Margo Hearne/Haida Gwaii Observer                                A blue heron, in blue water.

Margo Hearne/Haida Gwaii Observer A blue heron, in blue water.

On the Wing: Growing up and leaving home

“Despite their size, they are as vulnerable as the smallest sparrow.”

By Margo Hearne

The shorebirds are going south. It seems as though they only just went north. Theirs is a short season.

A few thousand Western Sandpipers landed in Delkatla last week. They flew from place to place, following the rising tide. High numbers were also skipping among the visitors on the Tow Hill and Tlell beaches.

The bird numbers have dwindled somewhat, although they are still coming through in small flocks. Last weekend’s rainy weather helped bring them down to feed. The next wave will be in two or three weeks as they phase their journeys, first one parent bird, then another, then young of the year. May their journeys go well. Mixed in with the Westerns were small groups of Semi-palmated Plovers, those Killdeer-like birds with one neck ring instead of two. The plovers nest here on the high beach; their young have hatched and are on the run.

In the meadow, crane chicks have grown up silently. We missed the tiny young altogether. It’s been so wet the parents didn’t want them getting soaked — they kept close to cover. Now the chicks are about two weeks old and were seen strolling along the margin between sea and land just this week. So far there are two, which is positive. There were also two last year, but one disappeared. Fewer non-nesting cranes have been here this year as in the past, when flocks of 60 or more wandered the slough. Now there are only smaller flocks of seven or eight wandering the dunes.

Herons are back in the Sanctuary. Their nesting season is over. They nest in tall trees in the closed forest, so their home territory is constantly at risk. It’s good to see a few young feeding with the adults. Herons lay three to five eggs in April or May and the eggs hatch in about 27 days. The young can usually fly within two months, so if the birds here started nesting in April, they are now fully fledged. Herons are a blue-listed species. That is, they are “vulnerable” because they have “characteristics that make them particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events.” They are protected by both the BC Wildlife Act and the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. Their nest trees are also protected year round on both public and private land. Their population is declining, especially on the west coast, so the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has designated the Pacific Great Blue Heron as vulnerable. Despite their size, they are as vulnerable as the smallest sparrow.

Speaking of sparrows, the little Song Sparrow continues to feed in the garden, together with one or two fledged young. A flock of American Robins comes in daily and a Raven stalked the area a few days ago. Up close it was a very big bird and it was surprising to see it coming into the water bath for a drink. The place is as busy as ever as every forest bird around has made it their “go-to” place for a wash and a drink.