When I look out from my house I see, far away, the opposite shore of Comox Bay. This day I drove around to the far side of the bay to see the brant, annual visitors who always stop in our area on their northern migration.
The brant like to feed mainly on eel grass (probably called that because of its long flat shape) that grows in shallow tidal areas. The little sea geese don’t often come ashore to walk around. They are safer in the water, away from people and their dogs running along the beach.
Because of this, they are often too far away to offer good clear photographs, but I tried to hold the camera steady and took five times as many photos as I needed in the hope that a few of them would be usable. The brant I was trying to photograph are the last row of what looks like rocks way out in the water in the photo below.I walked out as far as I could and tried again.
Here is a small portion of the flock, zoomed in and snapped up with a shaky hand.
You can see (below) that some are tipped up, reaching for grasses to feed on, while others are alert and watching for danger.
Among the brant I noticed several widgeons dabbling around. I see four in the photo below. The ducks and geese don’t seem to mind each other’s company.
You may also see, if you look closely, that the brant near the top middle of the photo below has a piece of grass in his bill. They are still in water that is shallow enough to be exposed at low tide, allowing the eel grass to grow.
At high tide, this grass is out of reach of the brant so when they happen to fly past a beach on their way north and want to stop to rest and feed, it is best when the tide is low and it is daytime so they can feed. If the tide happens to be high when they need to rest and feed, they find much less food accessible to keep up their strength on the long journey north.
In our area, the brant stay for many days, feeding and building up their strength for the continued flight north.
I have often wondered how the geese decide that it is time to continue the migration north, but however they communicate this major decision, it is an amazing sight to see. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of brant geese leave the bay and head up high in the sky to continue the trip north to their annual nesting area. I love to hear the distant nasal honking of these flocks as they share with each other the excitement of traveling onward.
The photo above shows a wood carving of a nesting black brant done by our friend Bruce Glover. (The other bird is a duck decoy that has nothing to do with the brant except for sharing shelf space in our house.)