August 25 2017 – The solar eclipse was wonderful. A foggy mist passed before the sun just in time to allow for a few photographs. In Delkatla a flock of Sandhill Cranes that had been feeding quietly in the grass raised their heads in alarm, called loudly, and some flew back to MacIntosh Meadows. Others didn’t and kept on grazing calmly in the gathering gloom. Who decided whether to stay or go? I suspect the younger members of that particular flock were more anxious than the older ones, but they all returned when the sun came out and things returned to normal.
A family of Lincoln’s Sparrows also got quite agitated when the sky darkened. They flew around anxiously heading for an unexpected roost but was a short night for everyone. The sun was back out in full force within a half-hour and they relaxed. The golden eclipse light that coloured Delkatla was lovely; it was a treat to share, in a small way, the Continental excitement over the event. Even though we didn’t get ‘totality’ or see ‘Bailey’s beads’ – those sparks of light which occur where the moon’s jagged surface allows light to show through – we were part of it all and so were the birds.
It rained next day and the first migrants of summer landed in the Sanctuary. A mixed flock of ducks; Green-winged Teal, Pintail, a few American Wigeon and Northern Shoveler. Shorebirds ran around at their feet and, true to form, a large accipiter flew over, possibly a Cooper’s Hawk, and scared everything up. Cooper’s are quite rare here but it seemed bigger that it’s close cousin the Sharp-shinned Hawk and was smaller than the Goshawk, the other island accipiter. (Latin accipere, “to grasp.”)
The crane family of four is still around, the ‘colts’ are getting bigger and are finally able to fly. They will leave by mid-September. Cranes are prehistoric looking, dramatic birds and add immeasurably to the grandeur of the islands. Many of the visitors to the Nature Centre are keenly interested in seeing cranes, and more often than not, the birds oblige. Just yesterday the family fed right outside the Nature Centre’s front window as though it wasn’t there.
Things are happening in the Sanctuary. When the Stepping Stones Trail (Dike Road) was build up using dredgeate from the marina a few years ago, it blocked tidal access to the upper half of the Sanctuary. Ducks Unlimited are taking out some of the ridiculously small culverts that were put in then and replacing them with large ones. The work is being done because, as DU explains “portions of the upper marsh have become hydrologically isolated due to collapsed and undersized/aged culverts in an access road which bisects the slough and the upper portion has become less brackish (and less functional) as a result.” The work is expected to take three days and should be done by the time you read this. It will allow for more fish passage and better drainage.