By Margo Hearne
We were lucky to have a few days when the wind stopped howling and calm was restored. A bit too calm really, the previous night’s storm had downed the power at Port and the town was still as a whisper for most of the morning. No robins sang for the first time in quite a few years. They usually hide in the bright holly downtown, but not this year. The gale seemed to have blown everything away. But as the day brightened two White-crowned and two Golden-crowned Sparrows showed up with the Juncos at the Lowrie’s fine feeder and two Eurasian Teal (European cousin to the Green-winged Teal) dabbled in Kumdis Bay with 108 of their kin. But – sigh – where are all the ducks that used to feed at the Yakoun Estuary? Only a mere handful was seen compared to earlier counts of 3000 or more. And the Trumpeter Swans are gradually succumbing to something other than life. Only eleven in all, down from over 60. On the up-side the first ever Sooty Grouse, the new name for the Blue Grouse, for the Port Clements count was seen along the highway and 45 Common Redpolls swung through the alder. It’s been a good year for Redpolls; they haven’t been seen in such numbers on island for ages. A Sharp-shinned Hawk tore out across Stewart Bay, being chased by a flock of crows and, as it deked and darted through the melee, a large, long-tailed raptor joined the crowd. A Northern Goshawk! What a bird! Lovely. A fitting end to a fine day.
The sea was still sloppy from the 65-knot winds of two days ago and it was hard to find the birds although eleven Red-throated Loons were quite close to shore so all was not lost. Barbara and Noel’s yard was a little haven for swans, teal, mallard and pintail and the only winter Northern Shoveler for the whole islands. It was a handsome red male, feeding quietly by the river’s edge. Back over the sea, a Common Murre flew by and six Western Grebes showed their dapper, long-necked plumage. A little Golden-crowned Sparrow rustled out from its cover in the large rocks beside the highway at one lucky stop and in the midst of a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Chickadees the first winter Brown Creeper crept up the side of a dead snag in the backwoods. 581 Common Goldeneye dipped and rose in the offshore with 28 Bufflehead and 26 Common Mergansers. We finally found some scattered Horned Grebes, doing their ‘jumping up out of the water and diving in headfirst’ activity. Not all divers are quite so energetic, Common Loons have a way of simply sinking out of sight and 16 of them did just that, though of course, not all at once, unlike the 10 Pacific Loons who have a habit of doing so, en masse, when the feeding is up to snuff. As the tide fell farther out, the shorebirds appeared miles away across the dimpled sand and we had to walk across it to get a good look at them. Dunlin 860, Black-bellied Plover 61, Sanderling 18, Black Turnstone 2. John’s notes arrived and he also had the shorebirds as well as a Double-crested Cormorant, 2 Steller’s Jays, 16 Song Sparrows, 3 french hens, 2 turtle doves and a partridge (in a pear tree!) and some great photos! The sun set behind us and, except for the bright shorebirds flashing white in the distance, the day darkened down. It was time to go home and start taking down the Christmas tree. Thanks to everyone who helped out and Happy New Year!