Taking shelter from the Storm

On the Wing by Margo Hearne: With all the media hype around upcoming storms and winter weather people get anxious

  • Feb. 5, 2016 8:00 a.m.

With all the media hype around upcoming storms and winter weather people get anxious. For sure, there’s a need to know but beyond that it gets a bit panicky. Our favourite weather source is the marine forecast: weather.gc.ca/marine/forecast for Dixon Entrance East. We are sort of in the middle between Dixon East and Dixon West. The cold Northeasterlies that have been pouring down the mainland inlets have been stalled all winter by the Southeast/Southwesters pouring in from the Pacific. It’s quite the drama! It has been thus since time immemorial and Haida Gwaii has been protected by the surrounding warm ocean.

The mild climate is a haven for wildlife. Plants, bugs, flies, birds and mammals all make it through the winter. Birds especially. The flock of Green-winged Teal that create a feathered fringe around the channels in Delkatla are doing okay. So are the Mallard, pintail and wigeon. Bearskin Bay has its own winter population as does the Yakoun Estuary and the lee side of the spits at Sandspit. Diving ducks rode out the high winds there this week and so did over 400 Brant, those gentle-looking sea-geese of the Pacific. They waited in the rough offshore waters waiting for the tide to fall so they could get a bite to eat on the long tidal flats.

Some Brant feed in the meadow with the Canada Geese when the tide is high and so does a Marbled Godwit, a very large shorebird and an unusual winter vagrant. There it is, out in the middle of a flock of Canada Geese, grazing with them and keeping its distance from any form of humanity. It feeds on bugs and roots in the grass and out on the intertidal flats. Marbled Godwits usually winter in Southern California, this one decided to stay, and why not? The food is good, it’s relatively safe in the centre of a flock of larger birds and there’s shelter from the storm. So far it has evaded the Peregrine Falcon and it’s a little too big for the smaller Merlin; both raptors have been around all winter.

A Varied Thrush came to the feeder this morning. It dropped in without fanfare, fed quickly and disappeared again. It’s a bird of the deep forest and will start to sing its gentle ‘wheee’ shortly. It’s an early nester and we are sneaking up on February. Starlings mimic the song of this thrush and its voice can often be drowned out in urban areas. We don’t know what effect the starling population will have on future generations of island songbirds; it is the nature of the starling to take over the territory of other nesting species. They are loud and bossy and are doing very well indeed. We brought them here and other birds suffer the consequences.

The Anna’s Hummingbirds are still around. They have been here all winter, amazingly so, and with the help of their human friends (we are a paradox) have survived. There may actually be four or five Anna’s, we are not exactly sure as there are several feeders in town and they can flit from one to another. We do know that there’s at least one male and two females.