Haida citizens at the recent House of Assembly voted to make the Northern Goshawk, or Stads K’un, the national bird of Haida Gwaii. (Berry Wijdeven/Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations)

On the Wing: In praise of goshawks and forests

By Margo Hearne

Things are gearing up for the Christmas Bird Counts — it all arrives so quickly. It’s amazing how quickly the summer flowers, long days, and short nights of a few months ago are forgotten. Now we are deep into December and birds are back at the feeder, Delkatla’s shore is lined with ducks, and eagles are hovering.

So are raptors, although the speedy little Sharp-shinned Hawk doesn’t take much time to hover. It’s more inclined to take short, sharp dives into a flock of feeding birds and dash off with a junco in its talons. “Sharpies” are one of the more common birds of prey here in winter. They presumably nest here, and could well be an island endemic. However, the big, dramatic Northern Goshawk gets all the attention. Every effort is being made to find a nest and keep it alive. It is a lovely, sharp, dramatic bird and when one landed in the trees overhead recently it took a few minutes to identify it. Its appearance was sudden and quite alarming to the ducks out in the water. Waterfowl are one of the bird’s main prey, especially during migration.

A friend recently sent a photo of an active goshawk’s nest with an adult and two young. The photo was so good that it made Delkatla Sanctuary Society’s annual tide calendar for 2018. Other photos include the magpie that has been around most of the summer and fall, a photo of both a Horned and Tufted Puffin together on a ledge, and the special Sandhill Cranes that grace the island in summer. It also features the first island records of an Eastern Phoebe and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, the latter taken at Rose Harbour. Society President Peter Hamel most sincerely thanks all the photographers who were willing to share their photos this time around.

Meanwhile, back to birds. Goshawks need large forest tracts to survive and there is a real fear that the islands’ forests are disappearing with the help of BC Timber Sales. Many find this devastation completely unacceptable. The Cloudberry Action Network has been trying to bring public attention to the fact that BC Timber Sales continues to engineer more cutblocks south of Masset and around Nadu Road. A Forest Stewardship Plan slated for approval in January shows that the amount of logging proposed in this area is totally disproportionate to the area it represents in the “timber harvesting land base.”

The government continues to give away our forests. As with the forest so go the nesting birds, including Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Saw-whet Owls. Also all the songbirds associated with old-growth forests. Actually the tree species as well. Are we seeing the end of Yellow Cedar? Red Cedar? Pacific Yew? Perhaps the goshawk can help. The Council of the Haida Nation recently and unanimously endorsed a resolution to develop an islands-based recovery strategy to ensure this unique forest species survives. And in even bigger news, the House voted to make stads k’un, the Goshawk, the national bird of Haida Gwaii.

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