Anna’s Hummingbird in Masset. (Margo Hearne / Haida Gwaii Observer)

On the Wing: Christmas Bird Count Reports 2019 part 2

Haida Gwaii’s bird count report for Tlell and Greater Massett


It was sunny, calm and warm enough for the juncos to sing. Ten Trumpeter Swans flew over the river, 292 Canada Geese grazed in the meadow and 147 Mallards floated through the morning. The ocean was glassy and we could positively see all the Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers and Pacific Loons in the nearshore waters.

The weather on this count is often too windy to sea-watch so it was a privilege to be able to gaze into the wilderness and see birds in their element. As mentioned previously, offshore diving ducks can be hard to tell apart. Having a good pair of binoculars and/or a spotting scope is a big help, especially when trying to tell a Red-necked Grebe from a Red-breasted Merganser in a lazy swell. And, more especially, when the birds are in pale winter plumage and not decked out in their fancy red feathers.

Why red?

The colour probably serves both as an attraction during mating season and protection against underwater predators. Its all in the pigments. The 44 Red-throated Loons didn’t have their red throat feathers either, ultimately, identification rests on the bird’s size, shape and activity (even if they do all look the same out there!).

While Peter was busy on sea-watch, Martin was busy on forest-watch and found two Brown Creepers, the only ones for the count. Also 30 juncos, 18 kinglets, 12 chickadees, 4 crossbills, two Hairy Woodpeckers and a jay in a bare tree. The Hermit Thrush and the Pied-billed Grebe were surprises for the Tlell count, Noel had the only kingfisher and the Peregrine Falcon shouting out over the river was a fitting end to a lovely day. Total species: 55.

READ MORE: On the Wing: Christmas bird count reports, part 1

Greater Massett

While Tlell was the way to have a day out, Masset was not! One participant exclaimed that “it was ugly out there” and he was right. Cold, wet, windy and just plain ornery. Would there be anything around? Well, of course.

In the sanctuary, the inlet and McIntyre Bay. It hasn’t frozen up yet and waterfowl quite like a good downpour; it softens the ground and stirs up the shallows where they feed.

Not so much for humans, drenched describes us. The big surprise this year was an Anna’s Hummingbird at a neighbour’s feeder. While these lovely birds have wintered over in other island communities, this was a first for Masset. It was busily hungry and spent a lot of time at the feeder, Lynn and Dennis were glad to have it around. The other rarity was a Mockingbird – that bird of sunshine and warm weather.

Unlike the Anna’s, it didn’t stay around for a photograph and despite Peter’s efforts to find it in the storm it swung away through the trees and bush and hasn’t been seen since.

The beach and ocean provided many offshore diving ducks and many gulls including Mew, Herring, Western, Thayer’s, Glaucous-winged and Glaucous. And two Black-legged Kittiwakes. Martin’s ‘usual suspects’; chickadees, kinglets, creeper, wren and ten flickers were in the forest and he also saw two Fox Sparrows, four White-crowned and three Golden-crowned Sparrows around town.

A tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitted like a falling leaf and 155 Varied Thrushes kept the numbers up. Lorrie found all kinds of birds all over the place, including a flash flock of siskins and added three Ring-necked Ducks for a total of twenty-one. In all, it was an excellent day for birds for this our 38th CBC in the Greater Massett area.

Total species were 80.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii libraries announce their most popular books from the past year

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