Columbia Valley is a small and picturesque community south of Chilliwack against the US border. This valley is the northern most section of a valley that extends into Washington State. The landform may act as a natural funnel for migrating birds coming up from the south. Sumas Praire, 600 feet lower in elevation, is located to the north seperated by Vedder Mountain. Consisting mainly of farms, some agriculture and plenty of wooded habitat, Columbia Valley's diverse habitats provides excellent birding in a beautiful setting. Three main roadways, including Columbia Valley Highway, go through the area. Several short side roads also provide extra birding options. Frost Road gives an option to bird on the east side of Frosst Creek.
Due to a lack of parks or other public land, birders are restricted to the roadways. However, the area is very quiet and sees limited traffic so birding from the road is not usually a problem and there are no lack of birds to be found right along the road's edge. The roads are straight in many stretches allowing for good places to pull over. Homes are also mostly spread out giving birders plenty of choices of areas to walk and avoid going near people's abodes. However, if you choose to explore east of Frosst Creek, a small, rough trail does go up the creek from Canyon Road. The trail goes towards the border and ends at a small waterfall.
In the late spring and early summer a morning's birding can total 50 species consisting of a good mix of warblers, flycatchers, sparrows and others. Some birds are migrants but a good many remain to breed including Red-eyed and Cassin's Vireo, MacGillvray's and Black-throated Grey Warblers and Western Tanagers. Hutton's Vireo have been recorded breeding at the site. Western and Mountain Bluebirds, the former quite rare, are seen on occassion in the spring as they pass through on migration.
A good number of Pacific-slope and Willow Flycatchers are found at Columbia Valley. Expect to run into many of these birds starting in early June. Savannah Sparrows line the fence posts and are only outnumbered by the White-crowned Sparrow. Black-headed Grosbeak are also very common.
Fall gets some good migration movement and it certainly a worthwhile place to visit to see what is passing through.
In the winter, things quiet down a little but sparrows, finches and chickadees continue to be found. A pair of Harris's Sparrows spent one winter at a feeder in 1998. Owl potential looks promising at this site especially on the west ends of Henderson and Iverson Roads. Keep in mind that hanging around close to the border at night while doing a little owling might draw a little attention from the border patrol.
Deer are quite plentiful in Columbia Valley and on most visits at least one is seen. Mornings and evenings seem to be best.
~By Gord Gadsden - June 10, 2013