Pomarine Jaeger at a distance,. (Margo Hearne)

Taking on the World

Townsend’s Warblers are ready to fly the coop

by Margo Hearne

‘His tininess’ has been coming the feeder regularly. It drinks the sugar/water mix, sits for a moment then flies off. A female hummingbird occasionally shows up, it could be a nesting pair (making it a family event) but they seem to be the only pair this season. The territorial squabbling that occurs when there’s more than one pair isn’t happening. The birds feed more at daybreak and dusk; in the sandpiper world that’s when the nest exchange occurs as the parent brooding the eggs on the night shift gives way to the parent on day shift. Its probably the same with hummingbirds sharing nest duties.

The ocean was busy this week. At high slack sixty-plus eagles flew over the nearshore waters and flocks of gulls and loons circled offshore. The attraction was a large school of small fish. We watched the eagles dip their talons into the water and come up with ‘handfuls’ of what appeared to be sand-lance. Many of the silver fish fell back into the water to be eaten by the other birds. It was a phenomenon. A Pomarine Jaeger, ever the opportunist, swept through the flock and chased down a gull until it dropped its fish which the jaeger took and flew away with. We occasionally see this kind of action from the ferry but rarely from land. As the current moved west the birds also moved until they were out of sight.

There is a lot of life in the ocean at this time of year, its surprising that so many whales have died along the west coast with such wealth around. The question is whether or not the food is toxic. Literally tons of plastics swirl around the Pacific Ocean right now and tiny pieces of Styrofoam look edible to small things that are eaten by big things. Banning single use plastics will be a big adjustment for us but it is essential if there’s to be anything left alive in the sea.

Right now, on Tow Hill Beach, it doesn’t take long to fill the back of a pick-up truck with plastic waste; Styrofoam heads the list. It’s lightweight so lands on the upper high beach and will return to the water on the next big tide if its not salvaged. When we were there on Sunday the CHN monitor at the beach entrance told us that many of the folks that had come off the beach had picked up detritus and she felt very positive about it. We can all do a little and, as there are so many of us, a little can quickly amount to a whole lot.

Time’s a-flying and already the robin chicks have fledged and the Townsend’s Warblers are ready to fly the coop. The eagles continue to shout from the high spruce, its chicks will soon be out and about and, like the hummingbirds, will be ready to take on the world.

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