Cross Canada Chronicles – VI – June 28, 2017

Crane Fever

We may as well deal with this upfront. I’m a sucker for cranes. Sandhill cranes. They occasionally make appearances in fields around Ottawa, but by the time I rush out to where they were last spotted, they’re inevitably long gone. Nice wheat fields, though.


Here at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary at Delta BC, which hugs the Salish Sea and the Fraser River Delta, four, year-round resident sandhill cranes dominate the avian population around the south pond. The birds are totally tame. I came within a meter of them and they’d pay no mind at all. One beaked up to take a close look at the camera. I almost thought he was going to engage me in yet another futile “whnich is better, Canon or Nikon” debate. But he soon lost interest and walked away with the crane’s customary gait, both gangly and elegant.

Earlier this spring, there was much excitement when a female laid two eggs on her island nest. But the excitement has since turned to disappointment after neither hatched. Staff are philosophical, though. “There’s always next year,” they tell me, optimistically.
Overall though, sandhill crane numbers are in pretty good shape, increasing by more than 4 per cent per year over the last couple of decades.

(Look carefully, and you’ll be able to see daylight through the nostril hole in the beak)

Wetlands are crucial for many species, yet are disappearing at an alarming rate so this sanctuary, lying as it does on major migratory pathways, serves as a critical habitat.

Many more feathers

Sandhills aren’t the only birds around here, of course. An eagle at one point seemed to soar directly at me, but his target was a branch on a nearby tree. Alas, he (she?) was too obscured by branches to properly photograph.
But we find abundant waterfowl and passerines—most quite tame and unperturbed by human gawkers.


(Song Sparrow)


(Cowbird, male)

(Cowbird, female)


(House Sparrow)

Eastward Ho!

The drive back east from the coast, hugging the US border, first took me through kilometres of cultivated vineyards and orchards, soaking up the 34°C sunshine.

(Vineyards, Langley Township)

BC Wild

Once into the mountains, though, the landscapes quickly turned wilder.


Sheepish Encounter

And then, out from the side of a mountain, scant meters in front of the car,  this Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep bounded onto the roadway. I take her to be a female, since her horns are shorter and less curly than the male. Like the bison, their vast numbers plummeted during the 20th century from 2 million to a few thousand through disease and overhunting. More recently, though, thanks to conservation efforts,  there’s been a modest recovery.


Next: Back to the prairies, and a prehistoric visit.