Distractions, predators and losing our way

On the Wing | by Margo Hearne

Its crisp and cold with ‘gale and freezing spray warnings’ posted at weather.gc.ca/marine. The northeaster sweeping down from the mainland inlets can bring unexpected winged visitors to the islands. All those snipe that appeared in late December came from somewhere else and when the northeasters from the mainland bump up against the southeasters slamming up Hecate Strait anything can happen. We don’t often see albatross in the strait, but one year we had two great, long-winged soaring fliers that floated along with scarcely a wingbeat. Clumsy as they are on land, the air is their métier. Albatross usually drift along over the wild Pacific to the west and move between Hawaii, Japan, the Aleutians and here. The most likely offshore sighting is are Black-footed, but both and Laysan and Short-tailed are within soaring distance. They are related to shearwaters and fulmars and they all belong to the sea.

It’s easy to get distracted when birds are around. Just last night an email arrived from our neighbour who lives along the inlet. “The predators are keeping the birds in the backyard scared,” he writes. “Earlier in the week a sharp shin (hawk) who likes to pose; two days ago the goshawk in and out and chased by the crows and today the falcon who came by at least twice. With so many little birds in the backyard, there are twice that many eyes and ears looking out for danger and when danger comes there is such a confusing scramble it must be hard for the predator to pick out one bird. We have lots of bushes and other hiding spots so the meat eaters are having bad luck.” There had also been a Northern Shrike in the area just a few weeks ago. Feeders continue to feed.

It is always exciting to see raptors, they are wild and fierce and seemingly untameable. The fact that there’s a Peregrine moving through the big trees in town is quite amazing; there are not many other places in the world where these grand, narrow-winged, speedy falcons roost in one’s backyard. Now that the mainland is beginning to freeze up, more may come out to open water where ducks, geese and sandpipers thrive. Shrikes and Sharp-shinned-Hawks will also chase the juncos and sparrows of course, although the Peregrine would make short work of a shrike.

Sometimes we send our photos into the ‘cloud’ when creating photo-books or web pages. Then sometimes we forget what photos we’ve sent and wonder where our shots of the swan disappeared to. The ‘Google+ team’ has just informed us that they are closing down and any ‘photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted.’ If they can do that, so can Facebook, Shutterfly or any other program. Uploading photos can mean they are out of our computers forever. Downloading is important before they are gone forever but can be a tedious process. We found the swan we were looking for, but we almost lost our way.

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