I have memories of visiting the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on an elementary school field trip. Easily 2 decades have passed since my prior visit. This summer we took our two young sons (aged 5 & 7) to the bird sanctuary and enjoyed a thoroughly lovely afternoon.
The George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is situated on Westham Island, just west of the community of Ladner. It consists of nearly 850 acres of managed wetlands, natural marshes and low dykes in the heart of the Fraser River Estuary. For the millions of birds seeking feeding and resting areas during their annual migrations along the Pacific Coast, the Bird Sanctuary is ideally located. It is a place where wildlife and their habitats are protected from harm, and it lies next to miles of flat marshland and the farmland of Westham Island.
We brought snacks, water, binoculars, sunglasses and hats with us. Our comfy walking shoes and a bit of spare change (to purchase bird seed) and we were ready to go. The reception desk equipped us with the bird food and a map. The walk can take 30 minutes or as long as you like. There are many paths to visit, countless bird houses to admire, hundreds of ducks, geese, cranes & other feather-friends to snap pictures of, and blinds to peer out. Our kids were thoroughly entertained during our entire 2-hour visit.
The main destination of the walk is the lookout tower. Approximately 3 stories tall, the tower offers uninterrupted views of the wetlands straight out to the ocean. Word to the wise, as the tower is made of a metal mesh, wearing a skirt isn’t the best idea (and yes, I learned that one the hard way).
There are many benches scattered throughout the sanctuary. About 3/4s of the way around you will find a lovely dock with plenty of seating. We enjoyed a warm sunshine picnic listening to the birds and watching them float in the water below us.
The highlight of our visit was seeing a newly born crane and its parents. The birds are surprisingly comfortable around people and allow visitors to get reasonable close to them. Of course, every needs to respect the fact the birds are wild and the sanctuary is their home and we are merely visitors. A passionate volunteer was watching the birds at the same time as us. She offered up fascinating information about the cranes and the social goings on at the sanctuary. If you see a volunteer, I highly recommend engaging them in conversation. What a fount of information & fun facts!
Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary:
Dates: open 6 days a week (closed Mondays)
Time: 9am – 4pm (last entry at 4pm; everyone must leave by 5pm)
Address: 5191 Robertson Road, Delta (Westham Island)
Directions: The Sanctuary is 13 km west of Ladner in the Municipality of Delta. West of the intersection of Highways 10 and 17A. From Ladner, follow Ladner Trunk Road (Highway 10) west to 47A Avenue and on to River Road. Follow River Road westward for 3 km and cross the bridge to Westham Island. Follow the main road to where it ends and there is a sign pointing left towards the driveway entrance gates of the Sanctuary. Follow the driveway 1 km to the Sanctuary parking lot and the facilities.