Aug 16th: life and death

- 4 mins read

Series: Nesting Gulls

I started my visit at the south end of the Burrard Street bridge, passing by the Clipper nests. As on my previous visit, I was able to count five fledglings scattered around the rooftop, most of them still sleeping and one or two lazily wandering around, occasionally testing out their wings.

Burrard nest #4

Crossing the bridge, I checked on the chicks in the Burrard nests, and all were accounted for. Passing the midway point, I noticed a young gull standing on top of the rooftop between bridge towers. Given that all the other chicks were accounted for, this is probably the chick from Burrard nest #4.

Burrard nest #4

Burrard nest #4

Aug 13th: small miracles

- 4 mins read

Series: Nesting Gulls

Fledglings at the Clipper nests

The morning started with an exhilarating sight: fledglings at the Clipper nest stretching their wings, taking short flights across the rooftop – and then climbing in the air, grasping the wind, and widely circling the building. Their flight is still unsure, like a child who’s only just figured out how to ride a bicycle.

How astounding to witness these birds leave their infancy of gravel and cinder blocks. Taking wing, their entire perspective metamorphasizes, suddenly unbound from the plane of a rooftop.

Fledglings at the Clipper nests

Fledglings at the Clipper nests

The morning was overcast and, more than any of my previous visits, I felt an odd blend of anxiety and acceptance. Many of the chicks are close to leaving the nest, exposing them to a multitude of new challenges and dangers. I can do little but act as a witness.

One of my qualms about birding is how easily it slides into a game of checking species off a list. There is an uncomfortable disjunct between watching and listening to birds and transmuting that into a number or check mark. Don’t get me wrong – collecting data for eBird or iNaturalist is vital to empower research and protect birds and their habitats. But I worry we lose something when we focus so narrowly and forget we are in the presence of other beings who possess mysteries we will never fully grasp.

Henry Beston said it far more eloquently in his book The Outermost House:

“In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

Pyramid nest

Pyramid nest

Pyramid nest

Nest visits for Aug 6th

- 4 mins read

Series: Nesting Gulls

I had a quiet Sunday morning visit to a good portion of the nests. The sky was overcast, sparing the gulls and myself from the full strength of the sun. It gave me the opportunity to see some of the chicks that are usually tucked away in shade and hidden from view.

Pyramid nest

The chicks at Pyramid nest are doing well. Here they are with a parent. Given their lack of excitement and begging, I suspect they were fed shorty before this photo.

Pyramid nest

Pyramid nest