Signs of spring in the Kispiox Valley

SMITHERS, BC — It’s springtime here in the Kispiox Valley. That means steelhead trout coming up to spawn and smolt (juvenile salmon) swimming downstream and out to the ocean. It also means the arrival of the sandhill cranes as they journey further north to Alaska. They are easy to spot and hear as they fly above you. Their distinctive warbling ripples through the sky as they fly in flocks of two dozen or more.

I am standing along the Skeena River in Old Hazelton, a historic pioneering town on Gitxsan territory in northern British Columbia when I encounter the cranes for the first time. I hear the cranes before I see them. Squinting up into the brightness of the sky, I spot a ball of dark spots, spiraling in a loose amalgamation above me. Uncertain, I ask the couple standing next to me, also peering up into the sky. They confirm my query as I pull out my microphone but the bird calls are too faint. Coasting on a thermal current, the flock floats further and higher away from us.

The cranes won’t stick around this area for long. The Kispiox valley is just a rest stop for them, on their long journey up to Alaska. Sandhill cranes return to the same place year after year, making it relatively easy for bird watchers and researchers to observe them.

Back when I was staying in Bella Bella in mid-February, I discovered that my host, Krista Roessingh, who works for Pacific Wild, studies the coastal sandhill cranes. Her testimony to the Joint Review Panel during the Enbridge Northern Gateway oral hearings included her concerns of the negative impacts of a tanker oil spill on the crane’s habitat should oil tankers begin traveling down —> Read More