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.