Rosamund and Jim Pojar, organizers of Botany BC, stand together with Margo Hearne and Peter Hamel at the Nature Centre. (Submitted)

On the Wing: Botany BC pays a visit

By Margo Hearne

Botany BC is an annual meeting of botanists and plant enthusiasts of British Columbia. They visited Haida Gwaii last week and the large crowd booked all the buildings at the Hiellen River and other accommodations throughout the island. Some botanists were looking for rare plants found only here or along the coast, others simply took pleasure in walking the trails and finding that modest little flower “single delight” that grows along the trails at Delkatla and Tow Hill.

It was one of the many plants that enhanced the Botany BC expedition. Field trips were many and varied: a hike up Sleeping Beauty; a flight into Takakia Lake; a walk along the Tow Hill trail; a visit to the beach at the end of Masset’s Cemetery Road; and, on Sunday, a walk through Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary to the Nature Centre.

The Centre was packed for an hour or so. Everyone brought a bag lunch and the coffee was hot. Society members gave a short talk on the changes to plant and bird life in the sanctuary when tidal waters were restored in 1995, and pointed to the dead snaggy alder sticks still standing outside the Centre’s window — all that was left of an “alder forest” after salt water arrived. They also showed the plant display that Ernest, the summer student presently working at the Centre, had prepared a few days prior to the event.

The lead-up to the expedition was also busy. Many botanists had arrived prior to the actual event and explored for new things while others dropped into the Centre when it was all over to inquire about a rare plant found around Masset in the 1960s but not found since. Like many natural history enthusiasts, botanists also want to be the first to find the rare and the unusual to add to their life list.

The Eurasian Cuckoo that appeared two weeks ago in Tlell seems to have left for greener pastures. It was wonderful to see it, but things have now calmed down and it’s quiet out there.

The Song Sparrow creeps through the long grass and sneaks back to the chicks in the nest, the Fox Sparrow has come to the feeder for the odd scrap of seed left over from a siskin invasion last week, the Winter Wren feeds a chick on the fence railing. Young robins are gathering in the short grass in any open meadow to feed on bugs that have been brought to the surface by the showery weather.

The dampness has also quelled a lot of the racket, although a nesting Steller’s Jay still puts up a strange squawk, sometimes sounding like a cat, other times like an untuned raven. Small discrete flocks of sandpipers are feeding in the seaweed along the crown of the beach. Hard as it is to believe, they are actually heading south after their nesting season further north.

Unlike the usual tight flocks seen in winter, these small flocks seem to stay separate from one another. Perhaps when they leave they will tighten up to create what looks like one big, dangerous bird that will keep all hawks at bay.

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