August 2 2019 – Geese fly overhead. The local Canada’s had been gone for over a month, either nesting or moulting, and now they’re back in the Sanctuary. Somehow, every year, they manage to return on either the July 23 or 24. The birds have their habits and stick to them. These are the island fulva, a little smaller and a little darker than many of the migrants that will show up later.
How lucky we are to live on this lovely blue planet where the seas and rivers run freely and the rain falls when it wants to – as it did this week. We were out and about looking for migrant birds and watched a shower approach from the southwest. Heavy drops bounced off the tarmac, but, as the wind was blowing from the southeast, we thought (hoped) that it would hold right there and not reach us. Nope. It reached us and didn’t let up. After getting thoroughly soaked we returned to the vehicle and ran into a major flock of robins that the weather had brought down. The birds had bumped up against the southeasterly and landed. It was a phenomenon. Over 250 birds skipped along the fence line or landed in the wet grass. They were both excited and agitated as the unexpected squall had delayed their passage to the warm south.
We have no idea how many landed all the way down the west coast, thousands perhaps, but unexpected weather can certainly change everyone’s plans. The birds were all this year’s young; they hadn’t turned completely red yet, many were spotted and looked a bit like European Song Thrushes although their reddish plumage was showing through. Getting caught in the centre of a mini-cyclone was an educational experience.
So, the early migrant birds are showing up. Flocks of Western and Least Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, dowitchers, Black and Ruddy Turnstones. Out in Delkatla recently the smaller Lesser Yellowlegs were the bird of the day. They have long yellow legs but a shorter bill and seem quicker on the run than Greater Yellowlegs, their near relative. Greater’s nest on island, the young of the year are out and about, almost as big as their parents. They feed along the water’s edge in the upper sloughs.
The adult Bald Eagles down the road wait noisily for their young to leave the nest. They have been on guard all summer and occasionally crash through the trees to take a fish from the river. In these, the dog days of summer, its a good time to hang out and enjoy what summer days on Haida Gwaii have to offer. Sometimes even the birds sit still once the rain stops.