Brant Migration Time

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.)

31 thoughts on “Brant Migration Time

    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      I suppose the incredible thing is that I managed to get any photos of them at all. I’m a bit embarrassed to post them as they are not very clear, but the brant were really far away, so it was the best I could manage. I sure do love seeing them every year.

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    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      I look for them every year. These birds will fly way up to the northern parts of North America, to the coast of Alaska. Many of them will stage near Izembek Lagoon up in that region, and nest in the high Arctic. Then in September they’ll watch for the weather to tell them it’s time to go south again. I don’t remember seeing them come through here in the fall. Maybe they bypass us but I know I’ve seen them in the winter in Baja. They travel a very long way.

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    2. wordsfromanneli Post author

      I’ve amended the comment below where I originally said the brant nest at Izembek Lagoon. The Captain tells me that is a staging area. I asked him to check facts for me and where brant are concerned he will set me straight. (Hence my comment to you has been slightly changed.)

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    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      No, there is also an Atlantic brant. They are a sea going goose and sometimes go into the fields on the east coast but close to water – seen on the estuaries. They are hunted on the eastern seaboard (maybe Long Island?) Yours nest in the eastern Arctic.

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  1. reocochran

    Those varying clouds with fuzzy edges captivated my mind for a bit. Excuse me for drifting along on your beautiful clouds!
    The brants are looking great in your pictures. I would have blurs or blobs from this distance!
    I love the carved and painted mother Brant and best! xo

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