Brant Time

The arrow in the photo below points at the roof of our house, just above the white house on the hillside. From there we can see, with the help of a spotting scope, that the black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) are on the far shore of the bay.

They come here every spring to rest and feed and gather their strength.

We drove around the bay to the beach where the brant are congregating. A friend had told us that the day before, there were many more, and we think some may have left already on their long migration to the north to nest.

Here they are, sitting at the edge of the water in a place where they can see danger approaching from land or the water.

They come from as far away as the Baja coast of Mexico, and will go all the way up the continent to Alaska where summer daylight hours are very long and the food is plentiful for raising their young in the short weeks of summer, so they will be ready to make the long migration back south in the fall, to winter in Mexico again.Here, in one of many staging areas on the east coast of Vancouver Island, they gather at first in small flocks, gradually joining up into bigger flocks as they are closer to leaving for the north.

I’ve often wondered how they decide when it is time for the flocks of thousands to lift off and begin the journey. Who says, “Okay folks, it’s time for liftoff”? Looks like plenty of discussion going on here. The widgeon in the background are being kept out of the loop. See them in the background with their pale heads?

Notice that these geese are similar to the Canada goose but they don’t have the white cheek patches or the long necks. If you saw them side by side you’d see they are quite different.

If you go walking on the beaches at this time of year, please be sure to keep your dog on a leash. When the brant are disturbed repeatedly, it prevents them from feeding. They need daylight hours and low tides to feed on the eel grass they prefer above most other food. If they can’t feed, their bodies will not have the reserves they need for the long flight ahead. Emaciated birds don’t have healthy clutches and this results in weaker young and lower numbers of brant.

You can do your bit to help keep the brant population healthy. Keep your dogs on a leash at brant time.

23 thoughts on “Brant Time

    • The dog walkers are a problem every year, and most people don’t realize that it interrupts the feeding opportunities for the birds. It’s not just a case of the dogs chasing the birds and tiring them out. It’s a lot of things all together.

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  1. What a lovely place you live in, Anneli! In reading your post and looking at the great photos of the geese I was reminded how wonderfully co-ordinated this life, that we are part of, is. The geese and Nature teach us to trust in our own instincts. ❤

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    • We like it there because we can always see the sea and the weather that rolls in from it, and the birds and sealife it brings with it. (Sea lions, herring, loons, brant, eagles, all sorts of things.)

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  2. This was so important to stress the dogs needing to be kept on leashes, Anneli. It’s too bad the local naturalists can’t just patrol the beach area and request to stay away from the area the birds have chosen.
    I liked the Brants appearance. I did notice the necks are not as long, but glad you mentioned the difference from Canadian geese in their markings. 🙂

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    • At the beach area below our house (which they’ve made into a park) they do have Parks people patrolling during brant time, but not on the other side of the bay (but there are not as many people there either. Some years it’s really bad; people insisting it’s their right to let dogs run free on the beach. That may be okay at some times of the year in areas where there are no other people, but during brant time, it’s not good.

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      • This is good to know, Anneli. I was hoping there were Park personnel keeping an eye on the dog walkers. It makes me sad to know that they don’t have compassion for the Brants.
        Ever since I was in high school I was an animal activist. One particular cause was protecting the robins in Canada. The Sierra Club had us circulating petitions because for some reason robin overpopulation was annoying people who were shooting the birds. It was interesting at the time. I never did hear any follow up, if they stopped shooting. . .
        You would think dog owners would be kinder towards the Brants. Sad to hear they aren’t. xo

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        • In most cases it’s just ignorance, but in a few cases people are defiant, insisting it’s their right to let their dog run. I didn’t know that about the robins. Now if they were shooting the crows who make off with the baby robins, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it, but I don’t really like to see any animal get hurt. Odd thing for someone who supports responsible hunting to say, eh?

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          • Hunting to eat or thin deer herds so they won’t be gaunt and hungry makes sense. I prefer all shooting of turkeys, pheasants and other wild animals to be used in both fur and meat to feed people. I only am against assault rifles or other kinds of mass use weapons. (Not sure other than for authorized military use.) We are on the same page, I think. 🙂

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