Christmas Bird Count 2007 Part II

  • Jan. 7, 2008 8:00 a.m.

Submitted by Margo HearneTlellTlell is so pastoral. As we walked through a field to see what we could see in the dim half-light of morning there were Trumpeter Swans feeding with Canada Geese and one White-fronted Goose. The White-front had been around for some time, Noel explained, “It hangs out with the other birds and feeds away quietly.” It was a grey sort of morning and light came in slowly. When it did there were ducks in the air, birds in the ocean and crossbills in the trees. White-winged Crossbills, bright red, with white wing-bars. Seasonal reds of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Red-winged blackbirds and robins and, for variety, blue Steller’s Jays. Leslie came out to welcome us to the ranch as we tried to get a bead on the crossbills high in the trees. A Savannah Sparrow sat low in the bush, calling quietly, it took a while to really see it and the blackbirds were out in the field, two males and a female, their red epaulettes barely visible in the foggy light. Misty Meadows beach was a hive of activity as Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlin zipped and tripped along the beach as the tide fell. In the calm ocean, which had wreaked wild havoc just a few days earlier, rafts of Common Goldeneye matted the water and three species of loon fed and dove. Photographer John had six Double-crested Cormorants on the rocks and although the light stayed dim, our spirits didn’t, it’s hard to beat birding as an excuse to get out of the house and into the wild, because although we might not see much, they’re in a different light and a different place every instant. That’s the way of birds, part of the great, untamed wildness that’s disappearing in the 21st century. When we dropped in for coffee and the best cinnamon buns in the world, Chris had them on a plate waiting to warm them. We experienced such generosity all day in pastoral country, tea and goodies at the potters (after John had fed the ‘performing juncos’), coffee and Camembert at the Studio. Snow began to fall softly, blanketing the fields and woods and we had to dash away as six swans took wing into the snow. Port ClementsA brilliant sun hit the Sharp-shinned Hawk slicing through the blue air in the early morning. The water was high and birds were black dots against the sun. In the small forest in town two nuthatches fed and twenty-five Red Crossbills flew into the conifers. Beside the church a flock of juncos fed busily and a Hairy Woodpecker crept up the side of a low bush, calling loudly across the silent town and a snipe took off so hurriedly it woke a napping dog. It was time for a coffee break at the museum on the machinery of lost forests. It was so sunny and quiet I could have fallen into another time. A dog howled. Down the Kumdis Road a sapsucker tapped quietly and two otters scooted into the river in a humpbacked hurry. In the backwoods of Juskatla, Peter and Martin found a Pied-billed Grebe and heard a dipper, while in the sewage ponds a little dark duck took off with a flurry. We couldn’t figure it out and could only conclude it was a Lesser Scaup. Later in the afternoon five Ring-necked Ducks appeared in the same place. “Life is to learn” someone said. Too true. Brian and Adelia’s feeder turned up trumps again, with three white-throated sparrows, two white-crowned and four golden-crowned as well as a huge, uncountable flock of Pine Siskins. John found a very rare Downy Woodpecker in town, the first for many years. Ten Trumpeter Swans fed with the myriad ducks in the Yakoun Estuary. It was really hard to see them, for after the warmth and light of morning, black clouds and driving sleet swept in. Among the silhouettes were three Eurasian Wigeon. Four hundred Dunlin arrived and fell onto the exposed flats. Further out by the wharf a Yellow-billed Loon showed off its proud bill. The rain eased. On Kumdis Slough the first Killdeer of the day left tiny footprints in the mud and three Gadwall fed with teal, Wigeon and mallard. In the distance a kingfisher sat on a piling, a tiny totem in the fading light. Happy New Year!

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