Surf Scoters spend the winter in Pacific Northwest waters.

Waters teem with birds

The wild birds of winter have been flocking to Pacific Northwest waters, where many species ‘vacation’ until springtime

During this final month of the year, natural rhythms gently work to slow things down until late December. Daylight is minimal and nights are long, while cold and wind send energy levels into a deep dip.

Following the first mid-winter day, or winter solstice (Dec. 22), we receive the gift of a few more minutes of light each day, a gift that keeps on giving until the first day of summer. Beginning at the December solstice, which occurs this year at 05:30 (or 5:30 a.m.) Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), all things on Earth slowly begin to ramp up, ready for a brand new year.

Snow, slush or mud cover most nature trails during mid-winter months, but an abundance of wild creatures have congregated just offshore, making the beaches a prime December destination.

The wild birds of winter have been flocking to Pacific Northwest waters, where many species ‘vacation’ until springtime, when they will depart for breeding grounds to the north and east.

Some 48 species of common marine birds overwinter, migrate and/or breed in the Strait of Georgia.

Among my favourites are three local species of scoters, heavy-looking, dark, diving ducks with thick heads and necks, and huge, honking bills in outrageous patterns.

These tough ducks stay at sea even in rough weather, but often dive for shellfish near shore.

Surf Scoters (pronounced skoh-ter), are the most plentiful, and are large at 51 centimetres in size.

They boast a bulbous bill coloured red, yellow and white (adult male), and are long with a white patch on the back of the head.

At first sight, the male bill looks almost comical in size and appearance.

Although fewer in number, the White-winged Scoter (56 centimetres) is interesting to spot, as the male features a red bill with black knob, and large white under-eye patch.

Least common among our visiting scoters is the smaller Black Scoter (48 centimetres).

The male sports a large yellowish-orange knob at the base of his bill.

Weather permitting, head to the shore and see an amazing array of ducks, loons, grebes, cormorants, swans, geese, and shorebirds that make our Island shores their winter home.

 

Just Posted

Abram to run again for Strathcona Regional District’s Area C

Fibre optics, housing, fire service among his priorities

Cortes Island strengthening nuisance provisions

New bylaw will be easier to enforce legally

Campbell River student preps for Skills Canada finals

Dawson Vanderwiel will compete against other top cabinet-makers

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

Man dead after crashing vehicle into hydro pole and tree in Gibsons

Dog also hurt in collision, which happened Wednesday morning

Study recommends jurors receive more financial and psychological support

Federal justice committee calls for 11 policy changes to mitigate juror stress

Research needed on impact of microplastics on B.C. shellfish industry: study

SFU’s department of biological sciences recommends deeper look into shellfish ingesting microbeads

B.C. dad pens letter urging overhaul of youth health laws after son’s fatal overdose

The Infants Act currently states children under 19 years old may consent to medical treatment on own

Singh sides with B.C. in hornet’s nest of pipeline politics for the NDP

Singh had called for a more thorough environmental review process on the proposal

VIDEO: B.C. woman gets up-close view of Royal wedding

Kelly Samra won a trip back to her home country to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say ‘I do’

30 C in B.C., 30 cm of snow expected for eastern Canada

It might be hot in B.C., but the rest of Canada still dealing with cold

Horgan defends fight to both retain and restrict Alberta oil imports

Alberta says pipeline bottlenecks are kneecapping the industry, costing millions of dollars a day

Most Read