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

On the Wing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii libraries launch new ‘takeout’ curbside pickup service

As of June 5, cardholders can once again access physical copies of books, DVDs and more

Blacktail Haida Gwaii working to reopen with new covered patio

Chef-owner Edi Szasz hopes to reopen on June 25, the one-year anniversary of the restaurant

Skidegate daycare staff recognized for creative care during COVID-19

Staff have been using social media to share isolation activities, read stories and sing songs

Village of Queen Charlotte approves business facade improvement grants

Applications from Gather, dental clinic, A Level Up approved, leaving about $14,000 up for grabs

Recycling services in Queen Charlotte, Port Clements expanding next week

Residential plastics will be accepted again, but most residential transfer stations remain closed

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

‘Great Regional Air Hug’ being organized by the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society

A multi-aircraft flyover over the region is being planned for August 15.

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

Most Read