Migration continues. Yesterday, April 24, a flock of around 250 White-fronted Geese flew high over the islands, heading north. A Downy Woodpecker showed up on April 22, a rare bird in these parts. Hairy Woodpeckers have been on territory for a while now, and Red-breasted Sapsucker numbers are high. We think many are just moving through, although the locals are drumming busily on hollow snags. Delkatla Sanctuary Society sponsored the “Great Delkatla Cleanup” for Earth Day on Saturday. Eleven people came out and the Sanctuary looks clean and uncluttered. There are no more plastic bags and old tires lying around out there.
The shorebird migration has begun. On April 24 many Black-bellied Plovers, a few Pacific Golden Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Black Turnstones and some Least and Western Sandpipers fed along the intertidal. As we watched two Marbled Godwits, a few Short-billed Dowitchers and a large flocks of Dunlin joined the busy gathering. The wintering flocks of Canada Geese have gone. As I write a fierce southeast winds howls through the spruce trees in our back yard. It’s good to be home and dry.
So here we are – full of high expectations and keen to see what going to show up on migration. The first Sandhill Cranes of spring flew over the island on April 11th, heard first, then seen, seeming to drift in and out of the clouds. Tree Swallows also appeared on April 11 and Brant numbers are now between 1,000 and 1,600.
Geese on the wing
The Sandhill Cranes were heard over Maast Island on April 13, then they landed in the Sanctuary as though they had never left. The first Townsend’s Warbler of spring also arrived, singing it’s scratchy little song over the noise of the wind in the trees.
On April 16 we sailed aboard the “Northern Adventure” to Prince Rupert. High numbers of Sooty Shearwaters soared over the waves, but what most fascinated us was the number of passerines that followed the ship and landed on deck. It was a windy, rainy day. The sea wasn’t rough, it was just miserably wet with poor visibility. We identified a Hermit Thrush, Townsend’s Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Savannah Sparrow and a Myrtle Warbler. The Myrtle, Savannah and Junco landed on deck, in fact, when we landed in Prince Rupert the Junco was still there. We were about twelve miles out, nowhere near land, so we can only speculate that the birds were on their way to Alaska and thought the ship was land. We hope they made it, although, if the Junco was anything to go by, being so tired that it didn’t move for at least an hour, it’s hard to know whether they did or not. It’s a long haul against wind and rain for such small birds. Our return journey was delayed for about 19 hours due to high winds and it was a snotty crossing on the way back. Many Sooty’s again, and a small flock of Fork-tailed Storm-petrels wavered over the rough waters.
It feels as though nothing much is happening in the bird world. It’s been such a cold spring and it was still zero on April 1, the day of our book launch at the Nature Centre. Our book “Birds at Risk – a Haida Gwaii Introduction” was very well received. People came and went all afternoon and we sold many signed copies. A big hit for our small town! Dejah-Lee’s illustrations are great and the story-line is very straightforward. Copies are available for $12 and can be ordered here as soon as I set up a pay-pal account. It’s all about conservation and our society, Delkatla Sanctuary Society, is all about protecting the natural world.
After the book launch we had a few days of strong Southeasters and the temperature rose to 4 celcius. On April 3 there were over 1,000 Brant at Sandspit and numbers continued to increase at Masset. They feed at Maast Island and in front of Old Massett along the shoreline. A Short-eared Owl rose from the long grass in Sandspit – it’s not often we see one in spring. When we got home, our daffodils had finally bloomed the warmer temperatures and a hit of sunshine had encouraged them. Easter was lovely. Sunny, warm and calm.
Surf Scoter in Skidegate Inlet
Sun over the Muskeg
It’s been a really cold March, on the 22nd it snowed all afternoon and snow remained on the ground. On the 23rd it was still -2c but we decided to drive down island and see what was around. It was calm, cool and still. The sea was indescribably blue, and we inhaled the fresh sea-weedy smell in the gentle air. The Robin numbers are increasing daily, and 200 Brant fed in the intertidal. The four Snow Geese are still around, mixing with Cackling and regular Canadas. We think they’ll start to move on soon. A Golden-crowned Sparrow fed in the underbrush. On March 25, along the beach in Masset a single, lonely Snow Bunting hid under a beached log, they have not been very visible this winter. My illustrated book “Birds at Risk” is a big hit with the school kids. I visited the last island school in Skidegate on March 27 and they loved the illustrations by Dejah-Lee Busch. I have now donated books to all the kindergarten and Grade 1 classes on island.