April 21 2017 Action Central in the Wild

The sea is the great provider. Now the Shearwaters from Australia and New Zealand are out in Hecate Strait again in spite of the big seas this past week. Hundreds of them soar over the waves, black silhouettes against the grey sea.  They have come a long way and many will stay for the summer.

It’s a busy time of year. Migrant shorebirds landed in Delkatla this weekend including twenty-one Marbled Godwits, those tall shorebirds with long upturned bills. They fed voraciously along Masset Inlet beach, their long bills probing deeper than the Short-billed Dowitchers nearby. Black-bellied Plovers ran beside them and busy flocks of Dunlin swept in and landed in the soft sand. Across the Inlet flocks of Brant flowed over the beach as the tide fell; they arrived in early April and will be gone by early May. Spring is here; even the little female Song Sparrow in the garden is fluttering its wings alluringly. Her mate hops down from a nearby bush, they do their mating thing and before you know it, eggs will hatch as the cycle begins again.

Marbled Godwits feeding in Masset Photo: P. Hamel

A Red-breasted Sapsucker jumped into the birdbath and washed furiously. Water splashed everywhere as the bird kept a wary eye out for predators on the prowl. Wet birds are vulnerable and this one didn’t linger long in the tub. Off it went, then a tiny Brown Creeper moved in, flitted to the water and then back to the huge spruce.

Brown Creeper in Sitka Spruce. Photo: M. Hearne

The bird is almost the same colour as the bark and nearly invisible. Last year a fledged creeper came to the bird-bath, perhaps it will again this year. What’s so interesting
about all this visible bird activity so close to the house is that, during the years when we had Alice the cat, the birds stayed away.  Although Alice lived indoors she probably exuded an odour invisible to us that repelled the birds. Perhaps, also, there was more than one cat in the vicinity, cats attract other cats, even those that sit inside glass patio doors.

Back at sea Black-legged Kittiwakes soar beside the shearwaters. They are dainty black-and-white gulls. Most of the ones beside the ship are juveniles similar to those that wintered near the ferry landing in Skidegate last winter. There were hardly any kittiwakes this year.

BL Kittiwake in Hecate Strait. M. HearneWhere did all the herring go? The wings of juvenile kittiwakes have black leading edges; they also have a small black half-circle behind the eye so they stand out from the other gulls nearby. They ride the air currents above the busy sea and keep pace with the ferry as it moves smartly along. The bridge crew wants to get in from the weather and give the passengers a comfortable ride. It all ends well.


About finnoula

Margo is a writer who watches birds. She volunteers with the Delkatla Sanctuary Society who run the Nature Centre at Delkatla, open in summer from 2-4 pm Wed to Sun. It also opens for tours
This entry was posted in Birds and Bird Books, Haida Gwaii Birds. Bookmark the permalink.

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