Red Crossbills on spruce. (Margo Hearne/Haida Gwaii Observer)

On the Wing: Small birds and berries

By Margo Hearne

Into the chill. The Christmas Bird Counts will be happening soon so we are out and about to see what we can find.

This time last year a few Mountain Bluebirds showed up — this is often the time of year when they appear. They are lovely birds. Six flew up from the grass in front of us one year in beautiful contrast to a white swan that was feeding in the background. The combined colours were a light in the middle of winter.

Birds can be like that. Often when walking under grey skies, a flock of Red Crossbills will cross one’s field of vision and the day brightens at once. Tiny Golden-crowned Kinglets will flash their golden crowns and chickadees their bright white cheeks. Chickadees are nervy little things; they don’t hold with any larger birds cornering the feeder or the water bath, but will move right in and do their thing. They hang upside down from the very edge of a branch then swerve away to the next tree. Their preference is for alders — they like the “flowers” and buds that are often the only food in mid-winter.

Small birds, in general, like to be with other small birds. Kinglets will travel with chickadees, juncos will attract sparrows, robins and wrens are often in the same bush. And speaking of robins, there is still a large flock of around 45 feeding on a few remaining crab apples. The berries are soft and beginning to ferment. Not generally known for their sweetness, they provide sustenance for hungry birds. Cedar Waxwings, those bright birds of winter, also eat crab apples, but if they return this spring the cotoneaster berries will be ready for them. As I went to fill the wood box, I noticed that those berries had reddened up in just the last few days.

Visitors to the islands can do strange things. Last week someone emptied at least five large bags of birdseed down Cemetery Road in Masset. The seeds were quite dry so it had just happened the morning of discovery. We don’t know who did the deed, but the seeds had not been purchased on island as those particular brands are not available here.

Did someone bring them in to bait the birds? It’s possible. One year a visiting group of birders scattered bird seed on the golf course in Sandspit. The horses in the nearby field broke through new fencing to get at the seed and in so doing, made quite a mess of the golf course. The visitors were biologists and should have known better. Part of the reason for dumping the seed is to bait birds in the hope something rare will show up. We occasionally find Asian vagrants here and competitive “twitchers” have no qualms about doing whatever they have to do to get more species than anyone else. It destroys the illusion that birders are also conservationists. Their game is to see more species than anyone else without care for birds and their habitat. It’s a sad situation.

Just Posted

Haida film Now Is The Time selected for Sundance

Recognition continues for tale of Old Massett totem pole raising

Future of Sandspit Inn hangs in the balance, Transport Canada not renewing lease

Transport Canada and Sandspit Community Society set to discuss options

UPDATED: Ferry cancellations and significant wind warning in effect for Haida Gwaii

Loose objects may be tossed by the wind says Environment Canada, BC Ferries cancels sailings

Adverse weather conditions lead to pair of ferry cancellations

Northern Expedition sailings from Prince Rupert and Skidegate affected

This week in photos | The spirit of giving comes to Haida Gwaii

Masset Lions Telethon, Queen Charlotte’s annual craft fair, Fields store coming along in Skidegate

VIDEO: More air-passenger rights go into effect this weekend

The first set of passenger rights arrived in mid-July in Canada

Swoop airlines adds three destinations in 2020 – Victoria, Kamloops, San Diego

Low-fair subsidiary of WestJet Airlines brings new destinations in April 2020

Aid a priority for idled Vancouver Island loggers, John Horgan says

Steelworkers, Western Forest Products returning to mediation

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

UPDATED: Investigators confirm three died in B.C. plane crash

Transport Canada provides information bulletin, family of victim releases statement

Prime Minister sets 2025 timeline for plan to remove fish farms from B.C. waters

Foes heartened by plan to transition aquaculture found in Fisheries minister mandate letter

Federal justice minister looks to larger reforms on doctor-assisted death

The Quebec Superior Court gave Ottawa just six months — until March 2020 — to amend the law

Wagon wheels can now be any size! B.C. community scraps 52 obsolete bylaws

They include an old bylaw regulating public morals

Indigenous mother wins $20,000 racial discrimination case against Vancouver police

Vancouver Police Board ordered to pay $20,000 and create Indigenous-sensitivity training

Most Read