A Sable Island Story

by Holly Dyer

It was a bright early fall day on Sable Island. The waves were crashing ashore. All the birds were twittering and chirping. The wild horses were galloping on the warm sand and grass.

A little Ipswich Sparrow named Argo with his white breast, brown feathers, and pale yellow stripe above his eyes was very busily searching for seeds. Non-feathered folk (humans) were searching the grass. One spotted Argo even though his feathers camouflaged him so well.     The non-feathered folk slowly reached down and grabbed Argo. He was scared as he felt himself being lifted upward. A non-feathered folk measured him. Argo had absolutely no idea what was going on. He was so scared he shut his beady eyes and imagined he was back in his nest. A few minutes later the non-feathered folk set him down. He opened one of his little eyes and looked down at his legs which now had colourful bands.

“They’ve decorated me!” he chirped with surprise, feeling very special. “I am going to show everyone my decorations!” he exclaimed as he soared higher and higher in the bright sunlight.

He searched the ground below as the sun warmed his wings. He saw his friend, a wild horse, running in the sunlight. His brown fur reflected the sun, and his black mane blew in the wind as he stopped and began to dig.

“I will go show Shaggy” Argo said triumphantly as he flew down from the blue sky. Argo chirped to get his friend Shaggy’s attention. Shaggy turned abruptly.

“What are you doing?” asked Argo.

“I’m getting water,” Shaggy neighed. “I have to dig to get it here.  My grandfather told me we didn’t always have to dig for water. He said there used to be a big lagoon right in the middle of this island.”

Argo had flown over the island and had never seen a lagoon, so he changed the subject.

“Want to see something?” He stretched out his legs to show off his bands. “Aren’t they cool?”

“Yes,” neighed Shaggy. “But what are they?”

“Decorations, I think. A non-feathered folk put them on me. I’m going to go show Tweedle next,” he said as he flew off into the sunshine.

Argo watched the waves rolling toward the sand beneath big fluffy white clouds. He glided down and saw a big plank of rotten wood.

“There’s her home!” he exclaimed. Tweedle popped her head out and twittered wildly.

“Hi Argo! What are you doing?” she chirped.

Tweedle was a petrel. She had dark grey feathers, a dark black beak and dark black feet. Her two black beady eyes were staring right at Argo’s legs.

“Oh Argo!” she twittered. “Look at that bling! Can I have some?”

Argo tried to pull one of the bands off for her but was not successful.

“I’m sorry!” he said “but I can’t get them off. Maybe if you go down into the grasses you will get decorated too!”

Tweedle flew off excitedly.

Argo rested his wings. He felt a gust of wind as his friend Sassy flew down perfectly. Sassy was a Cape May Warbler with black and yellow feathers. She was a pretty bird, and she knew it. She looked at Argo and noticed his colorful legs. Her little birdy face contorted with envy.

“How did you get those?” she asked.

“I got these decorations because I’m special,” Argo answered proudly.

“Special?” she scoffed. “But I’m the one who’s special! Look at my tongue!” She opened her beak to show him a long curled tongue. “This is so I can drink nectar. I bet you’ve never even tasted it! When I winter in the Caribbean I get lots of nectar, and I see birds wearing jewelry much prettier than yours!”

She flew off in a huff.

Argo flew to visit his friend Lucky the grey seal who was sunning on the beach.

“Notice anything different?” Argo asked.

Lucky raised his head to see the bands on Argo’s legs and Argo saw there was a huge plastic ring around Lucky’s neck.

“Wow! You got decorated by non-feathered folk too!”

“You mean the humans?” asked Lucky. “No, I don’t go anywhere near them.”

“Then how did you get that ring around your neck?”

“I was down by the water and this ring got stuck around my neck,” he said sadly

“Do you like it?” Argo asked

“Not really,” Lucky said. “It hurts me. Do your leg rings hurt you?”

“No, not at all. Nothing even gets stuck in them.”

“I do wish mine would come off,” Lucky mumbled

“I bet I could help,” Argo said, stepping up to the task.

He flew up and began to peck and scratch at the plastic ring but it wouldn’t come off.

“I’m sorry,” Argo said. “But I can’t get it off.”

Lucky looked sad. “Argo, sometimes things get stuck around our necks. It happened to my cousin. I never saw her again.”

Argo was stunned. What would happen to him? Would he be alright? He was scared, so he flew to find his mother.

He found his mother Catherine in her favourite place to find seeds. When she saw his bands her eyes widened.

“Oh, Argo, did you fly into the net?” she asked.

“No. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well,” she said, “Your father got banded after he flew into a net. Some non-feathered folk put bands on him just like those on your legs but different colours.”

“You mean they’re not decorations?”

“No. I’ll show you.”

They flew together to where the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult for Argo to keep up. His mother stopped beside a huge net blowing in the wind.

“I’ve overheard the non-feathered folk talking all about it. They’re trying to help us by tracking us.”

“They’re tracking me?” Argo cheeped. “I guess I am special after all.”

“Yes,” his mother agreed with a smile. “You’re the most special sparrow I know.”

Holly Dyer © 2021
Age 10, grade 5, homeschooled, Greenwood NS

Sable In Words 2021
Youth Writing Contest, 10-13 age group
Sable Island Institute

For more about Sable Island’s Ipswich Sparrows and the banding program, see Birds with Bling.