April 7 2017 Swans in the Storm

The three Tundra Swans were tucked into themselves as a storm raged around them. Our neighbour, who lived overlooking Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary, was concerned and wondered if they needed help. It was a valid concern, birds need our help more and more, but this time it was best to leave them be. The swans were totally exhausted and needed to rest. That what they did. It’s what sanctuaries are for; places to rejuvenate before moving on. They are usually a temporary reprieve and this time was no exception; the birds were up and moving next afternoon and then they they were gone.

Tundra Swans in Delkatla

Across Masset Inlet, also in the shelter, eleven more Tundras lay like mounds of snow on the high beach. They were also tucked in and they too have since left, unlike the busy flock of Brant geese that now feed out there as the tide falls. It’s April and things are on the move.

In Delkatla’s channels a large flock of Green-winged Teal feed. Are they the same birds that we’ve seen all winter? They look the same, all ducks of the same species seem the same to us (I suspect that we all look the same to them too) but among them was an Eurasian Green-winged Teal with a white horizontal line instead of a vertical one on its side. Its the first we’ve seen all winter and points to the likelihood that the teal that wintered are filtering away and the ones from the south are dropping in. It’s all go.

Green-winged Teal in Delkatla

Big excitement in our garden just before the southeaster hit last week. A hummingbird landed on the tip-top of a nearby bush. It was an Anna’s Hummingbird, the first we’ve ever seen in Masset. It sat for some time and we both had a good look at it. A few Anna’s wintered over in Sandspit and are still there but this one was definitely a surprise. Then friends in Skidegate posted a super photo of a Rufous Hummingbird which had just arrived there (thanks Mary!) and we had a call from friends along Tow Hill Road who now have a Rufous Hummingbird that’s staying around. Our Anna’s was a one-shot wonder and hasn’t been seen since.

Rufous Hummingbird

As mentioned above Brant geese are feeding on the Maast Island flats. There used to be a wintering flock there around thirty years ago but, unlike at Sandspit where large flocks feed in the intertidal all winter, the Maast Island ones have gone. Numbers at Sandspit increased dramatically this week. There were over 1,600, but numbers in Masset are still down; it’s early days yet.

Brant Geese; all photos copyright MH

Many Brant, known as the sea-goose of the Pacific, were banded in the early 1990’s. We discovered that most of those that fed in Haida Gwaii in spring were on their way to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta on the Bering Sea after stopping off at Izembek Lagoon, Alaska. From there they spread out along the northern reaches, even as far as Wrangel Island, Siberia and the Canadian Arctic. The birds of the world come and go, seasons change and its Easter Sunday already. Have a happy one.


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
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