On the Wing: Springtime brings warmth, but also sadness this year

There are very few places like it on the B.C. coast and to see all that action — all those new arrivals quite makes the heart sing.

An orange-crowned warbler

An orange-crowned warbler

Tree Swallows are back, twittering at each other as they proclaim their return.

It’s been a good week for new arrivals. Townsend’s Warblers sing faintly in the trees, an Orange-crowned Warbler flits and dives into the underbrush, Rufous Hummingbirds appear island-wide and the big birds, Sandhill Cranes, have landed in Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary.

They are all home again after their long voyage.

It’s been that kind of week. Out over the intertidal flats, Brant geese flocks rise and fall. They are a phenomenon over 2,000 birds at a time, all waiting for the tide to fall. They are at both Skidegate and Masset Inlets what a treasure it is to have such places for these wild and lovely birds. Haida Gwaii comes into its own in spring. There are very few places like it on the B.C. coast and to see all that action, all those new arrivals quite makes the heart sing.

It’s a reminder that, even with the long, cold winter we’ve had, spring always arrives without fanfare and completely out of our control. You’ve got to love it. When all seems lost, knowing that the natural world does its thing without us is an unimaginable gain.

And it’s been a sad year of loss. Our good friend Bryan Lowry, who probably had the best bird feeder on island, even set the standard for feeders in a poor year, passed away last Thursday. He was up and at it every morning for as long as he could, sorting seed; building a fine, protected place for birds to feed; and watching out his front window almost hourly for anything that came by. He had six species of sparrow in his garden this winter: two Savannahs, two Lincoln’s, four White-crowned, five White-throated, four Golden-crowned and four Song. In St. Mark’s Church Park near him a really rare Rustic Bunting fed and Townsend’s and Myrtle Warblers dipped through the trees. Not far away robins and Varied Thrushes sang in the early morning and out across the Yakoun Estuary Trumpeter Swans called.

Bryan was in the centre of it all, quietly going about his business as his son, also named Bryan, helped out. He loved the life he lived although he missed his wife Adelia greatly after she was moved to the long-term care facility a few years ago. He always phoned my husband Peter to tell him when something different came along and since a Brambling from Asia was one of his visitors on more than one occasion, Peter was always happy to drop in and say hello. We wish his family the very best at this sad time.

Sue Couch was always a cheerful presence in Port Clements. She participated in the Christmas Bird Counts, watched birds from her window and enjoyed the short time she had with us on island. Sue also left us last November and a lovely memorial was held for her this week. We remembered her help at the Nature Centre and her love for the birds around her. Goodbye to Sue, we miss her gentle smile of friendship.

So spring is here, the birds are arriving back, the wind is from the south and Brant geese continue to move through in large, laughing flocks. Long may they continue.