Friday, August 11, 2017

Tree full of wings

Great Blue Herons have long been a favorite bird to watch at Kah Tai, and when the resident few hunted along the perimeter during nesting season, they flapped away to some undefined roost. This year has been different, profoundly so. We had an inkling when we watched six adults fly in near-formation across the lagoon this spring.

And then the nesting reports started. The birds themselves announce the location of their rookery, as do the occupants of satellite nests. There are at least four nests spotted thus far. One of the easiest to observe has nurtured four nestlings, awkward pterodactyls that they are when they cannot fly. But the four are almost ready, flapping and stretching their fully feathered wings to go hunting with their parents.

Their parents will be so relieved. As the youngsters have grown, the parents have diminished. Imagine catching enough prey to feed four beaks this size. The adults are thin and worn, as parents everywhere will understand.

The human neighbors have been tolerant, given that a nest of young herons can sound a lot like a murder going on somewhere nearby when they get to talking in their youngster voices. Great Blue Herons are a priority species in our state, and their rookeries are protected.

Thanks to Bev McNeil and David Gluckman for sharing their photographs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring again at Kah Tai

Thirteen goslings on Kah Tai Lagoon, 2016. Courtesy Artemis Celt.
The monthly workparty at Kah Tai focused on invasives. The particular invasives being wrestled were tiny hollies and spurge laurels in the woodland, found in abundance at the bases of trees, byproducts of bird digestion of the fruits of hollies and spurge laurel. The best way to pull a tough two inch plant with a five inch root is sitting on a garden stool with a pair of needlenose pliers.

While concentrating on the seedlings, it suddenly seemed I wasn't the only presence in the woodland. Sitting on my stool, I looked west and a few yards away was a head atop the flexing neck of a Canada Goose. Our eyes were at about the same height but the big bird didn't see me. He or she moved slowly toward the lagoon edge and another goose head came in to view a few feet behind. And there between the two adults, a flock of little goslings scurried along. Their parents were marching them from their nesting site to the water with cautious deliberation.

The lead goose reached the trail that runs along the southern edge of the lagoon and the procession paused while both directions on the trail were studied for danger, for people on foot or bicycle, for dogs. The lead goose determined that the trail was safe, and the family hurried across the trail and into the lagoon.

Shortly after they launched, a human family passed by on the trail, two small girls in tow.

'Mommy, look!' The goose family at the edge of the lagoon were admired by the human family.

A minute or two later, a group of four human teenagers passed in the other direction.

'Look! Goslings!'

The level of enthusiasm from the little kids was expected, but who knew teenagers would think goslings were cool?

And then, back to the needlenose and pulling minute invasive seedlings. Among the invasives, much good news. Seedlings of serviceberry, snowberry, thimbleberry, osoberry, taking a stand, all planted by birds as indiscriminately as the invasives were. But as the native berry sources mature, the birds will be less likely to feed on holly and spurge and more likely to continue the cycle with native species. More native understory, fewer invasives.

In the open areas of the southern park, the tall mahonia has burst into dominance, suddenly competing successfully with invasive blackberry, with bright yellow blossom heads peering through blackberry canes. The nootka rose has been pushing back against the blackberry for several years and it now has another native comrade in arms. We might, actually, be winning this particular battle for Kah Tai.