Waits for No ManBy
This morning I managed for the first time ever to make it to the Iona sewage ponds on a high tide.
The place has always been good, on my half dozen visits now, but this was the first time that I’d found it chock-a-block with the shorebirds for which these ponds are so famous. Most abundant were Dunlin, fine ruddy-backed, black-bellied birds; tens of Western Sandpipers in their finest finery were among them, while Least Sandpipers crept about on the drier mud with the abundant Savannah Sparrows. Greater and–for the first time this season–Lesser Yellowlegs were equally common, competing with the Killdeer to see who could more effectively throw the calids into a fury (the Lesserlegs seemed to win today’s competition, flushing the poor Dunlin every time a plane landed across the water at the airport).
Flush myself with success, I hiked the five miles round trip out the south jetty and back. “South jetty,” of course, is the local euphemism for a good old-fashioned sewage outfall; visions of rare gulls and rocky shorebirds swam in my mind as I walked and walked and walked. None of those, unfortunately, but a gang of Sanderling was nice compensation, and my long walk was punctuated with the odd American Pipit and flocks of diving ducks, including four dozen Canvasbacks. The Horned Grebes are suddenly, startlingly, in bright red and black breeding attire, and a few Western Grebes floated placid on the placid waters.
By the time I got back to land, things had changed.
The tide was rushing out with a vengeance, and Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, and Northwestern Crows were comfortably wading where Greater and Lesser Scaup and Surf Scoters had been diving just a couple of hours before.
Small gangs of Dunlin were headed out to the low tide line, and a cursory look into the sewage ponds when I got back to the car found only dribs and drabs along the edges, the vast numbers already out on more productive flats.
Tides are a strange thing for a boy from Nebraska, still a mystery to me after all these years in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and now British Columbia. (My friend Isaac tells me it has something to do with the moon.) One thing I do know: if I can get it right this spring and fall, Iona is going to be the site of some might good shorebirding.