get out on a misty morning to enjoy dew-covered spider webs, with droplets that sparkle like diamonds in the rising sun (and don't forget your camera). And its apple time, pumpkins too and birds on the move. It's autumn on the North Shore.

Al Grass is a naturalist with Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia, which sponsors free walks at Maplewood Conservation Area on the second Saturday of every month. The next walk is this Saturday, Oct. 8, where you can learn about the fall migration at Maplewood. Meet at 10 a.m. at Maplewood Flats, 2645 Dollarton Hwy. Walks go rain or shine.

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