The Wind Birds of Haida Gwaii

On the Wing by Margo Hearne: Each year is different. Just when we think we have grasped the intricacies of the bird world, things shift.

  • Apr. 1, 2016 7:00 p.m.

The little black-and-white Juncos are thinning out at the feeder as they head into the backwoods to start nesting. Like Varied Thrushes and Northern Flickers, they like to get an early start. If the wild world co-operates they might even have two broods a year.

Each year is different. Just when we think we have grasped the intricacies of the bird world, things shift. For instance, in March a few years ago we had a fallout of lovely Redpolls that swept in hungrily and cleaned out the feeder. This year, none. Last winter we were overwhelmed with Varied Thrushes. This year, very few.

The only constants are the changing seasons, and within those constants are the vagaries of weather. And Haida Gwaii certainly gets weather. The barometer has gone up and down like a yo-yo all month. Weather systems continually pour down through the Bering Strait and into the huge body of the Pacific, where massive oceanic systems swirl and flow. Some of the systems are pushed east towards the continental land mass, where they bump into the mountain-y, anabatic winds pushing west. We are in the middle. No wonder tiny birds get a little lost.

Incidentally, the Bering Sea is an interesting, dramatic place. Also called the Beringian Gap it’s one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world. It’s shallow (averaging about 35 fathoms, or about 65 metres), has volatile weather, and extremely cold temperatures.  Waves are shorter and pack more power than deep-sea waves, and strong currents make for difficult navigation. It’s only a hop and a skip across the Gap to Russia, but treacherous as heck.  Birds fly it, and many rare Eurasian species have turned up on the Aleutian Chain having flown across. Birders chase these rarities like crazy so they can get Eurasian birds on their North American life list.

Since birds get caught up in the cyclonic swirl out past the Bowie Seamount, they can also get swept onto the islands. We have had quite a few Eurasian species, including a Skylark and many Bramblings. Things drop in, feed and keep going.

There have been many robin reports. They are being noticed, and now they’ve started to perch on the high trees, dust off their vocal chords and chirp cheerily. Many will probably move further north as the ice leaves the land, but some will stay to nest. The flock of Pine Grosbeaks in Sandspit are still around and the Cassin’s Finch still travels with them. Suddenly out of the underbrush flashed a bright sunny warbler. It pumped its tail and fed busily on insects in the afternoon sun. It was a Palm Warbler; one had been seen in the same general area on Dec. 6. The weather has been fairly mild, if extremely stormy, so it might have wintered over.

Two Marbled Godwits feed on the flats as the tide rises. They too have been around most of the winter. They are very different. Tall, with a long bill, they feed with the Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon (and one Eurasian Wigeon), probing the soft mud for aquatic invertebrates and being chased up the flats by the rising tide. Out over Delkatla a group of visitors to the Nature Centre marvelled as a Bald Eagle put every single duck to wing as it soared over the water. Nature red in tooth and claw. All the ducks escaped.

Email Margo Hearne at

hecatebird@gmail.com

 

Just Posted

Subsea internet cable to link up Haida Gwaii

Cable to connect Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast with mainland network

Tlellagraph: Sweet tips for beating the big SAD monster

By Janet Rigg Well, how are we all doing? 2018 appears to… Continue reading

Northwest economy remains uncertain

The Northern Development Initiative Trust releases its State of the North economic report

Nearly $500,000 available for internships with First Nations government

Funds announced through partnership with Northern Development and Government of Canada

Photos: Ts’aahl wins super-close Clan Tournament

Three games finished in overtime. In the semi-final, the defending Clan Tournament… Continue reading

B.C. cougar kitten rescued after mother struck by vehicle

Conservation Officers find home for young kitten found dehydrated and frostbitten near Williams Lake

Fernie, RCMP go to court over city log books in fatal ammonia leak probe

Log books center stage in clashing of investigations between the city and RCMP

B.C.’s biggest pot plant planned for Oliver

Co-founder Tony Holler said the 700,000 sq. ft. facility would produce 100,000 kg of pot per year

High-end whisky seized in B.C. bar raids

Raids end in seizures at Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver whisky joints

Double-doubles and demonstrations: Employees rally outside Tim Hortons

Protests held in response to Ontario franchise owners cutting employee benefits and breaks

Train derails in Northwest B.C.

CN reports no injuries or dangerous goods involved after coal train derailment.

Las Vegas shooter acted alone, exact motive still undetermined: Sheriff

Stephen Paddock was behind the gunfire that killed 58 people including two Canadians

Botox, bomb shelters, and the blues: one year into Trump presidency

A look into life in Washington since Trump’s inauguration

Christopher Garnier appealing murder conviction in death of off-duty cop

Jury found Garnier guilty in December, rejecting his claim she died accidentally during rough sex

Most Read