Snowy Owls are once again wintering on Boundary Bay’s salt marsh and in fields and marshes near Brunswick Point, Roberts Bank. Last year, these birds proved to be a huge draw for photographers and the general public, not just birdwatchers. These spectacular birds are well worth a visit, but it is ESSENTIAL that some care and thought is given to their well-being. Last year, several of the Snowy Owls died, probably because they did not get enough to eat. In order to rest and hunt, these owls need to sit quietly for long periods of time, familiarising themselves with the terrain, listening to their surroundings, and conserving their energy. When people approach them too closely and surround them so that they have no obvious escape route, the owls can become stressed. This is true of most wildlife.
In many years of watching birds and wild animals, I have always found it best to wait quietly and allow them to approach. If there are many people watching at the same time, and the birds stay at a distance, there may be no option but to enjoy the view you have. Please use binoculars, a long camera lens, or a telescope if you have one. Please stay on the dyke, do not go into the salt marsh (where a number of other species live, that can also be disturbed) and do not go into neighbouring fields. Wonderful views can be obtained on the dyke, especially if you go a little earlier in the morning or stay later in the evening. Photographers should be aware that Boundary Bay dyke is on the north side of the bay. This means that if it is sunny, you will be shooting straight into the sun, so it is better to visit on an overcast or cloudy day.
The marshes around Boundary Bay and Roberts Bank are an Important Bird Area and some of the area has just been designated a Ramsar Site (Wetland of International Importance; actually all of it qualifies). There are many birds in both locations, although seeing them can depend on tides, weather and sharp eyes. Not only can you look for Snowy Owls, but also Short-eared Owls, Northern Harriers (they used to be called marsh hawks – they have a white rump, conspicuous in flight), Western Meadowlarks, Northern Flickers, Northern Shrike, Merlins, Peregrine Falcon, Dunlin (sandpipers, that occur in huge flocks), Trumpeter Swans, Great Blue Herons, and several species of sparrows. There is lots to photograph from the Boundary Bay dyke which is 22 km long. Spread out from the crowds and enjoy the view.