Sumas Central Road
by Gord Gadsden
This stretch of rural road in Chilliwack has been quite productive over the years especially for gull species but there has been some other surprises as well.
Sumas Central Rd., located in west Chilliwack, travels between agricultural fields of corn, broccoli and grass. This road is surprisingly (and annoyingly) busy but happily there are ample locations to pull off the road safely while avoiding areas where you might get stuck. Also, be careful during wet times as the road has shallow potholes which will splash at an alarming distance and velocity if a car drives through them.
Fall, winter and spring are this area's most busy times. By October, flocks of gulls show up in huge numbers when the conditions are right, often after a good rain. All the common species of gull have been seen here including several Glaucous Gulls and an adult Slaty-backed Gull who was in the area for a couple weeks in the winter of 2006. The large gull flocks are frequently feeding near the road and are fairly tolerant of traffic and people offering great opportunities to practice gull identification or to search for rarities.
Waterfowl are also abundant. Canada, Cackling and Greater White-fronted Geese are yearly visitors grazing on grass. Depending on what was grown on the fields, duck species vary in diversity and abundance from year to year.
Raptors are often spotted. Red-tailed Hawk and Bald Eagle are most common followed by Merlin, Peregrine Falcon and American Kestrel. Short-eared Owls have been seen in the fall. Barn Owls are somewhat regular visitors in the car's headlights when driving through at night. 2007's elusive White-tailed Kite was seen here once in early April before its final sighting in Rosedale in early May.
Another surprise visitor was of a Long-billed Curlew in middle April of 2000 feeding in a muddy section of a field. Given the right conditions, other shorebirds are very likely in this area.
Given the area's limited shrubs and trees, small birds are not seen in high numbers. However, birds that enjoy open areas, such as American Pipits, Lapland Longspurs and Western Meadowlarks, are seen regularly during the fall and winter. Red-winged Blackbirds nest in the ditches and there is often a smattering of sparrows including Song and Savannah Sparrows. At the 'S' curve just past the middle of Sumas Central Road is a section of trees and shrubs along Atchelitz Creek. Here, depending on the season one can find Bushtits, Black-capped Chickadees, warblers, flycatchers and finches.
How to Get There
Sumas Central Road is just over two kilometers in length and located in west Chilliwack south of Highway #1. It runs east-west and joins Lickman Road to the west and Evans Road to the east. As mentioned, the road is rather busy at times so make sure you and your vehicle is safe at all times. There are not many residences on most of this road but if birding areas near homes, make sure common sense prevails to respect private property and people's privacy. If things are quiet on this road, nearby Evans, Adams and Hopedale Roads are worthwhile to check on to see if the gull flocks are feeding elsewhere.