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BC Self-drive: Lower Mainland Birding

  1. 2021
    Sunday, September 26, 2021 to Tuesday, September 28, 2021
    Tour Duration: 
    3 days
    Tour Price:
     $975 CAD
    Single Supplement:
     $240 CAD
    Tour Starts/Ends: 
    Price is $495 if you do not need accommodation in Vancouver.
    Number of Persons Limit: 
  • High diversity of shorebirds
  • Birding a variety of habitats from the ocean to the mountains
  • Superb coastal rainforests!

The so-called Lower Mainland of British Columbia holds a fine diversity of habitats, from the Fraser River estuary with its huge expanses of tidal mudflats, to the magnificent rainforests of Stanley Park, and onward up to the North Shore Mountains and the old-growth forests of Cypress Provincial Park.

Shorebird migration is in full swing during this tour. For breeding birds, we look for several choice species such as Black Swift, Sooty Grouse, Western Tanager, and Sandhill Crane. It is a stunning part of the province; despite being a metropolitan area, there are many wild spaces around.

Itinerary View Short Itinerary

Day 1: Iona Island and Stanley Park

Our self-driving Lower Mainland birding tour begins near the Vancouver International Airport just after breakfast.

We spend the morning at a superb hotspot within the Fraser Estuary Important Bird Area (IBA), Iona Island. Iona Island has wetlands, lagoons and a rocky jetty extending out into the delta, and are among the best sites to see migrant birds, especially in September.

We can expect a huge variety of ducks and some landbirds including up to seven species of swallow and some specialties not found elsewhere in Canada like Anna’s Hummingbird and Bewick’s Wren. Marshy areas support Pied-billed Grebes and Virginia Rails as well as Common Yellowthroats, Marsh Wrens, and occasionally a Yellow-headed Blackbird. Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants and an assortment of waterfowl are along the jetty. Raptors are often numerous here during migration, preying on the many shorebirds on the beach and in the sewage lagoon cells. Caspian Terns, with their huge fish-catching bills, will likely be visible close to shore. 

After lunch, we head for the popular Stanley Park and look for forest species such as Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Spotted Towhee, woodpeckers such as Pileated, Downy and Hairy, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and possible Willow, Hammond’s and Pacific-slope Flycatchers and Hutton’s Vireo. We’ll be in the throes of migration so anything could show up! Time spent along the shoreline could produce Harlequin Ducks, Black Oystercatcher and Pigeon Guillemot. Night in North Vancouver (optional, you can also return home if you live nearby). 

Day 2: Cypress Provincial Park and Minnekhada Regional Park

Our first stop on our way up to Cypress Provincial Park will be a lookout offering a spectacular view of Vancouver. Here we look for flocks of Vaux’s and Black Swifts, Sooty Grouse, Band-tailed Pigeon, Red-breasted Sapsucker, lingering Olive-sided and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Cassin’s Vireo, Pacific Wren, Western Tanager and Black-headed Grosbeak. We might even stumble upon a Northern Pygmy-Owl.

In the afternoon, we head for Minnekhada Regional Park. There is a possibility of Sandhill Cranes, which nest here. Migrant cranes might be present. A wide variety of wetland and woodland species occur in the park, including Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Willow and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Warbling Vireo, Swainson’s Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco, Spotted Towhee, Townsend’s and Black-throated Gray Warblers. Night in North Vancouver (optional, you can also return home if you live nearby).

Day 3: Vancouver area and departure

Where we go this morning will depend on what we have missed up to now. There are innumerable locations in the Metro Vancouver area that we could visit, and we will choose one or two.

We end our self-drive birding tour of the Vancouver area in the late afternoon and you can make your way home.


Featured Wildlife