Melissa Hafting is a Richmond resident, seasoned birder, and esteemed photographer. Melissa helps people spot rare birds in Richmond, and throughout the province through the BC Rare Bird Alert website that she runs. She is an eBird reviewer for five counties in BC, including Metro Vancouver, and the founder of the BC Young Birder Program.
Let’s get a closer look at what birding means to Melissa.
Melissa as she prepares to go birding in Richmond. | Photo: Melissa Hafting
Melissa, what does a typical day in Richmond looks like for you?
When did you start birding?
I started when I was five years old. My dad took me out to places like the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta and the Richmond Nature Park. He taught me how to hand feed birds, including chickadees, which was my spark bird. I went home and began memorizing and looking up what birds I saw in my field guide. I was instantly hooked.
What is the birding scene in Richmond like?
It is diverse. The birding scene is made up of all races, ages, and sexes. I find that people from all walks of life are into birding; we are even seeing more and more young people taking up the hobby. I am passionate about mentoring youth because they are the future stewards of this land.You can spot the small but powerful Savannah Sparrow at Garry Point Park. | Photo: Melissa Hafting
What do you like most about birding in Richmond?
I like that I can go shore birding very close to my house. During the spring and fall migration, I can go to places like Garden City Community Park and look for rare flycatchers, warblers, and woodpeckers. This year, I found a rare Red-naped Sapsucker at Garden City Community Park and a rare Dusky Flycatcher in Paulik Park. In the winter, I love to go to Terra Nova Rural Park and look for short-eared owls and other raptors, like Northern Harriers, flying over the marsh. I also enjoy spotting American Bitterns in the ditches.
In the winter, you can spot a Northern Harrier lurking around in Terra Nova Rural Park. | Photo: Melissa Hafting
Melissa spotted a rare Red-naped Sapsucker at Garden City Community Park. | Photo: Melissa Hafting
Where is your favourite place to go birding in Richmond?
One of my favourite places to walk is the jetty at Iona Beach Regional Park. Here you never know what you will see in each season. In summer, you may get lucky and see a Ruddy Turnstone or Wandering Tattler. In the winter, you may see a snow bunting. There is always something new to discover!
What makes Richmond a unique place to go birding?
Richmond is located on the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory route for many bird species. Many places in Richmond, such as Iona Beach Regional Park, are essential places for birds to rest, eat, and fuel up as they continue their migration. This ensures there is always a chance of seeing something good and unexpected here in Richmond.
Why should visitors come birding in Richmond?
Richmond is blessed with being flat, so it is easy to walk around as you go birding. The birding diversity is also great -- we have shorebirds, warblers and everything in between. You can get away from the heat in the Richmond Nature Park and look at forest birds like Red-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers, or you can sit by the beach and look at Black-bellied Plovers and Baird’s Sandpipers.
We know you love birding in Richmond, but what else do you like about living here?
I like that Richmond is a culturally diverse city. I also enjoy being close to nature, so parks and nature sites like Terra Nova Rural Park, Richmond Nature Park, Garry Point Park and Iona Beach Regional Park really speak to me. Also, who can forget that Richmond has some great restaurants as well!
Richmond is a destination that offers authentic, Pacific experiences. What’s one Richmond experience that embodies that to you?
Richmond has the Pacific Ocean right there for all of us to enjoy. You can get fresh seafood delivered to you from Steveston’s Fisherman’s Wharf. There are also great local restaurants offering fresh seafood, and you can get that real west coast dining experience here. We are lucky to live in Richmond where we can relax and get away from stressors on the beach at Garry Point Park or at Iona Beach Regional Park.
What should every visitor to Richmond do at least once?
Every Richmond visitor should visit Steveston’s Fisherman’s Wharf at least once!
Lastly, what advice would you give to a visitor?
I would advise a visitor to go to Richmond’s wonderful nature sites, Richmond’s Night Market, and the Fisherman’s Wharf. They should also try out many great restaurants in Richmond serving local seafood, including my favourite Sockeye City Grill.
Want to learn more about birding?
As you can see, Richmond is a great destination for both seasoned birders and beginners. If you are interested in learning more about bird watching, go visit BCBirdTrail.ca for itinerary ideas, trip planning resources, and much more!
Please continue to travel safely and responsibly by following BC's provincial health authority's guidelines. For more details on the latest Provincial Health Orders, please click here.
The colourful Western Tanager can be seen at Paulik Park in Richmond. | Photo: Melissa Hafting
Don't blink or you might miss it—the vibrant Townsend's Warbler is difficult to miss once you spot it. | Photo: Melissa Hafting