Change in weather brings change for birds

On the Wing by Marg Hearne: Changeable weather brings changes to birds.

  • Mar. 30, 2016 4:00 p.m.

Changeable weather brings changes to birds. One moment they’re out there practicing for the spring concert, next they’re hiding in the dripping forest. It’s March, the month came in gently then roared around us for a few days. Wisely, many of the winter birds decided to stay around until the north warms up a bit, but, as I wrote earlier, the robins are gathering in the fields and meadows. They have always been one of the first to arrive. They feed together on the ground then fly up to chirp cheerily from the treetops. Starlings harass them, if there’s food around those birds will often move in to drive the hungry migrants away. They are perhaps the most aggressive birds here; they travel in flocks and hold their ground against almost all else. They even chase falcons.

A group of kids came to the Nature Centre this week and took a walk out on Delkatla. It was a bright day, the geese were feeding and three herons flew by. Along the bank Green-winged Teal rested, it was a sunny day with a low tide so there was no real hurry to go anywhere. They seemed to laze in the sunshine.

The kids ran along the Stepping Stones Trail eager to climb the viewing tower and see what they could find. They were out of the classroom and into the outdoors and full of good cheer. We saw and heard the first Varied Thrushes calling from hidden places, heard the first Hairy Woodpecker high up in the trees, heard the first Pacific Wren singing its long song. We also counted a small flock of eight Canada Geese crossing the channel in front of us and over 100 Mallards across the way. We were lucky with the weather; rain had pounded down the day before and the wind rose next day.

Sometimes, after arriving back on island then driving north along the highway, just turning the corner to cross the bridge into town brings a sense of quietude. It feels timeless. Everywhere else is all action. Waves crash on the beaches, Masset Inlet sometimes runs in and out restlessly at the same time; wavelets bounce and jangle, the wind roars through the trees. Yet, on Delkatla, it’s quiet. As Sam Simpson, one of the saviours of the area said “people as well as birds need sanctuary, a place of calm in our busy lives; such a place is Delkatla.” He knew that humans need places like that for our health and sanity.

There have been many discussions on what the word Delkatla means, one, ‘water drifting in to the inside’ could have meant a haven away from the pounding surf; the other ‘place of cranes dancing’ is in fact, where cranes dance in summer. They don’t dance in the busy downtown.

We have had a few winter finches recently. The Cassin’s Finch in Sandspit has stayed around, Pine Siskins, also members of the finch family, are eating alder buds and a Purple Finch returned to the garden this week. We last saw it on December 1, it may have stayed around all winter. Of course, it could also be a migrant. Who knows?