Pigeon Guillemots return every year to their nesting site, Masset Wharf. (Margo Hearne / Haida Gwaii Observer)

COLUMN: The removal of the Pigeon Guillemot ‘colony’

Birds lost their place after the removal of the old wharf at Shingle Bay in Sandspit

Everything is on the move

The Pigeon Guillemots are on territory again. Their small, bright red feet paddle through the water beside the dock and their whistles call to one another from the inlet waters. They return every year to their nesting site, Masset Wharf, keeping to their habit of utilizing man-made structures built over deep waters. Just so is Masset Inlet with its abundance of food and ever-changing tides. The guillemots also nest on the small, uninhabited islets that dot the ‘lake’ where the inlet widens and deepens.

We spent a few days scouting the lake area a few years ago during the Breeding Bird Atlas years. Although we didn’t go ashore, it was exciting to see guillemot and oystercatcher chicks running on the weedy rocks. The parent birds were ever on the alert and stayed close to the young birds, especially as the chicks had only tiny, stubby wings and were still covered in down. It would be another month or so before they could fly. The islets are isolated, therefore somewhat protected, but a marauding mammal would make short work of the lot if it managed to swim that far. The islets are some of the few undisturbed places where the wild world gets by on its own.

One of the sad things about the removal of the old wharf at Shingle Bay in Sandspit was the removal of the Pigeon Guillemot ‘colony’ that had grown up under the deck. The birds had nested there for almost as long as the wharf had stood and returned year after year. Now a little group of guillemots swim in the open water around the area. They have lost their place in the world and a whole nesting season. The colony will probably die away, generations of chicks have ‘bonded’ with the place and don’t know any other. They are small, friendly birds that do no harm to anyone, and of course, were not consulted about whether or not their home should be destroyed. An apparently laughable concept, but, if we listened to the elders, everything that lived in, around or near our homes were all people to be respected.

As we bend to work at the kitchen table a flash of movement outside catches our eye. Something scoots low across the grass and disappears into the cotoneaster bush. We wait. Then a Pacific-slope Flycatcher darts into the pond below the bush, takes a sip and flits back up. It never sits still but flicks its wings and tail, shakes and preens and darts again, constantly on the move, constantly alert and then it’s gone. Then a hummingbird arrives. This tiny, feisty bird also stays low and lands by the feeder to take a sip. It’s all very low-key. Birds can be like that before they die away.

Haida Gwaii Observer
Send email
Like the Haida Gwaii Observer on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Slow down for students: School zone speeds now in effect

RCMP will be making sure drivers keep it at 30 km/h or less, with heavy fines for breaking the law

Queen Charlotte fire hall is a go

Start of construction marked with groundbreaking ceremony

NCRD Board turns attention to Haida Gwaii

Fishing concerns, recreation commission, and Sandspit festival all receive focus

IV cancer treatment returning to Haida Gwaii

Arrival of a new pharmacy technician means the service can resume

Logging moves forward as court rules against Haida Gwaii protesters

Injunction won against activists seeking to protect culturally and archaeologically significant site

VIDEO: #MeToo leader launches new hashtag to mobilize voters

Tarana Burke hopes to prompt moderators to ask about sexual violence at next debate

Cheating husband sues mistress for gifted ring after wife learns about affair

The husband gave his mistress $1,000 to buy herself a ring in December 2017

British couple vacationing in Vancouver detained in US after ‘accidentally’ crossing border

Parents travelling with three-month-old reportedly being held in Pennsylvania

After losing two baby boys, B.C. parents hope to cut through the taboo of infant death

Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in B.C.

Alberta to join B.C.’s class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, distributors

B.C. government claims opioids were falsely marketed as less addictive than other pain meds

VIDEO: Trudeau, Singh posture for ‘progressive’ votes while Scheer fights in Quebec

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party has been on the rise in recent polls, is campaigning in Toronto

Advance voter turnout up 25% for first two days: Elections Canada

Two million people voted Friday and Saturday

Okanagan principals told to confiscate vaping products from students

Vaping is up 74 per cent in youth over the last two years, according to one Canadian study

‘Rather mild’ winter expected in B.C. this year

Northwestern B.C. will be the worst hit

Most Read