Hard Times

The ferry route from Quadra Island to Vancouver Island can get quite sloppy during tide change. No problem for the ferry, but I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be out there in a small boat.

Heading home from the quilting retreat, I was surprised to see more and more snow, the farther south I got.

When I arrived in Comox, the field near the estuary was covered in snow … and geese. I counted about 230 geese in this field. I pulled over and quickly snapped a few pictures without even getting out of the truck. Sorry they are blurry. When taking pictures, “Hurry makes blurry.”

I noticed as I drove away, that there were a few trumpeter swans  with the Canada geese, but the photo doesn’t show them, as they were at the far end of the flock. But there were several other geese among the Canadas, too.

Do you see the white blobs in the front of the photo?

Five snow geese were foraging for food along with the Canada geese. They didn’t seem to mind each other. All were concentrating on digging under the snow for grass roots. Their usual dinner plate, the grain field, was mostly covered with snow, and they needed to find something to keep up their strength in this cold weather.

This photo is especially blurry but it shows how desperately the geese are foraging, searching under the snow to get at the grass and roots for any nourishment they can find. Only the goose in the front of the photo is not feeding at the moment, but she probably had to stop to warm up her bill after having it in the icy ground for so long. Hard times for the animals.


Birds of a Feather?

I’m no longer so sure that birds of a feather flock together. Today as I drove past a farmer’s field, I saw several different kinds of birds sharing lunch.

The usual Canada geese were there in pretty big numbers, as were some trumpeter swans that have taken up permanent residence there.


??????????But in the foreground I noticed what I thought at first might be four domestic geese. On further investigation, I’ve discovered that they are white-fronted geese. Here they are close up, enjoying a bit of sunshine on a very chilly day.




And here is one with an itchy head.


When migrating, they fly very high overhead, usually at night, and make a lovely high-pitched cackling (laughing) sound. Whitefronts are not seen here on Vancouver Island in great numbers as are the Canada geese, but there are some that spend time here, perhaps because of going astray during the long migration south in the fall, on their way to California’s Sacramento Valley.

In the spring they fly back north to the tundra to nest. A man named Hersey encountered a family of white-fronted geese on the Yukon delta. Here is a description of that event by Arthur Bent (1925!) taken from F.H. Kortright‘s book, “The Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America.”

On the edge of a little pond on the tundra about 5 miles back from the mouth of the river I found a pair of these geese and a brood of five young. The birds had been resting under a clump of dwarf willows, and on my approach the old birds came out into the open and attempted to lead the young away over the open tundra. The young, although not more than a day or two old, could run as as fast as a man could travel over the rough ground. I had to remove my coat before I could overtake them. They did not scatter, but ran straight ahead, keeping close together, one of the parents running by their side and guiding them and the other flying along above them and not more than 3 feet above the ground. The young kept up a faint calling, and the old birds occasionally gave a low note of encouragement.”

I’m sure Mr. Hersey just wanted to say hello to the birds, but I felt a little bit sorry for the unnecessary stress the geese must have felt. On the other hand, it was a good “dry run” mock emergency  practice for them.

I was touched by the way both parents cared for the goslings. Most of us don’t even consider that this kind of good parenting goes on among geese. After I read these notes in Kortright’s book, I had a new appreciation for the four lost geese that I had photographed by the side of the road today.

Sound the Trumpets

If you’ve ever heard the sound of trumpets overhead, you’ve most likely seen the swans responsible for the brassy concert. Not only are trumpeter swans graceful in flight, but they make their own music to fly by.

These swans are enjoying pulling up the roots of the grasses planted in this field. They are tolerated, though not particularly loved by the farmers, as these birds can do a lot of damage to a freshly sprouted crop. At this time of year it’s not as big an issue and most people regard the swans as a beautiful decorative touch to the local scenery. You may notice that the grass is a bit frosty, making their meals a bit cool today.


Sharing the fields with the trumpeter swans are the Canada geese. Please note they are NOT called Canadian geese. They don’t have passports and don’t have Canadian citizenship, so they are not Canadian geese. They are called Canada geese.  These birds are very tasty on the dinner table and are prized by waterfowlers. The expression “silly goose” does not apply to the Canada goose. See how smart these birds are? They know that the trumpeters are not legal prey for waterfowlers and so they hide  in plain sight among them for protection.


For those who couldn’t identify the three kinds of birds in the previous post – “Is it Spring Yet?” I’ll help you out. In the photo below, the bird at the very top of the picture is a red-shafted flicker (woodpecker family), the birds in the middle are starlings, and the bird at the bottom of the picture is a robin.


What birds do you see around you where you live? Why not leave a comment and share what you’ve seen?